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Sep 30 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

September 29, 2013 – Genesis Chapter 29

Healing Fractured Relationships


We’re told nothing of Jacob’s 400 mile journey from Bethel to Haran
– only, that when he reached destination, he “looked and behold a well
• we get excited when storyteller says this, because we know what’s coming next
• it’s the familiar introduction to “boy meets girl” scene
– Jacob made a quick assessment of what he saw:
• the well was covered by a stone – a large stone
• three flocks of sheep were just waiting by well
• there was plenty of daylight to continue grazing
– he got information from the shepherds regarding his uncle Laban
• they pointed out, at that moment Rachel was coming
• they also explained why they had not yet watered their sheep

When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the flock of Laban, his mother’s brother. (v. 10)

The storyteller won’t let us forget, Laban was Jacob’s “mother’s brother”
– the family resemblance will emerge not in their appearance, but their conniving nature
– Jacob moved stone, watered Rachel’s flock, greeted Rachel with a kiss, and introduced himself
• like her aunt Rebekah who years earlier met a stranger at a well, Rachel ran home
○ her father, Laban, as he had done years earlier, ran to the well to meet Jacob

Laban said to him, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh” (v. 14)

– after Laban put Jacob up for a month, offered to pay him for his labor
• this is when we learn Laban had two daughters
• the older daughter, Leah, had “weak eyes”–soft, delicate, tender
○ perhaps her one attractive attribute
○ Rachel, however, was beautiful in every respect
• Jacob struck a deal for Rachel – seven years of service

Everything was moving smoothly for Jacob now
– but the night of the wedding, Laban switched daughters

So it came about in the morning that, behold, it was Leah! (v. 25)

• it is easy for us to think this was outrageous
• but let’s look closer at the details:

  1. Laban (father) engineered the substitution
  2. he used cover of darkness to pull off his trick
  3. he switched younger for firstborn (not just “older”)
  4. he “deceived” Jacob (v. 25)

• now we back-up two chapters

  1. Rebekah (mother), Laban’s sister, engineered the substitution
  2. she used the cover of “darkness” to pull off her trick – Isaac’s blindness
  3. she switched the younger son for the firstborn
  4. she and Jacob “deceived” Isaac (Gen. 27:35)

• the outrage of Laban’s deception is no greater than the one Rebekah and Jacob foisted on Isaac
– Laban used the local customs to justify what his switcheroo
• who said, “You can’t con a con”?!
• so another deal was struck for seven more years of labor
○ we are learning what it means to be Laban’s bone and flesh
– that Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, does not go unnoticed
• in fact, God took notice of it and compensated Leah
○ she gave Jacob four sons, one after another
○ Rachel, however, was not able to have children

This story exposes how family dynamics shape relations

Kisses frame Jacob’s whole episode with Laban (v. 13 & 31:55)
– but these are superficial expressions that mask inner thoughts and feelings

Rachel’s and Laban’s thinking and schemes were too similar to be coincidence
– for all we know, when Jacob left Bethel he was through being a trickster
• but once Laban started it, Jacob was “game on”
• he received a good education in it from his mother
– it’s clear how family patterns persisted from generation to generation
• how does that work?

As children, we learn schoolyard rules – how to play game
– hop-scotch, jump-rope, four-square
• the rules became fixed in our brains
○ soon, we don’t even think about them
the rules become the game, and game becomes rules
• meanwhile, in another school, kids learn different rules
○ the chalk pattern drawn on the ground is the same, but it’s a different game
○ when we played with kids from the other school, we broke the rules and didn’t even know it
– it’s the same thing with relationships
• each family has its rules – how we treat each other
○ how to respond to another’s pain, success, anger
○ we internalize the family rules and don’t think about them — we don’t need to
○ the rules become the relationship
• the rules of relationship are different from family to family
– in every family we learn some unhealthy rules
• the rules we naturally follow have become invisible
• because our rules are all we know, we blame the other person when the relationship breaks down

Jacob’s personal experience added an element to his relational pattern
– he learned two things from his parents:
1.) favoritism
2.) competition (which resulted from the favoritism)
– both of his parents played favorites, putting him in competition with his brother
– now he is showing favoritism toward one of his wives, who must compete with her sister (next chapter)
– he will show favoritism to his son Joseph and his competition with his older brothers will result in disaster

It’s easy to see these dynamics in Rebekah, Laban, Jacob, and the others
– it’s much more difficult to see them in ourselves
– someone has to bring our invisible rules to light
• and then we need to be shown where they’re wrong

There is one wholesome relationship in this episode: Jacob’s love for Rachel

His love for Rachel empowered him to work fourteen years serving her conniving father
– his love also diminished the troubles and pains of working and waiting

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her (v. 20)

• it seemed to him a small price to pay

What Leah learned about relationship rules

We observe her education as it unfolds in the naming of her sons
– Reuben
• when my oldest son, William was two years old, his rock-hard will began to emerge
○ I was trying to get help from my parents, when my mom said, “I get it. He is Will-I-Am” (long before any recording artist took up that name)
○ Re’u-ben means, “see, a son,” and Leah assumed, “surely now my husband will love me”
• Leah longed to be loved
○ we see her trying to win Jacob’s affection, thinking she could do it by providing him with heirs
– when the next child was born, she named him Simeon, which she related to shama “heard”
• “Because the LORD has heard that I am unloved”
– with Levi’s birth, Leah thought, “Now this time my husband will become attached to me”
• but it is obvious that each attempt failed to win Jacob’s heart
– something has changed when Leah named Judah
• he is not named in reference to Jacob and what she hoped to win, but in reference to the Lord and what he had given her
○ Judah, “praise the LORD” — she praised the One who showed her love

When God, in his love, gives us a blessing, prosperity, a victor, and so on, it’s not so we can leverage it to get something else
• to meet an ego need, get revenge, manipulate someone, or win a contest
– it’s to heal our would and to attach us to himself

CONC: I’ve been thinking this week about the psychological power of love

To heal a soul and transform a life
– and this can be done without any other special skill or wisdom
• love will cause a person to care and create in them an interest that drives them to listen
○ when a young man or woman know they are loved, they respond positively
○ observing the body language of a person listening to someone speak, it is impossible to determine if the listener is intensely interested in what the speaker has to say or if the listener is in love with the speaker
• Thursday evening in our prayerful-reading of scripture, the word “attentive” spoke to my wife Barbara
○ she described how meaningful it was to her that God was attentive to her
○ and that his attentiveness went deep into her inner life

Love can repair and restore broken, twisted relationships
– what kind of love heals?
• I attempted to make a list, which included a love that is empathetic, sincere, thoughtful, merciful, and so one
○ but I realized that it just went too long
• then it occurred to me to simply refer you to 1 Corinthians 13

Finally I decided it would be best to just look to God to learn how to heal through love
– God is love, and he is happy to share with us his wisdom and himself


Leave a comment
  1. ( |o )====::: / Oct 7 2013

    Great insights into family dynamics.
    Interesting how the story from the text is a story with few conclusions and more observations

  2. Chuck Smith, Jr. / Oct 13 2013

    Yes, “more observations.” When can settle into the way the Scriptures actually work, we’ll be more at peace with them, their Author, each other, and ourselves.

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