Summary: Jacob, Pt. 4 (Final)
WHAT DOESN’T KILL YOU MAKES YOU STRONGER (GENESIS 29:15-30, 31:36-42)
Charles Sykes, a senior fellow at the Wisconsin Policy Institute, a public policy think tank, didn’t like the way his fellow citizens whine, evade responsibility and point fingers. The infamous 1991 Los Angeles riot was a case in point, when rioters, looters and arsonists excused their behavior by calling their act of lawlessness an insurrection, an uprising and a protest.
So Sykes wrote a controversial book titled “A Nation of Victims” and appeared on TV to counter the mood that people from all walks of life had unashamedly adopted: “I am a victim of a syndrome or a dysfunction – emotional, racial, sexual, or psychological. So what I do is not my fault, I am not responsible for my behavior, so-and-so or this-and-that made me do it.”
In an interview with C-SPAN Sykes said: “All of us in some sense can blame somebody else for our problems. Mommy and Daddy are a good target, but also we all want to be loved and we would wish that everything was suited for us, that all of our needs were taken care of. That’s what it was like when we were babies. Part of the problem in American culture is that Americans are very ambivalent about growing up. We know that we have to do it, but we don’t necessarily like it.” www.booknotes.org/transcripts/10115.htm
Victims, typically, hide behind catchy but convenient slogans such as the one I saw: “90% of people is dysfunctional, the rest is in denial.”
Jacob was the consummate sufferer and classic sucker, but also the ultimate survivor in Haran. He was victimized upon his arrival in Haran but he refused to be deflated by the treatment and defined by the experience. Jacob came from nowhere, arrived with nothing, but left with God’s favor, Laban’s fortune and his own family.
How did Jacob turn his life around from victim to victor? Why are some victims able to triumph over man-made tragedy, traps and troubles? What do victors have in them that victims do not have to survive and succeed?
Live Humbly with Others
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." 19 Laban said, "It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me." 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her."
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?" (Gen 29:16-25)
One of the most humbling things I did in my first year of pastorate at a church was to wash the urinal or toilet stand. Years of neglect had left eight long, vertical, parallel lines on the bowl. The yellow stains were a blight and an eyesore.
I was not looking forward to or asking for the job, but most volunteers had successfully steered clear of the unwanted job for many years. When Ajax cleaner and bleach failed to remove the stains on my initial attempts, someone suggested using lime removal. Returning from the nearest store, I followed closely the instructions on the bottle. I wet the stains with the liquid, left it for half an hour and then used a heavy brush and a heavy hand to rub the stain, repeating the whole process a few times until the layers of stain were removed. To complete the job, I used a screwdriver to scrape off the last dab of the stubborn stains.
When the job was done, a church member walked into the restroom and kindly said to me, “Pastor, you shouldn’t be doing this. We should just ago ahead and buy a new one.” I replied instantly, “Thank you, but after the hard work, I wouldn’t replace it for anything in the world.”
Laban used the dirtiest trick in the book to trick, use and exploit poor Jacob; however, Jacob was stretched, tested and humbled, but never broken or despaired. God had revealed to Rebekah that his son Jacob was the heir of promise, but He did not say how he was to obtain the blessing, when he would get it and what price he would have to pay. The easy way was definitely out. The first indication of a new and humbled Jacob was his willingness to work hard for his bride Rachel. The old Jacob took what was others and not his, but the new Jacob earned his family and fortune (Gen 32:13-15) the old-fashioned way. The old Jacob was unwilling to wait one day for his inheritance, but the new Jacob offered to work seven years for his wife. The freeloader was gone; the breadwinner had emerged. Jacob replaced his old bag of tricks with a new work ethic.