The Benefit of the Doubt

4 So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. 5 He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. 8 If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. 9 So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.

10 “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.'”

14 Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? 15 Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. 16 Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.” Genesis 31: 4-16

The Preaching Source interprets this passage better than I can:

“31:4-15 – Here, Jacob repeats the details of the previous chapter from his own perspective. The main differences are Jacob’s assertion of God’s presence throughout Laban’s changing of his wages (31:4), Jacob’s crediting the Lord for His protection from Laban (31:7) and that Jacob interprets his actions in deceiving Laban as following the directive of the Angel of God (31:11). This detail is not recorded by the narrator in Genesis 30.”

What we initially believed was a conniving, thieving son-in-law turned out to be to God’s glory, unless of course Jacob lied about the dream he had.

In any event, things are not at all as they seem. That goes for passages like this. That goes for life in general. How many times have you misjudged a situation because you made a series of gross assumptions?

Sometimes we view life as it really is but we never really know. Is that person looking depressed because he lost five bucks or because he lost his sister? Big difference but we can see some of the same facial expressions in both scenarios. We don’t know what people are thinking or why they do what they do. We see point in time actions.

Be careful about judging others wrongly because in the end, you really don’t know their full story and probably never will.

Jacob’s Unmerited Favors

Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.

3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” Genesis 31:1-3

Even after Jacob’s deceptions and outright lies, the Lord was protecting him. It’s difficult for me to understand this. What did he do to deserve the protection and blessing?

Once again, that’s the point, isn’t it?

Jacob did nothing to merit the Lord’s favor. He did nothing to earn it. He was a hopeless liar and cheat.

We’ll see this over and over again throughout Scriptures, even through the New Testament with Jesus Christ. What we see now in Genesis is only leading up to the Son of God and His time on earth. It’s a sign of things to come.

Praise the Lord!

Jacob Jacob Jacob

25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”

27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”

29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”

31 “What shall I give you?” he asked.

“Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.”

34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. Genesis 30:25-43

If we didn’t know any better, we’d think that lying was in Jacob’s DNA! He finally had a chance to get back at his father-in-law for making him work for 14 years to take both of his daughters, though the text never explicitly states that. Jacob devised and carried out a plan to cheat Laban out of the best animals within Laban’s herds.

But it was all a lie and a fabrication. Jacob had no intention of treating Laban fairly. Even though Jacob himself was fairly wealthy, he just had to cheat to get more.

It’s certainly not unusual to see this kind of behavior in the world we live in. In fact, corruption involving taxpayer dollars is in the news daily. If there are ways to circumvent the law to prosper, people will invent it. It’s true in the business world too. The higher up the executive ladder the individual, the more he/she has to devise a fabulous scheme to embezzle, skim, or steal.

And then you hear cases of wealthy Hollywood actresses stealing small things from expensive stores. It doesn’t make sense.

Deception, corruption, and greed rule the day. Sadly. They rule the day even when people are wealthy.

Of course it didn’t start with Jacob or Isaac or even Abraham. Adam and Eve were the first to deceive, and it’s gone downhill ever since.

There’s a lot of wisdom in the phrase: there are two types of rich people in this world: those who have a lot and those who don’t need a lot.

The Bible warns us constantly about being on guard regarding wealth and riches. We would be wise ourselves to revisit those verses on occasion.

Those who trust in their riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28

For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 1 John 2:16

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” Luke 12:15
Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 5:10
Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. Proverbs 13:11

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Matthew 6:24

Leahs in Our Lives

17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.

19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.

21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah.

22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.” Genesis 30:17-23

To finish off this passage, Leah and Rachel seem to be competing with each other in the child birth department. Leah desperately wanted her husband to respect her. How sad really. Why didn’t she feel respected? She didn’t start on a firm foundation with her husband openly stating that he wanted to marry her sister, while her father connived her husband into marrying her first instead of Rachel. The men in her life let her down. It’s no wonder she was trying to talk herself into believing God would reward her for giving over her servant to her husband.

We all have a Leah or two in our circle of friends and family. Sad, dejected, maybe even abused. Looking for love and respect but doing things that have the exact opposite effect.

And there’s even a small segment of our society who are forced and coerced into doing things they would never ever do if they had men in their lives who loved and cared for them.

I realize this is a devotional, but it’s also an area that Christians have either ignored or just don’t know about. We have the answers to help these people but we also have to find them and rescue them.

As I’ve stated countless times, we can’t do everything but we can do something, even if you think it’s minor.

What is that something to you?

 

Making Sausage

7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali.

9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad.

12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”

“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night. Genesis 30:7-16

If by now these characters haven’t embarrassed you, then you’ve been watching too much drama in the movies.

You need a diagramming chart to figure out who’s who.

http://conformingtojesus.com

You have sisters at each other’s throats, wives trading roots of a plant for sexual favors, and an obedient husband who just goes with the flow.

Unfortunately I don’t remember reading about all of this when I was growing up. Or perhaps fortunately.

Once again, I ask, what are we to do with this mess? How do we sort it all out in our minds?

Fortunately, that’s not our job to figure it all out and determine who are the good and bad guys in all of this.

Making sausage is extremely messy and most people do not want to know how it is made. They just want it cooked and on the dinner table at the right time.

So it is with the making of the nation of Israel. These are quite literally the 12 tribes we will hear about over and over again throughout Scriptures. They had flaws, blemishes, and outright sins on their record. They are not the picture we have of a model family in any sense of the word, but they were chosen people. We would do well to remind ourselves of their failings, and later we’ll see many of their triumphs.

But for now, they are in the making a ton of sausage, much like we experience in our lives. We’re at different stages of the process, but none of us ready to be packaged and taken home.

Rachel the Drama Queen

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”

3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.”

4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. Genesis 30:1-6

Recall that Rachel’s grandmother-in-law, Sarah, did the same exact thing with her servant. Rather than wait and trust God, she took it upon herself to force her husband to sleep with her servant. Of course we know it won’t go well with her, but she didn’t learn from Sarah’s mistakes.

Jacob was right in what he said. He had no control over Rachel’s fertility, but he was wrong to sleep with someone other than his wife.

What a complete mess!

But like all messes we make, God certainly knows the way out and the way forward. As mentioned before, it’s going to get much worse before it gets better because they’re still not done tinkering with the will of God.

It’s a lack of trust, a sense of pride, or a combination of the two that compels us to act like we do. But can and does pick up the pieces. That goes for Rachel and before her Sarah. And it also goes for you and me.

Family Dynamics

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. Genesis 29:31-35

Once again we see the “unloved” wife bearing children while the more desirable or loved wife not being able to. There was undoubtedly conflict between the two sisters. It could have not been easy living under the same roof. Awkward would be the appropriate word.

There is a sadness in Leah’s words and thoughts about the situation. She was clearly the unloved girl of the sisters, and her words tell the story. The entire story of this part of the family, however, will get much worse before it gets better.

Family dynamics in the best of situations can be tricky to navigate. Everyone reading this knows that statement to be true.

If they’re still around, pray for your parents and siblings.

Pray that God’s will be done in their lives and that family get-togethers would be a time of rejoicing.

He Wanted Sarah But Got Leah

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 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.”

16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”

19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.”

22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.

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?”

26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 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. Genesis 29:15-30

Jacob may have been chosen to continue the Abrahamic line, but he certainly wasn’t the brightest bulb on the tree. Deception ran deep in that family.

I don’t blame Laban totally because Jacob probably knew that the oldest was usually betrothed first in most families. It would be odd for him to be expecting to marry Leah’s younger sister. Give Jacob credit, though, for working hard to pay for a girl he wouldn’t get for another seven years.

What was it like, though, for those seven years. He was married to and sleeping with someone but really wanted the girl’s sister. Laban would be getting grandchildren out of the arrangement on top of free labor. This is one seriously dysfunctional family.

But God.

But God knew all of that when he laid the foundations of the world. He knew their dysfunctions, sadness, joys, and frustrations, but he chose this family as the line that would eventually usher in the Savior. They were flawed diamonds in the rough to put it gently.

But they were God’s chosen people.

We look at a passage like this and wonder how God could have chosen such a feeble and failed family.

Fortunately God does this every day.

That’s what He does.

Urgent and Intentional

Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.

4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”

“We’re from Harran,” they replied.

5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”

“Yes, we know him,” they answered.

6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”

“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”

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.”

8 “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.”

9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 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. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” Genesis 29:1-14

Jacob finally left home to go to Harran. He knew what he had to do. Just as Isaac’s servant did for him, now Jacob must do for himself: find a wife from a chosen tribe of people. He quickly found the girl he was to marry, and there was rejoicing in Laban’s household.

It’s difficult for us to rejoice because we know what comes next for Jacob. But once again we see the sovereign hand of God bringing together people for His will and to further his Kingdom. Coming from the vivid dream he just had, Jacob had full confidence that God would do what he said. In other words, Jacob knew what the outcome would be before it happened. Of course he didn’t know when or how exactly.

With that kind of confidence, Jacob knew what he had to do.

It’s the kind of confidence we can having when we know our final destiny. Of course, like Jacob, we don’t know when or how it will come about but it will.

If we found out today that we’d no longer be around by the end of next week, how would it change what you and I do right now?

How would we spend that time?

Would we be more urgent and intentional about what we do? 

It’s a fun exercise because it helps to focus and fine tune our priorities. In fact, we need to be reminded to do this often because we tend to gravitate towards an easy life.