Introduction: We continue in our study of the earlier days of Jacob’s life, recognizing that we can understand the ‘history of Jacob’ beginning in Genesis 37:2 only if we understand the roots of God’s grace (and his need for it!), in his younger years.
Monday: read Genesis 37:2 and 48:15-16. We begin with Genesis 37:2’s statement that almost all of the last half of Genesis is the account of the ‘generations’ of Jacob. Though Joseph is the hero, and Judah begins to fulfill his role as the royal ancestor of the King of Kings, it is the sordid life of the deceiver Jacob which is the object of God’s redeeming love. How amazing – to choose such a lowly, broken and twisted saint as Jacob to be the focus of this book! God surely could have done better! That is what the world in its pride of self-accomplishment would say!
Meditate and Pray: Let us thank the Lord afresh that He focuses His saving grace on the weakest of sinners. Jacob will never forget how low the Lord stooped in the Person of the Angel of the Lord to redeem his lowly soul and body! In fact, it is Jacob’s profound experience of such saving grace which makes him able to stand above Joseph in Genesis 48:15-16, as the greater blessing the lesser! May the same ‘Angel of the Lord’ who redeemed Jacob from “all evil” also bring glory to God by His redeeming work in our lives!
Tuesday: read Genesis 29:16-21. Jacob learned the hard way to abase himself under the undeserved grace of the Lord. He began his days full of heady success and deeply in love. His presence in Laban’s home brought wealth to both of them. And with Laban’s daughter Rachel, Jacob fell deeply in love. Time lost value compared to this great love, which prompted him to generously offer 7 years of his life for the privilege of asking for her hand in Gen. 29:18. In this way, God’s goodness opened up the purse-strings of Jacob’s heart. Just as Divine goodness moved Jacob to give ten percent to the Lord in Gen. 28:22, so God’s provision of Rachel for a wife moves Jacob to be generous with his labor – even 7 years’ worth!
Meditate and Pray: Do we find ourselves wanting to give God more and more of our time and gifts as we discover day by day more and more of His goodness to us? Let us ask God to help us discover daily more proof of His kindness to us, so that our hearts swell with joy in the generous spirit of hymn # 585 verse 6: “Take my love, my Lord, I pour at thy feet its treasure-store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for thee, ever, only, all for thee.”
Wednesday: read Genesis 29:20-25. Jacob’s willingness to go beyond anything Laban could reasonably ask for the hand of his daughter in marriage (all told 14 years to claim his beloved Rachel) shows that Jacob had a high regard for his mother’s family, and for his uncle Laban. He was not going to get a bride ‘on the cheap,’ but would work more than would be expected for her. How hard it must have been, therefore, for Jacob in verse 25 to discover Laban’s trickery in giving him Leah instead of Rachel. Only the Lord can give us grace when the world short-changes us and mars our hopes and dreams.
Meditate and Pray: While many complain and chafe when ripped off by greedy ‘Labans,’ let us pray with Paul that we would be “strengthened with all power according to God’s glorious might so that we may have endurance and patience and joyful thanksgiving” (Colossians 1:11-12).
Thursday: read Genesis 29:25-28. Though we shall see God’s grace triumph over the rocky marriages of Jacob to Leah and Rachel, the destructive, shameful way Laban treated his own daughters should not be overlooked. As John Calvin writes of Laban: “It is a shameful barbarity to give his daughters, by way of reward, in exchange for Jacob’s services, making them the subject of a kind of barter. He ought, on the other hand, not only to have assigned a portion to his daughters, but also to have acted more liberally towards Jacob his son-in-law.”
Sadly, Laban viewed his daughters as property and never shared with them his profits from their husband Jacob’s labors or dowry. This is why, in the end, these two girls have no problem leaving home in the dead of the night. As they say to Jacob in Gen. 31:14-16: “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children.” Laban’s greed overcomes the generous devotion he should have shown to his daughters, thus alienating them from his home.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to help you watch against the danger of greed in your house (1 Timothy 6:10). On the other hand thank God that, in Christ, there is nothing to fear in poverty. If Jesus was willing to become poor that we might be enriched with the gifts of God’s grace and righteousness (2 Corinthians 8:9), then we ought not to be afraid of His road. As one hymn puts it, “For Jesus won the world through shame, and beckons thee His road.” Most of all, remember that the Lord owns all the wealth, and will ensure that you and yours have what you need – even if He has to enlist the ravens of the air to provide it for you (1 Kings 17:1-6).
Friday: read Genesis 29:28-30:1 and Leviticus 18:18. It is tragic to see Jacob’s heart restricted towards Leah as his wife, while overflowing with love for Rachel. This is where Jacob should have stood up to the deceitful, polygamous practice of Laban. If he knew that he could not love Leah as he ought, then he should have given her back to Laban and withheld himself from the privilege of marriage until that time when the Lord Himself would over-rule Laban and give him Rachel, the woman he loved. Instead, Jacob becomes an accomplice in the kind of rivalry which Moses warns against in Leviticus 18:18 when one man marries two sisters. Rachel’s jealousy (Gen. 30:1) should come as no surprise. God’s Word is always so applicable to our lives and will spare us much heartache when followed carefully.
Meditate and Pray: Thank Jesus now that He is a faithful husband to the Invisible Church of which we are a part. It was truly “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2) that Christ endured the cross to purchase us as His blood-bought Bride. How we should be moved because of such love. As Psalm 45 puts it, addressing Christ as the Royal Groom and then challenging us as the Bride to show full devotion to Him as our Husband: “Amid your glorious train kings’ daughters waiting stand, and fairest gems bedeck your bride, the queen at your right hand. O royal Bride, give heed, and to my words attend; for Christ, the King, forsake the world and ev’ry former friend.”
Sat/Sun: read Genesis 29:31-35 and 1 Peter 1:10-11. Time and again God has mercy upon us – especially in days of heartbreak and disappointed hopes. As a neglected wife (Gen. 29:32), Leah vainly hopes that the birth of her first-born Reuben will earn her husband’s love. God’s response when such love is not forthcoming is to bless Leah even more, visiting her with not only the family blessing of three more children, but also giving her a spirit of praise with which to thank God for these children instead of trying to use them to create her own happiness.
Notice especially that the high point of Leah’s being ‘humbled’ by God’s blessings comes in the birth of her fourth son, Judah (Gen. 29:35). Instead of trying to barter for Jacob’s affection, she surrenders her desire to be loved and says, “This time I will praise the Lord.” She is finally content with God’s getting glory out of her misery and loneliness – even if Jacob never loves her as he ought. She names the son born at this watershed moment Judah, meaning ‘Praise.’ He is the father, of course, of the line of King David and eventually of David’s greater Son Jesus Christ. In this way God brings much good out of Leah’s sadness – even the birth of the One called the Christ!
Meditate and Pray: Who was it who changed Leah so that she ends up speaking by faith and in thankfulness for God’s gift of ‘Praise’? Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:10-11. Leah was led by the ‘Spirit of Christ’ who moved her to name this heir of the Promised Royal Seed Judah or ‘Praise’ – just as much later her husband Jacob would be moved to prophesy of this same son: “The scepter will not depart from Judah…” (Gen. 49:10).
Use the lines of hymn # 335 from our hymn book as a prayer to that same Holy Spirit to help you look to the Glory of God instead of the advancement of merely your own desires or wants:
Gracious Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would gracious be,
And with words that help and heal
Would thy life in mine reveal;
And with actions bold and meek
Would for Christ my Savior speak.
Truthful Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would truthful be,
And with wisdom kind and clear
Let thy life in mine appear;
And with actions brotherly
Speak my Lord’s sincerity.
Tender Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would tender be;
Shut my heart up like a flower
At temptation’s darksome hour,
Open it when shines the sun,
And his love by fragrance own.
Mighty Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would mighty be,
Mighty so as to prevail
Where unaided man must fail,
Ever by a mighty hope
Pressing on, and bearing up.
Holy Spirit, dwell with me!
I myself would holy be,
Separate from sin, I would
Choose, and cherish all things good;
And whatever I can be
Give to him who gave me thee.