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The Deceiver Deceived

Date: Sep. 9, 2018

Author: Michael Mark

Genesis 29:1-30

Key Verse: Genesis 29:25

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?"

Who here likes to be lied to?  If anyone raised their hands, you are lying, and you are lying to me, who does not like to be lied to.  Nobody, or rather, nobody in their right mind likes to be lied to.  Our lives are built around faith and trust.  The only way a society can advance is by trusting one another. Without trust we have nothing. When my brother was young, someone offered to pay him $1 for every pager case he cleaned.  He spent all night cleaning about 50 cases.  When he gave them back, this guy never paid him.  We were all so upset.  It is sad that there are people in the world like this.  Billy Joel had a hit song that went, “Honesty, is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue.”  Is this true?  If so, what a sad world we live in.  But thankfully, there is truth in the world.  There is one truth that has not changed from the beginning of the world, and it is this truth and this truth only that will give us life to the full, and a light to our souls.

Last week, we caught a glimpse of this truth.  Jacob was fleeing from his brother Esau after he deceitfully took his birthright.  Esau said spitefully, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob?” and pledged in his heart to kill him.  The name Jacob means “he deceives.”  While on the run, Jacob came to a place called Bethel, and God came to him in a dream.  He came to the deceiver on the run, and spoke these words of truth to him: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying…All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  This is a great and gracious promise.  The God of Abraham, the Almighty God, the Creator, said to Jacob: I will not leave you. If this word is true, what a great truth it is!  And Jacob believed these words and made a vow.

Our story of Jacob’s journey continues from that point in Bethel, look at v.1, “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.”  There was a well there, and 3 flocks of sheep lying near the well.  In those times there were no GPS or Bible maps.  Jacob would just have to journey north, and once in a while ask people to find out where he was at.  Here by the well, Jacob asked the shepherds there, “My brothers, where are you from?” Notice the friendly greeting Jacob gives.  He says, “My brothers.”  “We’re from Haran,” they replied.  Wow. Jacob had made it, miraculously. Haran was about 450 miles from his home (724 km).  That like walking from Chicago to Pittsburgh, or walking east all the way through the states of Indiana and Ohio.  At around 30 miles (50km) per day, this might take around 15 days to walk.  This was the first sign that God was with him, and led him to the home of his forefathers.

Jacob then asked the shepherds, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”  Now that Jacob was in the area, he was asking the locals if they knew his uncle Laban.  Amazingly they answered, “Yes, we know him.”  Jacob then asked them, “Is he well?”  If you recall, Jacob is about 77 years old now.  Rebekah, his mother, left Haran over 97 years ago.  This would mean Laban is well over 100 years old,  maybe even around Isaac’s age at 137.  So naturally, Jacob would ask, “Is he well?” The shepherds replied, “Yes, he is, and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”  This is quite a coincidence.  Jacob had journeyed 450 miles from home to find his relatives. They could have been anywhere. But here he was, at the same well that they use for their sheep.  God had given Jacob success on his journey.  Prov 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  At least for now, Jacob seemed to be trusting in the Lord.

Look at v.7, “’Look’, he said, ‘the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered.  Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.’”  Jacob was giving shepherdly advice.  He saw 3 flocks sitting around the well in the morning or early after noon, and thought that they were already being gathered up, and suggested that they should be split up feeding on the grass.  Maybe he was not familiar with their neighborly custom.  Verse 8 says, “’We can’t,’ they replied, ‘until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.’” It was a custom in this area to water all the flocks of sheep around the same time, maybe a couple times a day. Perhaps this was to protect the water source, or to make sure everyone’s flocks are equally watered.  The water was a precious resource, and it was secured by a large stone.

“While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd.” (v.9)  It is interesting to note that Rachel’s official job was a shepherd.  “When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep.”  (v.10).  This was a large stone, so either Jacob had some massive strength, or some shepherds helped him, or one strong person was enough to roll it away.  In any case, he watered Laban’s sheep, perhaps as a courteous gesture to his relatives.

Now see what happens in v.11, “Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.”  At first this looks a little strange, but Jacob does explain himself.  This kiss is a greeting kiss.  I don’t really kiss any of you when I see you, except my wife, but when I meet my family members we do something like a cheek kiss.  This was a greeting kiss, and Jacob was weeping out loud for joy. I don’t doubt that he was thanking and praising God in his heart, that after such a long journey in unfamiliar lands, that he found and came to the house of his relatives.  Have you ever wept joyful tears over God’s kindness and graciousness to you?  I remember in a Michael Jordan documentary, after one of his championships, he was on the court or in the locker room crying.  Then there was a commentary by Glen Rice, another basketball player, I think it was, who said, “Yeah, yeah, a man can cry.”  I am not sure this is love at first sight yet, because only later do we learn that Jacob is in love with Rachel.

After weeping, Jacob tells Rachel he is a relative, and upon hearing the news Rachel runs and tells her father.  Maybe Rachel has heard of Rebekah, Jacob’s mom.  I am not sure if she was around when Rebekah left, but Laban was there. Again, it has been over 97 years since he may have heard from his sister.  As soon as Laban heard the news, he hurried to meet him.  He embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his home. Jacob probably told him all that had happened with his mother, and Laban was convinced that Jacob was indeed his nephew. He said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” 

Jacob had stayed in Laban’s home for a whole month, and during that time he probably did some work for Laban.  Maybe some shepherding.  Jacob made himself useful almost right away, but most likely without pay.  In the last chapter, Jacob had vowed that all he wanted was food to eat and clothes to wear, and to return home safely.  So 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.”  Laban probably noticed the great skill Jacob had in shepherding, and wanted to hire him.  At least here, he seemed to be a just and reasonable man.  It looked like, for now, he did not want to take advantage of Jacob, and give him what he asked.

At this point we are introduced to Laban’s two daughters in v.16 and 17.  Leah was the older daughter, and Rachel, we find out, is the younger.  We also learn that Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. This might also explain, at least in part, why Jacob was more attracted to Rachel.  She was described as being more attractive looking, and Jacob saw her first, got to know her first, and saw how hard she worked at shepherding. From v.18 we discover that Jacob was in love with Rachel, and told Laban, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  Jacob was being a really fair and generous man.  It may have been customary to pay a bride price to the family of the bride.  When Abraham’s servants came to ask for Rebekah 97 years ago, they gave costly gifts to Laban’s family.  Jacob fled from home, and did not have anything of value with him.  The best he could offer was his service.  Typically, a bride price might range from a few to tens of thousands of dollars, like the cost of a new car, if you were a well off family. If we take the average US salary today of $50,000 a year, multiplied by 7 years, Jacob was offering a $350,000 bride price.

Laban “agreed” to these terms, saying, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.”  Verse 20 says “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” This is one of the verses about Jacob that has stood out to me the most.  How could he work for 7 years, and wait for someone, and it only felt like a few days.  Such is the power of love.  I have worked at my company for over 10 years now, but I can still remember 10 years ago. Mary and I will be married for 8 years in about a week from now, but it really doesn’t feel that long.  My waistline is a little bigger, and my hairline is receding, but I still look forward to seeing Mary every day after work, and she still brings joy to my life every day.  Jacob was happy.  He was hopeful, and that hope sustained him through the 7 years, even in the hard times. May also the love of God fill our hearts, so when we look back our lives would only seem like a mist compared to spending eternity in heaven.

The 7 years had passed quickly, so Jacob said to Laban in v.21, “Give me my wife.  My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” He was pretty direct, and couldn’t have been more clear.  I don’t know if people these days would ever say that to their future father in law, but maybe it was more acceptable back then.  Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.  This was supposed to be a very joyous and festive occasion, but here we see the dark clouds coming, and the atmosphere will change for the worse.  Look at v.23, “But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her.”  Nice uncle Laban was not so nice anymore.  The terms before the 7 years were very clear: Jacob was working to get Rachel.  Laban could never have mistaken it.  But the opportunity came where he could take advantage of Jacob, and he seized it.  It was evening, it was dark, and Leah probably wore a veil.  Laban brought her to Jacob, while Jacob thought it was Rachel.  He made love to her, and consummated the marriage.  We read that Laban gave his servant Zilpah to Leah as her attendant.  This is customary, when a daughter is married off, to give her an attendant.  This was the case with Rebekah as well, and this signified that the marriage was official, and Leah became Jacob’s wife.

The deceiver, Jacob, was deceived.  It seems deception runs in this family.  What kind of family is this?  Can we all please read v.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?’”  “What is this you have done to me?”  This is often used as an expression of misconduct. When Abraham deceived Pharoah and Abimelech, they said the same thing, “What have you done to me?”  “I served you for Rachel, didn’t I?”  Imagine the shock and horror on Jacob’s face.  This was his life.  This was what he worked hard 7 years for.  His hope was completely dashed to pieces.  Leah was not innocent either.  What if Rachel was engaged?  She would be an adulterer.  How could she play along?  Unless she wanted to be married first also.  And Rachel?  Where was she?  Perhaps Laban convinced her to stay away, even against her will.  But perhaps this brought flashbacks of what Jacob did to his father and his brother 7 years ago.  Jacob pretended to be Esau, and played the part.  He told his dad he was Esau, and took the birthright.  When Esau came in, hopeful and expectant, Isaac asked, “Who are you?” and he was shaken and trembled.  They both realized Jacob stole the blessing, and Esau cried out in bitter despair.  This was divine justice, or divine retribution for what he had done.  It sounds harsh – but God never left Jacob. And God is not guilty here.  This was all of Laban’s and Leah’s responsibility. It was their sin, but God may not have restrained them, perhaps in order to discipline Jacob, so as to purify his character and faith.  God is disciplining him, and treating him as a child of God.  Hebrews 12:11 says, “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.”

Jacob questioned Laban, “Why have you deceived me?”  Laban replied in verse 26, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one.”  This was no excuse.  Laban could have discussed this with Jacob at the start of the 7 years.  He could have said, “Jacob, my nephew, you can’t have Rachel unless and until Leah is married.”  Instead he let Jacob believe he was going to marry Rachel, while he may have intended to give Leah.  Look at Laban’s next offer in v.27, “Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” Laban just went from bad to worse. Notice Jacob did not make this offer. Jacob did not ask for a second wife. Maybe he wanted to, I can’t say. But Laban made this suggestion. Why was this worse?  Because it would bring Jacob into a polygamous marriage. This is not God’s natural order. From Adam and Eve, marriage has been defined as a union between one man and one woman.  Not only that, but sisters would be married.  This is not prohibited now, but would be prohibited expressly in the Law of Moses.  Jacob would be cast into sin unknowingly.  This would also ruin the relationship between the sisters, who would end up being jealous of each other. 

But this didn’t matter to Laban.  What mattered was profits.  What mattered was the extra income Jacob brought in by his industrious hard and free labor.  Laban had no morals, and no concern for the well being of his daughters.  He literally sold them.  He used them so he could extort an additional 7 years of service from Jacob.  Jacob agreed to this, as his love for Rachel could not be quenched.  Might he have lived with the wife he did not want, and grow to love her?  We also cannot say.  But the opportunity was there to marry Rachel too, and he did.  To signify the marriage, and the giving of Rachel to Jacob, Laban also gave her Bilhah as an attendant.  Verse 30 says, “Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.”  He married Rachel prior to his second 7 years of service, so he had 2 wives in 7 years time. Some commentators also suggest that because verse 30 says his love for Rachel was greater, it could indicate that he did love Leah, even if only a little bit, but he loved and showed Rachel more love, affection and honor.

One might ask, “Where was God in all of this?”  “How could he let this happen?”  He promised to be with Jacob.  But now Jacob, Leah, Rachel, and Laban are all caught in this web of darkness, deception and sin.  The truth is, God was there.  We will even see next week, that God was always there.  God promised Jacob “Wherever you go, I am with you,” and “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.”  God had never left Jacob.  God kept the promise he made to him.  If nothing else is true, God’s promise is always true.  Jacob will be blessed, and become the nation of Israel. Rachel will have a son, Joseph, who will foreshadow the Savior.  Leah will have a son, Judah, through whom the Jews of today receive their name, and through whom the Christ, the Savior of the world will come.  Ultimately, Leah would be given honor as the first wife, and be buried among Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah.  Rachel’s tomb is also honored, but in the end Leah would receive the honor of the first.  Later on, we will also see that Laban will receive his just desserts.

We are all caught up in this world of darkness and sin.  We know this in our hearts.  We have been deceived.  We have also deceived others for our own personal gain.  And where does this come from?  It comes from the great Deceiver himself – Satan, the serpent, the father of lies.  He told Adam and Eve, “You won’t surely die.”  And he tells us all lies today.  He says, “There is no God, there is no Jesus.  Sin all you want.  There is no such thing as sin.  There are no consequences.  All truth is relative.  Oh you believe in God?  Well, how can he forgive you?  You are in too deep.”  All these lies are all the worst of all.  These are all the worst lies you can believe.  Why? Because they keep you in bondage to sin and death.  How can you be set free?  I cannot set you free.  Your spouse cannot set you free.  Your parents cannot set you free.  Your heroes cannot set you free.  Only the truth can set you free.  So what is the truth?  Glad you asked.  Pilate asked the same question.  The truth is Jesus is the Son of God.  He came to die on the cross and shed his blood to pay the price for your sins. Only in Christ can you receive the full pardon and forgiveness of all your sins.  And Jesus rose from the dead, proving to you, and proving to me, that sin and death have been defeated.  The head of the serpent, and his lying mouth have been crushed.  The great Deceiver has been defeated - long ago, when Christ went to the cross.  Christ, the King, has opened your eyes, turned you from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God, so that you may receive the forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus (Acts 26:12).  I love that.  You have been given a place.  You have a place!  In Christ, you have a place in among the sanctified in the kingdom of God!  So how should you live?  As those who are sanctified by faith in Jesus.  Holy, repentant, humble, faithful and obedient to God, truthful and loving toward all, and giving thanks to God for everything. Doing all that is good and right by the power and in the name of Jesus Christ.  Do not be deceived: Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.

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