Text: Genesis 29
Proposition: The well is often like a picture of where we seek God, a place where we work at getting life and yet there can be wells that have no life in them at all.
Introduction: Perhaps the image of a well where so many events in Scripture took place, is one we least understand. Abraham made treaties at a well, Hagar found hope at a well, Eliezer, Abrahams servant found Isaac’s wife at a well and then there’s that great encounter of the Samaritan woman with Jesus at the well. The well was a work place, a place that was essential to life, a place where people met, where hospitality was shown to strangers and even a place that marked the boundary of ownership. You could even say that a well is used as a metaphor for where people go to find life, to work at getting life, to find hope. Jer. 2:13 says, “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” What well do we go to for life, who is it we meet there and how good is the water that we pull up? So I suppose it’s no surprise that our story begins with yet another encounter at a well. The heir of Abraham’s estate, Jacob, is in a foreign land, on the run for his life and hoping to find some distant relatives, perhaps even one who will become his wife... turn with me to Genesis 29.
I. Sometimes When You Think the Journey’s Over, It’s Just About to Begin.
Jacob has travelled from Bethel all the way to the outskirts of Haran. He sees this well and a number of shepherd boys with their flocks waiting near it. As he questions them he discovers that he is very near Haran and not only that, the very relative he seeks, they know. Laban his uncle is alive and well and his daughter is just about to come to this very well. Jacob must be thinking that his journey is almost over, soon he will see the woman who will be his wife, soon he will meet the family that his roots come from. And then there she is, she’s bringing in a whole herd of sheep to the well and Jacob jumps to the ready. He rolls back the stone and then he waters the whole flock. There was no better way to sweep a girl off her feet than to take care of her sheep! There’s still a lesson in that for all men today! Jacob was a man all about first impressions, he kisses Rachel in a modest way, he meets Laban her father and he ends up being their house guest for the next month. Jacob must have thought that he’d found the woman of his dreams, the woman that his father and mother would surely approve of, the woman who with him would fulfill the blessing of Abraham. What Jacob didn’t know was that the more he fell in love with Rachel the more Laban saw the way to capture this young man. He says to Jacob, “Because you are my relative should you serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” You can feel the plot thicken, it’s an invitation from the spider to the fly and Jacob walks right into it because of his deep love for Rachel. Do you remember last week when we said that there was too much of Jacob in Jacob, meaning that though he was the one God chose to use he was still a deceiver and God would need to correct that? We see the correction beginning to happen right here as Jacob the deceiver is conned by Laban the uncle into 7 years of labor for the hand of his youngest daughter in marriage. Jacob had thought the journey was just about over but in reality God was just beginning to make some lasting changes in his character and faith. Maybe this morning it feels like the journey is just about over, perhaps a journey to a new faith or a journey to financial stability or even a journey dealing with physical challenges. The reality is that what God seeks to do in your life is just about to begin. The journey does not end at 85, or at $60000 in the bank or even at death. All that has set the stage for what God is about to do next. As you begin to hear about this Jesus, as you realize that it’s not about being good enough or sorry enough or even strong enough but realizing that Jesus and my faith in Him is enough. Jesus is enough, He stands between my failings and God’s magnificent forgiveness and invites me to place my mess on Him. He invites me to accept His right standing with God the Father and it wraps about me like a cloak. When I do that, when I place my faith in Jesus Christ, He tells me that we have begun new, born again, can you imagine that! The journey really is only just about to begin.
II. Sometimes God Uses Time, Irony and Frustration To Expose the Well.
For seven years Jacob works for Laban just so that he might marry Rachel his daughter. Their time is completed and at the last second, on the wedding night, when it is dark, Laban directs Leah his oldest daughter to slip into the tent and pretend to be Rachel. So you’ve got to be wondering, where is Leah’s thinking and how is Rachel feeling? Was Leah so left out, so envious of Rachel that when an opportunity like this came along it trumped doing what’s right? Was it just that the authority of their father Laban was so great that what he said goes, could they blame it all on him? Where’s Rachel, couldn’t she have whispered through the tent door something about the way he had watered her sheep? Jacob, who so desperately wants someone to love, sleeps with Leah and this means he is now married to her. You’ve got to love the irony here, Jacob had deceived his father by pretending to be the older brother because his father couldn’t see very well and here he’s been deceived by a father who puts the older in place of the younger in a way that Jacob can’t physically see. God has a tremendous sense of irony, you could even say a perfect sense of irony, it matches perfectly. Jacob wakes up in the morning and as first light comes into the tent, whoops that’s Leah laying there beside him. When he confronts Laban, who he immediately recognizes as the author of this deception, Laban gives him the, “That’s the way we’ve always done it around here”, line. So Jacob agrees to work another seven years to gain Rachel for sure. The deal is that he keeps Leah, they honeymoon for a week and then he can have Rachel and work for another seven years. So how would we describe the well that Jacob went to for life, the belief that he held about what was the best way to get ahead, to be a success, to be secure and prosperous? This ‘well’ looks a lot like the ‘well’ of Frank Sinatra, the ‘I did it my way’ guy. Jacob believed that he could do it all by himself and if a few people got hurt along the way that was just how it is. What kind of water came out this kind of well? It looked like it would satisfy the thirst but it was salted, it only made him thirstier, hungrier, more empty. Sometimes God uses time, irony and frustration to bring us to an end of ourselves. C.S. Lewis in the book, ‘The Great Divorce’ says, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell chose it." The wells that we dig for ourselves are just like Jeremiah says, they are broken cisterns and what I draw out of them has no life in it all. God is exposing this kind of thinking to Jacob, He is saying to Jacob in essence, ‘If you will not trust Me then your will be done.’ The cup of frustration that Jacob drank, the time it took, the irony of its way began to draw Jacob to see that this well of self serving was shallow and toxic.
III. Always God Invites Us To Draw from Him, To Be Satisfied, To Be Filled.
What takes place next can only be described as The Amazing Race, and there is a double meaning to that word race. God sees that Jacob loves Rachel more, she’s prettier and the only one he really wanted. Leah is a consolation prize, an ‘also ran’, a runner up, standing next to the podium of Jacob’s heart. So God balances the scales, Leah is the one able to have children, Rachel can’t. Laban has given to each of his daughters a servant or hand maid, women who were there as behind the scene players. Having children, especially male children, was seen as the future, as real blessing. Listen to Leah’s heart as she names her children in the latter part of this chapter: Reuben - ‘Behold a son’, meaning now surely Jacob will love me. ; Simeon - ‘Heard’, meaning the Lord has heard me why won’t Jacob love me; Levi – ‘Joined to’ meaning surely after three sons Jacob will now join to me; Judah – ‘Praised’ meaning I will praise the Lord, for only He can be the well of life for me. It is Leah who is the first to see that only in God could she ever be satisfied, filled, content. Though she is the unloved one she is the first to draw living water by putting her praise and faith and trust in God as the only One who ever could fill the emptiness of her soul. In the next 24 verses of chapter 30 Rachel and Leah go into a flat out race to see who can have the most children and they use their handmaids to help boost the score. Don’t forget that this is the birth of the twelve tribes of Israel, accomplishing of the promise made to Abraham years before. Four women become the mothers of the nation of Israel, Leah, her handmaid Zilpah, Rachel, her handmaid Bilhah. Jacob was the one man, the father of eleven sons and one daughter. Next week we’ll look at their names and see the next step in how God exposes the well of Jacobs belief. Always God invites us to draw from Him, to be deeply satisfied, to be filled in our souls through His Son Jesus Christ.