Meeting His Match (Genesis 29)
Sermon Link (live stream version, starts at 34′)
I. Jacob’s Journey (verse 1-8)
After his meeting with God, Jacob picks up his journey with seeming confidence and cheerfulness. He is unaware of it, but this is the beginning of his long exile. Similar to Abraham’s servant, Jacob is in search of a wife, but unlike Abraham’s servant, who carried silver, gold, and garments to offer for the bride-to-be, Jacob is alone and empty-handed. Jacob arrives and comes into contact with some shepherds by the well.
II. Relative Rachel (verses 9-20)
This account is full of clear evidence of God’s divine providence. Jacob just happens to come across a field with sheep. That field just happens to have shepherds who know Laban. Laban’s daughter Rachel just happens to arrive at the well in the field. Nothing here is coincidental, it is all providential. In the same way, when we gaze back at the course of our own lives, we can often see the orchestrating hand of God working in the details, even the trivial and mundane details.
When Jacob sees Rachel approaching, he flexes by rolling the stone away single-handedly. When Rachel told her family that Jacob was a relative, he was warmly welcomed as one of the family. After a month, Laban initiates his plan, sounding genuinely concerned for Jacob’s well-being (v. 15). Since Jacob has no bride-price with him, he offers to work for seven years to earn Rachel for marriage, which was a much higher price than was customary. Laban appears to agree to the terms. In fact, he would be insane not to agree to such terms—he gets Jacob’s labor, but he also gets to retain Rachel as well. Jacob’s love for Rachel makes the seven years fly by and he earned his prize honestly. And all of this adds to the disappointment he is about to experience.
III. Lying Laban (verses 21-30)
The time had come, Jacob had earned his wife. The bride was veiled for the ceremony and festivities, and in the darkness of the evening, Laban brought the bride to Jacob. When morning dawns, Jacob realizes that Leah is his wife. It’s impossible to imagine the heartache! All his hard work, his patient waiting, only to be tricked into marrying the elder sister. The scene parallels Jacob’s own deceiving plan of his father. Just as Isaac was wined and dined before being tricked, so also Jacob is wined and dined and deceived in the dark by Laban. Jacob had met his match, and he gets a dose of his own medicine. Not only had he met his match, but also his means of discipline. Jacob had put himself before the firstborn Esau, and he is now reminded of his sin when Laban responds, “It is not the practice to marry off the younger before the firstborn” (v. 26). Then, Laban takes further advantage of Jacob’s vulnerability by offering him Rachel also, with another seven years of labor.
IV. Unloved Leah (verses 31-35)
Jacob loved Rachel rather than Leah. But the Lord notices Leah in her distress and seeing that she is neglected and unloved, He shows her kindness by opening her womb, while Rachel’s remained barren. Ironically, each wife wanted what the other one had—Leah wanted to be loved by Jacob, and Rachel wanted children. Not only does the Lord give Leah children before Rachel, but He also establishes her in the Messianic line.
Jacob worked his heart out for fourteen years to end up married to sisters that could not get along. However, through his sufferings and the discipline of the Lord, he will become prosperous and the father of many sons. Through Esau’s vengeful anger and murderous plot, and through the trials of Laban’s deceit, God was in the details establishing the family line from which His own Son will come. When that Son did come, He too experienced exile—the lonely separation from His Father. He suffered outside the camp in order to bring many sons to glory (Hebrews 13:12-13; 2:10).
- John Newton wrote the following words in one of his hymns: “These inward trials I employ, From self and pride to set thee free, And break thy schemes of earthly joy, That thou mayest seek thy all in me.” In what ways have you seen God employ certain trials in your life to draw you nearer to Himself? In light of this, how should you view any current trial you are experiencing? How does the cross of Christ give us confidence to trust God in the face of hard, confusing, and pressing circumstances?