After obtaining the blessing from his father Isaac, Esau determined to kill Jacob which forced Jacob to flee from him. As he fled toward Haran, Jacob came to a place that would later be called Beth-el, or “House of God.” It was in this place that the God of Abraham and Isaac would also become the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It was also in this place that God affirmed the same promises He had previously made to Abraham, but adding a couple of things. He said:
“You shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (Genesis 28:14-15)
It is with this promise of multiplication, protection and guardianship that Jacob left the land of Canaan. He went into the land of Syria, where he would work for his uncle, Laban, for about 20 years. According to the Scripture, throughout his tenure there, his uncle repeatedly deceived him, cheated him, changed his wages multiple times, and changed the conditions of their working relationship every time he had the opportunity – and to his own advantage.
It’s rather ironic that Jacob is on the receiving end of all of this deceit and shenanigans because, over the centuries, we’ve been told that Jacob was the deceiver and cheater. To this day, some “scholars” are convinced Jacob was simply being repaid for his own deceit. The facts say otherwise: Laban was the one deceiving and Jacob was the one trying to hold onto his integrity.
One of the most striking examples of Laban’s deceit is when he instructed Leah to go into the wedding tent instead of Rachel, tricking his son-in-law into consummating a marriage with a woman he had no intention of marrying. His plan, which he obviously knew would work, was to squeeze another seven years of labor from Jacob. Now, considering that God had said to him, “Wherever you go, I’m going to keep you; I’m going to guard you. I’m going to watch over you,” why didn’t God warn Jacob of Laban’s plot? Why did God allow Jacob to be deceived in this way?
Because Leah delivered several sons who would become the heads of tribes, this obviously factored into God’s purpose and plan for Israel. Might it also be that the Almighty wanted to prove what was in Jacob’s heart, not only to him but to all of his posterity. In other words, this story makes it personal for all of us. When people – sometimes our brethren – cheat us, deceive us, abuse us, lie to us and use us maybe it’s not necessarily intended to expose what is in their heart. Maybe God allows us to be touched by these things to expose what is in our heart. How do we react to injustice? How do we react to those who cheat us, who lie about us, who scheme against us? When we look at the patriarch Jacob we see that, throughout all of the abuse he was subjected to, he retained his integrity.
According to the description given to us in Genesis 25, Jacob was a temperate man, meaning that he didn’t give in to evil inclinations and anger, etc. Instead of letting his emotions rule him, Jacob disciplined himself and ruled over his emotions and impulsive inclinations. He didn’t allow them to provoke him to do something that was wrong. Therefore, we learn from Jacob that many of the hurts and the disappointments that we experience and at the hands of those whom we were supposed to be able to trust, is perhaps in order to prove what is in our heart. Is our heart pure? Or is in contaminated with self?
The point is, we must commit ourselves to walking in integrity, regardless of what everyone else is doing and to take to heart what David spoke:
“Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth.” (Psalm 26:1-3)
David suggests that, if we keep our eyes on His lovingkindness, we won’t notice our fellow man’s injustice, nearly as much. If we do this, I believe the LORD would be well pleased.
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