In this chapter, we read all about how God's hand continues to be on Jacob as we read of him arriving safely in the land of his relatives, who welcomed him warmly as well blessing him with marriage and a strong heritage of sons.
In verses 1-3, we read of Jacobs's arrival in the land his mother, Rebekah, came from, which is also the land of his grandfather, Abraham. And it is upon this arrival that he comes upon a well that was used to water sheep. However, as we read on in verses 4-10, we learn this well is covered and protected by a large stone. A stone so large in fact that it will take all of the shepherds in the area working together to remove it. A task which Jacob readily jumps in to help them accomplish. And it is at this time, as Jacob it talking with and assisting the local shephards that Rachel, the daughter of the very man he was seeking out.
After a very warm and welcome greeting, we read in verses 11-14 that Rachel rushes home to arrange for a meeting between her father, Laban, and Jacob, at which time Jacob is treated with immense kindness and before we know it, a whole month has passed! However, this “honeymoon period” , if you will, is about to come to a close when in verse 15 Laban says “You shouldn’t work for me without pay just because we are relatives. Tell me how much your wages should be.” In other words, this free ride of yours has come to an end. It’s time for you to start pitching in!
Now, let’s not forget, Jacob came from a very wealthy family. Though I am sure he was not a lazy man, he was not accustomed to hard labor. That type of work was left to the slaves. However, Jacobs reaction to Laban’s question reveals a lot about his character. He doesn’t scoff and say “Did you forget who I am?” “Have you forgotten the great wealth my father holds back home?” Instead he responded in verse 18 with “I’ll work for you for seven years if you’ll give me Rachel, your younger daughter as my wife.”
This offer to work for seven years is basically a dowry. A dowry was customary during that time and was a means of compensation given to the bride to be’s father as well as a way for a man to show that he was fit to support a family. However, this offer of working SEVEN years was a very generous one for a typical dowry during that time did not exceed more than THREE years wages. So not only did Jacob not shy away from the responsibility to fulfill what was customary, he went far above and beyond. Clearly, Jacob didn’t want to risk a refusal from Laban, and his plan was successful. Laban agrees and Jacob sets to work, counting down the days for seven labor filled years.
But finally, as we read in verse 21, the seven years of hard labor have finally come to a close and Jacob says to Laban, “I have fulfilled my agreement…Now give me my wife…”. And Laban responded by preparing a wedding and inviting all the guests. However, and this is where the real drama of the story unfolds, Verse 23 tells us, “But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.” Now you might have read that verse and thought “Hold up! Our boy Jacob had pined for Rachel for SEVEN YEARS! He worked diligently for her hand in marriage, seeing her pass by as he labored. Likely stealing glances at her whenever the opportunity arose. But now he somehow doesn’t recognize her? How is that possible?”
To answer that question, we have to once again dig deeper into the customs of the time. You see, it was possible for Jacob to be fooled because according to the wedding customs of the time, the wife was veiled until she was finally alone with her husband in the honeymoon suite. If it was dark by the time Jacob and his new bride were alone together there would be no way for Jacob to see and know. After all, we must remember, there isn’t a lamp on a night stand giving the space any light. When the scripture says “it was darK” it means it was DARK! And so, as the sun rose the next day and Jacob discovered it was Leah and NOT Rachel laying at his side, to say he was shocked would be an understatement!
And it is in this moment that we likely all feel deeply for Jacob. After all, he had worked seven years, an incredibly generous dowry, for RACHEL’s hand. He is very specific about that when he said in verse 18 “I will work for you for seven years if you will give me Rachel, your YOUNGER daughter, to be as a wife.” It would be easy for us to shame Laban, condemning him with thoughts of vengeance and cries for justice for Jacob. However, if we think back just a couple of chapters you will remember that, though Jacob has definitely been wronged by Laban, it is also a very true reality that he has just tasted a dose of his own medicine. In other words, the deceiver has now been deceived. For back in Genesis 27, we read of Jacob deceiving his father and stealing his brother Esau’s blessing.
This my friends is a prime example of Jacob reaping what he had sown. In stealing his brother's blessing, Jacob exchanged the younger for the older. And in swapping Rachel for Leah, Laban exchanged the older for the younger. I love how Pastor David Guzik puts it:
“When Jacob deceived his father and cheated his brother, God did not change His plan to choose Jacob to receive the birthright. Instead, God took Jacob to the school of difficult experience to discipline him. This shows that our disobedience may not derail God’s plan for our life, but it will greatly affect how we end up experiencing it. One might spend 20 years working for someone like Laban while God teaches a few things.”
I don’t know about you but I find so much freedom in this truth that even our greatest failings can’t mess up God’s divine plan. After all, as we discovered at the end of 2023 when we read through the book of Revelations, we know how this story ends! We know He is the victor! And we know that those of us who choose to surrender our hearts and lives to Him as Lord and Savior will share in that victory!
It is always such a powerful reminder to me that the Lord doesn’t expect perfection from me. He never has! Romans 5:8 makes that clear as it tells us that “...God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He knew what he was getting into when He died for messy old me, paying the ultimate price for MY sins, only asking in return that I live a life of obedient surrender to Him, HIs plan and HIs will. But His grace doesn’t even stop there. Because even when we mess up BIG TIME like Jacob did, He doesn’t cut us out of the family. He doesn’t jump ship and formulate a new plan. No. He takes the time to shepherd our hearts. To teach us. To direct us. To lead us. To heal us. And to realign us with his perfect will and purpose. Patiently working with us and in us as He waits on us. Even when it takes us days, decades, or even a lifetime to finally learn, through His incomparable patience and grace, from our mistakes. And all of us “slow learners” give a huge sigh of relief and a big amen!
So today, as we close out our time together, before you go any further in your day, I challenge you to take just a few minutes to pray and ask the Lord to reveal to you any areas of your life that are not in alignment with Him, His will, and His heart. And after you ask, sit, wait, and listen. Then, as He reveals an area to you, write it down and take time to intentionally surrender that area to the Lord. And then tomorrow, surrender that area again. And the next day do the same. Because though many of us may be slow learners, we can find so much comfort in knowing that, as we faithfully and obediently surrender to Him, He will faithfully do a new and faithful work in us!