Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: When people try to make changes, other people may hold them back. As Jacob tries to overcome his scheming nature, Laban drags him down. God intervenes, so that Jacob can rise above that old turkey, Laban, and his own nature as well.

RISING ABOVE THE TURKEYS—Genesis 30:25-31:55

“I could soar like an eagle, if I didn’t have to deal with so many turkeys.”

My uncle raised turkeys. Turkeys are pretty stupid. They are always crowding each other, pecking at each other, fighting over food, so they can get big enough to be slaughtered.

“I could fly like an eagle…” Many people want to soar. They want to rise above their mistakes and weaknesses. They want to be honest, loving, competent, and good. But then there are the turkeys: maybe in their family, or at work, or among their friends. The turkeys influence everything: They have power, they set the tone in the workplace, and they drag other people down to their level.

Jacob is trying to rise above his past. He was born and raised to scheme and manipulate, but he has been trying to live differently. For 14 years, he has been working for his father-in-law, Laban, and building his family. It hasn’t been easy, because the people around him have been scheming and manipulating. After 14 years, he has two wives, 11 sons and a daughter by four different women, and a father-in-law who is treating him like a slave.

Jacob needs to make a change. He knows where he needs to end up; he needs to go back to Canaan, the promised land. He needs to fulfill his destiny, his calling, to be blessed by God, so that through him, all nations can be blessed. But he has to deal with a turkey first: Laban, his mother’s brother, the father of his two wives, his boss, a master manipulator.

Read Genesis 30:25-30.

For once, Jacob the schemer and deceiver is approaching Laban honestly and directly. When Laban begs him to stay, and offers good wages, he makes an honest proposal that will allow him to build his own wealth, while also building wealth for Laban. It’s a win-win.

Laban agrees to the deal. But Laban is such a turkey, that Jacob becomes like him.

Read Genesis 30:31-43.

It’s hard to sort out exactly what happened. Maybe Jacob manipulated the breeding, or maybe (as he claimed later) God blessed him. But one thing is sure: Jacob schemed to get the advantage over Laban. Can you blame him? Laban started it!

“I could soar like an eagle if I didn’t have to deal with so many turkeys.” When we are with certain people, the conversation always seems to go negative. If we try to be nice, they take advantage—so we can’t be nice. The system at work is set up for abuse: impossible demands, not enough sick days, lying coworkers, and bosses who don’t have a clue. We get sucked into the craziness, the manipulation, and the abuse. That is life among the turkeys.

Jacob is dragged down by Laban, and he is back to his old ways: scheming and manipulating. How is that working out for him?

Read Genesis 31:1-2. ” You think?!!! If Jacob had been more honest, Laban might still have envied his success. But Jacob would have been able to look himself in mirror, and his wives and children would have had a spiritual leader they could respect. When Jacob left Laban, he could have left on good terms.

Instead, Jacob turns his wives against their father. Read Genesis 31:4-9, 14-21.

Jacob and his family sneak away. Laban can’t even kiss his grandchildren goodbye. Rachel steals the household gods (family heirlooms—but also idols?).

The story could have a tragic end. Laban gathers his other relatives, and pursues Jacob and his family. He accuses Jacob of stealing the household gods. The story would be funny, if it weren’t so sad. Rachel puts the gods into her camel saddle in her tent, and claims that she can’t get up because of the time of the month. Jacob, who is clueless, defends her adamantly. Still the turkey!

Jacob has blown his chance at redemption! He is still the same old schemer and deceiver, and his family has become just like him. Has he lost his place in God’s plan to save all of humanity?

No, God still has plans for Jacob—big plans.

(31:3) “Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”

Again, God said, (31:13) “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.”

But how can Jacob pull that off, when he has to deal with the old turkey-buzzard, Laban?

I think you know what I’m talking about! There is that person who can always get your goat. (Oops—mixing metaphors!) There is a person or group of people in your life, and it seems like you will never be free of them. Maybe you can’t forget what they did to you, and you can’t forgive and let go, so you can move on. Maybe it is a coworker or a relative, that you can’t cut off. Maybe it is your husband or wife!

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