This sermon was based on Genesis 29-32
Jacob Marries Leah and Rachel
1Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. 2As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well’s mouth was large, 3and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.
4Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” 5He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” 6He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” 7He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” 8But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
9While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother. 11Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. 12And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father’s kinsman, and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father.
13As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him and embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban all these things, 14and Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh!” And he stayed with him a month.
15Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” 16Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. 18Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” 20So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.
21Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. 23But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. 24(Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) 25And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” 26Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. 27Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” 28Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29(Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) 30So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.
31When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.” 33She conceived again and bore a son, and said, “Because the Lord has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34Again she conceived and bore a son, and said, “Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” Therefore his name was called Levi. 35And she conceived again and bore a son, and said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.
An Unhappy Family
Leah has been pushed into an empty marriage with a man who is not interested in her at all by a father who isn’t interested in her
Rachel is at least loved, but longs to find her own meaning and significance from her status in society, and in that culture that meant sons.
Jacob seems to have forgotten all about the God of Abraham and Isaac “God” to him becomes Rachel. Jacob ends up dividing his family up into factions even before they’ve even grown up.
- As a result the children are a mess as well and we see this in their stories later in Genesis.
We’re all human here, and part of being human is having all sorts of longings. We long for affection. We long for companionship. We long for significance. We long for value. We long for meaning in our work. We long for respect from those around us. This is all entirely good and normal: all of those things are really important, and we need them to flourish.
Children, status, affection, prosperity, love. All of these are obviously good things, and good things to want. But here we see what happens when these good things become ultimate things, become idols for us. Rachel would do anything for children. Leah would do anything for Jacob’s attention. Laban would do anything for prosperity. Jacob would do anything for Rachel.
Paul writes so aggressively in his letter to the Colossians: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry” [Colossians 3:5]. In the Bible the normal way of things is for those sins to be followed by hurt for all involved. Paul doesn’t want us to fight sin to impress anyone, or to fit in at church. No, we fight sin for the good of our friends, our family, our children.
Jacob and his wives and sons aren’t just any old dysfunctional family. They are God’s old dysfunctional family. Their names are written on the gates of heaven. And that tells us something hugely important about who God is, about how he works, and about why that’s good news.
This is what it means to be a child of Israel – a child of God. It means bringing all of our hurt, our pain, our family histories, our love lives…. we can take it all to God and he will redeem it all.
Jesus is THE redeemer. If you’re a Christian the Bible tells you you’ve been redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors by the precious blood of Christ. God has transformed you. If you’re not a Christian it doesn’t matter what is in your past, this redemption and transformation is on offer to you.
So whoever you are, take your longings for significance, meaning, and affection, and look at the promises Jesus has made to you and the things he has done for you. Bring your hurt and your pain, your sin, your family issues, bring them to Jesus. He’ll transform them, redeem them, and make them beautiful.