When Jacob Met Esau

Yesterday morning, I sat in my study awaiting a second cup of coffee, listening to the voice of God. I was reading 1 Peter 2. Then I bowed my head and lifted my voice to God. I was praying. I prayed for me. I prayed for my daughters. I prayed for my wife. I prayed for you by name. Then I made one request for our church. As soon as the request passed my lips, I stopped, stunned. I had just asked God to touch our church.

The Touch of God’s Hand

As Genesis 32 nears an end, it was night. Jacob was left alone, when out of the darkness he felt the grip of a man tossing him and tossing with him in the dust of the ground. Each man was in the grip of the other until the breaking of the day. Who was this man? His name was never given and his coming never announced.

Listen closely to Genesis 32:25. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob…” Who was this man whose own strength and endurance thus far was apparently being matched by Jacob? “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket.” Who was this man? This man would only be known by his touch. Last week, it was shared that the word touch is much too tame. It does mean to strike or to deal a devastating blow, which implies that this will hurt. It means to wound. But this week, I came to appreciate just the word touch. The word touch does convey a certain ease. Listen to the rest of Genesis 32:25. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.” Who has the power in the mere ease of his touch to put out of joint a man’s hip? Jacob knows this man. And Jacob knows this man because of his touch.

Listen to Genesis 32:30. “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” Who was this man? It was God himself. It was God as a man who out of darkness wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. The touch was the touch of God’s hand. And it was God who wounded Jacob.

Why would God wound Jacob? This might be the most important reality of Genesis 32. Jacob realized by that touch that he had seen God face to face and had been delivered. And so because of that touch, Jacob gave the place a permanent reminder. He named it Peniel, which means the face of God. And because of that touch, God gave Jacob a permanent reminder. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The permanent reminder was a limp. Jacob would never walk the same. Your walk matters. There is a third permanent reminder. Eating. For generations to come, the offspring of Jacob would not eat of the hip socket, so as to remember that God touched Jacob. Why would God wound Jacob? It was for his own good. Jacob wrestled with God throughout the night, gripping God as a fighter. But then came that touch. And what then did Jacob do because of that touch? He would not let go of God. He held fast to God, he gripped God not as a fighter, but now as a desperate man in desperate need. When that hip went out of socket, Jacob could no longer rely on his own strength, his own ability, himself. Why? “If we in our own strength confide; our striving would be losing; were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing. Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His name, from age to age the same, and He must win the battle.”

When Jacob Met Esau

What then does this have to do with Genesis 33? Genesis 33 is about the day when Jacob met Esau. But when did Jacob meet Esau? Notice the very first word of Genesis 33. “And Jacob lifted up his eyes.” The word and (now or then) connects to what was said previous or in this case, what happened previous. And what happened previous in relation to Genesis 33:1 is Genesis 32:31. “The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” The sun comes up, it is a new day dawning. Jacob passes the place he just named as a permanent reminder, the face of God. It is the place he saw God face to face. It is the place that God answered his prayer (cf. Genesis 32:11). He was limping and as he was limping he lifted up his eyes and looked. BEHOLD! This word is for us the reader. See what Jacob sees as he limps. “Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him” (Genesis 33:1a).

Genesis 32 and Genesis 33 and Genesis 34 are like dominoes. A guiding principle to reading these three chapters is that the preceding chapter affects the proceeding chapter. So, Esau was coming, and Jacob was limping because God touched him. And four hundred men are coming too, four hundred men who are with Esau. And Jacob was limping.

Jacob was in no way ready for this; he had not slept in 24 hours! He knew his brother was coming, but this soon? Jacob was limping. Jacob was tattered and battered and dirty. Where did the time go? He made his way to his family. They see their husband. They see their dad. What must they be thinking and feeling at the sight of their limping, battered and tattered and dirty husband and father?  And what was he doing? He was dividing the family. Jacob did this once before at the word of Esau’s coming. He divided his family into two camps so as to increase the odds of survival (cf. Genesis 32:7). But now at the sight of Esau’s coming, Jacob divided the family again – the two servants with their children in front; Leah and her children behind them; and Joseph and his mom Rachel in the rear (33:1b-2). Was Jacob speaking? Were they all asking questions? Was he answering? Was this, too, an act of survival, Jacob’s own survival?

Jacob moved, still limping. He moved to the front of his family. Then Jacob moved again, still limping and he bowed himself to the ground. Oh, the pain! And with his one good leg, he struggled to get up again and he moved again, still limping, bowing himself to the ground a second time. Jacob will do this a total of seven times, and oh, the pain! Up again and moving again and bowing again. It is an act only reserved to greet a superior, sometimes a royal superior. Before Jacob left home, some twenty years prior, his dad blessed him saying, “Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you” (Genesis 27:29). Yet, here Jacob was bowing down to his brother with his hip out of socket. And he was limping because God touched him – do not lose sight of this; it is a domino. Jacob’s future was that he would be exalted, and God’s path to fulfill this purpose was humility.

The Prodigal Brother Returned

The tension builds with each bow and with each wince of pain for Esau draws nearer. The 400 men draw nearer and nearer, too. Jesus told a story, a story with a lesson to be applied. It is called a parable. And this parable is known as the parable of the prodigal son. The son had it all, wealth and position and wanted it all now. He wanted his inheritance now. His father gave it to him and he ran out into the world and “squandered his property in reckless living.” He was then brought low. Humbled. Broke, he hired himself out to work in the fields with pigs. Soon he was eating with the pigs. And he wanted to go home. He saw the path to home. He would ask his dad to welcome him back home, not as a son, but as a servant. “And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

The father demanded that the best robe be put on his son and a ring on his hand and shoes for his feet. A celebration was to be had that night with the best steak dinner. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:24). We sing with tears and much joy a hymn based on this story – Amazing Grace. But did you ever wonder how Jesus got the idea for this story? Listen closely to Genesis 33:4. “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.”

This is the prodigal brother returned. Jacob is the prodigal brother. Jacob anticipated the unleashing of his brother’s anger upon him, but instead was met with amazing grace. How? It was in that limp and through the path of humility. It was because of the touch, the wound, of God. Esau’s heart would not be softened in Jacob’s own strength. No, God had softened the heart of Esau. He had won the battle. Notice that the brothers wept. It is such a glorious picture of the biblical reconciliation of brothers and forgiveness.

Esau looked up through watering eyes. Picture it, these are some of the manliest men in the Bible weeping! Esau sees all these women and children. “Who are these?” he asked. Jacob responds that these women and these children, his family are God’s gracious gift to him. Then Esau asked what was meant by all those animals, the droves and droves of animals given as a gift to Esau. It was an offering; Jacob’s offering seeking Esau’s forgiveness. At first, Esau graciously will not accept the gift, but at Jacob’s insistence, he needs to accept it to show that forgiveness has been granted (33:5-11).

Seeing Your Face

Then Jacob shared with him that seeing his face “is like seeing the face of God” (33:10). Jacob has put it all together. Why did God wrestle him the night before and tatter and batter and bruise him into the dust of the ground? Why did God wound him? There was a purpose in the wounding for Jacob’s own good. It was humility. It was humility for when he would see the face of his brother.

There are three parts to Genesis 33. We, here, have only covered the first part. The first part is when Jacob met Esau (Genesis 33:1-11). The second part is to act as a transition (33:12-15). And the third part is about Jacob’s partial obedience (33:16-20). We will walk together through the last two parts next week. But we need today just this first part.

I have asked God to touch us. I do not think we are a prideful church. But the root of all sin is pride. And the Bible talks very bluntly about pride. It says to kill it (cf. Luke 9:23). Why did God touch Jacob?  “Sometimes a wound is a very special act of God’s grace. How often we need to be wounded because it is so easy for us to trust our own skills and ability.”[1] What is the point of the wound? In part, humility: to grip God because we are a people in desperate need of him. But why is humility so necessary?

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:6-8). Who does our adversary the devil as a roaring lion seek to devour? Those who trust in their own skills and ability – the prideful.

The touch is a gift and for our own good. I have asked God to touch us, but I first need to ask God to touch me.

[1] Ligon Duncan. https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-meeting-of-the-brothers

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Why Is It That You Ask My Name?

There are two particular essentials for everyday living. Although a person might be able to survive twenty days without it, come day twenty-one food is essential for everyday living. Although a person might be able to survive two days without it, come day three water is essential for everyday living. And although a person might be able to survive nine months without it, come month ten everyone in Cleveland knows warm air and sunshine are essential for everyday living.

But then there is Psalm 127:2. “It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.” I love this one verse. Why go to bed late just to get up early? Why eat the bread of anxious toil? Your God has gifted to you, his beloved, sleep! And the two particular essentials then for everyday living are a pillow and a blanket!

Genesis 32:22-32 is about Jacob. It is about the night that Jacob could not sleep.

Why Could Jacob Not Sleep?

And the big question to ask is, why could Jacob not sleep? Pay close attention to Genesis 32:22. “The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.” Where is Jacob? The immediate answer is that Jacob is with his family – his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven children.

So, where is Jacob? Jacob is with his family at the Jabbok River. And the Jabbok River runs east and perpendicular to the Jordan River. There Jacob finds a safe place to send his family across the river. Why is Jacob sending his family not up the river but across the river? Keep in mind that earlier in Genesis 32, Jacob divided his family into two camps (cf. Genesis 32:7, 10). We will come back to this in a moment, but for now pay close to attention to how Genesis 32:22 begins. “The same night…” It is night time. It is night time and Jacob has sent his family across the river.

But again, where is Jacob? Pay close to attention to those first few words of verse twenty-two. “The same night…” It is night. The English Standard translation makes the point that this is “the same night.” Still other translations point out that this is “that night.” What night? Two things have happened which resulted in Jacob staying the night on this night. First, listen to Genesis 32:21. “So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp.” Jacob had sent a present – gift after gift after gift – to his brother Esau. Then Jacob stayed that night.

But then there is Genesis 32:13. And this, I think, more fully answers, where Jacob is. Listen to verse thirteen. “So he stayed there that night.” Where is there? It is where he prayed. In Genesis 32:9-12 he prayed. And when Jacob prayed, he had but one heart felt need. “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children” (Genesis 32:11).

This is a particular night. Jacob is afraid of his brother. Jacob sent gifts to his brother. But he stayed that night in the camp. But Jacob also prayed. Jacob prayed because he is afraid of his brother. And he stayed there that night where he prayed. “The same night, he arose.” Notice the word arose. It just means to get up. So, let’s put it together. It is night time. And Jacob gets up. He gets up from where? Where is Jacob? He is in bed! And why is he in bed? It is because night time is the right time for bedtime. But he cannot sleep. Why can Jacob not sleep? What does Jacob do soon after getting up? He takes his family, all fifteen of them and sends them across the river. Back in Jacob’s prayer, what was his concern? He asked God to deliver him, but he also thought of his family, the mothers with the children.

Jacob cannot sleep because he is thinking about his family. It is nine o’clock, he is in bed with his pillow and blanket, but he cannot sleep. He is eating the bread of anxious toil. And now it is still night and Jacob is left alone.

And a Man Wrestled with Jacob

Jacob is left alone. It is night. I keep picturing him standing there at the river. He stood watching his family cross the river. He stood watching the last figure be enveloped by the darkness. He stood listening to their sound until all he could hear was the water. I am all alone, he thought. And then he felt it; the grip of a man taking him to the ground.

Notice the word wrestled. It literally means to be covered with dust. A man wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of the day. The man is unnamed. There is no announcement, like “here in this corner.” The unnamed and unannounced man wrestled with Jacob, tossing with him in the dust until the breaking of the day. This is hours of silence, except for the grunting and tearing of clothing and the pounding of the heart and the sounds of pain and the deep heaving from round after round after round of struggle. The bigger question thus far is, who is this man?

Why Is It You Ask My Name?

I want us to jump ahead to verse twenty-nine. At the breaking of the day, the silence has been broken. There are finally words, none of which was, why are you wrestling with me? But at verse twenty-nine, Jacob asks the man, “Please tell me your name.” And the man only responds, “Why is it you ask my name?” The man never gives his name. It is because Jacob already knows it. How does Jacob know this man’s name? Are you ready for it?

But first listen to Genesis 32:29b-30. Jacob will receive a blessing “there.” Where is there? It is where he could not sleep. It is where the wrestling match was held. It is where Jacob prayed. Look again at Jacob’s prayer request. “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children.” Mark the word deliver. Jacob knows this man. For he calls the place, and remember, where is this place? Jacob calls the place “Peniel, saying, ‘I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.’” See the word delivered? It is the same Hebrew word as in the prayer request. There is so much more to be said regarding seeing God face to face and yet Jacob’s life has been delivered. But this much is true: God answered Jacob’s prayer request by the breaking of the day. What has Jacob realized? He asked that God deliver him, and his family too, from Esau. But the real battle was not with Esau. The real battle was with God himself. Facing Esau would not compare to facing God (cf. Genesis 32:21). And before Jacob came face to face with Esau, he had to come face to face with God.

But how did Jacob know this man’s name? Get ready for it.

Jacob Wounded by God

It is in Genesis 32:25-26. The breaking of the day was coming, and these two men have been going at it. There these men stood holding on to each other, trying to tighten each grip amidst the sweat and blood and dust. “When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled him.” Notice the word touched. The word touched is too tame. It means to strike; to injure; to hurt; to deal a devastating blow. It means to wound. And since we already know who this man is, the biggest question of all is, why would God wound Jacob?

My guess is that this wound was pretty painful. Jacob’s hip by a mere touch was put out of joint. Why would God be the cause of my pain? Hosea 6:1-3 is helpful. “Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” Why would God wound Jacob? God wounds like a surgeon wounds. It is corrective. It is to heal and to bind, to revive “that we might live before him.”

Keep though looking at the text. Why did God wound Jacob? It is verse twenty-six. This is my favorite part of the whole text. God said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Jacob would not let go. He was wounded, and the two men kept wrestling and Jacob would not let go. God had wounded Jacob, and Jacob would not let go of God. Why? Jacob says, “unless you bless me.” This is not Jacob scheming. He is in no position to scheme or bargain. So, what is he doing? Jacob will not let go because he is finally admitting, “I NEED YOU.” And this, my friends is the blessing. “SATISFY MY NEED.”

And what happens next is beautiful. God asks to hear Jacob’s name. Now, he is God, he knows Jacob’s name, so what is the point? A person’s name was their reputation, their character. Who was Jacob? He was a liar. He was a schemer. He was a cheater. He was a sinner. And to say his name was to confess who he really was. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Then God gives Jacob a new name – Israel. Why did God give Jacob a new name? It was because he touched him. But how did Jacob know this man’s name?

‘Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while to waste much time on the old violin, but he held it up with a smile. “What am I bidden, good folk?” he cried, “Who’ll start the bidding for me? “A dollar—a dollar—then two, only two—Two dollars, and who’ll make it three?” “Going for three”—but no—from the room far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow, then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings, he played a melody pure and sweet as a caroling angel sings. The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice that was quiet and low, said, “Now what am I bid for the old violin?” And he held it up with the bow. “A thousand dollars—and who’ll make it two?” “Two thousand—and who’ll make it three? “Three thousand once—three thousand twice—And going—and gone,” cried he. The people cheered, but some of them cried, “We do not understand. What changed its worth?” Quick came the reply, “The touch of the Master’s hand.” And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin, is auctioned cheap, to a thoughtless crowd, much like the old violin. A “mess of pottage”—a glass of wine. A game—and he travels on: He is going once—and going twice—He’s going—and almost gone! But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.[1]

Jacob left this day with a limp. It was the limp that mattered. He would forever have this limp. The nation of Israel would remember this limp. Why does the limp matter? It is because God touched Jacob and changed his worth.

[1] https://www.crossway.org/tracts/the-touch-of-the-masters-hand-2607/

And Afterward I Shall See His Face

It takes approximately 14,000 steps to walk seven miles. And when two people walk seven miles together, it takes approximately 14,000 steps. But when Jesus joins two people walking seven miles together, it still takes approximately 14,000 steps.

This is what happens in Luke 24. Two people walking seven miles together, taking approximately 14,000 steps. And they are walking and talking about all that had happened. Then seemingly out of nowhere, Jesus joins in on the walking and the talking. “What happened?” he asked. He must be the only visitor, they say, in all of Jerusalem who has no idea of all that had happened – how Jesus was a prophet mighty in word and in deed; how the chief priests and rulers delivered Jesus up to be condemned to death and crucified; how all had hoped that Jesus was the one to rescue Israel; and how now it was the third day; his tomb empty, but no one has seen him. “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” Jesus exclaims. “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” Then comes my favorite part; Luke 24:27. “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

By the way, it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles.

And Jacob Went on His Way

Genesis 28 was about Jacob. Genesis 29 was about Jacob. Genesis 30 was about Jacob. Genesis 31 was about Jacob. And Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. And the big question we want to ask is, how is it about Jacob?

First, listen to Genesis 32:1. “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him.” Pay close attention to the angels of God. This only appears twice in the Old Testament. The first time is when Jacob left home. And when Jacob left home it would be the furthest he had ever been away from home; about 500 miles. And it takes approximately 1,000,000 steps to walk 500 miles. When Jacob first left home, he was looking forward to returning home. He was so eager to return home that he left home without a pillow. And when night came and using a stone for a pillow, he had a dream. What did he see? The angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder (Genesis 28:12).

When Jacob saw the angels of God, he also heard God speak. So eager for the day when he would return home, he heard God promise, “I will be with you every step of the way and will bring you home” (Genesis 28:15).

Twenty years later and Jacob went on his way…home. And on his way home, the angels of God met him. And twenty years later, finally going home, he sees the angels of God and hears nothing. He hears God say nothing. But Jacob is so excited he proclaims, “This is the camp of God!” He even named this very spot the place of two camps, referring to the camp of God and the camp of Jacob meeting in this very spot. And it could be that the mere sight of the angels of God, which must be more than just two angels, was a reminder to Jacob that not only was he going home, but it was God who was bringing him home…just as he promised.

Then Jacob Stopped and Remembered

Genesis 32:1-21 is about Jacob. But it is not about Jacob going home. The word angel means messenger. And so it is somewhat interesting that when Jacob sees the angels of God, he hears no message. But listen to Genesis 32:3. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother.” The word messengers in verse three is the same Hebrew word for angel. It may be that seeing the angels of God reminded Jacob of the first time he saw the angels of God and what God said when he saw the angels of God. But the focus of Genesis 32:3-21 is about what Jacob did when he saw the angels of God: Jacob stopped.

Jacob is on his way home and has been longing for home ever since he left home. And when he is finally making the 1,000,000 steps toward home, he stopped. And it is so moving. He stopped and remembered. Jacob stopped and remembered his brother Esau.

Notice the rest of verse three. “And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.” Jacob is on his way his home, but Esau is not on the way home. Esau is out of the way home! I read it said that although Esau is not on the way home, spiritually, he is the only way for Jacob to get home. Why?

Jacob’s relationship with his brother was broken. Jacob was the one who broke it (cf. Genesis 25 and 27). And it was Jacob who was seeking to repair it (cf. Matthew 5:23-25). So, he sends messengers with a message for his brother. It is really just three things. He has been staying with Uncle Laban until now. He was coming home now. And he was coming home now pretty wealthy. Why does that or any of it matter? At the very least there is no self-serving reason for Jacob to be seeking out his brother Esau. But also notice that Jacob calls Esau “my lord” and himself “your servant” (Genesis 32:3-5). What is Jacob up to? Is this more scheming?

So, there was a broken relationship with a brother. Jacob was the one who broke it. Jacob was the one seeking to repair it. But Jacob was afraid. Esau got his brother’s message and responded with nothing. Well, he said nothing but there was something. Esau was coming. He was coming to meet Jacob, along with four hundred men (Genesis 32:6). And so, naturally Jacob was afraid (32:7).

And Jacob Prayed

Jacob was not only afraid, he was greatly afraid and distressed. He felt stuck. He cannot go back to Laban. Laban was not too happy with Jacob and who knows what Laban would think seeing Jacob turn around. Could he run away from Esau? Probably not. He had donkeys and camels and livestock and two wives and ten sons and one daughter to carry. What was he to do? He divided his camp into two camps, presumably Leah, his first wife, with her kids and her servants in one camp and Rachel, his second wife, with her kids and her servants in another camp. It was an act of survival. If Esau came to attack, he could only attack one camp at a time. And then Jacob prayed (Genesis 32:9). We have never heard Jacob pray…until now.

Listen to what he prayed. He relied on God’s Word. Twice he recites what God had said (cf. Genesis 31:3; 22:17). This has been called a Bible-believing prayer “full of Scripture; Scriptural ideas; Scriptural thoughts; Scriptural promises; Scriptural ascriptions of glory and praise and adoration to God. And Scriptural descriptions of the character of God.”[1] So, what then helps us pray? God’s written word.

But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Yes, part of the prayer is Jacob seeking God’s supernatural deliverance from his distress. He is stuck! And he is afraid of his brother. Why is Esau coming with 400 men? But the heart of the prayer is verse ten. Listen to his prayer. “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.”

What do you hear? The English Standard translation reads “I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness you shown me.” Other translations simply read “I am not worthy of all the steadfast love and all the faithfulness you have shown me.” What do you hear? God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown something. What did Jacob see? Steadfast love and faithfulness. Now watch this. In Exodus 33:19, Moses asks of God, “Please show me your glory.” And God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’” Then in Exodus 34:6, God proclaims his name. “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” These are the same two words, same two Hebrew words as in Jacob’s prayer.

And it gets better. In John 17, Jesus prayed. Listen to the last request of his prayer. “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world” (17:24). And it gets better. The beginning of the Gospel of John is John 1:14. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The Hebrew words steadfast love and faithfulness can easily be rendered grace and truth. God did deeds, and in those deeds, Jacob was shown grace and truth. But what does it all have to do with his brother? Jacob had been shown grace and truth.

And Afterward I Shall See His Face

After Jacob prayed, he then he sent gifts; lots and lots of gifts. Jacob sent at least 550 animals as gifts to his brother, not all at the same time, but in groups. He sent a servant with each group of animals, perhaps up to ten groups. Part of it was strategic, he put 550 animals in between him and his brother with 400 men (32:13-20).

But why the gift after gift after gift? Listen to Genesis 32:20. “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” No matter what happens and no matter how many animals he puts in between him and his brother, he will see his brother’s face. And in seeing his brother’s face there is the hope that he can appease him with gift after gift after gift. Notice the word appease. It means to cover over and satisfy. The most common word in the Old Testament is atonement. Jacob is seeking to cover over his guilt and satisfy his brother’s anger, for he knows he will see his face. And the further hope is that Jacob can do enough, can give enough gifts so as to satisfy his brother’s anger and be accepted.

I want us to listen to 1 John 2:1-2. “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation [similar to appease] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” We are accepted before the face of God because of Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the gift that has been given (John 3:16). He, as the gift, has been given to cover our guilt, our sins, and satisfy the righteous anger of God. And for all those who have received him, this gift, and believed in him, your sins are covered and forgotten. You stand accepted.

But what does have to do with the brother? Do I have any relationship with a brother or a sister, not just in my biological family, but in my spiritual family, that is broken or in need of repair? For I have seen grace and truth. And I am accepted in Christ before the holy and righteous God. How important is it then, to stop, put everything down, and make things right with my brother? with my sister?

[1] J. Ligon Duncan, https://www.fpcjackson.org/resource-library/sermons/the-fears-of-jacob

And Then They Sang a Hymn

Shadrach Meshach Lockridge, better known as S. M. Lockridge, is well known for the Easter meditation It’s Friday, But Sunday’s Comin’. It’s Friday. Jesus is praying. Peter’s a sleeping. Judas is betraying. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. Pilate’s struggling. The council is conspiring. The crowd is vilifying. They don’t even know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The disciples are running like sheep without a shepherd. Mary’s crying. Peter is denying. But they don’t know that Sunday’s a comin’. It’s Friday. The Romans beat my Jesus. They robe him in scarlet. They crown him with thorns. But they don’t know that Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. See Jesus walking to Calvary. His blood dripping. His body stumbling. And his spirit’s burdened. But you see, it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The world’s winning. People are sinning. And evil’s grinning.

It’s Friday. The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands to the cross. They nail my Savior’s feet to the cross. And then they raise him up next to criminals. It’s Friday. But let me tell you something. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The disciples are questioning what has happened to their King. And the Pharisees are celebrating that their scheming has been achieved. But they don’t know it’s only Friday. Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. He’s hanging on the cross. Feeling forsaken by his Father. Left alone and dying. Can nobody save him? Ooooh it’s Friday. But Sunday’s comin’. It’s Friday. The earth trembles. The sky grows dark. My King yields his spirit. It’s Friday. Hope is lost. Death has won. Sin has conquered and Satan’s just a laughin’. It’s Friday. Jesus is buried. A soldier stands guard. And a rock is rolled into place. But it’s Friday. It is only Friday. Sunday is a comin’!

It is Sunday. Sunday has come. But I am stuck at Thursday.

On Thursday There was a Meal

I do not want to forget Thursday…ever. On Thursday there was a meal. This meal was in the evening. And Jesus was there at this meal. All of the disciples were there at this meal too – Peter and Andrew; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas and James and Simon and Judas and Judas the Iscariot. This Judas would soon leave this meal to do what he was going to do.

And at this meal, Jesus will take bread and bless it. At this meal, Jesus will take a cup and give thanks for it. And at this meal, Jesus will lead these men in a hymn. This is Matthew 26:26-30. Eating the bread and drinking the cup prepared these men for Friday, Good Friday.

These men would have eaten this bread before, but not like this. And these men would have drank this cup before, but not like this. This meal was the Passover Meal, a meal that up to this Thursday evening had been celebrated and observed for some 1500 years. It was a remembrance meal of God’s deliverance of Israel out of Egypt. The bread was unleavened bread and was a reminder of how their ancestors ate the bread of affliction as they fled Egypt. And the cup was one of most likely four cups. Each cup corresponded to four “I will” statements from Exodus 6:6-7. Again, all about the Egypt exodus. “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

But on this Thursday evening, Jesus took the bread and broke it. Why did he break it? Listen closely to Matthew 26:26. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it…” Pause there and notice the word blessing. Jesus blessed the bread. This particular word just catches the reader’s attention and partly because Matthew records that when Jesus took the cup he gave thanks. So, intentionally Matthew points out, for some reason, that Jesus gave thanks for the cup, but he blessed the bread. And the blessing of the bread is a form of thanks, it is just that blessing and thanks are two different Greek words. The word blessing is the Greek word eulogeó. And this word basically means good word. When Jesus took the bread, he gave a good word. But its usage here indicates that in blessing the bread Jesus gave a celebration of praise. This makes you pause for a moment. Jesus took the bread and in a celebration of praise broke it. And why did he break it? Listen to the rest of Matthew 26:26. “…and gave it to the disciples.” So, Jesus broke the bread in order to share it with the disciples. And this bread which for 1500 years had been about the eating of affliction in leaving Egypt, Jesus now says, “Take, eat; this is my body.” Just as for 1500 years this bread had been a reminder or a picture of the eating of affliction in leaving Egypt, this now was a reminder or a picture of Jesus’ body. No longer would the bread be about the affliction of Egypt, but now it would be about the affliction of Jesus. “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4).

And then Jesus took a cup. It was one of the four cups traditionally used in the meal. And when he took this cup, the disciples having been so used to hearing something from Exodus 6:6-7, probably heard something from Exodus 6:6-7, but then heard Jesus give thanks. The word thanks is the word eucharisteó, often translated as thanksgiving. This word is made up of two words: good () and grace (charis). Jesus took a cup and gave thanks, he was thankful for God’s good grace. And this cup Jesus described “is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (cf. Exodus 24:8; Jeremiah 31:31-34). And like the bread, this is a picture. It is a picture that without the shedding blood there is no forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins.

And so, Thursday evening there was this meal and this meal prepared these men for Friday, Good Friday. But there is more.

Evening was Followed by Night

Following Thursday evening came Thursday night. And after this meal, Jesus led his disciples out into the night toward the Mount of Olives. A band of soldiers would soon be dispatched there with lanterns and torches and weapons. But on the way there, after the meal, Jesus said to the disciples, “You will all fall away [skandalizó] because of me this night” (26:31). Listen to these words on their own. Jesus just shared a meal with these men and we will see in a moment that he also just sang a glorious hymn with these men. The next thing he shares with these men is devastation. Each one of you will desert me on this very night. What night was that? Thursday night. But. These words are only devastating without the rest of Matthew 26:31. “For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’” Notice the words “For it is written.” This is Zechariah 13:7. And Jesus is sharing with these men that Zechariah 13:7 is about them and this will happen on this Thursday night. Why is Jesus seemingly devastating these men? In short, it is to prepare them for Thursday night. Just as the meal, the bread and the cup prepared these men for Friday, it pre-explained Good Friday, Jesus now is preparing these men for Thursday night. This had to break them. But this is good news. It is because of the words “For it is written.” Zechariah 13:7 is God’s written plan. And Jesus is preparing these men that although they will all fall away on this very night, it is all according to God’s written plan. The whole night, even their own falling away, will be according to God’s written plan.

And then there is Matthew 26:32. “But [the greatest word in the Bible] after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Jesus on this Thursday evening, is talking about his own resurrection. He is talking about Sunday. He is talking about Resurrection Sunday. And who is he telling this to? These disciples! On this Thursday evening, Jesus has prepared these men for Thursday night when all would seem so devastating – you will all be scattered; Jesus has prepared these men for Friday when all would seem so lost; Jesus has prepared them for Saturday when all would seem so hopeless; and Jesus has prepared them for Sunday – we will all be together. He is alive!

And Then They Sang A Hymn

I love Matthew 26:30. After they ate the bread and after they drank the cup, Matthew 26:30 says, “And when they had sung a hymn.”  Peter and Andrew and James and John and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas and James and Simon and Judas with Jesus sang a hymn. There is a very good possibility that they sang Psalm 118. Psalms 113-118 would have been sung at this meal. And if they sang as their closing hymn Psalm 118, these men along with Jesus, better yet led by Jesus, would have sang, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (118:24).

But why did they sing a hymn? Both Matthew and Mark record that before heading out to the garden, Jesus and these disciples sang a hymn together.

Take a good look at Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:30. What do you see? You should see a small bit of white space. In that small bit of white space is fit all the words of John 14 and John 15 and John 16 and John 17. In that bit of white space fits Jesus’ prayer for these men. I like knowing that in between Matthew 26:29 and Matthew 26:30, Jesus prayed for these men. And after praying for these men, together with Jesus they all sang one glorious hymn.

But Matthew and Mark do not record for us that Jesus prayed for these men and then they sang together. Instead, Mark records what Matthew records in verse twenty-nine. “I tell you I will not [the strongest form of a negative; no! I will not] drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”

At the cross Jesus would be offered wine to drink. Listen to Mark 15:23. “And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.” It was said that this wine “was designed to dull Jesus’ pain, to keep him from having to endure the cross with full consciousness. This wine he refused.”[1] Then listen to Mark 15:36. “And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, ‘Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.’” This wine “was given to keep him “conscious for as long as possible,” and thus have the effect of prolonging his pain. This is the wine Jesus drank.”[2]

But on Thursday evening, Jesus with these men looks forward to a day beyond Thursday night and Friday and Saturday and Sunday morning when he sits with you in his Father’s kingdom and drinks a cup new with you! Do you get it? For all those whose sins are forgiven at the cross and whose hope is in Sunday morning, Jesus is alive, he is looking forward to sitting down with you in his Father’s kingdom drinking a new cup with you!

Why is it new? Why is drinking this cup new? It is that day in which “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 25:8). This is part of what makes this cup so new.

On Sunday, I need the enormous preciousness of Thursday.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-wine-jesus-drank

[2] Ibid.

Now Arise, Go Out From This Land

The son of Pharaoh’s daughter, a prince of Egypt, lived the life of a shepherd smelling like sheep. And would one day part the Red Sea leading God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, out from their slavery to Egypt. His name was…Charlton Heston. And he parts the Red Sea every Easter weekend on channel five.

There are certain similarities not between Jacob and Charlton Heston, but Jacob and Moses. Both men learned the life of a shepherd smelling like sheep. Both men met their wives by watering a flock of sheep. And both men would spend years tending the flock of their father-in-law!

The account of Moses is found in the book of the Bible called Exodus. Genesis 31 is an exodus! In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, are in a land that was not home. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man to be renamed Israel was in a land that was not home. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, spend years of servitude in a land that was not home. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel has spent years of servitude in a land that was not home. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, flee a land that was not home for the Promised Land under the promise of God’s presence. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel flees a land that was not home for the Promised Land under the promise of God’s presence. In the book of Exodus, God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, do not flee empty handed. In Genesis 31, God’s chosen man renamed Israel does not flee empty handed. And in both accounts, there is a hot pursuit.

Prosperity and Prominence Then Pursuit

But, keep this in mind, Genesis 31 is really about Jacob and Laban. Jacob flees. Laban pursues. Laban unloads six years of pent up frustration on Jacob. Jacob then unloads twenty-years of pent up frustration on Laban. And then the two men share dinner together. This is the whole chapter. But how does it all begin?

Genesis 31 begins with the sons of Laban talking. The sons of Laban are also the brothers-in-law of Jacob. And Jacob hears them talking. These men are talking about Jacob! Listen to what these men are saying. “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” First, there is a key word in what these men are saying. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And separate from this key word is a question. Why are these men talking about Jacob?

Jump ahead to Genesis 31:16. The daughters of Laban are talking. The daughters of Laban are also the wives of Jacob. The wives of Jacob are talking to Jacob. Listen to what these women are saying. “All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children.” First, there is a key word in what these women are saying. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And separate from this key word is a question. After listening to Rachel and Leah, the sisters of the sons of Laban, why would the sons of Laban be talking about Jacob? It has to do with wealth, the wealth of Jacob. The brothers are not too happy with Jacob’s prosperity. And why? Because it should have been their prosperity.

Keep all of this in mind and listen to Genesis 31:2. After Jacob hears the sons of Laban talking, he sees the father of the sons of Laban. “And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.” Why, why is Laban not too happy with Jacob? It has to do with prosperity, Jacob’s prosperity! It has to do with Jacob’s prosperity that should have been Laban’s prosperity, all of it!

Here is something interesting. We will learn later in the chapter that Jacob has served Laban for twenty years (31:41). After fourteen years of Jacob’s service, Laban was a very wealthy man. Before Jacob arrived, Laban had little. After Jacob arrived, Laban had much, but Jacob had little. Jacob would serve Laban another six years and after these six years, it was Jacob who had much. But there is more. Notice the word wealth in verse one. This is the Hebrew word kabowd which means glory or glorious. It is the first time that this word is used in the Bible. Laban had prosperity, but it was not enough for Jacob had something that Laban never had. Jacob had prosperity and now prominence. And it will result in a hot pursuit.

Now Arise, Go Out From this Land

But we asked, how does it all begin? Listen to Genesis 31:3. Jacob hears the sons of Laban, sees Laban and then the Lord speaks to Jacob. “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. Jacob will next talk to his two wives secluded out in a field. And he will explain to them that they understand there is only one reason that he has gained the wealth he possesses. God. God has been with him. God has watched out for him. God has cared for him…every step of the way. And it leads to Jacob sharing verse thirteen with them. “[God said] Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.”

In Genesis 30:25, after fourteen years and with much earnestness, Jacob shares with Laban his desire to go home…now. But when Genesis 31 picks up it is six years later. What happened to the Jacob who so eagerly wanted to go home? Some have suggested that it was wealth. Jacob grew comfortable as he gained all this prosperity and prominence. There might be something to it. For six years Jacob remained in his comfort zone. How often am I uncomfortable with leaving my comfort zone? But I think here it is much simpler. It was God’s timing. Although it was God’s will that Jacob return home, six years ago was not the time. This, Genesis 31, was God’s perfect timing for Jacob to return home. And it is emphasized here in verse thirteen with the word now. The time is now Jacob. The greater comfort is doing God’s will in God’s perfect timing.

So, Jacob shares all of this with his wives which they then say, “Now then, whatever God has said to you, do” (31:16). It helps a man to hear his wife say, “do God’s perfect will.”

Rachel and the Heart of the Home

And Jacob leads his family home. Jacob sets his children and his wives on camels and drives away all his livestock and all of the possessions in the direction of home. Which home? Listen to the last few words of verse eighteen. “…to go to the land of Canaan [this is the Promised Land] to his father Isaac.” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And then comes what are perhaps the pivotal verses of the entire chapter.

Laban heads out to shear his sheep. He leaves his home to shear his sheep and he has a lot of sheep. Apparently, this must be far away from home. And while gone, “Rachel stole her father’s household gods” (31:19). First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. These idols were most likely small, carved images, maybe images of ancestors. But these household gods would have been used for divination, worship; for protection or for healing, especially infertility. And remember, Rachel has had a history of infertility. The last we heard from her, she expressed her desire for another son (cf. 30:24). But. Rachel and Leah had expressed together that their father had wasted what should have been their inheritance (31:15). And the possession of the family gods strengthened one’s claim to an inheritance. Rachel, too, wanted what belonged to her.

But then there is verse twenty which intentionally runs parallel to verse nineteen. Rachel stole the household gods and “Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee.”  Some translations have the word deceived instead of tricked. The King James translation reads, “And Jacob stole away unawares.” The word tricked and deceived though do not accurately reflect the Hebrew. The Hebrew word here is leb (pronounced labe). This word occurs 593 times in the Old Testament of which some 440 times it is translated heart. So, it seems that although Rachel stole her father’s household gods, by fleeing unannounced Jacob stole her father’s heart, although unintentionally.

And in these two pivotal verses, two things have happened. Rachel stole the heart of a home and Jacob stole the heart of a father.

Laban Pursues and Laban Follows and Laban Overcome

When it is told to Laban that Jacob and by Jacob it is meant Jacob and his wives, and his kids and all of his stuff have fled, three days have passed. Laban then pursues. And in Genesis 31:22-55, it is all about Jacob seeking to return home and Laban seeking the return to his home.

Laban pursues, and Laban follows. But God restrains. God restrains Laban from saying anything good or bad to Jacob (31:24). Once Laban catches up to Jacob, he overtakes him or corners him. Jacob cannot escape the grasp of Laban. And Laban unloads all of this pent-up frustration of the last six years upon Jacob. What have you done? And why have you tricked [this again is the word for heart] me? Why have you stolen my heart (31:26)? How has Jacob stolen Laban’s heart? “And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? I would have thrown a going away celebration” (31:27-28). I am not sure how genuine Laban is being about the party, but it does seem that Laban’s heart were his kids and grandkids. And in a sense, he may want them to return to his home.

And Laban assures Jacob in verse twenty-nine, “It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’” First, there is a key word here. I want us to pay close attention to it. It is the word father. And then Laban asks, “Why did you steal my gods?”

No one knows that Rachel stole these family gods. And Jacob confidently tells Laban to search for them and whoever has stolen them will be put to death (31:32). In short, Laban comes up short (31:33-35). Rachel deceptively hid them (31:34). And then Jacob unloads twenty-years of pent up frustration upon Laban (31:36-42). But the only thing I want us to notice is Genesis 31:42. “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac [or the one whom my father fears], had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty handed.” There is a word to pay attention to here: father.

The two men then agree to a treaty, a peace treaty. It is really because neither trusts the other (31:43-54). In that treaty, Laban proposes that each swear to uphold the treaty by “The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” There is a word to pay attention to here: father. The father in view is Terah and he worshiped not the God of the Bible, but gods. It could be that the gods of Laban’s household were the gods that his great-grandfather Terah worshiped. But instead, Jacob swears by the God his father worships and fears (31:53). The God Abraham eventually came to worship and fear.

There is a lot of mention of fathers in this chapter. The heart of Laban’s home were the gods of his fathers. The heart of the home Jacob was returning to, the heart of Isaac’s home was the God Isaac feared and worshiped. And the big idea for us is, what is the heart of your home?

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is seen praying…a lot. And when he taught his disciples to pray, he said to pray like this: Our Father in heaven… Jesus calls his disciples to call God their Father. It is amazing! The heart of a home is filled with those who are able to rightly call God Father! How is it even possible? “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Send Me Away, That I May Go Home

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man wants to go home. A man who has been gone for fourteen years, one month and one week wants to go home.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. Another man wants him to stay. He who had little fourteen years, one month and one week ago, but now has an abundance wants him to stay.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man still wants to go home. But after fourteen years, one month and one week and two wives, eleven sons and one daughter, he has very little…to get home.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man with very little still wants to get home. So, he has a plan. He will breed striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. Another man with very much wants him to stay. So, he has a plan. He gets rid of every striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats.

Yes, this too is in the Bible. A man still with very little still wants to get home. So, he has another plan. He will breed striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats using sticks. He will put peeled, striped sticks in the drinking water. And it works. He gets striped and spotted and speckled sheep and lamb and goats by putting peeled, striped sticks in the drinking water. And he gets rich!

Yes, this too is in the Bible and at the very first it sounds so strange. So, perhaps the big question to ask is, why is this too in the Bible?!

Should You Serve Me for Nothing?

Genesis 30:25-43 is about Jacob. Jacob is on a journey, a journey that sent him away from home (cf. Genesis 28:6). This journey would take Jacob the furthest he had ever been away from home and it was because he had most likely never been away from home! But Jacob was on this journey for two reasons. It was because of his mom. His mom sent him on this journey for his own good. It was for his own safety. His brother Esau had planned to kill him, and Esau slept every night under the comfort that one day soon he would kill his brother.

But Jacob is also on this journey because of his dad. His dad sent him on this journey for his own good. Jacob was single. So, his dad sent him away to find a wife. Jacob found two wives.

The journey was a five-hundred-mile journey, a journey that Jacob’s mom promised would only be for a short while (cf. 27:44). And as the journey began to unfold, Jacob kept his eye on returning home (cf. 28:20-21). His eye was kept on returning home by the bare Word of God (cf. 28:20-21; 28:15).

But this journey which was initially promised to be only for a short while quickly turned into a month. A month turned into seven years. Seven years were extended by one week. And the one week led into another seven years. As Genesis 30:25 picks up, Jacob has been gone from home for fourteen years, one month and one week.

What had Jacob been doing for fourteen years, one month and one week? We know that he got married twice in about a seven-day period. He also had lots of kids, eleven sons and one daughter. So, Jacob multiplied. But what had Jacob being doing all this time? It began with watering a flock of sheep. These were Laban’s sheep (cf. 29:10). Then Jacob tended or pastured a flock of sheep. These too were Laban’s sheep. And then Jacob tended his father-in-law’s sheep. These too were Laban’s sheep.

But why was Jacob tending his father-in-law’s sheep? I know that this is review, but it is really important. Look back and listen to Genesis 29:15. Laban asked Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing?” The word we want to pay attention to is the word serve.

When Rebekah was pregnant with her twin boys Esau and Jacob, God revealed to Rebekah that the older, Esau, shall serve the younger, Jacob, (25:23). Prior to Jacob’s journey his dad Isaac blessed him saying, “Let peoples serve you” (27:29). And this is the same word as in Genesis 29:15. The word serve itself means to serve or to be kept in bondage. And the point is Jacob was a man to be served, but so far Jacob is the one doing all the serving! And Genesis 29:15 through Genesis 30:24 it is emphasized six times that Jacob served Laban.

Send Me Away, That I May Go Home

And after fourteen years, one month and one week of serving Laban, Jacob wants to go home. The big idea of Genesis 30:25-43 is home and the man who wants to go home and how this man plans to go home. And it begins with Jacob telling Laban rather clearly, “Send me away!” And what is the reason? “That I may go home” (30:25). And in verse twenty-six, Jacob continues rather clearly, “Give me my wives and my children!” And what is the reason? “That I may go home.”

But where is home? Jacob called it his own home and his own country. Where is it? Remember, Jacob had kept his eye on home by the bare Word of God. “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (28:15). This land was a land that God had promised to give to Jacob and to his offspring. This land was where his father’s house was, a house that Jacob looked forward to returning to in peace (cf. 28:21). It was a promised land.

But what had Jacob been doing as he held onto God’s promise of going home to this promised land? Listen to Genesis 30:26. “Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” Look ahead to Jacob’s words in verse twenty-nine. “You yourself know how I have served you.” Beginning with Genesis 29:15, up to this point the word served has been mentioned nine times. What has been the emphasis of Jacob’s fourteen-year journey? Servitude. Jacob the man to be served has served another man. And now he wants to go home to a promised land.

Laban Wants Jacob Stay

And Laban says, “Stay.” He actually says, “If I have found favor in your sight,” which is odd. It was a fawning way of addressing a superior and Laban is the superior![1] “Please stay!” And what is the reason? “I have learned by divination…” The word divination here is sometimes associated with sorcery and witchcraft. But I do not think that is what Laban means here. I do not think he means that he has learned something about Jacob through sorcery or witchcraft. The basic meaning is to observe the signs (cf. 1 Kings 20:33). Laban has observed the signs. The signs are that Laban’s station in life has only improved since Jacob began serving Laban. Laban has gone from having very little to now having very much. And what is the reason? “The Lord has blessed me because of you.”

And Jacob gives Laban an amen! “For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned” (30:30). But the point to see is that the abundance is the Lord’s doing. Listen closely to the end of verse thirty. “But now when shall I provide for my own household as well?” In other words, Jacob is the one who after fourteen years has little. He came here with little and still has little. He has little to provide for two wives and twelve kids. And do not forget the point of Jacob and Laban’s conversation. Laban’s abundance was all the Lord’s doing. Why is that important? Because this chapter ends with abundance. Jacob goes from having very little to having camels! His prosperity increases abundantly! How could it be? It was the Lord’s doing.

Jacob’s Crazy Idea for Breeding Sheep

I only mention that because of Jacob’s crazy idea for breeding sheep. He proposes to Laban that he will continue to serve him, and his only wages will be sheep and lamb and goats. Whatever sheep and lamb and goats are striped and spotted and speckled will be Jacob’s flock. The more favorable looking flock will all be Laban’s. Laban agrees and then has all the striped and spotted and speckled removed a three days journey from Jacob. In other words, when Jacob returns to shepherd the flock all of what would be his flock are gone (30:31-36).

What will Jacob do? When the stronger of the flock will breed, and they always breed by the watering trough, he will put striped sticks in their drinking water. The thinking was that a vivid sight during pregnancy or conception would be reflected upon the offspring. And it apparently works! And once it works, Jacob kept doing this but only when the stronger of the flock would breed. The feebler got normal drinking water. The end result was that although Jacob’s flock were striped and spotted and speckled, they were strong. And although Laban’s flock was favorable looking they were also feeble. The point: Do not try this at home. It will not work. This only worked, and this is the only time in the Bible it worked, because it was God’s doing (30:37-42).

But Why Is This Too in the Bible?

But why is this too in the Bible? Did you notice when Jacob wanted to go home to the promised land after fourteen years of bondage? Listen to Genesis 30:25. “As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph.” Joseph is the turning point. Why?

The book of Genesis will end with Joseph, this Joseph, along with Jacob and all of Jacob’s sons in Egypt, some seventy persons (Exodus 1:5). Egypt is not the promised land. And while in Egypt over time, the people of Jacob also known as Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them (Exodus 1:6). In other words, there were more than just seventy people of Israel, there were actually too many, too many for the people of Egypt. So, what does Egypt do? They set taskmasters over them. Jacob’s descendants are in a land not their own, a people who are to be served, but are at this time doing the serving. They are in bondage.

And they come to a point when they wanted to go home. Listen to Exodus 2:23-25. “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery [the word slavery is the same Hebrew word as serve] and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” This is like Genesis 29:31-30:24, of which we asked, “Why is this in the Bible?” There God saw and God remembered and God heard. In the next passage, of which we asked, “Why is this too in the Bible?” Jacob while in servitude wants to go home.

In Exodus, God will raise up a man. His name was Moses. It begins with watering a flock and then tending the flock of his father-in-law (Exodus 2:16-17; 3:1). This man will rescue Israel and lead them out of the bondage to bring them home. Very similar to Jacob in Genesis 30. He too will lead the sons of Israel out of the bondage to bring them home.

What is the point for us? There will come a descendant of Jacob of whom God will say, “Out of Egypt I called my son” (Matthew 2:15). His name is Jesus. He too is a servant, one who waters and tends a flock (cf. Philippians 2; John 10). And he too is one who leads people out of bondage just to bring them home. It is us. Our bondage is sin (Romans 6:20). But Jesus the Christ at his cross seeks to bring us out of slavery to sin, to never return and bring us home! “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going” (John 14:1-4).

[1] R. Kent Hughes, Genesis: Beginning and Blessing, page 383.

God Saw and God Remembered and God Heard Her

Yes, this is in the Bible. A man fell in love with a woman. And then he married her…sister. A man still in love with the woman married her…a week after he married the sister.

Yes, this is in the Bible. A wife was unloved. A wife was unloved and so she had children. She had children because she was desperate for the love of her husband.

Yes, this is in the Bible. Another wife was loved. Another wife was loved and so she too had children. She had children because she was desperate to have children.

Yes, this is in the Bible. A wife was unhappy. A wife was unhappy and so she had more children. She had more children because she was desperate to be happy

Yes, this is in the Bible. Another wife was unhappy. Another wife was unhappy and so she sold her husband. She sold her husband for some fruit because she too was desperate to be happy.

Yes, this is in the Bible. And the big question is, why is any of this in the Bible?

Four Parts for a Big Question

There are four parts to Genesis 29:31-30:24. The first part begins with Genesis 29:31. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.” The second part begins with Genesis 30:1. “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister.” The third part begins with Genesis 30:9. “When Leah saw that she had ceased bearing children…” Notice that so far each of the three parts begin the same way. “When the Lord saw; When Rachel saw; When Leah saw.” But the fourth part is different. It begins with Genesis 30:22. “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.”

And there is a certain symmetry between the first part, Genesis 29:31, and the fourth part, Genesis 30:22. Listen closely to those two parts one more time. “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated.” I like how many English translations word this verse. “When the Lord saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.” Let’s highlight those words, “he opened her womb.” God opened Leah’s womb, implying what? Before God opened her womb, Leah was barren. And I want to make this point. God saw that Leah was unloved and God opened her womb. Why did God open Leah’s womb? The text does not say, “God saw that Leah was unloved and so he opened her womb.” The text simply says, “When God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb.” And again, implying that before God opened her womb, Leah was barren. And what does the remainder of the verse read? “But Rachel was barren.” So, prior to Genesis 29:31, both sisters, both sisters who were wives, both sisters who were both wives to the same man, were barren. And when God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. And why? Why did he open her womb?

And now the fourth part. Notice the symmetry to the first part. “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” Where is the symmetry to the first part? God opened her womb. There is the symmetry! The subject of the first part is Leah. The subject of the fourth part is Rachel. And both parts are about when each sister was barren. When God saw that Leah was unloved, he opened her womb. When God remembered Rachel and listened to Rachel, he opened her womb. Mark the word remembered. Rachel is just the third person in Genesis of whom it is said, “God remembered.” God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1). God remembered Abraham (Genesis 19:29). God remembered Rachel and opened her womb (Genesis 30:22). And like Leah, why did God open Rachel’s womb?

Each of the four parts involve Leah and Rachel. And so, why is any of this in the Bible? It has something to do with Leah and Rachel. And, why did God open their wombs? It has something to do with why any of this is in the Bible.

Perhaps There Are Seven Lessons About Marriage

Both Leah and Rachel are married to the same man: Jacob. So, perhaps in these verses there is something to be learned about marriage. Perhaps in these verses there is a lesson or seven about marriage. It begins with lesson number one regarding marriage: Don’t do it. This leads to lesson number two regarding marriage. Do not be married to two women or more simultaneously. And like lesson number two is lesson number three regarding marriage: Be at all times a one-man kind of woman and a one-woman kind of man (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2). Then there is lesson number four: Do lessons number one through three and marriage will still have its difficulties. Then comes lesson number five. Do lessons number one through four and love your wife and love your husband. Lesson number six then follows: Keep lesson number five before you and do not have children to earn or to seek the affection of your spouse. Nor should you seek to have children for the mere sake of having a family or your own self-worth. And finally lesson number seven: Neither Jacob’s marriage to Leah or Jacob’s marriage to Rachel is the ideal biblical marriage.

The ideal biblical marriage has as its foundation Genesis 2:24. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife.” This is the foundation, but then there is the structure. And the structure, the display, is found in Ephesians 5:25-33. Marriage is a profound and great mystery because a husband loving his wife and a wife enjoying, respecting, loving her husband is a display of the good news of Jesus Christ. It is a display of the gospel which causes great joy. It is a display of the cross and Christ loving his bride, the church and giving himself up for her.

But Perhaps There is But One Lesson

But perhaps there is but one lesson. Perhaps the lesson is just this: this is one hot mess. It is messy! These marriages are a mess! Consider Leah. When God saw that she was unloved, he opened her womb. She then conceived and gave birth to four sons, but not all at the same time. Listen to what she said at the birth of her first son. “For now my husband will love me.” Listen then to what she said a year later at the birth of her second son. “God has given me this son also,” meaning, apparently the birth of the first son did not result in the affection of the husband. Surely the second son will arouse some feeling from the husband for the wife. Listen to Leah when the third son was born. “Now this time my husband will be attached to me.” Leah was no longer hoping for the love, the affection of her husband. Now she was simply hoping that Jacob would want to be in the same room as his wife. Perhaps now he will spend some time with me (cf. Genesis 29:32-34).

And really listen to what Leah says at the birth of the fourth son. “This time I will praise the Lord.” What is more painful than when a spouse is unloved? After four sons, is Leah satisfied? I was a bit critical of Leah, maybe lacking some compassion. I thought, why did it take the birth of four sons for you to finally say, “This time I will praise the Lord”? Do you know why I lacked understanding? It is because I do not know what it is like to be unloved. Leah does. And so, maybe it is difficult after one year, two years, three years, four years to be able to get to the point of being able to just say, “I will praise the Lord.” But I know this much: get there.

Then there is Rachel. She is watching her sister; her husband’s other wife and she is envious. She wants children and she does not want her sister to have children. She demands children from her husband or else she will die! Notice what Jacob says. “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” What is Jacob saying to Rachel? But also pay attention to how Jacob introduces his question to Rachel. “Am I in the place of God?” We will come back to this later. (cf. Genesis 30:1-2).

But Rachel has a plan. Her plan has nothing to do with God. Her plan has to do with her servant (reminiscent of Sarah). She gives her servant to Jacob her husband so that Rachel can build a family for herself through this servant (again reminiscent of Sarah). And Jacob says nothing, voices no opposition (reminiscent of Abraham). The servant bears a son of whom Rachel declares that God has vindicated her. Is she correct? So, Rachel gives her servant to Jacob a second time and there is born a second son. In some way, Rachel saw her struggle with Leah for children as a struggle with which God was involved, giving Rachel victory. Is she correct? (cf. Genesis 30:3-8).

Then Leah sees Rachel. Leah has for some reason stopped being able to bear children. She sees Rachel who is barren building a family for herself through another woman. So, Leah does the very same thing! She imitates her sister and succeeds with the birth of two boys! And Leah does not declare victory, but happiness. Happy days are here again (cf. Genesis 30:9-13)!

Both sisters are now barren together. Apparently so are the servants who were used as surrogates. There are no more children until sometime later, when the two sisters are out in the field. Rachel sees Leah’s son with some mandrakes (playfully called love apples). Mandrakes were assumed to help with infertility. Keep in mind that up to this point, Rachel has not personally bore any children. And Leah has not spent an evening with Jacob for quite some time. So, Rachel sells a night with Jacob to Leah for the mandrakes. The result is that Leah, not Rachel gets pregnant. And Leah gets pregnant again. And then Leah gets pregnant again (cf. Genesis 30:14-21).

After all these years, maybe nine or ten, Jacob has six sons and one daughter with Leah, two sons with one servant and two sons with another. This is ten sons and one daughter, none of whom are with the wife he loves more: Rachel.

God Saw and God Remembered and God Heard Her

After all this time, God remembers Rachel. God listens to Rachel, he heard her. And God opened her womb. She gave birth to a son named Joseph.

And so, we come back to our big question. Why is any of this in the Bible? And, why did God open her womb, Leah and Rachel?

Remember Jacob’s question to Rachel? “Am I in the place of God?” When Rachel finally has a child of her own she names him Joseph. At the end of Genesis, Joseph will ask his brothers, the brothers born in this chapter, “Am I in the place of God?” (50:19). He then will say to these brothers, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (50:20).

And remember Leah’s fourth son, when she finally said that this time she will praise the Lord. His name was Judah. One of the descendants of Judah is King David. And one of the descendants of David is the King of kings, Jesus the Christ.

What then is the point? Why is any of this in the Bible? Why did God open their wombs? This all was a mess. But God saw her. He saw her in this mess. And God remembered her. He remembered her in this mess. And God heard her. He heard her in this mess.

Life can be messy, married or not, children or not. But God sees, God remembers, and God hears. Why? It is all to bring about good from your mess.