Summary: What happens when we try to bargain with God? We get more than we bargained for! We get to build our character, confront our past, and learn how to cope with difficult people.


The young man gets into the car, and hits the steering wheel with his palm. His girlfriend—the light of his life—has dumped him. How could God let this happen? He has loved her well, and honored God in his courtship. What has it gotten him?

The man closes his computer, and hangs his head in frustration. His business is a lost cause. From the beginning, he gave it all to God. He dreamed of all the good that he could do, when he was successful. He even promised God, that if God would bless his business, he always find time to serve God. Now, it seems that God has not held up his end of the bargain.

The parents sit in the dark, waiting for their teenage daughter to come home. They have done everything they could do, to raise her as a child of God. It is not going well. What happened to, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it?”

Do you ever try to bargain with God? Maybe you wouldn’t call it bargaining—but don’t we sort of expect…

…if we work hard and live ethically, God will bless us with success?

…if we invest time in our children, live godly lives, and do the best we can, we will have good kids?

…if we eat vegetables, watch our weight, work out and take care of our bodies, we will be healthy?

Doesn’t the Bible say things like, “Blessings crown the head of the righteous…” and (Pr. 13:21) “Prosperity is the reward of the righteous”?

We may think that if we commit our lives to Christ and try to follow his ways, he will reward us by giving us perfect lives and a perfect world. It doesn’t always happen! Sometimes, there is pain, failure, or grief.

So what happened? God always keeps his promises, but sometimes, if we try to strike a deal with him, we get more than we bargained for.

Jacob tried to make a deal with God. Because of his scheming and manipulation, his parents sent him away, to find a wife and make a new start. He stopped at a place he called Bethel, where he laid his head upon a stone, and dreamed of a stairway to heaven. God spoke to him, promised to be with him, and told him that he would never leave him. (Genesis 28:20-22 NIV2011) “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.’”

Jacob made a bargain with God. He wasn’t really asking for anything God had not already promised him, for God had promised to be with him, and watch over him, and bring him back to the promised land. But he was trying to make the promise into a deal, in which we would set the terms. He had a picture of how it would all work out. (Can you relate to that? You have it all planned out, for you and God.)

Read Genesis 29:1-14.

So far, everything is going according to plan, and God seems to be coming through for Jacob. Out of all the wells in northern Iraq, he comes to this one. (There was no GPS, and he couldn’t get directions from his phone. Did he ask people for directions?) It seems almost like a fairy tale: The dashing young hero comes upon the lovely lass at the well. She needs a stone to be rolled away from the well, and he seizes opportunity to impress her with his strength and kindness, while the other lazy louts wait around, to avoid moving stone more than once.

Can you see how Jacob is thinking the story will go? He will get the girl, and live happily ever after. Never mind that he doesn’t know first thing about a happy marriage. He found God, and he found the girl of his dreams. This is the fresh start he so desperately needed.

Rachel takes him home to her family. It only takes a month for Jacob to make his move.

Genesis 29:15-20.

This is Jacob at his best: He knows what he wants, and he goes for it. He makes Laban an offer he can’t refuse: seven years of work, for the bride-price, or dowry. The seven years fly by, as Jacob lives in hope and anticipation. God is with him now, and his bargain with God looks pretty solid. The rest of the story leads to a “happily ever after” ending.

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