Genesis 28:13, 29:15-30
Every person can understand God’s greater purpose by examining some plans in this passage.
In this video clip what is the man intending to do? What is the woman thinking as she enters the apartment? Why are the two images different?
This morning I want to explore the issue of plans. It is coming from the perspective of Jacob’s plans and God’s plans. They are very different. We need to consider which we are going to grasp and make our own.
I. Jacob’s plans
A. As I look at this passage I see the Jacob has just a few things that he wants to accomplish in his life. Last week we saw how Jacob had deceived his brother Esau. He had taken his birthright and he had also taken his blessing. After he did the later Esau was really upset with Jacob. He wanted to make sure that Jacob got what was coming to him. He probably was doing this with his father’s approval also. After Isaac died Jacob knew his brother was going to try to kill him, so goes to Laban. Laban was his mother’s brother. A big part of what Jacob is doing is self preservation. He wants to make sure that he is not found by his brother because that would mean death for him. So he has set out to find his relatives and take refuge there. Hopefully as he does this Esau will calm down and he will eventually be able to return home. It sound like a pretty silly plan, but it is something that needs to happen for him to preserve his life.
B. When Rebekah sends Jacob off she also wants him to find a wife. Much like Abraham did for Isaac, Jacob is being sent to his family’s relatives to find a wife. This would please his family, and it would also continue to serve the blessing that God had promised to Abraham. So, while Jacob is seeking his uncle he runs into his cousin Rachael and you get the idea that this was love at first sight. He seems to be a little smitten with this young lady. Having Rachael as his wife would certainly please both of his parents. Jacob is looking at this as an opportunity to get a wife for himself.
C. He also is working for that wife. In vv. 14 and 15 Laban realizes that Jacob has been working for him for a month and has not received anything. So, he offers to pay Jacob. Jacob agrees to take Laban’s daughter Rachael as his payment for seven years of work. As Jacob does his work over these seven years he is thinking that he is earning a wife for himself. His purposes are pretty shallow when we compare them with God’s purposes.
D. In a moment I will look at God’s plans for Jacob’s life. As I do this I hope you will realize what a difference there is between God’s plans and Jacob’s plans. I hope that you will realize that Jacob had plans that were taking care of him, God’s plans were there for Jacob, but they were also for generations to come. The plans that God had were grander and they were really things that could not be accomplished by Jacob alone. They were things that required God.
E. While we might be inclined to criticize Jacob for his small thinking, he is probably representative of the thinking of most people. There seems to be built into all of us that desire to preserve self. We want to make sure that we are all taken care of. This is what Jacob was doing. He was also thinking pretty small. He was about to learn about God’s plans for him.
II. God’s plans
A. In order to understand God’s plans we need to go back to 28:13 and following. This was during the time that Jacob was fleeing from his brother and before he reached his uncle. During this in-between time Jacob falls asleep and while he is asleep he has a dream and God gives him a promise. This is where we learn of God’s plans. In 28:13 he promises to give Jacob the land on which he is lying. This is the same piece of land that God had promised to Abraham a few generations earlier. Now God is reaffirming that promise with Jacob. Eventually Jacob and his descendents will claim the entire land that we call Israel. It was a big promise and it was something that we have seen God honor even to this day. God continues to hold that land of Israel for Jacob and his descendants. This was certainly something different from what Jacob was looking for. God had plans to make Jacob the patriarch of a nation.
B. I can’t imagine that a man who is fleeing from his brother is really thinking about becoming the patriarch of a nation. His number one interest is saving his hyde. He is not thinking about becoming the patriarch of a nation. This was a dream that was too big for Jacob to accomplish. It was something that only God would be able to do. In order for this to happen Jacob had to place himself in God’s hands and in God’s care.
C. The second part of God’s plan seems to be to increase the number of descendants that Jacob had. In 28:14 God says to Jacob, “Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.” This is again connecting to that idea of Jacob being the patriarch of a nation. In the story we just read Jacob ends up with not one wife, but two wives and he also has two servants that become concubines. By the end of Jacob’s life he has 12 sons and some daughters as well. He is a man who has a really large family. If his descendants were going to be as numerous as the dust of the earth, he had better start with a large family. By the time we get to the first chapter of Exodus about 500 years later it is estimated that there are over a million descendants of Jacob.
D. This was something that God was going to do. It was not something Jacob had planned on doing. When he went to Laban he thought he would work for seven years marry Rachael and then live happily ever after. From our perspective I believe that God was getting Jacob started on this great nation. So we see Jacob having children with four different women. In Jacob’s time there were not laws about monogamy, so it was acceptable for him to have several wives.
E. As I just said a natural consequence of Jacob having many wives was that he would have many children also. I tend to think that Jacob was wrapped up in getting his time in to marry Rachael. In 29:20 it says that the seven years only seemed like a few days. He was excited to be able to marry this girl. I don’t really believe he was thinking about having a large family or even about being the father of a nation. These were God’s plans they were not Jacob’s plans. God’s plans went far beyond getting married and having a family.
F. Jacob’s plans seemed to be all about him. When we look at the plans of God compared with Jacob’s plans, thye are so much bigger than the plans a man might have. Jacob was worried about protecting himself. He was also interested in having a wife. He had in mind a particular woman to be his wife. Laban had other plans, so when Jacob does not get his way he makes plans to marry the woman he originally wanted to marry. Everything that Jacob does really seems to be things that benefit him. The plans that God has are much broader. They are things that only God would be able to do. They are things that only he will be able to pull off.
G. I really believe that is typical for all of us. We want to see things happen so we make plans, we might even attach the label “God’s plans” to what we are about to do. Deep down they are going to benefit us in some way. We don’t dream God sized dreams. A God sized dream is something that will only happen with the help of God.
H. Maybe you have seen the Price Line commercial. The negotiator shows up while a man is making plans to propose a price. The man suggests taking $20 off the price of the hotel. The negotiator continues to prod him until he is ready to name a price of about half of the actual asking price. You get the idea that nothing like this would have happened if the negotiator had not been there. This looke like something that only would happen with the negotiator present. Imagine this is what was happening with God. God prods us to dream God sized dreams and we continue to dream man sized dreams. Things that we can accomplish with a little effort. Why not allow God to take over the dream department of our lives? Let him instill in us outrageous dreams that will only happen when we allow God to be the master of our dreams.
Jacob had dreams that were puny compared to what God had planned. God had even clearly told Jacob, this is what I am doing. He spoke to him in a vision in chapter 28. It could not have been made more plain.
If Jacob’s plans were so much different from God’s plans then I want to make sure that each one of us does what we can to tap into God’s plans. It does not happen when we try really hard. We tap into God’s plans when we get close to God. So we need to spend time in his word, the Bible, getting to know God better. We need to spend time in pray getting to know God better. We need to learn from people who know God well. As we get to know God, he will reveal his plans to us. It is not a matter of asking what I would do if I were God.
I would submit to you that a majority of people know about God, but don’t really know God. My challenge would be for you to get to know God.