July 24, 2011
A few years ago in a Fort Worth suburb, a goat escaped from the Future Farmers of America pens and made its way into the halls of the local high school. It was after hours, so no one could let it out; but it was caught on a security camera, butting its head against its own reflection that it saw in the glass doors. Finally, this angry goat butted so hard that the door shattered and it escaped, apparently unhurt.
When it had been trapped, it became frightened and angry and tried to attack, only attacking itself. When we get upset by the sins of others, we need to look at our lives to see if it is really our own sin that has stirred our anger.
This story is about God using the pattern of Jacob’s deceitfulness to confound and bless Jacob. Jacob found himself facing a potential father-in-law, who happened to be as devious as he was.
The setting: (Gen. 27—29) Jacob, who by deception stole the birthright from his older brother, journeyed east in search of a bride. This bride was to be a key player in God fulfilling His promise to make the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob a great nation. To do this, Jacob needed a wife. He found Rachel, rescued her and rejoiced that she was a possible wife for him, except he had to make a deal with her father.
Act One: Laban’s Agreement with Jacob (vv. 29:15-20)
God made sure readers would know Jacob wanted to marry Rachel, the younger daughter, though the custom of that culture was for the older daughter to marry first. It also is pointed out that Jacob preferred Rachel because of her beauty. In this setting, Laban agreed to a contract that Jacob would work for him for seven years in order to wed Rachel. The romance was heightened with the phrase that “the years seemed like but a few days.”
Act Two: Jacob’s Wedding Surprise (vv. 29:21-26)
Unlike a surprise party, in this case the gift was the surprise. Taking the culture of that day and mixing it with a little imagination, we can envision a bridegroom who had feasted with “all the men of the place,” leaving with his bride who was covered head to toe in her wedding garments. Add to that the darkness of a dessert tent and the blurriness from the feasting, and we get a less than attentive bridegroom, who in the morning discovered, “Behold, it was Leah.” This is not unlike the young pastor who thought he was becoming pastor of a beautiful church only to wake up months later to the ugliness of a real church! When Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me?” it is only an echo of what Esau and Isaac had said to Jacob years before.
Act Three: Jacob Marries Rachel (vv. 29:27-30)
Laban agreed to a new deal, and Jacob married Rachel but had to serve Laban another seven years after this second marriage. This custom of multiple wives is made even stranger to our custom when we see the writer makes a point that Jacob married Leah and Rachel and was given their handmaids, Zilpah and Bilhah.
Aftermath (Gen. 29—30)
Later, Jacob deceived Laban when he suddenly left for his homeland. So, these two old goats were butting heads, but really it was their own sins they were fighting. In the midst of all this, God was forming the tribes of the nation of Israel. The 12 sons came about as a result of Jacob having four wives. Having four wives is not condoned any more than the butting at our own sin. The story shows us that even when we are foolishly mad at our own reflection and act out of God’s will, God’s sovereign plan is still being fulfilled in spite of us.