Summary: If we are in the doldrums -- but learn to be emboldened by walking with God -- we can find courage to pursue better times.
Light At the End of the Tunnel
1. I came across this true account from Reader’s Digest:
My cell phone quit as I tried to let my wife know that I was caught in freeway gridlock and would be late for our anniversary dinner. I wrote a message on my laptop asking other motorists to call her, printed it on a portable inkjet and taped it to my rear windshield.
When I finally arrived home, my wife gave me the longest kiss ever. "I really think you love me," she said. "At least 70 people called and told me so."
2. In today’s text, Jacob initiates what will be one of the great romances of all time.
3. Yet you need to remember that Jacob had been scared, lonely, and walking into the unknown. But He experienced God at Bethel, and his mentality had been transformed.
4. His life teaches us many practical lessons, and from today’s experience we can see the main idea:
Main Idea: If we are in the doldrums -- but learn to be emboldened by walking with God -- we can find courage to pursue better times.
I. Better TIMES Come to Jacob (1-14)
A. The Background (1-3)
Jacob traveling toward Iraq, about 600 miles away. He knows he is approaching Haran, where Uncle Laban -- whom he has never seen -- lives.
He sees shepherds approaching a well with a boulder over it -- probably to keep animals away from it, etc. Water was and is a precious commodity in the Middle East
The boulder is very heavy, so it typically takes more than one man to move it, and the shepherds had a system of labor sharing; when all were there, the assembly line began.
B. The Conversation About LABAN (4-6a)
Yes, Jacob had arrived in the neighborhood
Was there "shalom" with Laban? Yes, there was "shalom" with Laban. The idea is that if one is healthy and has comfortable means, one is at peace. The ancient middle easterners understood that peace, not looking for some magic charm that will be fix all of life’s problems, is the key to happiness.
Sadly, this is not true in our nation, since we have such high and unrealistic expectations.
The BBC (news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/3157570.stm) did a study five years ago and published some interesting conclusions. According to the October 2, 2003 article, the happiest localities in the world are (in order): Nigeria, Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador and Puerto Rico.
What might surprise us is that none of these peoples are noted for being wealthy (Puerto Rico would be the best off, financially). People do not typically go hungry in these nations, but these people live in poverty (most of them, deep poverty).
The United States was rated as the 16th happiest nation (even though we are the wealthiest nation in the world). Wealth does affect ones sense of happiness, but other factors are more influential.
The BBC study found that the following ten factors (in order of importance) determined ones level of personal happiness: genetic propensity to happiness, marriage, making friends (and valuing them), desiring less, doing someone a good turn, faith, refusal to compare ones looks with others, earning more money, growing old gracefully, and not stressing oneself about ones personal intelligence.
C. The Introduction of RACHEL (6b)
The Talmud suggests that Rachel was 14 years old, which meant she was 21 when she finally married Jacob.
D. Jacob’s intent to see her ALONE (7-8)
What Jacob is doing here is trying to get the shepherds to move along so he can spend time alone with Rachael.
Jacob was an experienced shepherd, and these fellows may have been younger, so Jacob perhaps thought he could advance his agenda, playing on his experience. As it stood, they had a different system of operation, so Jacob could not move them along.
E. Jacob’s Attempt to IMPRESS Rachel (9-11)
1. Jacob tries to impress Rachel with his strength; he was not a particularly strong man, as far as we know, but a girl can bring out the Tarzan in many a man.
2. In our culture, if a strange man walked up to a young woman and kissed her, it would be certainly considered inappropriate. Such an act would be worse in that culture.
F. Jacob’s "EXPLANATION" (12)
1. A relative -- I’ve come from afar to see your family…
2. Cousins often married back then, so she was a "kissing cousin"
"Endogamic marriages (i.e., within the circle of one’s relatives) were preferred by ancient tribes. The chosen suitor for a girl was her cousin; it was actually forbidden for the eldest daughter to marry outside the family." (The Jewish Encyclopedia)
Since the human race was younger, birth defects not as likely
When Isaac needed a wife, they went to the family to find one; Esau had married Canaanite women, and the his parents hated it. So Jacob was following the ethic of the culture and probably hoped that Rachael would too!