Striving and Scheming

Ah, Leah and Rachel, what a story. Two sisters who are put in a situation where they both are married to the same man by a scheming father. The years following are marked with hints of rivalry and pain all the way through one of them dying and their son’s struggle to stay on the right path. But, their children’s misadventures is a story for a later time. Today I want to focus on the little hints that the Bible gives us about Leah and Rachel and the things that I hope we can learn from them. This is the third post in this series and will focus on Jacob.

Jacob

Jacob had spent his life doing two main things – striving and scheming. From the first mention of him in his mother’s womb in Genesis 25 through his proposal to Laban for Rachel’s hand in marriage, in story after story, Jacob is working hard and plotting to get ahead. So far in his life as a second born child (Gen 25:26), Jacob had been pretty successful – he had bartered for his brother’s birthright (Gen 25:34), gained (stolen) his father’s blessing (Gen 27:27) and was on the way to find a wife. Unfortunately, he had also lost quite a bit – He was separated from his family, on the run from his brother who wanted to kill him (Gen 27:42), adding to the marital strife between his mother and father (Gen 27:46) and potentially caused his mother to be cursed (Gen 27:13).

About that wife – from the first time he set eyes on Rachel, he loved her.  Because of this vast love he had, Jacob willingly spent seven years as a shepherd for his Uncle Laban in exchange for his daughter. But then it happens, Laban does something to Jacob that will change his life forever and begin to put an end to his scheming ways. Laban secretly marries Rachel’s older sister to Jacob in her place (1). Jacob was shocked by this betrayal of Laban’s because throughout his entire life, up until then, Jacob had seemingly prevailed in everything. Starting with his surprise marriage to Leah, the week-later marriage to Rachel, the agreement to work another seven years for Laban and the coming strife of his child-bearing years, God was working on Jacob. 

Unfortunately, during these child-bearing years, Jacob page’s out of the story, Biblically. Obviously, though, he is still physically involved because wives and concubines keep becoming pregnant, but besides the time that he and Rachel argued because she was not conceiving, the Bible does not talk about Jacob’s frame of mind at all. Our only way we can gain insight into his thoughts during this time is to compare his actions before and after his children are born.

1 When Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!”

Genesis 30:1-2

We know the story before and how it lead to his marriage to two warring women (See also my posts on Rachel and Leah). With his “multiple wife strife” as a backdrop, when we next hear about Jacob, we learn that he has also been struggling with his Father-in-Law the entire time he has been working for him. We also learn that even though The story shows that Jacob is still scheming, but he has started to connect with the Lord and take His direction.

So Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching his flock. He said to them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed. But the God of my father has been with me. You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm.

Genesis 31:4-7

The good news for Jacob spiritually is that in a few short years from this time of trouble, he fully commits to God in a spectacular story that I might post about at some point. In this submission to God, He becomes the man worthy of his position as the Patriarch of the Israelites. 

How many years have we lived the same life – striving and scheming, thinking we are winning, but all the time actually losing? When we are confronted with a problem, too often, our first reaction is to work out some scheme by which we can win. And many times we do win. But at what cost? If you are still striving and scheming to force life into your control, maybe it is time to submit and become the person worthy of the position God has for you. Save your striving for things of this world, but for things of God. Jesus talks about this using the analogy of His way being a narrow door in Luke 13.

24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. – Luke 13:24

15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved,[a] a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. – 2 Timothy 2:15

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” – Hebrews 13:5-6

(1) YES, this seems like a very implausible story. How can Jacob not know that Leah was in bed with him instead of Rachel? How could any man not know the difference? Some theologians believe that the answer is that, according to some pretty heavy Bible knowledge and math, Jacob was 84 years old when he got married. Others disagree and say that he was only 40 and still others say he was around 64. Regardless of what is true, the fact is, Jacob was tricked into marrying two women and now he had to deal with the situation in some way.

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