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Notes & Transcripts

Inscription: Writing God’s Words on Our Hearts & Minds

Part 9: Lessons from Jacob’s Life

Genesis 27-35

February 7, 2010

Main Point(s) of sermon:

·         By learning from Jacob’s mistakes we can finish well.

·         We reap what we sow

·         Taking things into our own hands can make a mess

·         Passivity is costly

·         Even with all of our faults, we are still loved and called by God.

Objectives of sermon:

·         Help us avoid the tragedies of Jacob’s life.


·         Jacob narrative (esp. 29, 30, 34), John 4:1-30

·         Finishing Well (2005-07-03). 036


Scripture reading: Genesis 27:41-45 (Eddie Kelley)

Prayer: Help us learn from your servants and become more aware of your grace.


I used to really like Jacob – he’s a rascal, but so clever! But the more I study him, the less I like him. It’s kind of like watching your childhood heroes fall.

·         I thought Henry Ford was cool, until I learned more about the strike breakers and all. Then I actually owned a Ford.

Yet I feel sorry for Jacob, he is a tragic character. He starts out so strong, but goes downhill pretty fast. His entire life is filled with stupid decisions and the painful consequences. He’s kind of like Lindsay Lohan. It’s like watching a train wreck.

You would be hard pressed to find more dysfunctional family in the Bible (the closest would be David). Here is the soap opera version of his life, because it basically was a soap opera.

As Jacob turns

BTW: It even included the dramatic cuts from scene to scene: From cheating Esau to Isaac pawning his wife off and from Joseph sold into slavery to Judah sleeping with his daughter-in-law, but it’s okay because he thinks she’s a prostitute.

Jacob cheats his brother out of his blessing and birthright, so he has to flee to his uncle’s house. While he is there he is tricked into marrying the wrong girl, but then get to marry the right girl too (in exchange for working another 7 years).

Not surprisingly, his household is filled with strife and a “baby war” that ends with Jacob have two more wives/concubines and 12 kids, all in seven years. Meanwhile, his father-in-law continues to cheat him and keep him in a dead-end job.

He final blows that scene, has a run in with his brother, which goes surprisingly well, then moves to a bad part of town where his daughter gets raped.

His favorite wife dies in childbirth, his oldest son has sex with his concubine, and ten of his sons plot to kidnap and sell his favorite son, but make it look like he was eaten by a lion.

·         Near the end of his life, he sums it up by saying that his years have been few and evil – you don’t say.

Your turn

When you get to the end of your life, what do you want to say to your children, your grandchildren, the people around you: “My years were few and evil” or “Follow me as I followed Christ.”

·         Our story is still being told, and I wish for you that you can avoid the pain Jacob faced.

Rather that reading through his entire story, we are going to pick out four lessons from Jacob’s soap opera life, to help us avoid having our own soap opera:

1. You reap what you sow

Recap: Jacob had first cheated Esau out of his birthright, then later tricked his own father (with mommy’s help), so he could get Esau’s blessing. Jacob then flees to his mother’s home town, where he falls in love with Rachel:

Genesis 29:18-20 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

It starts as a beautiful love story, one of the few romances in Genesis. It looked like Jacob’s schemes had worked. But then the plot thickens: Laban switches the Rachel for her sister Leah.

Q   How would you like to wake up after your wedding night and find out that you married your fiancés ugly big sister?

It’s ironic justice – Jacob tricked his father into thinking he was his brother, now he’s tricked into thinking Leah is her sister. He was reaping what he sowed.

The Joseph incident

Here’s another painful example of Jacob reaping what he sowed: He clearly favored his and Rachel’s only son Joseph, including putting the other sons in harm’s way to protect him.

Q   Is it any surprise that they literally wanted to kill him?

They may have had a perverse pleasure in watching Jacob suffer (after he thought Jacob was dead) just as they had suffered. Jacob’s life was a series of sowing and reaping.

·         You simply don’t get away with sin.

Q   Is there any blatant sin in your life that you think you are getting away with?

I am not talking about those things you are struggling against, but those hidden sins, which you know are wrong by are either ignoring or justifying.

Galatians 6:7-9   7 ¶ Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Be warned, just as Jacob discovered, God will not be mocked, you will reap what you sow. Not because he is mean, but because he is loving – he wants to save you from “reaping destruction.”

There is actually something worse reaping what you sow, that that is not reaping what you sow. If you are getting away with sin, then tremble, because it means one of two things:

1. God is storing up the consequences because he knows that you will have to fall very hard to come to your sense.

2. (Even worse) God knows that your heart is so hard and unrepentant that there is no point.

The Lesson: Stop sowing sin!

2. You’re not the master of your destiny

Recap: God had promised Rebekah that Jacob would “the older will serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). But apparently he didn’t really believe God could pull it off, so he decided to help him out a little bit first cheating Esau then his dad.

·         He fits right in with Grandpa Abraham (the Ishmael incident) and Isaac (the Abimelech incident).

The ironic thing is that he cheated them for the wealth of the birthright, but ended up leaving home with nothing but a staff. And when he returned a wealthy man, it was only by God’s blessings, not one cent of it from him cheating Esau and Isaac.

·         God blessed Jacob in spite of his scheming, not through it.

Master of your destiny?

Q   Do you consider yourself as the master of your destiny?

Q   Do you genuinely trust God to direct your paths and take care of you, or do you think he needs a little help?

Take a moment to think about that: is life “pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps” or working with God on his plans?

·         Jacob found failure to trust God’s plan only adds suffering.

Imagine if he had trusted God: He wouldn’t have wasted 20 years working for his uncle. He would have ended up with one wife, not four (and the problems that came from that). He wouldn’t have been estranged from his family.

·         God still did exactly what he promised, all Jacob did was heap needless suffering into the equation.

The Lesson: Don’t strive to accomplish things by your own power, make sure you are trusting God.

The test: When things aren’t going well, it feels like you’re running against the wind, what do you do:

1. Push harder, work the angels, and change strategies, or

2. Pray harder, make sure you’re in his will, lean harder into God, ask him what he is teaching you.

3. Being passive brings pain

It’s ironic that passivity was such a problem in Jacob’s life, given the previous lesson of taking things into your own hands.

But perhaps you have seen this: Have you ever known a man who is a successful leader in the office but passive at home? Being “on” is much harder at home than at work!

Jacob is plagued by passivity in his home. If you read the account of Jacob’s children being born (Genesis 30), you get the sense the Jacob just did that his wives told him to do!

·         This is more than being passive – he was lazy and abdicated his role as the head of his home.

Genesis is filled with weak men and husbands, who are to blame for great suffering and sin because they failed to be the loving, responsible heads of their homes.

Genesis 34:1-2  Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 

Right away we have a problem: “Women of the land” is a negative phrase and indicates she is hanging out with the wrong crowd.

2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her.

Jacob shouldn’t have allowed Dinah to be out there, it was his responsibility to protect her and it’s his fault this happened.

Fathers: I charge you – protect your children, pay attention to who their friends are and where they hang out. Never allow your kids to go to a house that you have not approved. Meet the parents, know who lives there.

·         Far too many children are hurt because the parents are too lazy or embarrassed to check out the house they are going to.

But Jacob’s disregard for his daughter did not stop there:

Genesis 34:5-7 5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he kept quiet about it until they came home. 

Jacob stayed silent when he should have spoken up. His response trivialized Dinah’s suffering. One study shows that how a father responds is just as important to the violation itself for the child’s recovery.

·         What if you don’t know? They will believe that you should have, and they are probably right.

6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. [Because Shechem has now fallen in love with her and wants to marry her.]  7 Now Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob’s daughter-- a thing that should not be done.

Jacob’s sons respond the way he should have – filled with fury. And because he failed in his responsibility, they respond with a vengeance (literally):

They lie to Shechem and say that if the entire town is circumcised, then Shechem can marry their sister. But when all the guys are recovering, they go in and kill them all.

·         This is actually kind of funny in a dark sort of way.  

But how does Jacob respond to this turn of events?

Genesis 34:30-31   30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.”  31 But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?”

·         I really dislike Jacob – his biggest concern is his own skin.

His sons were wicked for slaughtering innocent people for one man’s crimes, yet they were right: Something had to be done. If Jacob had done his job, they wouldn’t have done what they did.

The Lesson: Are you being passive or lazy in fulfilling the responsibilities God has given you? It might with you family, friends, or your job.

·         If you are, you are storing up pain, both for you and the people you are supposed to protect.

·         Pay now, or pay later with interest.

It’s hard to confront, it’s hard to protect, it’s hard to be vigilant, but it’s better than paying the consequences later.

Ä  Are you ready for some good news?

4. God still loved and called Jacob

By the end of his story, we see Jacob as a broken man, a tragic character. He certainly grew and learned some lessons, but I don’t see any dramatic turning point.

Yet God loved him, and worked through him, and through him all the nations were bless because Jesus came through him. And Jesus came to broken, tragic people such as Jacob.

One of my favorite story about Jesus occurred by Jacob’s own well, a Samaritan woman, also a tragic character, a sinner, judged and CONDEMNED for her mistakes, yet Jesus loved her.

The final lesson in every lesson is that Jesus came to seek and save sinners, of whom I am the worst. 

Q & A

Call to Worship

We celebrate communion as a reminder that Jesus died for us, and for this reason it should only be taken by Christians. Without believing in Jesus and submitting to him as Lord, it has no more meaning than eating a cookie.

·         To those who have thrown themselves on his grace, it symbol filled with great joy.

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