Jacob Series: Equipped in God's Boot Camp (Gen 29:1-30)

April 14, 2018

 

Equipped in God’s Boot Camp

 

… Then Laban said to Jacob, “Should you work for me for nothing because you are my relative? Tell me what your wages should be.” (Now Laban had two daughters; the older one was named Leah, and the younger one Rachel. Leah’s eyes were tender, but Rachel had a lovely figure and beautiful appearance.) Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he said, “I’ll serve you seven years in exchange for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban replied, “I’d rather give her to you than to another man. Stay with me.” So Jacob worked for seven years to acquire Rachel. But they seemed like only a few days to him because his love for her was so great. Finally Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time of service is up. I want to have marital relations with her.” So Laban invited all the people of that place and prepared a feast. In the evening he brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob had marital relations with her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) In the morning Jacob discovered it was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What in the world have you done to me! Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked me?” “It is not our custom here,” Laban replied, “to give the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. Complete my older daughter’s bridal week. Then we will give you the younger one too, in exchange for seven more years of work.” Jacob did as Laban said. When Jacob completed Leah’s bridal week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.  (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) Jacob had marital relations with Rachel as well. He loved Rachel more than Leah, so he worked for Laban for seven more years.

Genesis 29:1-30 (NET)

 

 

When entering the military, soldiers have to go through basic training to orient them for military life. Sometimes it’s called boot camp. It’s often been said that when boys go through boot camp, that’s when they become men. In boot camp, the military aims to deliver one from being an individual to being part of a team, from being out of shape to being in shape, from being a civilian to becoming a war-fighter. It is an intense training where one is broken down physically and mentally, so one can be built up.

 

In the same way, when God prepares his warriors, he sends them through an intense training—a Divine boot camp. AW Tozer said it this way: “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until He has hurt him deeply.” Christ said, “Every branch that bears fruit, God prunes so that it can bear more fruit” (John 15:2 paraphrase). When God is preparing somebody for a great task, he cuts them. He gets rid of things in their lives that would keep them from maximum fruitfulness. With Jacob, God had a lot of work to do. He was a manipulator, one who trusted in himself, and had a low character. In this narrative, Jacob is running for his life, as his older brother, Esau, is trying to kill him, for taking his birthright. His father, Isaac, seems to have sent Jacob away, alone and without money, for his deceptive practices. He still received his father’s blessing and birthright, but that didn’t come without discipline. Isaac’s discipline was just part of how God was working to change the character of Jacob, so he could use him greatly.

 

The boot camp Jacob went through lasted some twenty years. Others may have a longer boot camp or a shorter one. After God called Joseph, he spent thirteen-years as a servant and prisoner, before God exalted him to second in command in Egypt. Moses spent forty years in the desert. Christ didn’t begin his ministry until he was thirty years old, after forty days of fasting and temptation. In God’s boot camp, he isn’t in a hurry. He chisels and shapes a person until he or she is ready to be used—not beforehand.

 

In Genesis 29, Jacob arrives in Haran to seek a wife from Rebekah’s relative; however, while there he encounters hardship and difficulty—all meant, from God’s perspective, to develop his character. God was delivering him from being Jacob, the deceiver, to being Israel, the overcomer—the one who wrestles with God and prevails.

 

As we study this narrative, we will learn about how God equips those he will greatly use. In the military, typically, a person only goes through one boot camp, but in God’s economy, as we are fruitful, he often sends us back for further training—to further prune us to bear fruit (John 15:2). By understanding how God equips us in his boot camp, we will learn to identify training seasons, be more faithful in them, and better encourage others going through them.

 

Big Question: As discerned from Genesis 29, how does God equip his people through times of intense training—through a Divine boot camp?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through His Word and His Promises

 

So Jacob moved on and came to the land of the eastern people.

Genesis 29:1

 

When Genesis 29:1 says, “Jacob moved on,” it can literally be translated “Jacob lifted up his feet.”[1] One Jewish commentator remarked, “His heart lifted up his feet."[2] After receiving the promises of God and seeing the vision of the ladder with angels ascending and descending (Gen 28), Jacob’s journey was energized. He knew that wherever he went, the ladder went. God would never leave him nor forsake him. Where before he was struggling with loneliness, shame, and fear, as he ran for his life, now, he was motivated by God’s promises.

 

It should be the same for us. In God’s boot camp, he teaches us to rely on God’s Word and his promises. Sometimes, it may even feel as though, God’s Word is all we have. Second Peter 1:4 says,

 

Through these things he has bestowed on us his precious and most magnificent promises, so that by means of what was promised you may become partakers of the divine nature, after escaping the worldly corruption that is produced by evil desire.

 

These promises include such things as his empowerment, peace, guidance, and presence. Like Jacob, God will never leave us or forsake us. Author Pink said this:

 

And, reader, do not we need to be reminded that our Lord has promised, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end"? If our hearts drew from this cheering and inspiring promise the comfort and incentive it is designed to convey should not we "lift up" our feet as we journey through this world? Oh! It is unbelief, failure to rest upon the "exceeding great and precious promises" of our God, and forgetfulness that He is ever by our side, that makes our feet leaden and causes us to drag along so wearily.[3]

 

God’s Word and promises encourage us during desert seasons—times of intense training. They enable us to persevere and have joy in the storm. When Joseph had a vision of his parents bowing down before him, that, no doubt, helped encourage him in the times of slavery and imprisonment. God was not done with him yet. Similarly, Jacob was about to enter a season where he reaped what he sowed. He was about to be deceived and become an indentured servant for twenty years by is uncle, Laban. However, it was God’s promises that would carry him through. Paul said something similar to Timothy: “I put this charge before you, Timothy my child, in keeping with the prophecies once spoken about you, in order that with such encouragement you may fight the good fight” (1 Tim 1:18). Through God’s promises and words over us, we also must fight the good fight.

 

Are you being motivated by God’s promises? Typically, in God’s boot camp, in order to stand faithful, we must live in Scripture, we must memorize it, and quote it. Like Christ in the desert, we must fight off Satan and any other lies with it. Before entering God’s boot camp, we may have neglected or taken God’s Word for granted. However, in God’s boot camp, we are trained to make it our life-line. Like Job, in his trials, we learn to say, “I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my daily bread” (Job 23:13 NIV).

 

Have you learned to treasure God’s Word and his promises? Are they your daily bread or your occasional snack? Are they your life or your hobby?

 

Application Question: In what ways has Scripture encouraged and strengthened you during certain seasons of your walk with God? Was there a certain event or events that helped you begin to love and treasure God’s Word more? If so, what happened? If you eventually lost your passion of God’s Word, what made you lose it?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Providential Circumstances

 

He saw in the field a well with three flocks of sheep lying beside it, because the flocks were watered from that well. Now a large stone covered the mouth of the well. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone off the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place over the well’s mouth. Jacob asked them, “My brothers, where are you from?” They replied, “We’re from Haran.” So he said to them, “Do you know Laban, the grandson of Nahor?” “We know him,” they said.  “Is he well?” Jacob asked. They replied, “He is well. Now look, here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” Then Jacob said, “Since it is still the middle of the day, it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. You should water the sheep and then go and let them graze some more.”  “We can’t,” they said, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone is rolled off the mouth of the well. Then we water the sheep.” While he was still speaking with them, Rachel arrived with her father’s sheep, for she was tending them. When Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and the sheep of his uncle Laban, he went over and rolled the stone off the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of his uncle Laban.  Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep loudly. When Jacob explained to Rachel that he was a relative of her father and the son of Rebekah, she ran and told her father. When Laban heard this news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he rushed out to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban how he was related to him. Then Laban said to him, “You are indeed my own flesh and blood.” So Jacob stayed with him for a month.

Genesis 29:2-14

 

When Jacob first arrives in Haran, he encounters and questions shepherds, who were waiting at a well while supervising three flocks. Since there were no sign posts in those days, Jacob asked the shepherds where they were from and they said, “Haran.” Then, he asked them if they knew Laban, and they replied, “Yes.” He then asked if Laban was well. They replied, “He is” and then told him that Laban’s daughter Rachel was currently coming to the well with her sheep.

 

Now, as Jacob is going through this seemingly chance circumstance, his mind might have wondered back to how Isaac’s servant found Rebekah (Gen 24). Isaac’s servant came to Haran and also stopped at a well. There he prayed for God to lead him to the one Isaac would marry, and sure enough, God did. The first woman Isaac’s servant encountered at the well was Rebekah. Now, Jacob similarly encounters a beautiful woman at the well, who just happens to come from the same family.

 

After Jacob sees Rachel on her way, he seemingly tries to get rid of the shepherds, so he could be alone with her. He essentially says to the shepherds, who were probably shepherd boys, “It’s not time to rest, water the sheep, and then go and graze.” However, they replied with the fact they had to wait until all the flocks were gathered. This was probably some type of community agreement in order to have an even distribution of water.[4]

 

When Rachel comes, Jacob moves the stone from the well, a herculean task, and waters her flock. He ignores the three flocks that were there first. After watering Rachel’s flock, he immediately kisses Rachel, weeps uncontrollably, and then introduces himself. It was normal for family members to greet one another with a kiss, but what made this strange was the fact that Jacob didn’t introduce himself first.[5] He kissed her and then wept uncontrollably. Maybe, this was why he was trying to get rid of the shepherds. He knew that his emotions were about to spill out. He had been running for his life, encountered God on the way, and the Lord guided him right to his family and a woman he might potentially marry. It was too much for Jacob. He was experiencing God’s sovereign leading. God would surely be with him where ever he went and complete the promises made to him.

 

Now certainly, God is never mentioned in this passage. Unlike with Isaac’s servant, Jacob doesn’t stop at the well and pray for God’s guidance. However, God was clearly there—guiding his circumstances. He just “happened” to arrive at the same well that Laban’s flocks drank from. Rachel, the woman, he would soon marry just “happened” to be guiding the flock to the well, at the same period of time he was there. This was all part of God’s sovereignty, and it’s the same way in our lives. It is part of how God molds our character and helps us trust him more.

 

Ephesians 1:11 says God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” Certainly, we see this throughout Scripture. When Moses’ mother put him in the river, Pharaoh’s daughter just “happened” to be at the river that day and she felt pity for Moses, and took him as her child. Moses just “happened” to be saved from the slaughter Pharaoh ordered by becoming part of Pharaoh’s family. Obviously, there was no safer place in all of Egypt. Then Pharaoh’s daughter just “happened” to hire Moses’ real mother to breast feed him. Similarly, when the king of Persia had set a decree for the genocide of the Jews, it just so “happened” that the woman he married was a Jew, named Esther. She eventually helps save the Jews and empower them to take vengeance on their enemies. In addition, when Ruth, the Moabitess, left her home and family to come to Israel, she just “happened” to pick grain in a relative’s field, who eventually marries her and cares for both Ruth and her mother-in-law.

 

God sovereignly guides the circumstances of his people for his glory and his people’s character. As part of Jacob’s training process, he was experiencing this. It is very easy to see why Jacob burst into tears, as he was overwhelmed with the sovereignty of God. The one who controls all things was guiding his life and working all things for his good.

 

Again, God does the same with us. The city we live in, the family we were born into, the school that we attended, and the job that we now work at, are all part of God’s will for our lives, even though all these situations and people may be imperfect. In Psalm 139:16, David said: “Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in your scroll before one of them came into existence.” There are no chance happenings for God’s people.

 

God uses the good, the bad, the mundane, the great, and the seemingly supernatural to shape his people. All are meant to draw us to himself and help us trust him more. Don’t miss God’s sovereign hand over your circumstances! Let them teach, shape, and encourage you!

 

Application Question: Share a time where you experienced God’s providence over your circumstances in a special way. In what ways did God’s providence affect you? How is God currently molding you through your circumstances?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Serving

 

When Jacob explained to Rachel that he was a relative of her father and the son of Rebekah, she ran and told her father. When Laban heard this news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he rushed out to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his house. Jacob told Laban how he was related to him. Then Laban said to him, “You are indeed my own flesh and blood.” So Jacob stayed with him for a month. Then Laban said to Jacob, “Should you work for me for nothing because you are my relative? Tell me what your wages should be.” (Now Laban had two daughters; the older one was named Leah, and the younger one Rachel. Leah’s eyes were tender, but Rachel had a lovely figure and beautiful appearance.) Since Jacob had fallen in love with Rachel, he said, “I’ll serve you seven years in exchange for your younger daughter Rachel.”  Laban replied, “I’d rather give her to you than to another man. Stay with me.” So Jacob worked for seven years to acquire Rachel. But they seemed like only a few days to him because his love for her was so great.

Genesis 29:12-20

 

After Jacob shares with Rachel about God’s favor, she runs to tell her father, Laban. Laban comes, kisses Jacob, and then brings him to his house. There Jacobs shares his story.

 

How much did Jacob share? Did he share about his deception of Isaac or how he met with God at Bethel? It’s very possible that Jacob told him everything. Since Jacob was wealthy, it would be very strange for him to come alone and without money, especially if he was looking for a wife. So most likely, Jacob shared the whole story with Laban, and Laban became convinced that he was family. Laban replies, “You are indeed my own flesh and blood” (v. 14).

 

After Jacob had stayed a month, Laban said, “Should you work for me for nothing because you are my relative? Tell me what your wages should be” (v. 15). It is not clear if Jacob has been working already or not. It was customary for people to show hospitality for a few days, but a month was a long time.[6] If Jacob was not working, Laban was saying, “Sorry, you are not going to free-load forever! You must work!” If Jacob had been working, Laban, being a shrewd businessman, was trying to guarantee that Jacob continued working by making a contract with him. Jacob, also, a shrewd business man, asked to marry Rachel in exchange for seven years of work. The going dowry price was three to four years, so Jacob essentially offers a double dowry, and Laban agrees.[7] Little did Jacob know that he would work for not only seven years, but fourteen years, during which he would earn two wives, plus room and board. He would work another six years after that, earning a regular wage—twenty years in total.

 

At this stage of God’s boot camp, Jacob was learning how to serve, and not just serve, but work hard at serving. Before this time, Jacob had probably never worked hard. He was the son of a large estate owner. Surely, he had worked before, but he typically had people work for him. Jacob knew how to be served but didn’t really know how to serve others—his life was about himself. This is what God was going to change in boot camp. 

 

Servanthood is an important lesson that God instills in his trainees. It must be remembered that Moses served sheep for forty years. Joseph was a servant and prisoner for thirteen years. David cared for a tiny flock. In fact, Scripture says that when Christ came to the earth, he took the form of a slave (Phil 2:7)—not a master nor a king. Christ did not come to be served but to serve others (Matt 20:28). Therefore, those who will be like him must learn to serve as well. It is a natural work of the flesh to desire to be served and exalted. It is a work of the Spirit to humble oneself and desire for others to be exalted. John the Baptist said that he must decrease while Christ increased. John was simply a servant seeking for his master to be glorified.

 

In the same way, God prepares those he uses greatly by teaching them how to humbly serve others. Their service, at least initially, is often humble. It may be stacking chairs, doing paperwork, serving children, or doing some behind the scenes work. Often, his people struggle with shock at the humble positions God places them in, but those positions contain great lessons for preparing his people for more. For it is only when we are faithful with little that God makes us faithful over much (cf. Lk 16:10, Matt 25:23).

 

Application Question: Why is serving others such an important lesson in God’s boot camp?

 

1. Through serving, we develop the heart and ethic of a servant.

 

Serving God is often a thankless job. It often doesn’t come with praise, adoration, or a high salary; in fact, it often comes with criticism and low wages, if any. The very congregation that Paul founded in Corinth doubted his apostleship. He wrote a whole letter to correct the Corinthians and defend himself in 2 Corinthians. Similarly, while Paul was imprisoned in Rome, people were preaching the gospel out of spite towards him—trying to make his situation worst (Phil 1:17).

 

This will be true for us as well. Unless, we learn to be servants, we will find ourselves disillusioned in the service of Christ. Consider that the disciples Christ served intimately for three years, eventually denied and betrayed him. The Jews, who Christ sacrificed for and preached to, eventually killed him. Being a servant is a hard job. Everybody likes the concept of serving, but nobody really likes being treated like a servant. It is easy to serve others when thanked, appreciated, and even compensated. But in this stage of God’s kingdom, it isn’t always like that. In fact, it’s often the opposite.

 

A real servant serves to obey his authorities and bless others. No praise is needed; faithfulness to the Master is enough. If God is going to use us greatly, he must develop the heart and ethic of a servant in us.

 

2. Through serving others, we are prepared and promoted to leading others.

 

The greatest leaders were typically the greatest followers. Only through faithfully following others, do we learn how to treat and motivate those who will eventually follow us. Also, as we’re faithful with little, God will make us faithful over much. Joseph was a slave before he was an official in Egypt. David shepherded a flock before he shepherded an army, and then later a kingdom. Elisha washed the hands of Elijah, as a servant, before taking his place (2 Kings 3:11). Nehemiah was a cup bearer before he was the governor of Israel. Christ came to the earth as a servant before God gave him a name above all names, at which every knee will bow (Phil 2:6-11). God develops great leaders in the classroom of service.

 

Are you willing to serve others?

 

Application Question: What are some characteristics of good servants? Why is it important to learn how to serve before being placed into areas of leadership? What makes serving others difficult? In what ways is God calling you to humbly serve your church or community?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Difficult Relationships

 

Finally Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time of service is up. I want to have marital relations with her.” So Laban invited all the people of that place and prepared a feast. In the evening he brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob had marital relations with her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) In the morning Jacob discovered it was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What in the world have you done to me! Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked me?” “It is not our custom here,” Laban replied, “to give the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. Complete my older daughter’s bridal week. Then we will give you the younger one too, in exchange for seven more years of work.” Jacob did as Laban said. When Jacob completed Leah’s bridal week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.  (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) Jacob had marital relations with Rachel as well. He loved Rachel more than Leah, so he worked for Laban for seven more years.

Genesis 29:21-30

 

Jacob worked for seven years for Rachel and to him it only felt like a few days, as he loved her so much. Then, when it was time to marry, he approached Laban and said, “Give me my wife for my time of service is up” (v. 21). The fact that there was no please, or other pleasantries, implies that Laban was in no hurry to hand Rachel over—maybe he was even trying to delay it. However, Laban agrees and prepares a marriage feast. In the evening, though, Laban brought Leah to Jacob instead of Rachel. In the morning, after having relations with her, Jacob was shocked. He had been deceived by Laban and Leah.

 

How come Jacob couldn’t tell it was Rachel? Well, similar to Jacob’s deception of Isaac, Leah probably wore Rachel’s clothes and perfume. It was dark, which made it difficult to see, and maybe the banquet had lots drinking. Either way, Jacob had been hoodwinked. When Jacob approached Laban about this, Laban replied that it was not part of their custom to wed the youngest before the oldest. He told Jacob after fulfilling the marital week, he could then marry Rachel. In those days, the marital celebration lasted seven days. The first day was the banquet and the consummation of the marriage, and then the following six days, the married couple was treated as a king and queen. After that week, Jacob received Rachel but then had to work another seven years. Later the narrative tells us that after finishing those seven years, Jacob worked another six years, and throughout it, Laban changed Jacob’s wages several times. Eventually, both Jacob and his wives got so tired of Laban, they ran away in the middle of the night (Gen 31).

 

It must be noted that this is not uncommon in God’s boot camp. He often trains us through difficult relationships. When God called David to be king, he spent years in the service of King Saul, who was jealous of him and constantly tried to kill him. Eventually, David ran away. However, even while on the run, David always honored the king—calling him God’s anointed. He even executed the man that confessed to murdering Saul. God used Saul as sand paper on David’s life—smoothing out the rough edges. God will occasionally bring these people into our lives. They might be a mom, a dad, a spouse, a sibling, a boss, a co-worker, a friend, etc. Our job is to love, honor, and serve them even as Jacob did with Laban, and as David did with Saul. We must love and honor them, even when they don’t love and honor us.

 

It must be remembered that God even placed Judas amongst Christ’s disciples. Though Judas was a devil and a thief, Christ still loved him and gave him chances to repent. Even amongst the church, God allows weeds to be planted and grow among the wheat. They will stay until the time of harvest, when the angels will throw them into the fire and take the wheat into the kingdom (Matt 13:36-43). The weeds have a purpose in God’s kingdom. God uses them to cultivate the character of the wheat. He develops in his saints not only humility but all the fruits of the Spirit—patience, love, perseverance, self-control, joy, etc. One can’t learn patience without having difficult people in one’s life. We must make sure we respond the right way to these people. If we respond the right way, God will bless us—we will grow and become more useful to him. If we treat them the wrong way, God will discipline us, and we will repeat the test.

 

Steve Cole said this about our response to difficult people:

 

Don’t run from the difficult people in your life until God gives you the okay. If you’re married to the difficult person, God isn’t giving the okay! But with Jacob, the day came when God told him to leave Laban and return to Canaan. Then it was okay. Before then, Jacob would have been wrong to run. We all tend to run from the difficult people God puts in our lives to shape us. A teenager gets married to escape her difficult parents. Guess what? She marries a difficult husband! Or a teenager is fed up with his parents’ rules, so he joins the army. I’ve never been able to figure out that one! If you’ve got a difficult person in your life, rather than complaining about him and running from him, ask yourself what God is trying to teach you about yourself through this person.[8]

 

There maybe a time to move on; however, we should seek the Lord’s guidance to discern when to do so. Until then, we must learn the lessons God wants to teach us through them—even if it is only perseverance.  Perseverance leads to character and character leads to hope in God (Rom 5:3-4). Even the difficult person is part of God’s perfect work in our lives.

 

Application Question: In what ways has God used difficult relationships to help you grow and trust in God more? How should we respond in these difficult relationships, so that we may grow and that God may be pleased? How do we discern when it’s time to cut off a relationship or step away from it?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Experiencing Sin’s Consequences

 

Finally Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, for my time of service is up. I want to have marital relations with her.” So Laban invited all the people of that place and prepared a feast. In the evening he brought his daughter Leah to Jacob, and Jacob had marital relations with her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) In the morning Jacob discovered it was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What in the world have you done to me! Didn’t I work for you in exchange for Rachel? Why have you tricked me?” “It is not our custom here,” Laban replied, “to give the younger daughter in marriage before the firstborn. Complete my older daughter’s bridal week. Then we will give you the younger one too, in exchange for seven more years of work.” Jacob did as Laban said. When Jacob completed Leah’s bridal week, Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. (Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel to be her servant.) Jacob had marital relations with Rachel as well. He loved Rachel more than Leah, so he worked for Laban for seven more years.

Genesis 29:21-30

 

As mentioned, after Jacob works for seven years for Rachel, Laban initially only gives him Leah and therefore tricks Jacob into working another seven years for Rachel. The parallels to Jacob deceiving Isaac are hard to miss: Jacob tricked his father, Isaac; Jacob was tricked by his father-in-law, Laban. Jacob tricked his blind father, who also couldn’t see; Jacob was tricked by his father-in-law in the dark. Jacob swindled the firstborn’s birthright; Jacob was prohibited from marrying Rachel because of the firstborn’s rights. Jacob was reaping the consequences of his sin.

 

Scripture clearly teaches this as a universal principle. Galatians 6:7-8 says:

 

Do not be deceived. God will not be made a fool. For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.

 

What a person sows, he will reap. Now this doesn’t mean that God doesn’t forgive us. He does. He forgave us judicially at the cross in Christ (Rom 5:1), and he forgives us from a familial stand point when we confess our sins (1 John 1:9). However, most times, though God forgives us, he doesn’t remove the consequences of our sin. They remain as a warning to remind us to never compromise again. When David committed adultery with Bathsheba and murdered her husband, God said that David was forgiven and that he would not die, which was the civil consequence both for murder and adultery. But, because of David’s evil acts, the sword would never depart from his household. (1) First, his baby through Bathsheba would die. (2) His son Absalom would kill his brother, who previously raped Absalom’s sister. (3) Later, Absalom tried to kill his father, David. There were many consequences to David’s private sin—most of them were public. Every time David experienced the consequences of his sin, it reminded him that a person will reap what he sows. It was a constant reminder to guard himself because compromise ultimately leads to destruction.

 

God does the same with us. Yes, he forgives us; but sometimes, he allows us to experience the consequences of our cheating, lying, gossiping, lust, etc. The consequences ultimately remind us to never go down that path again, and they draw us near God, as to not succumb to temptation again.

 

In Psalm 119:67, David said: “Before I was afflicted I used to stray off, but now I keep your instructions.” Proverbs 13:15 (KJV) says, “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” Jacob’s way was hard—it was the consequence of his sin. When Israel didn’t believe God and failed to enter the promised land, their way was hard. They spent forty years in the wilderness, where most of them died. Certainly, God can redeem our hard paths and even shorten them, but we must be faithful in them to experience his grace.

 

When Jacob met Laban, the deceiver met his match. Jacob experienced what he had done to his father, and the consequences ultimately lasted a lifetime. Often God allows us to experience the consequences of our sin to train us as well. The seeds we sow will bear fruit—either to life or death.

 

Application Question: In what ways have you experienced the negative aspects of reaping what you sowed? How did the consequences change you? In what ways, have you experienced God’s grace, where he didn’t allow you to experience the full consequences of what you deserved?

 

In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Experiencing God’s Grace

 

Throughout this whole ugly process, God’s grace shines through. Though, we never see Jacob seeking the Lord. When Isaac’s servant went looking for a wife for his master, he began with prayer and then God confirmed who Isaac should marry (Gen 24). We don’t see Jacob praying about marrying Rachel. We don’t see him pray about whether he should accept a polygamous marriage with Leah. Later, Jacob also marries Rachel’s handmaid to produce more children, and then Leah’s handmaid to do the same. Ultimately, Jacob had twelve children and four wives. Though his marriages were built on deception instead of truth, polygamy instead of monogamy, prayerlessness instead of prayerfulness, God blessed them. Jacob’s twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. While working for Laban after the fourteen years, God prospered him financially; in fact he became wealthier than Laban (31:1). God’s beautiful grace runs throughout this ugly narrative.

 

Even with Leah specifically, we see God’s unmerited favor. Verse 17 says her eyes were tender, either meaning that she had bad eyesight[9] or that her eyes just weren’t attractive. In the ancient east, eyes with a sparkle or glow were prized.[10] Obviously, Rachel’s eyes were beautiful while Leah’s weren’t. The text also says that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah (v. 30). Jacob may have loved Leah; however, his love for her was far less than for Rachel. Despite the fact that Rachel was more beautiful and loved more, God chose to especially favor Leah. Through Leah came both Judah and Levi—the kingly tribe and the priestly tribe. From Judah, the messiah would ultimately come.

 

Throughout this text, we see God’s grace on the underserving. He blesses the deceiver by using Jacob’s unfortunate and ungodly circumstances for good. He also blesses the unloved by making Leah the grandmother of the messiah.

 

In God’s boot camp, we experience grace, even over our failures and that of others. Romans 2:4 says God’s kindness draws men to repentance. His mercy over our sin and light over our darkness transforms us and makes us more into his image. God vowed to fulfill his promises to Jacob (Gen 28), and therefore, God’s finger prints are seen throughout Jacob’s boot camp story. They can be seen over our story as well—starting with our salvation (Eph 2:8-9) and continuing throughout our sanctification (Phil 2:12-13).

 

Our lives may experience times of intense darkness, but even amongst the darkness, there will be great light. Our Shepherd goes with us through the valley of shadows. His rod and staff comfort us. God’s grace will never leave us because God will never leave us. Thank you, Lord, for your amazing grace! Complete the work you began in us till the day of Christ (Phil 1:6).

 

Application Question: In what ways does God’s kindness and grace often draw people to repentance? In what ways do people commonly take advantage of or despise God’s grace? How have you experienced special times of God’s grace (possibly through a person or over a circumstance), which especially helped shape your character and the direction of your life?

 

Conclusion

 

When God chooses to use somebody, like the military, he equips them in a boot camp. He aims to deliver them from selfishness to selflessness, from being unloving to being loving, from being impatient to being patient. He humbles them, so he can eventually exalt them. How does God equip his saints through his Divine boot camp?

 

  1. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through His Word and His Promises

  2. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Providential Circumstances

  3. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Serving

  4. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Difficult Relationships

  5. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Experiencing Sin’s Consequences

  6. In God’s Boot Camp, He Equips Believers Through Experiencing God’s Grace

 

 

 

[1] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 366). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 

[2] Pink, Arthur W.. Gleanings in Genesis (p. 310). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

 

[3] Pink, Arthur W.. Gleanings in Genesis (p. 310). Neeland Media LLC. Kindle Edition.

 

[4] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

 

[5] Preacher's Outline and Sermon Bible - Commentary - The Preacher's Outline & Sermon Bible – Genesis II.

 

 

[6] Getz, Gene. Men of Character: Jacob (Kindle Locations 1685-1689). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

 

[7] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (pp. 368–369). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

 

[8] Accessed 4/7/2018 from https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-54-god-s-boot-camp-genesis-291-30

 

[9] Guzik, D. (2013). Genesis (Ge 29:15–20). Santa Barbara, CA: David Guzik.

 

[10] Hughes, R. K. (2004). Genesis: beginning and blessing (p. 368). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

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