Year 1, Week 5, Day 5

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Genesis 28-29.

Today’s reading records Jacob’s journey to his mother’s relatives for the purpose of obtaining a wife. Genesis 28 focuses on the actual journey and the encounter Jacob has with the LORD, who reiterates to him the covenant promises made to Abraham and Isaac. Jacob is being assured that the outworking of God’s plans will run through him. Genesis 29 orients us to how Jacob obtains not one, but two wives. Jacob’s marital arrangements are worked out by his Uncle Laban, who out-deceives Jacob the deceiver.

What struck me in today’s reading is how it reveals the manner in which the LORD carries out His purposes. The LORD carries out His plans and purposes through the lives of sinful people. The foolish hearts embedded in the human condition does not impede the LORD’s plans: “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11). The LORD certainly can work around human sinfulness, but He often works out His purposes through the messiness of sin. The LORD never has to put people up to sin, but the LORD accomplishes what He wills through the deployment of sinful people. If we ask might it be best for the LORD to not deploy sinful people, that leads to the question of who we might suggest the LORD to use. So, as we trace the events of today’s reading, keep in mind that the LORD is faithfully building a nation through the unfaithful Patriarchs of that nation.

Rebekah sends Jacob away, lest Esau kill him. Actually, she connives Isaac into doing it: “You must not take a wife from the Canaanite women. Arise, go to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel your mother's father, and take as your wife from there one of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother.” (Genesis 28:1b-2). So, instead of killing his brother, Esau defies his parents and married a Canaanite: “So when Esau saw that the Canaanite women did not please Isaac his father, Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael” (Genesis 28:8-9a).

The LORD shows His kindness to Jacob by appearing to Him with great promises: “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:13-15). The promise covenantally issued to Abraham and then to Isaac are now given to Jacob. The promises of a land, descendants, and the presence of the LORD, do not seem to take full root in Jacob's life at this moment.

Jacob arrives at his destination but does not have a strong awareness of the LORD’s presence. The arrival at a well is a scene reminiscent of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for Isaac. But whereas the servant sought the LORD for help in finding a wife for Isaac, Jacob charged on the scene without thought of the LORD. Jacob is very active, but not spiritually alert. He is ripe to be deceived. He sees Rebecca and wants her. Laban, Rebecca’s father, works out a deal: “Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” (Genesis 29:19-20). On the wedding night, Laban deceived Jacob with a disguised switch: “But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her.” (Genesis 29:23). Laban swaps out Rebecca with Leah, her older sister. Laban’s explanation is filled with a hard irony: “Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.” (Genesis 29:26). Jacob had just been a part of a ruse in which the younger deceptively obtained the blessing of the older. In so doing, Jacob took advantage of his father’s inability to see. Now it has all come back on Jacob. Nevertheless, a deal is struck to also get Rebecca in exchange for another seven years of service. By the way, Jacob’s service is mentioned seven times in this unit, suggesting that he is currently more like a servant than an heir of Abraham.

The sinful tragedy of what begins unfolding next is a head shaker. Two wives-one unloved and the other barren. What ensued was true family dysfunction. What ensued stems from a human condition filled with sinfulness: "For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16). While the LORD will work out His plans through the reality of such sinful tragedy, we must also note that the LORD is not commending wickedness. While wickedness does not thwart God’s plans, and in fact, He works through such sinfulness to bring about His purposes; the LORD does not prevent the consequences of this family’s dysfunction from serving as an intrinsic judgment upon them. 

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe