God’s Faithfulness to Broken People

February 14, 2021 ()

Bible Text: Genesis 29-31 |

Series:

God’s Faithfulness to Broken People | Genesis 29-31
Brian Hedges | February 14, 2021

Let me invite you to turn in your Bibles to Genesis 29. We’re actually going to look at three chapters today, Genesis 29-31, so we’re covering a lot of text. We’re not going to, of course, read it all, I’m just going to select isolated passages. We’re looking at the story of Jacob, and today we’re looking at essentially 20 years of Jacob’s life.

My guess is that if I asked this morning if any of you like soap operas, nobody would raise their hand. Don’t raise your hand right now if you do, okay, and don’t tell me if you do, because... I’ll be tempted to judge you in my heart. We know that soap operas are sordid, tawdry—you know, they’re not really the best entertainment in the world. The acting is bad on top of that.

But what we’re looking at this morning is actually a soap opera in the Bible. That’s what it is. I mean, this story has polygamy, it has treachery, it has a love triangle, it has sibling rivalry—I mean, it’s just an absolute mess. That’s what this story is.

You might even read something like this and think, “Why is this in the Bible? I thought this was a holy book.” Well, it is, it’s a holy book, but it’s book filled with stories of unholy people. But this story is here because it’s teaching us something about God. It’s teaching us about God’s faithfulness to his people; in fact, the whole title of this series is “God’s Faithfulness to Broken People.” What we see in this passage is a very broken family, and yet God working throughout.

I think to help us get our heads around this passage it’ll help to see something of a literary structure of the chapters we’re looking at. Actually, from Genesis 28-32, Genesis 28 and 32 kind of form bookends to these three chapters we’re looking at this morning.

Angels / Theophany: Bethel (28)

Tricked by Laban (29:15-30)

Jacob’s Children (Seed) (29:31-30:24)

Jacob’s Wealth (Blessing) (30:25-31:42)

Treaty with Laban (31:43-55)

Angels / Theophany: Mahanaim & Peniel (32)

In Genesis 28 you have a theophany, right, the vision with the angels coming up and down the ladder. We saw that last week. We should have a chart on the screen for this. That was Bethel. That was Genesis 28. Then you have another theophany in Genesis 32, when Jacob wrestles with the angel in Penuel.

Between those you have Jacob going to Haran, or Mesopotamia. This is where Laban lived, Jacob’s uncle. He’s going there to look for a wife, and he’s essentially tricked by Laban in Genesis 29, but there’s a treaty with Laban at the end of the story, 20 years later, in Genesis 31. In between, you have the story of how Jacob’s children are born and how Jacob amasses wealth. It’s right there in the center of this passage that you see God fulfilling his covenant promises, the promises that he had made first of all to Abraham, and then he had passed them on to Isaac, and in Genesis 28 (we saw this last week) he made those promises also to Jacob, that he’s going to give him descendants and blessing, and through him and through his descendants all the nations of the earth are going to be blessed. That promise is getting worked out in this story, even though it’s happening in a very messy way.

I think as we look at these 20 years of Jacob’s life there are some lessons for us. I want to suggest three of them to you, and we’ll kind of center these around three different sections of these three chapters.

1. God’s Discipline of His Servant
2. God’s Love for the Loveless
3. God’s Protection of His People.

1. God’s Discipline of His Servant (29:1-30)

Dale Ralph Davis, in his sermon on this passage, calls Haran (again, this is where Jacob is in Mesopotamia) "the place of discipline." Now, when we use that word in the Chrsitian life, the word “discipline,” we mean God’s work in our lives where he is both correcting us and training us for righteousness. He is correcting us for our sins—we often talk about that as the chastisement of the Lord (Hebrews 12)—but it also carries the idea of God’s training us for righteousness. All of that is God’s discipline.

We should just remember that God’s discipline is not punitive; it’s not that he’s giving so much trial and so much suffering for so many sins committed. If we got what our sins deserved we’d be in hell; we would have been in hell years ago. It’s not that God is punishing us, it’s that he is leading us into situations in our lives that will correct us and that will train us. His purpose is not punitive, it is remedial. He wants to get us on the right path. That’s what discipline is.

You see the need for this discipline in Jacob’s life in two ways. First of all, when you just remember what Jacob has done. If you’ve been here the last couple weeks or if you’re familiar with the story you know that Jacob is characteristically a liar, he is a deceiver, he is a schemer, a manipulator. He has tricked Esau out of his birthright in Genesis 25 and he has lied into getting the blessing from Isaac in Genesis 27, and as far as we know there’s been no repentance for these sins as of yet.

Then, in Genesis 29, especially the first half of the passage, when Jacob goes to Mesopotamia searching for a wife, it’s actually pretty familiar story. He arrives at a well and he’s searching for a wife and he meets Rachel. You can’t read that without thinking of the similar story about Isaac and Rebekah from Genesis 24. Abraham had sent his servant also to Mesopotamia to look for a wife for Isaac, and it all takes place around a well, and the servant meets Laban and then Rebekah, and so on.

But there’s a big contrast between the stories. In Genesis 24, the servant is praying throughout, and you see God’s hand providentially guiding and blessing as the servant finds Rebekah and then brings her back to Isaac. When you read Genesis 29, there’s no prayer. Jacob seems to not even have God on the radar. Instead, he’s sort of flexing his muscles as he moves the stone off of the well. He meets Rachel, and it’s love at first sight, but he’s really just consumed with a passion for her. There’s no prayer, and what will happen, then, in his life is that Jacob will get a taste of his own medicine through his treacherous uncle, Laban. So we see in that the need that Jacob had for discipline. He needed to be corrected, and the means that God will use is Laban. That’s the means God will use in his life.

Look at Genesis 29:16-30. Just read along in your copy of the Bible. Let me read this passage and then just point out a few things from it. Genesis 29 beginning in verse 16 says, “Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were weak, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance.” Now, this means that Rachel was an absolute knockout, she was the beautiful one, and Leah, whatever it means that her eyes were weak—it might have been weak eyesight, it might have been that her eyes looked funny—whatever it means, she was the less attractive of the two sisters, okay? She was the ugly sister in the family.

Verse 18, “Jacob loved Rachel. And he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’” Notice that Laban doesn’t actually agree to give her; he just kind of in a back-handed way says, “Yes, it’d be better for you to have her than somebody else.”

Verse 20, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

“Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife, that I may go into her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went into her.” Drop to verse 25. “And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.” Drop to verse 30. “So Jacob went into Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.”

What we see here is that in Laban Jacob meets his match. There’s some poetic justice going on here. When you see how Jacob has treated his brother, Esau, and how Jacob has treated his father, Isaac, the irony is that now Jacob is receiving the same thing that he has dished out to others. He’s reaping what he has sown, and through it God is disciplining Jacob.

You see the parallels here in the key words. You see this especially in verse 25. When Jacob realizes it’s Leah, not Rachel, that he has just slept with on his wedding night, he says to Laban, “Why have you deceived me?” But the word “deceived,” that verb, is a cognate of the same noun that was used for Jacob deceiving Isaac in chapter 27.

If you wonder why it is that Jacob actually put up with this and served Laban for another seven years for Rachel and then another seven years beyond—why did he endure for so long? I think one reason might be this, that it just kind of suddenly dawned on Jacob what had happened. Here is Jacob, who, seven years, had lied to his blind father, he had taken advantage of his father’s inability to see, and his father, in the dark, as it were, was reaching out to feel his son Esau, and instead he was feeling Jacob, thinking it was Esau; and now, seven years later, Laban has taken advantage of the darkness in Jacob’s inability to see, and on his wedding night he reaches out and he thinks it’s Rachel, but it’s really Leah. The treacherous Jacob has now been tricked. You might say that Laban has out-Jacobed Jacob! He’s gotten a taste of his own medicine.

What I think we have to see here is that God was doing something in Jacob’s life through this. It was discipline, it was correction. This was a humbling experience for him, and it shows us this basic truth of Scripture, that God disciplines his servants. He trains them, he corrects them, and he will use trials in their lives to do that.

Hebrews 12:5-6 say, “My son, do not lightly regard the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him; for the Lord disciplines the one he loves,” and listen to this, “and chastises every son whom he receives.” That would include both sons and daughters. He chastises every child. God is a good parent, and he will discipline his children, and Jacob is going through that.

Jacob’s story I think shows us how difficult and hard the discipline is. It also shows us how fitting it is. There’s a very real sense in which the punishment here fits the crime. Now, that’s not to say that every trial in our lives is necessarily punishment for sin, but God does hand-pick our trials, and in his providence he is using exactly the trials that we need to do what needs to be done in our lives, whether it is correct us because of sins committed or it’s to grow us and develop for his future purposes for our lives.

We see that this discipline takes a long time; this is a 20-year process for Jacob. We also see that this discipline includes great blessing, because through all the mess of this, and as awful as the story is, God is giving him a family, and he’s fulfilling the promise to give him children, and of course eventually it is through these children that God’s ultimate saving purposes will be fulfilled.

I already mentioned that Dale Ralph Davis preached a wonderful sermon on this, and he told a story in the sermon about this little boy who made a boat. The boat was made, of course, to float out in the lake, and he set his boat out one day and it got away from him; it got too far out in the lake. So he called his older brother and asked his older brother to help him get the boat back.

His brother started picking up rocks and he started chunking rocks out at this boat. The little boy is just distressed. “Why are you trying to destroy my boat? Why are you throwing rocks at my boat?” What he didn’t realize until a little later is that his brother was intentionally throwing rocks past the boat, into the water, to create something like a backwave or a back-current so that it would push the boat back to the shore, so he’d get the boat back. But he didn’t see that in the moment; he only saw that after the fact.

There are times in our lives when it feels like life or God even is just chunking rocks at you, and you might be saying, “Why is this happening to me? Why am I going through this?” What you don’t realize is that God is sending precisely the trials you need to create the backwave that will push you back to himself, to draw you to himself.

You need to think about this right now. My guess is that every single person in this room has burdens, you’re facing trials. They may be trials in relation to health or in relation to family or in relation to finances or in relation to work or relationships; but you’re facing something right now, you have trials in your life. What is God doing through those trials? He’s disciplining you, he is training you. It may be that he is disciplining you for sin committed. If so, repent from the sin. It may be that he’s taking you to the gym and that these trials are like doing so many reps, because this is therapy, this is developing your spiritual muscles, this is helping you to mature. If so, you have to submit to the program. Either way, God’s purpose is a good purpose: it’s a purpose to draw us closer to himself.

Years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll quote this wonderful and memorable poem in a sermon. I want you to hear it. It goes like this:

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man…

When he yearns with all his heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch hismethods, watch his ways.

How he ruthlessly perfects
Whom he royally elects!
How he hammers him and hurts him…

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How he bends but never breaks
When his good he undertakes;
How he uses whom he chooses
And with every purpose fuses him;
By every act induces him
To try his splendor out—
God knows what he’s about.”

Brothers and sisters, you need to know this, that God knows what he’s about in your life. Whatever’s going on, however messy it is, just as God was working in the mess of Jacob’s life, he’s working in yours. God disciplines his servants.

2. God’s Love for the Loveless (29:31-30:24)

The second lesson we learn from this passage is that God loves the loveless. We see God’s love for the loveless.

The loveless in this passage is, of course, Leah. Chapter 29:30, “Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah.” Then, when you pick up in verse 31 and following, really 29:31 through 30:24, you have what we could only call the war of the wives. You have these two women who are in complete rivalry with one another, each one vying for the love of Jacob and trying to get what they want. Leah wants Jacob’s love. They want different things. Leah wants Jacob’s love; Rachel wants children, but she’s barren. She’s beautiful and barren, she has Jacob’s love, but what she really wants is children. Leah is not as beautiful, doesn’t have a loving husband, her husband doesn’t love her, but she’s the one that God blesses with children.

Look at verses 31-35. Verse 31 says, “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, ‘Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction, for now my husband will love me.’” I mean, the names of the children tell the tale, don’t they? These names signify what’s going on in the hearts of Leah and then later Rachel as well.

Verse 33, “She conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am hated he has given me this son also.’ And she called his name Simeon. Again she conceived and bore a son and said, ‘Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.’ Therefore his name was called Levi.” It’s really a sad story. With each child, she’s just hoping, “Finally, Jacob will love me now! Jacob will love me now!”

Well, it’s not to be, and finally, in verse 35, it seems that there’s a turn in her heart. Look at verse 35. “And she conceived again and bore a son and said, ‘This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah. Then she ceased bearing.”

It’s a sad story in a lot of ways, but it’s a beautiful story, too, because it shows us something about God. It shows us God’s love for the loveless, because God shows special compassion here on Leah, the one who was not loved.

Now, I think this teaches us a number of different lessons.

(1) It shows us, for one, that God is the one who gives life, he’s the one who opens and closes the womb. This is stated over and over again in the passage. I think I counted 12 times where, one way or another, either the narrative or a character in the story affirms that God is the one who gives children. You see it with Rachel and Jacob in chapter 30:1-2. “When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, ‘Give me children, or I shall die!’” Verse 2, “Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, ‘Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?’” In other words, he’s saying, “Listen, this isn’t my fault, this isn’t my problem! God is the one who’s withholding this from you.” Now, it was rather insensitive of him to say it that way, but he’s theologically right. God had not given the children to Rachel, but he had to Leah.

We also see it in the narrative itself, that God is the one who gives life. It’s reflected in the names of the children. Even when Rachel is somehow—she’s trying to manipulate circumstances herself, so the whole episode with the mandrakes, down in verses 14-18, she trades a night with Jacob to Leah for mandrakes. What are mandrakes? It was a plan or an herb that was thought to be a fertility drug and an aphrodisiac. So she’s thinking, “If I can just get the mandrakes, maybe I’ll get pregnant.” But even that doesn’t work for her. She’s not the one who gets pregnant; Leah actually gets pregnant again and has two more children.

It’s only when you get down to verse 22, where Rachel finally conceives, and this is how. Verse 22 says, “Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb.” So God shows compassion on her as well, although it’s later in their journey. But God is the one that gives life. The passage teaches us that.

(2) Secondly, this passage also shows us that God cares for the underdog. Don’t we all love an underdog story? Have you ever seen “Rudy,” the greatest underdog film in history, probably? A wonderful story. We love these stories about the underdog who somehow is able to achieve something wonderful.

Well, God has a special place in his heart for the underdog in the story, and for this story it’s the homely, unloved, ugly sister, Leah. God shows his compassion for her by giving her a child.

One commentary by Allan Ross says, “We learn that God’s choice to bless is not made by human standards.” Now listen to this. “In fact, God characteristically works for people that humans reject: the downcast, the afflicted, the troubled, the oppressed, and the wounded.” God cares for the underdog.

(3) We also see from this story that the deepest longings of our hearts can only be met by God himself, and not by any earthly blessing. As great as earthly blessings are, those blessings will not fill the God-shaped vacuum, the God-shaped whole in the heart.

You should go find a sermon that Tim Keller preached called “The Girl Nobody Wanted.” It’s a masterful sermon from this; I don’t want to just repeat the sermon, but he essentially shows that everybody longs for love, this is the deep human drive, and that everyone, if they look to human beings to meet that deepest longing, they will be disillusioned. What are we to do with it? Well, we have to do what Leah did; we have to eventually turn to the Lord. “This time I will praise the Lord.” We find that deep longing met in God himself.

When you look at this story, all three of the characters are disillusioned. Jacob is driven by this passion for Rachel, but he wakes up with Leah, and for the rest of his life he’s saddled with two wives—polygamy. The Bible doesn’t approve of this; it tells the story, but tells it in a way that undermines this cultural institution, shows how negative and destructive it is. This will bring trial and hardship into Jacob’s life from this point forward. His desires are frustrated.

We see it in Rachel. What she wants is children, but she’s disillusioned. It takes years before she finally conceives, and when she does have a child, Joseph, what does she name him? She names him Joseph, saying, “I’m hoping I’ll have a second son.” One’s not enough. She’s never going to keep up with her sister Leah, who’s more fertile than she is.

Leah, of course, is disillusioned. She wants the love of her husband, and she really only finds some measure of peace when she turns to the Lord in naming Judah, “This time I will praise the Lord.”

It’s a sad but beautiful story. It’s a story that shows us God’s compassion for the unloved Leah, and listen, it points us to something about the gospel. It points us to the truth that God is the true lover of our souls and that God loves the unlovely.

There’s a wonderful hymn, written by a 17th-century Anglican named Samuel Crossman, and it goes like this:

“My song is love unknown,
My Savior’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That I may lovely be.”

Well, that is the gospel. It’s “love to the loveless shown,/That [we] may lovely be.” God loves us when we are not lovely, and he loves us in such a way as to make us lovely.

(4) Then, finally under this point, we also see God’s purposes being realized and his promises being fulfilled, even through the mess of human brokenness.

Like I said, this is a soap opera. You have polygamy, you have handmaidens who become concubines, with both Rachel and Leah; they each give Jacob their handmaidens in order to have children through them—surrogate mothers, so to speak. You have to Jacob sleeping with four different women. You have Leah essentially buying Jacob for a night with the mandrakes. This is not a G-rated chapter, folks! This is PG-13 at best. This is messy stuff; sordid, tawdry, immoral, gross, messy family dynamics. It’s an absolute disaster.

But God is doing something in it. What’s he doing? He’s giving Jacob a family! He’s fulfilling the promise to give him descendants, and one of those descendants—get this—will be Judah. This will be the son of Leah, and we find out later in the book (in fact, in Genesis 49), when Jacob is on his deathbed, he utters blessings over his children, and over Judah this is what he says. This is Genesis 49:10, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.”

What does that mean? It means that someone’s coming who will be the Lion of the tribe of Judah. It means that a Messiah, a Savior, a King will come through Judah, and this will be the Messiah, the Savior, who will bring redemption to the world. It’s all happening through this mess of a human family.

God’s love for the loveless, God’s discipline of his servant, and then there’s one more lesson. Number three is God’s protection of his people.

3. God’s Protection of His People (31:1-55)

The rest of chapter 30 is really about God’s provision and blessing as Jacob amasses wealth from Laban. His flocks increase. God has blessed Laban because of Jacob, and then through these years of servitude Jacob himself is blessed, and he amasses wealth. That’s really the focus of chapter 30.

The focus of chapter 31 is how Jacob decides to leave. He decides to leave Haran and go back to the land that God had promised. This is because of growing hostility between Laban’s sons and Jacob, and even Laban himself begins to look on Jacob with even less favor. Treacherous man that he is, he’s now even growing less gracious towards Jacob. Then God specifically speaks to Jacob and tells him to leave. So Jacob goes on the run, convinces his wives to go with him; he goes on the run, and Laban is chasing them down. There’s this big confrontation that comes at the end of the chapter, and it is only through God’s intervention that this does not end in bloodshed, as God intervenes to protect Jacob and his family. As the story unfolds, we see several things emerge.

(1) We see, first of all, that God delivers and protects through the power of his word. God is intervening through his word. God speaks two times in this chapter. In chapter 31:3, the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the Land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” There’s a command and a promise.

The command is, “Go back to the land,” okay? Again, I’ve said this over and again in this series: the book of Genesis is about these promises to Abraham. Descendants and land, descendants and land. Every story, somehow or another, comes back to, how is God fulfilling this promise to give descendants and land in spite of all the obstacles? That’s what’s going on here. He’s telling Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your kindred.” Here’s the promise: “I will be with you.”

Then, in verse 24, when Laban is coming after Jacob, God comes to Laban in a dream and says, “Do not speak any good or evil to Jacob. Don’t lay your hand on him, don’t touch him.” He warns Laban in such a way that Laban essentially backs off. We see that God delivers and protects through the power of his word.

(2) We see Jacob’s deepening faith and confidence in God. This brings us full circle. I said this story tells us about God’s discipline and training of Jacob. Chapter 29: no prayer, very little God-talk. By the time you get to chapter 31, 20 years later, Jacob’s language is full of reference to God. In fact, there are two speeches from Jacob in chapter 31. I’ll read just part of the first one. This is the speech he makes to the sisters, to his wives, Leah and Rachel.

Ross, in his commentary, says this is one of the high points in Jacob’s life. Another scholar says, “Jacob here is the keen observer and genuine believer and grateful proclaimer of God’s help.”

Listen to this, Genesis 31:4-9. It says, “So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was, and said to them, ‘I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me.” You see God’s protection? “If he said, ‘The spotted shall be your wages’ [that is, the spotted animals, the spotted sheep or goats], then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your waves,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.”

God’s with Jacob, and in spite of all of the treachery and schemes and trickery of Laban, God is blessing, is delivering, and is protecting Jacob.

(3) We also see—this is interesting—we see God’s power in contrast to the impotence of Laban’s household gods. When you get down to chapter 31, in verse 19 Rachel steals the household gods of her father, these idols. The reason she did that is probably because possession of those idols would have given her a legal right to the inheritance. That’s probably why she’s doing that. But she steals them. That incenses Laban, and he’s coming with full force. This is when God, then, intervenes through a dream. But when he comes and he tells Jacob about this, Jacob says, “Whoever took these idols will be put to death.” He doesn’t know that Rachel has them.

Then Rachel hides them; she puts them in a camel’s saddle and she sits on the saddle, and when Laban comes to search her tent he can’t find them! I think any Israelite who would have read this (read this for yourself) would have read it with a chuckle, because it’s sarcastic. It’s making fun of the pagan idols that can be stolen, can be hidden, and they can’t be found. These gods are utterly impotent; they have no power whatsoever, in contrast to the true God, who is speaking and who is directing and protecting in this story.

(4) Finally, we see yet again how God is faithfully fulfilling his covenant promises to Jacob. Jacob goes into Haran, Mesopotamia, with nothing, and he leaves a wealthy man, all at Laban’s expense and in spite of his constant attempts to exploit Jacob.

God’s discipline of his servant, God’s love for the loveless, God’s protection for his people; they’re all evident here, and they’re all teaching us the grander truth of God’s faithfulness to broken people.

Brothers and sisters, this should be really encouraging to us this morning, because our lives are often a mess as well. Maybe your life isn’t a soap opera, or maybe it is. Maybe you have all the tawdry elements that you have in a story like this, or something very similar. Maybe you look at your life and you see you made a mess of things! Don’t be discouraged, don’t be disheartened; there is hope for the hopeless, there is hope for hopeless families, there is hope for hopeless sinners, there is hope through the gospel because God is a God of grace, he is a God of faithfulness, he is a God who loves people who are unlovely. He reaches down into human history and into the mess of human history, and what does he do? He chooses a family, he gives them descendants, and through those descendants all of his promises come to a point, they all come to a head in one man, Jesus, the great descendant of Judah and of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham; Jesus, who is the true Jacob. He is the Jacob that Jacob never was. He is the true Israelite, the one in whom there is no deceit. Jesus is the one through whom all God’s promises are fulfilled.

This passage is showing us something of God’s faithfulness. In the gospel we see God’s faithfulness in full technicolor display.

The challenge for us this morning is, in the middle of our mess, in the middle of our brokenness, in the middle of our difficult circumstances, our trials—whatever they are—to discern the loving hand of God disciplining us, yes; guiding us; training us; protecting us; and drawing us closer to himself. Brothers and sisters, look to God and his grace this morning and trust in his Son. Let’s pray together.

Father, we thank you that you are a gracious God, and we thank you for stories like this, which are both a mirror for the brokenness of our own lives but also pointers to the magnificence of your grace, your goodness, your faithfulness. Lord, I pray this morning that we would take heart, that we would take hope, and that we would exercise faith in your promises.

Lord, as we come to the table this morning, may we remember what this table is: it is the seal of the new covenant promises that Christ has made and that Christ has sealed with his own blood, to shed his blood, to give his body to be broken for us. So I pray that as we take the elements we would by faith lay hold of Jesus, that we would draw near to you with repentant hearts. Lord, if there are sins in our lives that you’re disciplining us for, help us see them right now and turn from them, and help us, Lord, to believe your promise and to trust in your word and in your faithfulness. So draw near to us in these moments; we pray in Jesus name, amen.