Introduction: Often God must soften our hearts because of their tendency towards selfish motives. To paraphrase Tim Keller, in words which could well sum up the struggle between Jacob and Laban in this week’s notes, “We may do good to others, but not out of delight in the deeds themselves or for the love of people or the pleasure of God. We are not really feeding the hungry and clothing the poor; we are feeding and clothing ourselves.” (Tim Keller, Prodigal God, pg. 62) As we hear Laban’s assurances and kind words to his son-in-law in Genesis 29, and then discover how selfish Laban was, may the Lord purify our motives and give us selfless joy in God’s pleasure and others’ good rather than in furthering our own agenda in life.
Monday: read Genesis 29:16-21. We begin this week with the amazing love which Jacob shows towards Rachel. 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. Evidently this one daughter of Laban more than made up for the Canaanite girls which Jacob left behind in Gen. 28:1. In this way, God’s goodness opened up the purse-strings of Jacob’s heart. Just as that Divine goodness moved Jacob to give ten percent of all he had 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 my self, and I will be ever, only, all for thee, ever, only, all for thee.”
Tuesday: read Genesis 29:20-25. Jacob’s willingness to go beyond anything Laban could reasonably ask for the hand(s) of his daughter(s) in marriage, (all told 14 years of work in order to claim his beloved Rachel), shows that Jacob had a high regard for his mother’s family, and for her brother 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 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: Ask God to give you grace and patience to endure the work-a-day world. While many complain and bitterly chafe when ‘ripped off’ by greedy men like Laban, 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)
Wednesday: read Genesis 29:25-28. Though we shall see God’s grace triumph over the rocky marriage(s) of Jacob to Leah and Rachel, the destructive, shameful way of Laban with his own daughters should not be overlooked. As John Calvin writes of Laban: “It is a shameful barbarity to give his daughter(s), 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 daughter(s), 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.”
In this way, Laban’s greed overcomes the generous devotion he should have shown to his daughters, and alienates 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).
Thursday: 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, in order to purchase us as His blood-bought Bride. How we should be moved in devotion to Him because of such love. As the Metrical Version of 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.”
Friday: read Genesis 29:31-35 and 1 Peter 1:10-11. Time and again God has mercy upon us – even when our agendas and ‘good works’ can be greatly misguided and selfishly driven. In Leah’s heart-brokenness as a neglected wife (Gen. 29:32), she vainly hopes that the birth of her first-born Reuben will somehow earn her husband’s love. God’s response when such love is not forthcoming from Jacob 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 gifts instead of trying to use them to earn her happiness. The high point of Leah’s being ‘humbled’ in this way by God’s blessings comes in the birth of her fourth son, Judah (Gen. 29:35). Instead of trying to barter with God and with her husband, she surrenders her desire to be loved and says, “This time I will praise the Lord.” She is finally content in 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, even the eventual birth of the One Savior called Christ, out of Leah’s life of sadness!
Meditate and Pray: Who was it who changed Leah so that she ends up speaking by faith and in thankfulness of God’s gift of ‘Praise,’ instead of her own disappointments? 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.
Mighty Spirit, dwell with me: I myself would mighty be; mighty so as to prevail where un-aided man must fail; ever by a mighty hope pressing on and bearing up.” (Thomas Lynch, 1855) Amen.