Summary: The transformation from Defiant Deciever to Humble Servant is never easy.
How many of you would consider yourselves a role model?
I’ve got an interesting role model for you tonight. Turns out he was married ...
at the same time...
To top it off – at the suggestion of his wives he had a couple more ladies on the side (and his wives were OK with that – in fact they suggested it!) Did I mention his two wives were sisters? Gentlemen do you have any advice for that guy? Or perhaps the better question is would He have any advice for us? Could we learn anything positive from a man like that?
What if I told you that He’s one of the most famous people in history? His name is Jacob – the man God would rename “Israel”. Turn back to Genesis 29:1-30.
As we read this section we’re confronted right off with an issue which will in the next few years become the next step in the battle linked tangentially with the “gay-marriage” debate. If gay marriage becomes mainstream we’re going to be dealing with polygamy next; and I can already hear the argument that “the Bible condones polygamy!”
We need to be ready for that. I need you to keep in mind that throughout the Bible Monogamy is the Biblical ideal for marriage. Genesis 2 contains as it were the first wedding, in it God created one woman for one man. And Ephesians 5-6 detail the ideal family which includes one man and one woman. The requirement for church leadership is for the man to be married to one woman (1 Tim. 3:2, 12; Tit. 1:6)
Contrast that with the patriarchs having multiple wives all the way to King Solomon having 1000 wives (who ultimately led him away from the Lord.) In many places the scriptures report what DID happen without implying that this is what SHOULD have happened.
Jacob, no less than any other instance of Polygamy in the Bible doesn’t emphasize the goodness of polygamy but does illustrate the problems. We’re not told specifically but you can imagine the deep hurt Leah felt – being married to a man who never loved her. So deep was her hurt that she flaunted her ability to have children in front of her sister Rachel who was herself suffering silently because she couldn’t bear children.1
For all of it’s simplicity the passage is another example of how God can take the broken lives we bring to him to bring about his purposes. In the last chapter God told Jacob that he would multiply his descendants. Now God is able to “make all things work together for good...” (Rom 8:28) even with less than perfect circumstances. It’s here that Jacob the new man begins the transformation as God begins to fulfill that promise first through the wives he obtains and ultimately through the children born to him.
Even though Jacob is the visible lead Character; this story is all about God and His work in our lives. The same pattern develops here that we saw in Abraham and Isaac – God makes a promise; then He keeps it. It’s interesting that God is rarely mentioned throughout all of this. But this story is intentionally sandwiched between the promises of Chapter 28 and Jacob’s recognition of God’s guidance in the 31st chapter in which He affirms that God has indeed taken care of him.
It’s in Jacob’s story and struggle that we find a parable of our own lives.
The drama of this patriarch’s transformation from deceitful schemer to humbled servant of God was just as painful for him as our own transformation is for us. For a man who was used to doing things his way disregarding it’s moral suitability; learning to trust in God wasn’t automatic. It isn’t automatic for us either. But through the struggles recorded here for our encouragement2 we can learn that God’s way is not only best, but that it also works.
God’s leading is always on Target
Now we all know this, but don’t we worry as well that God might be leading and we might not be following? I think Jacob just naturally understood something we have problems with. Back in 28:15;20, First God and then Jacob makes part of the covenant between them that God will “keep” Jacob on the journey he’s taking. Then the first verse of chapter 29 literally says, “Jacob lifted up his feet...” it’s an intentional word picture informing us that Jacob moved with a specific purpose and I think a specific trust that God would be faithful to lead him as he said.
Even though Jacob did the walking, God did the leading and Jacob ended up precisely at the right spot. He finds a field with a well in it and pulls in for directions only to find out that he’s where he needed to be. Someone else might call that a coincidence – I would call it providence.