November 16, 2015 • Life for Leaders
When morning came, 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?’”
Today, we get back to the story in Genesis of Jacob, the son of Isaac and the grandson of Abraham. As you may recall, in chapter 28 Isaac instructed Jacob to take a wife from his own kin, from the daughters of Jacob’s uncle Laban rather than from the neighboring Canaanite women. So Jacob made the long journey to Paddan-aram. Along the way he had a profound encounter with God, which renewed Jacob’s commitment to the covenant God had made with Abraham.
Genesis 29 begins with Jacob’s arrival at his destination. There he encountered people who knew Laban, including Laban’s daughter Rachel. When Rachel told her father about Jacob, Laban ran to greet him and welcomed him as an honored guest. For a while, Jacob worked for Laban without compensation. When Laban offered to pay him, Jacob asked that Laban give him his daughter Rachel in marriage. Laban agreed if Jacob worked for him for seven years. Jacob fulfilled his part of the bargain, working seven years for Rachel’s hand. But, as Genesis 29:20 notes, these seven years “seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.”
Finally, after seven years of work, Jacob asked Laban to give him Rachel as his wife. Laban agreed. But when it was time for Rachel to be brought to Jacob to consummate their marriage, Laban tricked Jacob by bringing his other daughter, Leah. Jacob had sexual relations with Leah because, in the dark, he could not identify her. When Jacob woke up and discovered that his partner was Leah, not Rachel, he was understandably upset. “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” (29:25).
It’s not hard to understand Jacob’s anger and perplexity. Yet, if we think back to Genesis 27, we remember that Jacob deceived his father, pretending to be his brother Esau, so he could get the blessing his father intended for Esau. From Laban, Jacob gets a taste of his own medicine. I’m not defending Laban’s dishonesty. Nor am I saying that it was somehow a direct result of Jacob’s trickery of his father. Rather, I’m simply noting that, as so often happens in life, we reap what we sow. If we sow deception, chances are that we will become the deceived as well as being the deceivers.
Yet, and here’s where God’s amazing grace comes in, God used Jacob’s experience of being deceived to mold and shape his character. As Jacob’s story unfolds in Genesis, he becomes a person of integrity. God is able to use all things, even wrong things, to accomplish his purposes, including his purpose of forming us to be more like him.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
Can you think of a time in your life when you got a taste of your own medicine? How did this experience affect you? Did you experience God at work in your life at that time?
Have you ever been the victim of significant deception? If so, how did you respond?
Can you think of ways God has used negative experiences in your life to help you grow to be more like Christ?
Gracious God, thank you for your ability to redeem all things, to use all things for your purposes. Thank you for the ways you shape us to be like you. Thank you for the fact that you work through all things for good, even through things that are not what you would have chosen.
You are the potter, Lord. I am the clay. Mold me by your grace so that I might be the person you intend me to be. To you be all the glory.
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.