What Goes Around Comes Around
Topic: Genesis Passage: Genesis 28:10–29:30
For our guests, we are working our way through the book of Genesis, so let’s turn together to chapter 28. Last week Matt took us through chapters 25-27 and we saw that Rebekah conceived with twins after 20 years of barrenness, but the two babies are constantly fighting in the womb and when Rebekah wonders why this is so, the Lord tells her that there are two nations in her womb and that the older brother would serve the younger brother. Esau was born first and right behind him Jacob is born holding tightly onto Esau’s heel. And with the birth of these two boys, strife and division in the family would also be born.
The advantage of growing up with siblings is that you become very good at fractions. ~Robert Brault
This is a family that is very good at fractions: Isaac loves Esau and Rebekah loves Jacob and Jacob and Esau hate each other and Isaac and Rebekah are at odds with what they want for their boys. It all culminates when Isaac asks Esau to hunt game and prepare a meal for him so that he can give him the blessing before he dies– a move that goes counter to the word that the Lord to Rebekah – that the older would serve the younger.
Rebekah hears of Isaac’s plans to bless Esau and she talks Jacob into stealing the blessing by dressing up as Esau and deceiving his father into giving him the blessing. Jacob deceives his father and steals the blessing from Esau. It is a tragically sad moment when Esau comes back to Isaac’s tent and they realize what Jacob has done. Isaac is trembling violently and Esau is crying desperately for some blessing from his father. As chapter 27 ends, Esau is vowing to kill Jacob the minute his father dies, and knowing this Rebekah wants to send Jacob away until Esau’s anger cools down so she talks Isaac into sending Jacob back to their homeland to find a wife.
This family has become very good at fractions! They’ve been a family divided against one another and now it’s a family divided. Jacob leaves, fleeing for his life. Isaac and Rebekah will never see their younger son again. And Esau hates his brother so much he is comforted at the thought of murdering him.
This is a dark moment for Jacob. Cut off from his family, fleeing for his life, alone in the desert, knowing he’s a cheat and a deceiver, and uncertain what the future holds for him. It’s a dark and lonely season for Jacob’s soul, and that’s when God chooses to appear to Jacob for the first time. Let’s read it in chapter 28 beginning in verse 10-17.
God visits him in a dream and Jacob sees a ladder that connects heaven to earth and on that ladder angels are ascending and descending and God stands at the top of that ladder and assures Jacob that He will be with him and bless him and give him and his descendents the land, just as God had promised it to Abraham.
A picture of the grace given to us in Jesus Christ
This is a moment of grace. Jacob wasn’t seeking God; he was fleeing for his life because of his own sinful deception. But at a moment when Jacob felt so alone and his future seemed so uncertain, God met him in that place and promised He would be with him and would bless him. God met him in his need and notice what God doesn’t say. Not one word of rebuke or reproach for what Jacob has done, only the promise of blessing.
This is a picture of the grace that is given to us in Jesus Christ. We were all Jacobs – deceiving and deceitful. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful above all things – because of the fall, our hearts are very good at trading in deception – even good at deceiving ourselves. We weren’t seeking God, we were fleeing from God and from truth as fast as we can – the lonely, barren desert with a rock as a pillow is a symbol of the cold, lonely, desolate place sin takes us – but in that place, God came to us in the Person of Jesus Christ.
In the gospel of John verse 51 Jesus tells Nathaniel, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jesus is saying that Jacob’s ladder always pointed to himself. Jesus is the ladder that connects heaven and earth.
He is the Son of God who stands at the top of the ladder and assures us He will always be with us. He is the Son of Man who descended to earth as a man to give Himself as a substitute for all us Jacobs – standing in the place of men and women who deceitful hearts and yet, like Jacob, also treasure God’s blessings and promises.
Let me apply this to a specific situation: there are times when, even as Christians, we really mess up and find ourselves hurting and on the run because of the foolish choices we’ve made. Maybe not literally running away, but we all know what it’s like to go through dark seasons where we feel like we’re all alone in the desert with a stone for a pillow. Just feel like you’ve messed up so bad that no one is there with you, there are no comforts – it’s just a hard, cold place to be.
There might be someone here this morning that is in this place right now. Between you and God you know you’ve messed up and life seems like it will never be the same. Maybe you can’t see or believe that you have any future at all because it seems like you’ve messed up so bad. If that’s you, I want you especially to hear this: that’s exactly where Jesus comes to us. Jesus isn’t “into winners” – he’s the friend of sinners and he’s the best friend in that lonely, dark place because he is the ladder that connects our sinful souls to the glory of heaven. I’ve had times when I’ve felt so sad and lonely – walking on rainy nights just feeling the loneliness of the night reflects the loneliness of my soul. Yet in that loneliness and emptiness, Jesus has met me and he will meet you. Meets us and promises to be with us and promises to bless us. If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior than he is there with you, connecting you with heaven, even if you can’t see it right now. And if you haven’t ever put your faith in Jesus Christ, he says to all who hear, “come to me, you heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Won’t you come to Jesus right now, right this very morning? (Pray)
God meets Jacob the Deceiver and promises to be with him and bless him and doesn’t mention his deceitfulness but that doesn’t mean God didn’t see it or is going to ignore it. Let’s continue.
Jacob comes to a well in his grandfather’s homeland and there he meets with a beautiful woman named Rachel who is his uncle Laban’s daughter and Jacob remembers how Eliezer went to a well (might be the same well) and found the beautiful Rebekah for Isaac, and Jacob is thinking, yes! God’s led me to the right place, right woman, I’ll be married to her in no time – this is so easy! What could go wrong? God is obviously with me – just like He said!
What Jacob doesn’t know is that God in His providence has led him to this moment, and Rachel is going to be a part of God’s providence to Jacob, but God has a work to do in Jacob’s character and so God is also going to give Jacob his uncle Laban, a man in whom Jacob the Deceiver will meet his match.
Laban is a man consumed with furthering his own wealth. He loved Eliezer cause he came on ten camels and bearing bags and bags of gold, so when he hears that another relative from Abraham has come he runs out to meet him (and his gold). But Jacob has no gold, no camels, no nothing. He is our worst nightmare: a poor relative come for an extended stay. But Laban soon figures out that he can exploit this young relative for his own benefit when he asks what he can pay him for his labor and all Jacob asks for is his younger daughter, Rachel.
This is one of the greatest switches in the history of man and you gotta admire Laban for pulling it off! When I was 13 years old I drank almost an entire half gallon of milk one afternoon and then realized my dad was going to be mad when he found out there was no milk, so I got the idea that if I took some powdered milk and water and mixed it in with the small amount of real milk, maybe the real milk would mask the flavor of the powdered milk and my dad wouldn’t notice.
If you have ever had powdered milk, you know that it tastes nothing like real milk! It’s hard to describe how bad it is (and if there’s someone here who likes it, I apologize if this offends you, but you need to come to grips with reality). Not only does it taste terrible, but you invariably get these big chunks of unstirred powder that no amount of stirring gets rid of. So sure enough my dad comes home and makes a snack and pours himself a glass of milk and I’m standing there hoping he doesn’t notice the chunks falling into his glass. I’m trying to talk casually but inside I’m nervously watching that glass of powdered milk. He took one sip and instantly asked, “what’d you do to the milk?” “Nothing,” I lied. There was no way he wasn’t going to notice, but I am ashamed to say I added to my deception by lying. I was a Jacob. But Laban – he does more than switch powdered milk for real, he switches the beautiful Rachel for the far less beautiful sister Leah. And in the dark, and with the flowing wine, somehow Jacob doesn’t realize until the next morning – and now he’s stuck. Angrily he asks how Laban could have deceived him, and Laban’s answer must have hit him like a ton of bricks:
It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. (Vs. 26)
That’s exactly what Jacob had done: tricked his father into giving the blessing to the younger rather than the firstborn and no doubt Jacob heard God’s rebuke in Laban”s answer.
What Goes Around Comes Around
Jacob had done a deceptive switch with his brother, and now he was the victim of a deceptive switch
between sisters. The deceiver was deceived. It’s a classic case of what goes around comes around. Galatians 6:7 warns us, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
It is a spiritual principle that applies to both believers and unbelievers: what we sow, that we will reap. Grace saves us from the ultimate harvest our sin deserves, but it doesn’t remove the consequences of our actions or kill the crop we sow. And it didn’t for Jacob.
Jacob desperately wanted God’s blessing, imparted by his father. What he wanted was good and, in fact, God’s will for his life, but he should have trusted God for it rather than taking matters into his own hands and cheating to get it. But rather than trust God to bring it about, Jacob sowed a seed of deceitfulness and here he is reaping a harvest of deceit that will bring him disappointment, heartache, bitter fighting in his home, and years of servitude.
This should make us very careful about what we sow. If we sow criticism, we shouldn’t be surprised that one day we reap…criticism. Paul says if we bite and devour one another, there’s a good chance we’re going to be consumed by one another.
If we’re judgmental, we’ll reap judgment –using the same scales we use. Jesus warns us that with the measure that we judge, by that same measure we will be judged. We will reap the judgment that we sow. If we talk maliciously about others behind their backs, we shouldn’t be surprised to find out that others are talking maliciously behind our backs. We reap what we sow.
But this principle goes the other way too: If we seek to sow love and faithfulness, we will reap love and faithfulness – eventually. Maybe not right away, maybe not even where we sowed it, but it will come back to us. If we sow charitable judgments about others, we will reap – eventually. Jesus said, blessed are the merciful for they shall receive [reap]…mercy. We should make sure that what we sow is what we want to reap.
God disciplines us through what we reap
The name Jacob means, to take by the heel and it had the connotation of being a deceiver. Jacob was a deceitful man and the motif of deception will be woven throughout his life, but thank God that wasn’t the end of the story. Over a period of years God used the pain of the reaping to teach Jacob painful but necessary lessons and to change his character from a heel to a humble man who knew and trusted his God, from a Jacob to an Israel – which means he strives with God. Nothing would come easy for Jacob – he would strive for every blessing he got – but the ladder of God was always present. The commerce of heaven was always ascending and descending in his life, grace was always being poured out on him, God was always active in his life. The reaping was God’s discipline, not God’s rejection, of Jacob.
And so it is for those who trust in Jesus Christ. If we sow to the flesh, if we sow sinfully, we will reap to the flesh. But the ladder of God – Jesus Christ – will mean that God is always active and pouring out grace. God will discipline us through painful reaping, but He will not abandon us or reject us.
Is there a Laban in your life? A person who is very judgmental of you? Harsh? Deceitful? Untruthful? Arrogant? It’s right to cry out to God for help and relief, but as Alan Ross writes, God’s plan through them might also be that we “take a long look at ourselves. It may be that some of those traits characterize us and that other people may be part of God’s means of disciplining us.”
Is there a crop growing in your life that you don’t like or want? God may be teaching you a painful lesson about what your sowing. It is God’s loving discipline, not for our destruction, but for our instruction. The ladder of heaven is always active – God is always active – in the believer’s life. Jesus promises to always be with us and to bless our lives – and changing our character to be more like him is an important aspect of that blessing.
So let’s close by taking a moment to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to each of us about where we might be sowing the wrong seeds and repent of that sowing and ask for the Lord’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
Then let’s ask God to help us to sow to the Spirit – seeds of love and patience and faithfulness and gentleness, that we might reap crops that bring glory to Jesus and bear the fruit of eternal life.