The Reality Series part 3
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
March 19, 2006
Genesis 29:14b-30 (NLT)
Okay, let me see if I
get this story straight… Jacob has moved to a new location, where he
meets his cousin, falls in love, asks his uncle for permission to marry
her, and he grants the permission on the condition that Jacob works for
him for seven years. Jacob agrees and works the seven years, but on the
wedding night his uncle swaps in his other cousin for him to marry
instead. So when Jacob wakes up the next morning and realizes that he
married the wrong cousin, he’s mad at his uncle. But yet he agrees to
work for another seven years for his uncle in exchange for marrying the
other cousin… whew, I need to sit down.
Does that sound like a Jerry Springer story, or what? But there it is…
right there in the Bible… what a bizarre story!
And that’s not the whole story! Let me give you some of the background.
Jacob was one of two twin brothers born to Isaac and Rebekah. (Isaac
being the son of Abraham.) Now, Esau was the other twin, born just
seconds ahead of Jacob. In fact, a literal translation of the name
“Jacob” is “he grabs at heels.” There’s actually another definition,
and we’ll get to that in a minute.
So here you have Esau and Jacob growing up… Isaac and Rebekah are the
parents… Esau is a hard worker and a skilled hunter, but Jacob is a
Mama’s boy. So one day, Esau is out hunting and when he returns he’s
exhausted and he’s hungry. And there Jacob is with a nice big pot of
stew. So Jacob negotiates a deal… he gives Esau a bowl of stew in
exchange for his birthright!
Years later, when their father Isaac is old and blind, Isaac decides it
is time to give his blessing to his two sons. Esau, being the older,
was to receive the greater blessing. But while Esau was out hunting,
Jacob and his mother Rebekah concoct a plan to deceive Isaac into
thinking that Jacob was Esau, and so Jacob received the blessing that
was intended for Esau. And that’s the other meaning of the name
“Jacob”… “he deceives”. Boy, he sure lived up to that name.
So Jacob had stolen the birthright and the blessing from Esau. And what
do you think happened? Esau wanted to kill him, of course. So Jacob
fled for his life, and that’s how he ended up in a distant land falling
in love with his cousin.
Hey, I don’t make this stuff up. This is one dysfunctional family. And
that’s actually one of the great things about the Bible… it’s about
real people… their good points, and their bad points… their victories
and their failures.
Now, to be honest with you, I really struggled about what to talk about
this morning. I decided months ago that I wanted to preach from this
passage in the Bible, but what was I going to say about it? I even did
a search on the Internet and found very few sites that address this
passage. I very nearly gave up and chose to speak about something else
this morning instead.
But then I started to notice some of the changes in Jacob between the
time he was growing up and how he dealt with his own brother and his
father, and when he was dealing with Laban regarding Leah and Rachel.
So what I thought we’d do this morning is take a look at Jacob and see
what lessons he had learned. Jacob had certainly made his share of
mistakes and had plenty of failures. But God was working in his life,
and it was during the very time he was working for his would-be
father-in-law that he learned some very important lessons and his life
began to turn around. So what I want to do this morning is focus in on
some of the lessons… just three of them… that Jacob learned through
this process, and see if they’re lessons we can learn, too (although
hopefully not the same way).
Three Lessons Jacob Learned:
Boomerang Effect: What Goes Around Comes Around.
Think about this… What
happened to Jacob was sad and painful for him, and the embarrassment
must have been almost more than he could bear. Imagine his frustration
when he asked Laban this three-point question…
Genesis 29:25 (NIV)
“What is this you have done to me? I served
you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
Jacob felt completely betrayed by Laban. He had been duped. He had been
cheated. He had been lied to. Sound familiar? There are some haunting
correlations in what Laban did to Jacob with what Jacob had done to
Esau… twice. And so a lesson God taught Jacob through this whole
experience is the principle that says what goes around comes around,
or, as the Bible says in the New Testament…
Galatians 6:7-8 (NLT)
You will always reap what you sow! Those who
live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the
consequences of decay and death. But those who live to please the
Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.
That goes in stark opposition to what Great Big Sea sang about a few
years ago. Remember this song?
Released June 1999
(written by Doyle/McCann)
Wouldn’t it be great, if no one ever got offended
Wouldn’t it be great to say what’s really on your mind
I have always said ‘all the rules are made for bending’
And if I let my hair down, would that be such a crime?
I wanna be consequence free
I wanna be where nothing needs to matter
I wanna be consequence free
just sing Na Na Na Na Na Ne Na Na Na
But we’re not
consequence free. What goes around comes around. Remember David and
Bathsheba? We’ve talked about them before. And in their story, we see
one of the greatest evidences of reaping what you sow.
King David was referred to in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart.
But he wasn’t perfect. One spring while his troops were off to war,
David stayed home in Jerusalem. In that day and age kings typically
accompanied the troops into battle, but for some reason David didn’t go
with them this time. And we’re told that one afternoon he decided to
take a nap. So after he tossed and turned for a while, he got up and
went up onto the roof of his palace for some fresh air. As he was
walking around, he looked over toward some homes and saw a beautiful
woman taking a bath. That was just and accident. But he continued to
watch her. That was his decision. And eventually he decided that he
wanted her for himself.
So he did a bit of research and found out that her name was Bathsheba.
She was the wife of Uriah, one of the soldiers in David’s army. Uriah
was off to war so he sent for Bathsheba, one thing led to another, and
the New Living Translation says that “He slept with her”. But there
must have been more going on than sleeping because in the very next
verse she discovers that she’s pregnant and sends a message to David to
let him know of the consequences of their actions.
So what did David do? He tried to cover it up. And when it appeared
they would be found out, he even arranged for her husband Uriah to be
placed on the front lines of war so he would be killed. David had an
affair with a married woman, got her pregnant, and then arranged for
her husband to be killed! Then David took Bathsheba as his own wife and
they had a son.
After all this, God sent the prophet Nathan to David to confront him
about what he has done. David admitted what he had done, he regretted
it, and asked God for forgiveness. He even wrote Psalm 51 to express
his deep sorrow and repentance, and you may want to read that on your
own. So what happened next? Nathan told David that God had indeed
forgiven him. But he also told him that there would still be a
consequence. He would still reap what he had sown. The child they had
would become sick and die. David prayed and fasted for days, but the
consequence remained, and the child did die. Plus, David had to deal
with the consequences for the rest of his life as his family and his
kingdom endured conflict and turmoil.
[See 2 Samuel 11-12; Psalm 51]
As children we learn that wrong action brings discipline. As adults we
need to remember that although the consequences may vary, they are
still there. We bear the responsibility for every action that we take,
good or bad. We still reap what we sow, whether it happens immediately
or sometime down the road.
Oh, I do believe that God in His mercy can and will temper those
consequences at times. And perhaps He will occasionally remove the
consequences by His grace. After all, Jesus took the consequence for
our sinfulness upon Himself when He died on the cross.
But still, there was a consequence. There was a price that had to be
paid, and He paid it. So even if you are forgiven, there are still
consequences. You will still reap what you sow.
“Earthly sin always brings earthly consequences.”
~ Bob Russell
Jesus talked about this in the New Testament book of Luke. He talked
about how what goes around comes around… whether evil or good…
Luke 6:37-38 (NLT)
“Stop judging others, and you will not be
judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If
you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will
receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down,
shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever
measure you use in giving—large or small—it will be used to measure
what is given back to you.”
2. The Downward
Mobility Rule: Serving is the Pathway to Greatness.
Jacob had been given the
blessing that should have gone to his older brother, Esau. He received
the greater blessing, and as a result was told that his brother would
serve him. This is part of the blessing his father gave him…
Genesis 27:29 (NLT)
“May many nations become your servants. May
you be the master of your brothers. May all your mother’s sons bow low
Even when his deception was uncovered, his father Isaac told Esau that
the blessing was irrevocable. Even though it was give to the wrong
person, it would be honoured. Esau would bow to Jacob.
And God Himself confirmed this to Jacob when He appeared to Him and
Genesis 28:13-14 (NLT)
“I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather
Abraham and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on
belongs to you. I will give it to you and your descendants. Your
descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will
cover the land from east to west and from north to south. All the
families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.”
Jacob’s descendents would become a great nation. In fact, later on, his
name would be changed from Jacob to Israel. And when Jesus came to
earth as a child, He chose to come as a descendent of Jacob’s.
But before any of this could happen, Jacob, the one who would be
served, had to learn for himself what service was really all about. He
had to work for Laban for a total of fourteen years before he completed
his time. He had to learn that being a person of privilege and promise
does not exempt you from learning the lessons of humble service.
Jesus modeled this for us Himself.
Philippians 2:6-7 (NLT)
“Though he [Jesus] was God, he did not
demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took
the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form.”
In fact, listen to some of the things Jesus said…
Matthew 20:28 (NLT)
“For even I, the Son of Man, came here not
to be served but to serve others, and to give my life as a ransom for
Luke 22:26-27 (NLT)
“But among you, those who are the greatest
should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.
Normally the master sits at the table and is served by his servants.
But not here! For I am your servant.”
Mark 9:35 (NLT)
“Anyone who wants to be the first must take
last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
Matthew 23:11 (NLT)
“The greatest among you must be a servant.”
So serving others is important. But why? Why should we be servants? Why
should we serve today? Should we serve just so we have good church
programs? No, I don’t think that should be the reason. Should we serve
just so we fulfill our responsibilities and can tell God that we
served? No, I don’t think that’s really the motivation God’s looking
for, either. I think the simple reason we should serve is because
people matter. We should serve out of love, not out of duty or ambition.
You know, there are a lot of ways in which I serve my wife. Why do I do
that? Do I serve her because it’s in the job description? No. Do I
serve her just to earn brownie points? I don’t mind earning brownie
points, but that’s not my motivation. I love her, so I serve her. Plain
and simple. I do things for her because I care about her. Our service
should flow out of our love for God and love for people.
Mark 12:28-31 (NLT)
One of the teachers of religious law… asked,
“Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O
Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love
the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind,
and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your
neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”
I’m reading a book right now by Reggie McNeil, and in this book he
“To give to others in Jesus’ name is not an imperialist act but a
loving introduction to the main truth about God’s interest in people…
Jesus elevated having love for our neighbours to the level of the
second commandment, superceded only by the command to love God!”
~ Reggie McNeil, The Present Future, pp. 81-82
Some people think serving others is beneath them. It goes against the
value system of our society. But Jesus was God… and He became a
servant. Your worth is not determined by how many servants you have,
but by how willingly and lovingly you serve others.
3. The Buoyancy
Principle: Refuse to Sink to their Level.
You know, it’s ironic
that Jacob the deceiver was himself deceived by Laban. Laban had
promised to give Jacob Rachel as his wife, but had given Leah instead.
You ever wonder how he pulled that off?
Think about it. It’d be pretty hard to confuse the two. Check out how
the Bible describes them…
Genesis 29:16-17 (NLT)
Now Laban had two daughters: Leah, who was
the oldest, and her younger sister, Rachel. Leah had pretty eyes, but
Rachel was beautiful in every way, with a lovely face and shapely
Rachel? She was HOT! Leah? Nnnyah, she had nice eyes. But Rachel…
Whooo! And Jacob confused the two? I mean, sure it was dark, but I
think even in the dark I’d be able to tell them apart. Of course, they
had just had a big feast, too, so Jacob was probably drunk. So that
would have helped Laban pull off the wife swap. But put yourself in
Jacob’s position. You wake up the next morning with a hangover and
Actually, I feel a little sorry for Leah. She was the one caught in the
middle. She was the unwanted wife. It must have been humiliating for
her, but she had to do what her father told her to do.
Well, regardless of the obvious differences between his two daughters,
Laban was able to pull off the swap. And by the time Jacob realized it,
it was too late. He was married to Leah. And he’s angry about it. But
instead of dropping all of his responsibilities or trying to get even,
he works out another deal with Laban so he could marry Rachel, too.
Now, just let me interject here a couple of clarifications about things
you’re probably wondering about. First of all, polygamy has never been
part of God’s plan. If you read through the Bible, you learn that God
has always intended for marriage to be one woman for one man, and one
man for one woman. But the truth is, polygamy was part of the culture.
Even so, you do not usually find righteous people involved in a
polygamous relationship. And when you do, it’s generally due to a
moment of weakness or because they’ve been duped, as was the case here
with Jacob. In fact, the only good thing about polygamy is that it
breaks up the monogamy.
Secondly, you may still be wondering about how Jacob could marry his
cousins. I mean, isn’t that immoral? Isn’t that against what the Bible
says? Well, yes and no. When God created Adam and Eve, he told them to
multiply and fill the earth. Well, seeing that it all started with just
two, it was necessary early on for close relatives to marry. In fact,
it wasn’t until the days of Moses when God gave the laws preventing
these marriages. And that was centuries after the time of Jacob.
So what seems very strange and very wrong to us today were part of the
culture at the time. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…
Jacob had been cheated by Laban. If it were me, I might be thinking
about getting revenge. But Jacob? He negotiated another deal and agreed
to work another seven years so he could marry Rachel, too. But this
time, he was able to marry Rachel right away, at the start of the seven
What would you do? You’ve already been cheated by Laban. You now have
the wife you wanted. Would you stick around and work those seven years?
Or would you pack everything up in the middle of the night and take off
and never contact Laban again? I wonder if Jacob was tempted to do
that. I wonder if he considered it for a time. I wonder if he went down
to the grocery store and got some extra boxes, just in case.
But even if he thought about it, he didn’t do it. And if you read on in
the story, you discover that Laban continued to try to trick Jacob and
cheat him and deceive. I don’t know how much of that I would have
taken. But Jacob did not allow Laban’s behaviour to determine how he
would act. He refused to sink to the same level. Oh, there was a time
when he would have. But he had grown. He had matured. He knew better
now. He knew that he was responsible for his own actions. And so he
determined he would uphold his end of the bargain.
The apostle Peter wrote these words in the New Testament…
1 Peter 3:9, 14, 17 (NLT)
Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate
when people say unkind things about you. Instead, pay them back with a
blessing. That is what God wants you to do, and he will bless you for
But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for
it. So don't be afraid and don't worry…
Remember, it is better to suffer for doing good, if that is what God
wants, than to suffer for doing wrong!
And listen to what Jesus said…
Matthew 7:12 (NLT)
“Do for others what you would like them to
do for you.”
Jesus doesn’t say to treat others the way they treat you. He says to
treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. And that’s how Jacob
treated Laban. He wanted Laban to treat him with respect and honour and
dignity and honesty and integrity… so that’s how he treated Laban. It
didn’t matter that Laban didn’t return the favour. Jacob was
responsible for his own actions and wasn’t about to let Laban determine
what those actions were going to be.
Have you ever felt like cutting corners or cheating someone because
they’ve cheated you? Every year about this time I hear people saying
things like that about the government. A year or two ago, I was talking
with someone about their taxes, and they told me straight up that they
felt like the government cheated them and so they should cheat the
But that’s not God’s plan for you and for me. He doesn’t want that kind
of attitude to emerge in our taxes or in our business or in our
friendships… he wants us to be people of integrity who do what we say
we will do and who treat others with the same respect and consideration
that we would want them to treat us with.
God, you know we all mess up. We all make mistakes and we all have
failures. But it’s our prayer this morning that You will teach us and
help us grow and mature, becoming more and more like you. May we be
like Jacob, who was able to overcome his past and became someone You
could use to bless the entire world. Place in us hearts that love
people and want to serve out of that love. Break down any barriers of
pride that may prevent us from serving. Help us to follow the example
of a servant that you set for us.
And in all our dealings, may we be people of integrity… people who act
honestly and honourably, regardless of how others may treat us. Remind
us that represent You, and so we should treat others with the same
compassion and respect that You would.