Genesis 29:15-29 “Laban said to him, ‘Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.’ So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her.’ So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 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?’ Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.’ And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant.”
Jacob is the sort of man whom, in their weaker and more foolish moments, men of the world envy. He appears to be the man who gets everything. He’s been a bit of a wheeler-dealer, cheating and lying, and yet he seems to have achieved all he wanted – land, power and an inheritance. That’s what many young men are longing will be the pattern of their lives, for the first half to live a totally self-centred life, tasting the world and getting its rewards, and after enjoying its glittering prizes, like Jacob, getting near to the grave and getting religion and having God’s blessing too, no questions asked. Remember how at Bethel God gave Jacob a wonderful, supernatural experience of himself, assuring him that he’d never leave him. Certainly God does things like that, making himself known to us in wonderful ways. He protects Jacob and guides him to his distant family where he meets the girl of his dreams, the daughter of a rich uncle who is also thrilled to see him. Even the Holy Spirit says that Rachel was “lovely in form and beautiful” (v.17). She had the figure and the looks. So this guy is enviable; he’s had the world and he’s got God; he seems to have ended up with everything. He’d lived in the world and made a success of that and now he’s turned religious and he’s going to marry Miss Israel 2010 B.C whose father is a millionaire. This is the dream of every student at the university, money, success and finally religion and a beautiful wife. This is like a Hollywood movie, the bad man turns out good, and in the end gets the gorgeous girl and they all lived happily ever after. If this were fiction then that is how it would be ending. But this is history; this is not Mills and Boon.
Let’s look at your dream. I want to ask about the people you hurt on your journey, while you were doing it your way? What of the pain? What of the guilt you still have? What of the shame? What of the chains made then that still bind you to them and that time? Was it so wonderful after all, the broken relationships, the sex, the abortions, the drugs, the hurt caused?
Then there is also this that God will have a lot of work to do in you when you do come to him. Not in heaven, not in purgatory, but in this world. That is what this story is about, how ‘our Father which art in heaven’ puts together the character and life of one of his rebellious children. You know the great words of Hebrews 12 and verses 5 through 11. I’ll read them to you because they’ll prepare you for what happened in the life of Jacob and you will start to understand this new agonizing chapter in the life he lived in Haran. As he grew up Jacob had decided to defy the simple and pure lifestyle of his parents’ upbringing; religion wasn’t important to him; it was boring and restricting. He was full of worldly ambition and he corrupted his parents’ values by deceit and lies. Then finally, after years of this, God met him and he tasted the bitterness of a lifestyle that had been characterized by total selfishness.
Chapter 12 of the letter to the Hebrews describes one of those periods of religious discouragement that every Christian knows. Jacob had to pass through such a time directed by the hand of God. So when we read this chapter in Hebrews we are being urged not to forget something that is very important, the “word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:5-11).
Chastening and discipline has to come into the lives of every one of God’s children. There is no escape from it – except by no longer being a child of God. You and I actually need to be tested and tried if we’re going to become mature and usable and useful in the kingdom of God. Every appliance, every drug, every weapon, every car, every new invention has to be tested before it is proved and used, and we Christians are no exception. Our profession of faith has got to be tested. Are we for real? In other words are we really for God, loving him with all our hearts and loving our neighbours as ourselves? We’ve got a calling to serve the world but we’ll never do that unless we “share in the holiness of God.” That is the phrase in Hebrews 12. In other words Jacob had done his own thing for decades, hurting, deceiving, and leaving a train of havoc and pain in the divided family he had left behind him – division he had largely caused.
God has made up his mind that he would character craft his son Jacob. The consequences of Jacob’s years of selfishness and greed are now beginning to come home to roost. Jacob has not realized what he’s done; he hasn’t properly repented for it. What he has sowed that also he has to reap. God loved Jacob too much to do nothing and just look at the man. Jacob was not allowed to dismiss or ignore the wickedness of his early life and its ongoing consequences for his whole family or it might burst out again. In other words, he is not allowed to build up his sheep business here in Haran, living off the fat of the land, lying in the arms of his beautiful bride and start to wallow in middle-aged smugness. The middle years are the most dangerous years and his heavenly Father loved him deeply, and so the Lord began to work in Jacob to mature and strengthen him. “Jacob you haven’t begun to live the Christian life!” Now I am saying that year after year there are ways in which the Lord will also work in each one of us without exception, because he loves us too much to let us stop growing. He was determined to craft the character of Jacob and it will be the same with my character and yours too. This is what we find here.
1. GOD USED A DECEIVER TO HUMBLE A FORMER DECEIVER
Here is the story line: Laban, Rachel’s father, had seemed so enthusiastic when he met his nephew Jacob. He had kissed him repeatedly. He had said to him, “Surely you are my bone and flesh.” He virtually adopted him into his family making him a son of the household. There were no other sons; we know that because later he called Leah his firstborn. So Jacob seems already to have his feet under the table. It is all working out wonderfully well. Is Jacob to be one of those people of whom we say, “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth”? Is everything working out so sweetly for him? As Maria sings in the Sound of Music, celebrating her charmed life and now her marriage to this rich dude, “Somewhere in my youth or childhood I must have done something good.” So what’s happening in Haran? Let’s look at the family agreement and then at the family deception.
i] The Agreement, and very quickly a sea change occurs. A happy month passes by and then one day Laban pretends to be magnanimous: “we can’t have you working for us for nothing, can we? You tell me what you think your wages should be.” What’s wrong with that? Well, until then Jacob had been like a son in the house. He had rights to the food, and the servants, and the profits from his labours. Now it is all put on a different foundation. Laban is in effect making him another servant. He starts to barter with him, and he is shrinking Jacob to the status of hired hand. Laban is as sly and cunning as Jacob himself had once been. Jacob has met his match in this man – as one always does when one starts to cut corners and deceive people. He is cheating Jacob out of what he appeared to offer him when he’d said to him, “We’re family. Surely you’re my bone and my flesh.” Now, however, Laban is dismantling that special relationship and turning Jacob into a servant. You remember Paul’s great words to the Galatians emphasizing the distinction between a son and a servant? “when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Gals 4:4-7). The first cry of this man Laban had been “You are my bone and flesh”, this man who lacked any male heirs had a delight that nephew Jacob had come into the family, and Jacob was beginning to think he was going to have a father as he’d never had, a father who loved him. Alas, the times they are a changin’. “Let’s spell out the contract for your remaining here working for me.”
However, this new, meek, humble Jacob goes along with this. He wants to marry the boss’s daughter and so he specifies his wages: “Rachel: I will work for you for . . . seven years to marry her.” That is the verbal agreement. Of course we’ve all wanted these two to get married since we saw them meeting at the well, but now what seems a slight plot complication is introduced (v.16). Laban actually has two daughters and the older one is named Leah. Their names mean ‘cow’ and ‘ewe’ and we are given a different impression of each of them. Leah is not as attractive as Rachel. Her eyes in particular are singled out as being weak or delicate. They lacked the sparkle that a man in the world would hope to see in a potential bride. She’d not had many suitors. We’re told that Jacob was in love with Rachel and he makes his choice of the younger daughter very clear to her father: “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel” (v.18). Jacob would earn a sizable dowry in seven years to give to his bride’s father. He couldn’t dream of giving him a sum of money that could be considered paltry – for such a magnificent wife? Rachel was of great price in his eyes and he would need all those years to earn the bridal price that she was worth. Laban agreed; there was no one he would rather see marrying his daughter. On top of that Laban had the services for seven years of this strong man who is vastly experienced in sheep farming.
So Jacob served for seven years. It was a great proof of his love for Rachel, and there is this curious phrase that the seven years seemed as only a few days to him because of his love for her. We often comment to one another how odd that sounds to us, that surely it must have seemed like a prison term – seven whole years. Well, this phrase could be an ironic reference to Rachel’s farewell words in chapter 27 when she says to Jacob, “stay with my brother for a while” (v.44). It is the same phrase. It was not at all a little while that he was going to be there. Seven whole years pass, but he knows each day is taking him nearer to marriage to Rachel. You know the saying about times of trial we have to pass through, &l
dquo;The days are long, but the years are short.” Love took him through each day. Rachel was always there to talk to. So, anyway, there is the agreement.
ii] The Deception. The seven years pass, and Jacob is impatient now – who wouldn’t be? “Give me my wife,” he had to blurt out to Laban. He even had to demand that after seven years some action should take place. The world can forget its obligations. He speaks plainly because Laban seemed to be ignoring the agreement. He is also reminding his prospective father-in-law of the purity that he and his daughter have maintained during these years. They want to start a family together. So Laban arranged the wedding feast, and in those days the custom was for the bride entering the festivities to be veiled. Jacob had no reason to believe that behind the veil was anyone other than his beloved Rachel. There was an evening party, there was a grand reception in which they would have eaten and drank and danced and sung until the wee small hours of the morning, and then the veiled bride would have been led by her groom to his tent and they would have spent the conjugal hours of darkness together. One assumes that there had been a little too much to drink, as Lot, a century earlier, had been muddled and fuddled by much wine taken to him by his wicked daughters to get him to do some unspeakable acts. It was dark. It was the desert, but the next morning when he woke up and looked across . . . wrong bride! Someone once said to me that these are the scariest words in the Bible, “Behold it was Leah!”
Soberly, it was a monstrously wicked action of Laban wasn’t it? What pain he gave to Jacob and to Rachel also. Imagine her being pushed aside and told that her beloved was going to marry her sister and not her. It was also so cruel to Leah too. Jacob didn’t want Leah. Jacob seems to have an obsessive personality – the birthright, the blessing he must have them both. Though the honourable thing was for him to settle down with Leah and learn to love her Jacob had an obsessive personality. We see that in him as a young man, and now having spotted Rachel he was obsessed with having her as wife. From that time on he was a one man woman. There is no way he is going to settle for Leah. She apparently really loved Jacob. But if she truly loved him and also loved her sister wouldn’t she have revealed her identity to Jacob as they walked to his tent? It must have been her longing for Jacob, and her longing to escape the shame of her singleness, compounded by her younger sister getting married before she did that kept her silent in the face of her father’s plot. The more you know Leah, the more you feel she’d have been better off as a single woman. How in the world could she have liked this Jacob? We feel genuine pity for both the sisters and for Jacob. One believes that there was compassion in the heart of God for the three of them in the situation in which they found themselves. Laban’s mean and calculating spirit had done them all much harm. What awful consequences came from his wickedness for Jacob and the sisters. Laban reminds me a lot of Lot offering his daughters to the men of Sodom.
2. THIS DECEPTION WAS FULL OF DIVINE IRONY
There are three salutary ironies in this passage. I will draw your attention to them (I am indebted to Dr. Ligon Duncan for these insights).
A] First, do you remember in the promise that God gave to Rebekah what was said? “Esau will serve Jacob.” The older will serve the younger. Isn’t it ironic that Esau was not going to serve Jacob until Jacob had served Laban for twenty years? The Lord knew what his son Jacob needed. Twenty years of hard labour, even for the golden boy in the patriarch’s house. Yes, he had great gifts; he was industrious, a brilliant shepherd, intelligent, a natural leader and of remarkable physical strength, but now he was doing twenty years’ servitude for an evil master before he would be served by his brother Esau.
B] The second irony that we see is this, that in receiving Leah the older sister, Jacob had to learn to respect the rights of the first born. What had he done with first-born Esau? He had conspired on his own to usurp the rights of his older brother, and now he wakes up on the first day of his married life and he’s with the wrong woman. He’s enraged. He goes to his father-in-law. How could Laban have done this to him? This woman was not the woman that he wanted nor had been promised. “Well, around these parts, Jacob, we don’t marry the younger daughters before we marry off the first born.” Isn’t that ironic? Jacob had usurped the rights of his first born brother but now he’s required to honour the rights of first born Leah. Of course that was no excuse for what Laban did here. What Laban had done was just wrong. But it is interesting that God is going to make Jacob taste the corresponding bitter fruit of his own deception of Esau in his own life. But that’s not the last of the ironies, and it’s certainly not the least.
C] The last irony is this that we observe Jacob being deceived by Leah’s father in a similar way as Jacob’s deception of his own father Isaac. Remember the scene? He goes into Isaac’s tent, disguised as the first born, Esau. Father Isaac is in the dark; his eyesight has gone and he doesn’t know who has come into the room. Then seven years later, Leah goes into Jacob’s tent disguised as Rachel. In his dark room Jacob thinks he’s getting the second born. He gets the first born. He is duped by the disguise of his father-in-law, even as he duped his father by disguise. The Lord gives consequences for Jacob corresponding to his crime. What he had sowed that he also reaped. Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and it is going to be a long life of discipline for Jacob, but it saves him from hell and it makes him useful.
3. THE CHASTENING WAS SOLEMN AND ENDURING
We may see this chastening as one that is full of irony, but first and foremost it is a terrible chastening. Sometimes we may make an over-emphatic distinction between God punishing us and God chastening us. We say, “Ah, but Christians are chastened not punished,” and yet when God chastened Jerusalem never in all history had the horrors that happened to that city happened anywhere else. God was ‘chastening’ his people, but it was unspeakably fearful. What happened to Jacob was similar. It was a lifelong sentence of chastening – along with all the other blessings God gave him. You’d think of saying that what happened to Jacob God would never permit to happen to one of his children yet happen it did. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. One thing you have to remember, that Jacob was not Mr. Everyman Christian. Jacob was the solitary believer of his whole generation in the world. He was the representative servant of God, the h
ead of the covenant community after his father died. Great things were expected of Jacob and so the chastening was correspondingly great.
You realize what God is doing here. Jacob had done nothing to bring about peace and love in his own family, with his parents Isaac and Rebekah and with Esau his brother, in fact he had been the stirrer, stirring up things against and between the members of his family for years. In Beersheba he had left behind a wrecked home. It was bitterly divided and it should have been the most favoured family in the world. Now the Lord has moved him 500 miles and put Jacob in another home, yet again it’s not looking good, but now he who victimized others is himself the victim. Here he chooses to have two wives, in other words he will be in a polygamous relationship which is against God’s creation ordinances. But not only will he have two wives, he will have two sisters as wives, soon to be forbidden in the book of Leviticus. Not only that but he has one wife that he doesn’t care for, and he doesn’t want, yet who loves him and wants to be loved by him. “I am your wife, and you turn away.” She also could have children prolifically; she could show a new baby to Jacob hoping that the sight of his son would draw him to her but he gave her a smile, a nod of approval, and vanished. Poor Leah. For one week only she alone had him as her husband when she was his bride, just for a week, and then he was off from her side to marry her sister Rachel. Why hadn’t she ended the deception before it began? Wouldn’t that have been wiser? But let me tell you this, that in the providence of God the Messiah, the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did not come through Rachel but he came with the blood of Leah in his veins. Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah, Judah the son of Leah. Jacob may have been clueless about what he was consummating in that dark tent, but God knew. God had not lost control of the plan.
Then Rachel, the woman who is the love of his life is barren. So the Lord put Jacob in a household where he’s going to have two women at each other’s throats all the time in competition for him and against him. The love of his life is going to be bitterly complaining in one ear about her infertility. “What about your diet Jacob? Ah, this is the problem of marrying a much older husband!” But it was not because her sister easily conceived. Rachel watched one child after another being born to her sister and she couldn’t produce one. Then Leah, who is not the love of his life, is going to be complaining in the other ear that even though she can have children, he doesn’t love her. The Lord has given Jacob consequences from which he can never escape. Those wives are the millwheels between which God is going to grind and purify Jacob’s character.
Whom the Lord loves he chastens, and he does love Jacob. He tells Jacob that he loves him to his face. He has also told Jacob he loves him through the words of his father Isaac. He’s shown Jacob his mercy and protected him in his journeys. He’s made it clear, “Jacob, I’m a God of grace, and I love you with all my heart. But that means that you must change for the good.” The theological term is ‘sanctified.’ “You must take on the likeness of your Father in heaven. You must become purified and prepared for life in the new heavens and the new earth. You can’t behave like the followers of the Baals behave. I will chasten you when you act like that. There will be true chastening in all its irony because you are a tough nut; the sanctification I design for you will fit your duplicity and your deceit; it will not be pleasant but grievous yet afterward there will be peace and righteousness.”
Laban has become the rod in God’s hand, and then Laban added insult to injury by telling Jacob that he must serve him for a further seven years as the price of having Rachel. There is extraordinary restraint in Jacob’s response to Laban. There is just a silence when Laban says, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work” (vv. 26&27). Matthew Henry says soberly, “We have reason to think that there was no such custom in his country as he pretends.” If there had been then Laban had a moral obligation to inform Jacob, but all we read is, “And Jacob did so,” (v.28). There was a restraint. He kept his counsel. The great betrayer himself tasted the bitterness of betrayal. He has been defrauded of having the one he loved as his only wife, and now he is saddled with a polygamous marriage to two sisters for the rest of his days, yet he submits to it so quietly. Did the memory of his own treachery towards his father and brother seal his lips from complaining any more about Laban’s treachery? The biter has himself been bit. The justice of God’s chastening seems to have overwhelmed him. He is deeply thoughtful and very docile. I think when a man truly repents he does not complain about God’s chastisement or about church discipline. His silence is commendable.
4. IF GOD INTENDS TO COUNT JACOB’S DECEPTION AGAINST HIM THEN JACOB IS DOOMED, AND SO ARE WE.
The prophet tells us that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, and that’s the kind of heart we all have. So we can never get into heaven based on our state of heart. Only God’s electing love can take us to heaven through the atonement of the Messiah, and that is made plain for us throughout Scripture. God had chosen Jacob when he was in Rebekah’s womb, before he had done anything right or wrong. So what is going on here? Does he now intend to hold Jacob’s wrongs against him? Does he plan to make Jacob pay for all he did to his father, and to Esau, and to his mother? Is that what chastening is? Payback time? It cannot be that. Payback time was to be almost 2000 years later, and for us 2000 years ago, when God made his Son (who was also the son of Jacob) sin for us, the one person in this world who knew no sin. He became the Lamb of God who dealt with our Jacob-like betrayals and our Laban-like deceptions. The Lord Jesus was paid the wages of all such sins, while we have been paid what holy, blameless Christ deserved. That is why God appeared to Jacob in Bethel and spoke kindly to him and showed him the way to heaven. He didn’t say, “Climb the ladder and you will get to heaven.” No way! God came down and spoke words of grace and mercy to the sinner Jacob, as he speaks to us. God was saying to Jacob, “In spite of the way you’ve behaved I continue to choose you. I continue to make you the recipient of my grace.” That was Jacob’s hope. That was what put the spring in his step as he left the promised land. There was the expulsive power of a new relationship with God, and Jacob was a new man who showed his meekness and service in Laban’s household.
Was Jacob being unjustly treated? No, of course not. By his fall in Adam and by his own deception and betrayal he had forfeited every right to claim anything from God. All Jacob had – and he ends up with riches and children and loving wives and a re
conciled brother – was all the result of undeserved mercy. He had to cast himself on the promise of God that he would never leave him, through the stress and strain of his home life, and Laban breathing down his neck, and his wives at loggerheads, Jacob must wait on God. Only the Lord can fulfil his promises. Jacob suffers in order to teach the nation of Israel who they were, not a conquering power destined to reign over the Middle East and finally the world, but suffering servants of the Lord, filling up the sufferings of the Messiah. Jacob is teaching them (as well as teaching us) the way of servant-hood after we have made a mess of things left to our own devices. Our futures are to be ones of service. The mind that was in the great Servant Christ is also to be in us. Jacob’s sufferings through his marriage were by the grace of God not futile sufferings. Compare the world of unbelief: it suffers and doesn’t know why. We suffer very differently, as those who have God always with us, never turning his face away; we suffer who know that one day God will make it plain; we suffer as those who follow a suffering Saviour who has left us an example that we walk in his steps. Our sufferings are purposive, and so we say, “Father is it possible that this cup should pass from me? Please take this suffering from me, nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” We suffer like Jesus who learned obedience by the things that he suffered. God put Jacob in the same school, and he puts us in the same school. They’re not redeeming sufferings that we pass through. Christ alone suffered redemptively, but we suffer under the chastening hand of God that we might share in God’s holiness and might live more useful lives of righteousness and peace. The Scripture says often to you, “Be patient in your affliction.” That was hard for Jacob, and it is hard for us, but worth always setting before us. There is no alternative for the Christian. Run with patience the race set before you.
So here is Jacob, a man of God, someone showing the beginnings of a new obedience, a defective man, not the final promised Seed. He is not an ideal portrait of Christ. He has taken his eyes off Christ now and again and again, and he surveys the world with too much favour. He was infatuated with Rachel. If only he had inquired of the Lord; if he had but prayed one godly prayer like Abraham’s servant before determining to have Rachel as his wife. But he looked at her face, her eyes and her curves and announced that she was the one. It’s a bit crass isn’t it, those words, but isn’t it a bit crass to base the whole of your life on such superficial and fading qualities? What I’m saying is that Jacob should have taken Leah; he should have loved Leah; Jacob’s love should have made her eyes sparkle and not make her feel second best for the rest of her life. Bad Jacob! Poor Leah! Then when the sisters foolishly offered their maids to him Jacob should have said no again. It is not hard to say No. The power of the flesh and the power of infatuation have ruined millions of marriages and they will ruin millions more.
Jacob’s only hope was that he was saved by grace. That is why God did not say, “I will choose rugged, handsome men to be my children.” No. Jacob was not favoured by God because he had a pretty face, and yet this is how Jacob himself made very important judgments. Do you see our conclusion? It is that we need a better picture of the Messiah than this faithless, heartless man. We need to know Jesus Christ, the altogether lovely one.
Here in the book of Genesis we have picture after picture of Christ – just as Jesus opened it up on the road to Emmaus and showed himself in Scripture to Cleopas and his friend; Noah the rest-bringer of a new creation; young Isaac not really slain for the sins of the people but himself needing a substitute. Joseph the suffering servant falsely accused and imprisoned. And our fathers read this history of God dealing with his people and wisely they saw no Christ there to worship. They longed for the real thing. They didn’t stop with these defective pictures. These stories teach us what glory and perfection we find in our Saviour. He comes, the true promised seed. He comes, the true and perfect bride for his people. He comes, the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He comes, the true suffering servant. He came to work for you, and serve you, and suffer humiliation for you that he might gain you as his bride. Do you think that he can take you and then realize he’s been tricked? Did he expect beautiful holiness but all he got was you, ugly, weak-eyed and covered with sin? No, he chose you and loved you and his loving labours for you have made you beautiful. His suffering has made you perfect. He has joined you to himself. You are in Christ and so you are righteous in him.
Will he set you aside after a week and take another bride? Will he draw some concubines into the mix? God forbid. Here is one true son of Jacob who is yet far better than Jacob, without guile. Here is your husband – the bride of Christ. This is our identity. Our goal is not to be ambitious for this world’s goods but to take up our cross and deny ourselves and follow Christ, whatever we do, follow him, day after day, follow him, like Jacob ultimately learned to do, like our Saviour kept following his Father. We are made kings in Christ while we work for men like Laban to whom our claims of reigning with the Lord Jesus are foolishness. We boast in our weakness, the weakness of the cross, and we wait patiently for that grace to appear when Christ will be revealed. We have to wait as Jacob did because God has said, “I will bring you home.” Jacob couldn’t take himself back to Beersheba. He had to wait for the Lord to move. So we are part of a groaning world, living in dysfunctional families, waiting on God, waiting for him to act, and so while we suffer we do not suffer as those who have no hope. So come quickly Lord and take us home!
3rd October 2010 GEOFF THOMAS