Happy Valentine’s Day! Welcome to Christ’s Community Church as we celebrate this day, remembering love, remembering Jesus Christ, and looking at Genesis chapter 29 as we take a biblical perspective of God, Love, & Sex. We’re going to look at a man who was searching for that perfect someone and yet what he found was much less than a perfect situation. And so we’re going to look at the relationship of a couple here in the Old Testament and see how God can speak into our lives empowering our relationships and our marriages to be better. You see, because when it comes to love our world is very confused and we get a lot of mixed messages. We like to raise our young girls with the notion that one day their Prince charming is going to come and sweep them off their feet; that everything’s going to be perfect, that life is a fairytale with a house, a fenced in yard, a dog, and a couple kids, but the reality is that happily ever after never comes in so many marriages.
As we look at the account of Jacob in chapter 29 of the book of Genesis. We find ourselves in the story after Isaac had blessed Esau and Jacob, Esau was muttering threats of taking his brother’s life, when his mother Rebekah heard and sent Jacob to her brother in Haran. As he was on his way, his father, Isaac, blessed Jacob and told him not to marry any of the local women, but that he should marry one of his uncle’s daughters. Now I know you all are thinking that this is his cousin and it was, but this was a backwoods type of culture in those days and so Jacob goes off in search of a bride as he traveled toward Haran.
Picking up in verse 1, “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the field, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well's mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.
Verse 4, “Jacob asked the shepherds, "My brothers, where are you from?"
"We're from Haran," they replied.
5 He said to them, "Do you know Laban, Nahor's grandson?"
"Yes, we know him," they answered.
6 Then Jacob asked them, "Is he well?"
"Yes, he is," they said, "and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep."
7 "Look," he said, "the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture."
8 "We can't," they replied, "until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep."
Verse 9, “While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother's brother, and Laban's sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle's sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud.”
When Jacob saw his uncle Laban’s daughter, Rachel, he kisses her and began to weep. She was gorgeous and he falls in love with her, weeping because if this is the one, if he could just marry this girl, his life would have meaning. You see, Jacob was a guy who’s never known the love of a father. And maybe you know what that does in your life, maybe your father was gone, absent, or distant. Well, Jacob’s father Isaac, loved his brother Esau and Jacob was always second, Jacob never was good enough, and so he never knew the love of his father, and he really didn’t grasp the love of God and his life was empty. So now he sees this beautiful girl, a cousin just like his father wanted for him, and envisioning this opportunity he’s like, “If we could just get married, this one, this girl, will fill the emptiness that I feel inside.”
And so in verse 12, “He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.”
She’s so excited, she abandons the sheep and runs back to her father. She’s excited and maybe you were that girl that always felt inadequate unless she had a boyfriend. You know if you weren’t in a relationship something was wrong. Or maybe you’re the guy who always had to have a girl by your side so that everybody would think you’re cool. And so you’re always trying to get that smoking hot girl, because without her you don’t feel quite as important. Or maybe, you’re that guy with the wife and kids, you’re bored with your job, you don’t feel quite as handsome anymore, because your hair’s falling out, your stomach’s growing out, and so there’s this younger girl who’s giving you attention. And so like Jacob and Rachel, you’re excited, you’re feeling desirable, and if you could just have that one, it would fill the emptiness that you feel inside.
And even Laban was excited, reading verse 13, “As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister's son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, "You are my own flesh and blood."
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, "Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be."
Now here’s where the story gets really interesting. Verse 16 says, “Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful.”
This passage is one which many Hebrew scholars will argue about, but let me just say that in interpretation, context is everything. If there was one thing in Bible school that really stuck with me it’s that. Context is everything. And so this is merely a polite way of saying that Leah wasn’t attractive. It doesn’t say that Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had 20/20 vision. It doesn’t say that, but it says that Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. In other words Rachel was smoking hot and Leah was just NOT.
And the reality is that was about all that Jacob knew. I certainly don’t want to undervalue the importance of physical attraction, but I believe in our world today it’s far, far, overemphasized. And that’s all that Jacob knew, “She was lovely in form and beautiful.” He wants to marry her even though he’s only known her for a month. He claims to be in love with her, but he’s only infatuated because of her appearance and therefore believes that if he could just marry this girl his life will finally have meaning. And I believe for many of us today, we too feel that marriage is the answer, that marriage is what we need, and yet today I want to point out three problems with thinking that marriage is the answer.
Number one, having an incorrect view of marriage leads us to compromise. When you begin thinking that marriage is the answer, you’ll compromise, giving up things that are important to you or important to God, as you seek to find satisfaction in that one person. Look with me at verse 18.
“Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." 19 Laban said, "It's better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me."
Now for us today that doesn’t seem overly romantic, but in that culture a man would purchase his bride with money, livestock, or in exchange for work; and what Jacob said was an extremely generous offer. Seven years was much more than the norm and basically what he was saying was that I’ll do anything for her, I’ll give up more than I should, I’ll compromise my faith and my values, just like many of us do today.
You know, it’s the young girl who says, “I’m going to save my body until I get married.” And then she meets this cute guy, falls in love, wants to marry him, but he pushes her boundaries sexually and even though she’d rather not, she compromises giving him her body expecting that he will give her his heart in return.
Or maybe it’s the guy who wants to impress this young lady, and so he buys her all these nice things, and he puts on this show of wealth and generosity so that hopefully she’ll be attracted to him, but he’s not being real, he’s putting himself into serious debt, and he’s compromising more than he should. And the reality is that neither of them are seeking that which lasts; it’s all meaningless.
And that’s what Jacob says, “I work seven years,” because I will do anything to have this beautiful lady who will make me feel valuable. When you have an incorrect view of marriage, when marriage is your answer, it will lead you to compromise.
The second thing we discover is that when we have an incorrect view of marriage we become demanding. There’s this sense of entitlement and that’s what happened to Jacob. Let’s pick up reading at verse 20, “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, "Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to lie with her."
Jacob worked his seven years, he did his part, and now he demands, “give me,” send her over here to do her part. And he’s not honoring his fiancée, he’s not respecting her father, and as a matter of fact he is dishonoring both father and daughter. “Give me!”
And this is what happens in many marriages today, instead of being a covenant of sacrificial love, it becomes a contract. I’ll do this and therefore you do that. Suddenly we find our expectations of the other increase and we find ourselves dissatisfied, because they can never live up to our expectations. And it can happen in a number of ways, but it’s simply, “I’m doing this for you, so you do this for me.” And so sometimes even in a good marriage, when you believe that your spouse is the one who should meet all your needs, you not only find yourself compromising what’s important, but you become demanding.
Number three, when you have an incorrect view of marriage, you’ll always find yourself disappointed by unmet expectations. I speak of this often in marriage counseling, because many people enter marriage with all kinds of expectations, expectations that honestly are impossible for one person to fulfill. Expectations that most of the time go uncommunicated and ladies I assure you that we just don’t know. Sometimes it comes across as being clueless and sometimes we are, but honestly guys don’t know what you don’t tell us. And sometimes even if you tell us slowly we still may miss it, because we’re just that easily distracted. And so when you come into marriage full of expectations, what you’ve done is set your spouse up for guaranteed failure, and that’s was going on in this story.
Here’s Jacob, sent to marry his cousin, he meets her, she’s beautiful, he falls in love, he works seven years, and they have a wedding. And then verse 22 tells us, “Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast.” 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. 24 And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?"
You see, Laban had a problem, traditionally that they would marry off the oldest daughter first, but Jacob wanted to marry his younger daughter. And Leah was not as attractive but Laban needed to get her married, so he devised a plan that after Jacob had been partying for days, when it was time for the presentation of the bride, that he would take the bridal veil, he would cover his oldest ugly daughter’s head, he would put the big wedding dress on her, and send her into the marriage chamber to seal the deal. And she did, Jacob was deceived, and when he woke up in the morning expecting to see Rachel, there was Leah. And this is what happens anytime you think someone else can meet all your needs.
When you have an incorrect view of marriage you’re going to think you’ve gone to bed with Rachel, but you’re going to wake up with Leah. If you go into marriage expecting that that person is going to meet all of your needs, when you wake up you’ll be disappointed coming face-to-face with your unmet expectations. And the interesting thing is that Leah does the same thing. She obeys her father, she goes in and gives her body to Jacob thinking that now he’ll love me or maybe once he gets to know me he’ll love me. And so she willingly participates in this deception, going into the marriage chamber with a guy that doesn’t really want her, and her story is so many people story’s, as she tries thing after thing, hoping and praying, if I do this surely he will love me now.
Let’s look at the rest of the story. Verse 26, “Laban replied, "It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work." 28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her maidservant. 30 Jacob lay with Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.
31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, "It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now."
Surely he will love me now. If I give him children, if I make more money, if I buy her whatever she wants, maybe then our marriage will work. If I have the surgery and give him what he wants, maybe then he’ll be attracted to me. If we get this new whatever, surely she will love me then… but Jacob didn’t love her.
Now I wonder, as we’ve been reading through this story, if you’ve noticed what was missing? Did you notice the critical element that’s missing? All the way up to verse 32, there’s been no reference to God, no evidence of prayer or faith, but it’s all been about what Jacob wants and what Laban wants; and they’re setting themselves up for failure because they’re searching for the wrong one. And you know, in a lot of ways you and I too have been trained to believe that to be really fulfilled in life, you have to look for that one. If we could just find that one we’d be happy, right?
But it’s better to understand that when you meet someone of the opposite sex, someone you think would be the ideal person to marry, it’s best to consider whether they’re a follower of Christ, and whether there is a spiritual intimate connection between the both of you and God. You see, to really be fulfilled, to have meaning in life, you have to meet the One, but you can never forget that God is your One and your spouse is your two.
Jesus said it this way in Mark chapter 12:29-31, “The most important one is this… the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'” So Jesus says, “The big one is to love God.” You seek first the One, seek his kingdom, his righteousness, and then everything else will be added to you. To really have the kind of marriage that God wants you to have, you have to know the One, and you both need to put him first in your marriage.
Let’s get back to our story, verse 33, “She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." So she named him Simeon. 34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." So he was named Levi. 35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the Lord." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.”
Three times Leah gave birth thinking, “Surely my husband will love me now.” But with the fourth one something was different. She didn’t know God before or maybe she just wasn’t giving him credit before, but with Judah, she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” And so she named him Judah and he was special. You see Judah’s mother was Leah, the older one, not Rachel the younger, beautiful one. And it was through Leah’s son Judah that many centuries later, Jesus Christ would be born, proving once again, that out of something that didn’t start right, God can bring one of the most beautiful miracles in the history of the world. And so this morning this may be just the thing that you need to hear. If your marriage did not start right, or it’s not right today, if there are two seeking One anything is possible. You see with God, with that One, anything is possible.
And so this Valentine’s Day 2016, if you’re married today, I want you to grab the hand of your spouse, and you may have never prayed together before, you may not know how to pray, but let’s just pray this; “God, teach us to make you our One.” Let’s start there, because as you join hands and start seeking Him first, there is no telling what good things God can bring out of something that doesn’t look so beautiful today; because to really be fulfilled in life, you have to find the One, and God is your one, your spouse is your two.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
February 14, 2016