Presentation on theme: "Behind a Frowning Providence Lesson 3 October 10, 2010."— Presentation transcript:
Behind a Frowning Providence Lesson 3 October 10, 2010
Introduction Laban Tricks Jacob (Gen 29) Jacob meets the great love of his life Jacob and Laban strike a deal Laban deceives Jacob Competing Wives (Gen 30) Let the Battle Begin Rachel’s response God remembered Rachel
“Why does God allow deceit to fester? Will it frustrate God’s promises?... His father-in-law Laban has become his adversary, and with two wives and their maids there is constant tension in his household…Jacob has made a mess of his life. It seems that the Lord has forsaken him. Where is the Lord who had promised to keep him and to give him as many offspring as the dust of the earth?... The Lord was not absent during these sordid dealings. We read in verse 31, ‘When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.’… At the end of Genesis, when Jacob moves to Egypt, ‘All the persons of the house of Jacob who came into Egypt were seventy.’ Seventy is a full number of people, but it is not yet ‘like the dust of the earth’. In Egypt, even through persecution, Israel will rapidly multiply. But still they are not ‘like the dust of the earth’. This promise comes to final fulfillment only through Jesus Christ…Jesus himself predicted, ‘I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt 8:11)” (“Preaching Christ from Genesis”, by Sidney Greidanus, p. 306-314) “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face. His purposes will ripen fast, unfolding every hour; the bud may have a bitter taste, but sweet will be the flower.” (“God Moves in a Mysterious Way”, by William Cowper, stanza 3, 4)
Jacob meets shepherds from his uncle’s land gathering at the well to water the sheep. There he meets his cousin Rachel, a shepherdess. The servant asked God for his blessing and guidance Jacob’s meeting of Rachel is very much unlike the meeting between Abraham’s servant and Jacob’s mother Rebekah. (Gen 24:10 – 28) Gen 29:16-18 - “Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah's eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Jacob loved Rachel…” While he saw she was beautiful, the servant gave her a character test The servant gave glory to God. And to everyone he met, he attributed his success to the Lord. Jacob appears to be planning his marriage on his own. Choosing a wife (or husband) on looks alone is a foolish practice. Prov 31:30 – “ Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”
Laban runs to meet Jacob; Jacob tells him “all these things.” So Laban and Jacob engage in a business deal – seven years service in return for one daughter. This is a classic example of doing something in your own effort. Laban and his father had previously agreed that it was the Lord’s will for Rebekah to go with Abraham’s servant – they sent her to Isaac as an act of faith Gen 24:50, 51 – “Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, ‘The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go…as the LORD has spoken.’” “Instead of living his life in the light of Bethel, Jacob accommodated himself to the world’s way of doing things – and ultimately he paid the price for that decision.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 68) Psa 127:1 – “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
“We do not excuse Laban for his dishonesty, but we scruple not to learn from the custom which he quoted as his excuse. There are some things which must be taken in order, and if we would win the second we must secure the first. The second may be the more lovely in our eyes, but the rule of the heavenly country must stand, and the elder must be married first. For instance, many men desire the beautiful and well-favored Rachel of joy and peace in believing, but they must first be wedded to the tender-eyed Leah of repentance. Every one falls in love with happiness, and many would cheerfully serve twice seven years to enjoy it, but according to the rule of the Lord's kingdom, the Leah of real holiness must be beloved of our soul before the Rachel of true happiness can be attained. Heaven stands not first but second, and only by persevering to the end can we win a portion in it. The cross must be carried before the crown can be worn. We must follow our Lord in His humiliation, or we shall never rest with Him in glory.” (“Morning and Evening”, by Charles Spurgeon, Nov 14, evening)
Jacob will eventually abandon his clever strategies after God has transformed him through his gracious discipline. And God’s relentless grace will transform us as well. Gen 29:20 - “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” “God’s purpose for good in sanctifying you in and through trials and suffering may not be comfortable, but it is sure. Even rough diamonds like Jacob – and like you and me – will be polished by providence until we shine like stars.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 72) Laban finds a way to get another seven years of service from Jacob – he substitutes Leah for Rachel and tells Jacob he can also have Rachel for a second set of seven years. Like his father, Jacob was not able to discern the deception with his senses.
God has mercy on Leah and opens her womb – it is she who will bear the line of the Messiah. Leah bears four sons, and we see how her attitude changes as she names each one: God’s mercy is extended to once again to someone who had made a mess of their life – surely Leah had agreed to Laban’s plan Gen 29:31, 32 - “When the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.’”
“Whatever we must have instead of, or as well as, the God of the Bible, if life is to have meaning for us – that is our idol…Idols, however, ultimately never satisfy. In reality, a deep relationship with God and God alone is all we need to possess life in all its fullness.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 82) Reuben means “See! A Son!” Leah, though using the Lord’s name, desired her husband’s attention foremost. This is idolatry. Finally, Judah means “praise” (This time I will praise the Lord). Leah has turned from her husband to the Lord as the object of her love. Simeon means “heard” (The Lord has heard that I am hated) and Levi means “attached” (This time my husband will be attached to me) – Leah still desired her husband foremost, but he remained cold-hearted toward her. “The pain of unsatisfied idolatry often serves as the messenger of God to reveal the hidden recesses of our hearts to us.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 83)
Now Rachel is concerned that her sister’s fruitfulness will draw her husband’s affections away from her. This is also idolatry. She didn’t take her plight to the Lord (as Hannah did in Shiloh – it is not that prayers were unanswered, but unprayed), but angrily confronted her husband. And Jacob was no better – he did not pray for Rachel, but answered that he was not the one who was to blame. So, both Rachel and Leah in turn, resort to giving their handmaids to Jacob. Four more sons are the result. Gen 30:1, 2 - “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’ Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’”
Rachel and Leah’s handmaids Rachel’s handmaid, Bilhah, bears him two sons – Dan means “He has judged” (she believes that God shows his approval of her means). Naphtali means “my struggle” (she believes she has victory over her sister). Leah’s handmaid, Zilpah, bore two sons as well – Gad means “fortunate” and Asher means “blessed” – she now believes God has favored her again. The Mandrake Deal Leah’s son Reuben found some mandrakes, a plant thought to make a woman fertile – and he brought them to his mother. Rachel confronts Leah and requests some of the mandrakes – she finally agrees to trade her night with Jacob for the mandrakes – truly a low point in the marriage. God blessed Leah, however, and she bore two more sons – It is God who is in control, but the sisters have once again reverted to competing for their husband’s affections.
“She needed to be emptied of her pride and privilege before she could be filled. What Jacob could not do for her, what the mandrakes could not do for her, at last the Lord did for her, opening her womb and causing her to bear a son. The Lord had compassion on her need and emptiness and gave her a child. Having a son of her own took away Rachel’s disgrace, though there is no evidence that it weakened her competitive spirit with her sister. Joseph’s name was a request to the Lord for another son. She was still not satisfied with God’s gracious provision, though at least now her request seems directed to the right person.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 88) Gen 30:22, 24 - “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son and said, ‘God has taken away my reproach.’ And she called his name Joseph, saying, ‘May the LORD add to me another son!’”
“God has been accomplishing his purpose of making Jacob the father of a multitude on sons. What is more, at this point in God’s plan the blessing will not pass to either Judah or Joseph…At the end of Jacob’s life, he would not have to choose only one among his sons to bless, as his father had done; there would be blessings enough for all of Jacob’s children to share.” (“Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac and Jacob”, by Iain Duguid, p. 89) Joseph would be the one whom God would use to deliver his family in Egypt. Amazingly, it was after Joseph’s birth that Jacob’s thoughts turned to returning to the promised land. And Jacob would show Joseph the kind of favoritism that had broken up his family fourteen years prior. But God did not ultimately choose Joseph as the line through which Messiah would be born.