Today on Summit Life with JD Greer. Jacob does what a lot of people who deal with deep disappointment in life do. They search for their answer to their life's problems in finding that one true romantic love. Someone they think will fulfill them. Someone who will give them meaning. Someone who will make their life worth living. Welcome to Summit Life with Pastor and Author JD Greer.
I'm your host, Molly Vidovitch. Does it feel like movies often make it seem like romance is the answer to all of your problems? Guy kisses girl and they live happily ever after.
But we all know that real life doesn't work that way. No matter how perfect your relationship might be, it's not a guarantee of a happy life. Today, Pastor JD explains the key to true lasting joy, regardless of your relationship status. It's part of our series called The Whole Story, and he titled this message The Search for One True Love. But first, make sure you stick around until the end of the program today, because we are going to ask Pastor JD a question about prayer and specifically unanswered prayer.
It's a question I'm sure that we've all had. You don't want to miss that. But for now, let's jump into today's teaching. As you are opening to Genesis 29, we are working our way through the entire Bible. And as we're doing that, I'm trying to focus on those sections of Scripture that will give you a sense of the whole story. So we come now to a story that is as profound as it is odd.
It has literally everything in it. There is betrayal. There is sex. There is scandal. There are things that just look insane.
In many ways, it feels like a modern story because it shows you the crazy things that we'll do for love. Have you ever known somebody that just did something that you thought was absolutely insane in the name of love, like move across country with no commitment from the other person at all? You know, I've known people to do that. People that quit their job. People who have alienated their friends and their family.
People who get a tattoo at the wrong time. I heard of one poor guy who fell so in love with this girl that shortly after they started dating, her brother, or who he thought was her brother, went into the hospital and needed a kidney transplant. So to impress her, he donated his kidney, only for it to come out after the operation was over that this guy was actually not her brother, but her ex-boyfriend that she was still in love with. Shortly after the operation, she broke up with the generous kidney donor so that she could marry her fake brother.
Just insane, it seems like, right? Well, believe it or not, all those things would be small potatoes compared to what happens in this story in Genesis 29. I'm going to explain to you that in a much deeper sense, this story shows us, regardless of what romantic situation you're in, or what you want for the future, or even what stage of life you're in, this story shows us the search that each of us is on in life. Genesis 29, let me give you the context. Abraham is the guy who is the patriarch of the entire Jewish nation. Abraham is the guy to whom the promises are given, and so the book of Genesis follows his family. Abraham, remember, is sterile and frail.
He's an old man. He has a miracle baby named Isaac. Isaac is going to have two sons. One is named Jacob, and the other is going to be named Esau.
This is kind of the family tree that brings you into Genesis 29. Now, Jacob and Esau were twins, but they could not have been more different. Esau was what many people would call a man's man. He ate lots of red meat. He liked to hunt. We assume that he really liked sports.
He probably drove an F-250. We also know that he was really hairy. We know that because his name literally means, Esau means red and hairy. Interesting note to me is that they gave him this name at birth, which I just feel like that's unusual for a baby.
It'd be like naming your baby Fuzzy. Evidently, he came out of the womb looking like a chia pet. He was also the firstborn, the firstborn, which meant that he got what we call the blessing. Now, real quick, biblical theology lesson.
Let me explain the blessing to you. In every family in the ancient world, one of the kids, almost always the oldest, got the family inheritance, which means that they got the majority of the property and the assets. They got the right to the family name. They got to be the patriarch of future generations. For the descendants of Abraham, there was this added element of inheriting the promise to bring forth the Messiah that had been promised to Abraham.
So there would be one son in every family that carried the messianic seed. Well, that is assumed to be Esau because he is the firstborn. Now, Jacob, his twin brother, was the opposite of Esau in just about every way.
Jacob was more, shall we say, genteel. Well, Isaac prefers Esau over Jacob, and he makes that pretty clear. And this, of course, is really hurtful to Jacob, so Jacob schemes a way to steal the blessing of the firstborn from his brother Esau.
I don't have time to go deep into the details of this majestic ruse, but here's the basic gist of it. Isaac is really old, and he thinks he's going to die. So he says, I've got to confer the blessing officially on one of my sons, and he's going to do Esau. So he tells Esau to go out into the field and hunt him up some deer and prepare it as a stew. And then when he gets back, they'll eat it, and he'll confirm the covenant blessing onto him.
And then Isaac assumes that he'll die. So Esau leaves early in the morning to go out and hunt down the deer, and Jacob sees his opportunity. Jacob takes a goat, and he makes a stew. Then he dresses up in Esau's clothes, and he even takes the skin of the goat and attaches it to the back of his arms and his neck. So he feels like Esau, which I don't know what that says about Esau when somebody wants to impersonate you, and they wrap themselves in a dead goat so that they feel and smell like you, but that's a bit disgusting.
The man's man thing is one thing, but that's taking it too far. So Jacob walks in with Esau's clothes and the stew, and he's got the goat hair and the smell all over him. He walks in, and he says, hi, Dad.
Hi, Dad. It's Esau. It's Esau. But Isaac is so old, and he can see so poorly and hear so poorly that he falls for it, and he confers the blessing onto Jacob, thinking that Jacob is Esau.
Well, Esau returns and comes in with his stew, and he says, Dad, I'm here. Then Isaac realizes what's happened, and he says, Son, it's too late. Now, it all seemed to me at this point like Isaac would have just, when he realized the mistake, would have been like, oh, well, I take it back. But evidently, the blessing, the covenant, was irrevocable when it had been given.
There was a no-take-backs clause that they threw in there. Jacob has deceived his dad and betrayed his brother and stolen this blessing. Jacob's name literally means deceiver, which I also thought was an odd name to give a baby. Liar. You name one of your kids Fuzzy and the other one Liar.
I just feel like they could have done better than that. But it's a play on words in Hebrew. You see, when Jacob and Esau were born, Esau was born first, as I mentioned, and I guess Rebecca's womb was like, get this hairy thing out of here. So he came out first, and as he was coming out of the birth canal, it says that a little hand comes out after Esau and grabs a hold of Esau's heel.
Like, you know, they're in a fight, and he wants to get out first, so he wants to pull him back in. So they named the first one, you know, Hairy, and they named the second kid, they named him Heel Grabber. In Hebrew, Heel Grabber is Yacob, but it has a double meaning.
It has another meaning in Hebrew, and that double meaning is trickster or struggler. So he's named Heel Grabber at birth, but the name Fitz also is a description of Jacob's character as he gets older as a deceiver. Well, of course, Esau's fighting mad, and so he vows to kill Jacob. So Jacob hops in his Miata, and he zooms off to somewhere else. His mom tells him he's got some relatives in a far-off place called Haran, so Jacob heads there.
Eventually, he arrives at the house of an uncle named Laban, which brings us to the main part of this story for today. Laban has two daughters. One of the daughters is named Rachel, and she is described for us in Genesis 29, 17 here. Rachel was beautiful in face and figure, which is a Hebrew way of saying that she was super hot. Literally, beautiful in face means she had a cute face.
Figure means she had a very attractive body. So that's Rachel. Now, the other sister was named Leah, and well, she was not hot. The narrator indicates that to us in two not-so-subtle ways. First, the rest of that verse, Genesis 29, 17, says, Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was beautiful in face and figure.
Now, we're not exactly sure. Scholars are not sure what weak eyes means. But what we know it doesn't mean is that she just couldn't see very well, because notice it's put into contrast to Rachel's beauty. If it had simply meant that she was nearsighted, it would have said Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel could see really, really, really, really far. That would be the contrast. The fact that it's in contrast to Rachel's beauty means that her eyes somehow messed up how she looked. Maybe they protruded really badly from her face and kind of messed up the look of her face. Most probably it meant that, how do I say this?
When she was facing east, one of her eyes was checking on things up north, and the other one was monitoring activity down in the south. That's probably what it means. The other way that we, the narrator, lets us know that Leah was not very attractive is that Leah's name in Hebrew literally means cow. You say, well, maybe that had a different implication in Hebrew.
Nope. Calling somebody a cow is an insult in any culture. That's universal. And if your name happens to be Leah, that is not my fault, okay? I know it means something different in English, but in the original Hebrew, that's what it meant, okay? So when Jacob first gets there, he is, of course, smitten with Rachel. And I know you're thinking, what a sexist pig. He only evaluates women by their face and their body. The Bible is so backwards.
Yeah, I am so glad that we are not part of a society that any longer does that, where guys don't evaluate girls first by how they look and what their bodies are like. We are so far advanced past that, so whatever. All right, so let me tell you the story of how Jacob and Rachel meet because it doesn't really have any bearing on the points I want to make today, but it's just super awesome, and you can't skip it. Genesis 29.1, if you've got your Bible open there, Jacob finally has gotten to Haran, where his uncle Laban lives. He literally has nothing. He's an outcast from his family. He is friendless. He is penniless.
I envision him as a guy with nothing but a guitar strapped to his back and a $300 pair of Escada jeans around his waist and a Prada Italian loafers on his feet, and that's all he's got, and his Miata. So he comes up to the village where his extended family lives, and he slumps down on this big old rock covering the well there. Now, here's the description of the rock. Verse 2. The stone in the well's mouth was really large.
It was huge. When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would, you know, together, plural, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well. Well, that's verse 2 and 3. Verse 6, you know, there she comes walking up, Rachel, the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. And so, Jacob, I love this. Verse 10, now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel, he rolled the stone from the well's mouth by himself. Little old Gentile Jacob.
There is something about a good-looking girl that gives this guy the ability to perform superhuman feats of strength. Okay, so they meet, and they get to talking, and it turns out that not only is Rachel really pretty, but they're related. As I mentioned, her dad Laban is Jacob's uncle, which makes them, that's right, first cousins. You would think that that would have quelled any romantic interest right there, but oh no, this is the Old Testament, baby.
And in the Old Testament, being cousins with somebody was actually a turn on. So Jacob says to Laban, I want to marry my first cousin Rachel. And Laban says, well, you know, I mean, we're related and everything, but you still got to pay some kind of bride price. So Jacob volunteers, I'll work for seven years to get her. Verse 18, now that is an exorbitant price.
To put that in perspective, the going rate for dowries in those days would have been between 30 and 40 shekels. So offering 130 shekels meant that Jacob was offering more than four times the usual amount that you paid in order to marry somebody. Right now, you may think, well, that's really sweet, but what you're supposed to get the image of here is here is a guy who is obsessed.
He is willing to do anything to get this girl. Laban knows a sucker when he sees one, so he agrees, and Jacob works for seven years. Right now, again, there's a verse that you want to read is really sweet, but it has a different implication in the narrative. Verse 20, these seven years seem like just a day because of his love for her. Now, again, that's sweet, right? Well, what it means is that every day he got up thinking about Rachel, and he went to bed thinking about Rachel.
He's not doing for anything except for seven years except being obsessed with Rachel. The seven years are up, verse 21. And so Jacob comes to Laban and says, I have fulfilled my contract. Now, give me my wife so we can be married. Now, that actually is not a very good translation in English. In Hebrew, what it literally says is, I fulfilled my contract.
Give me my wife so we can have sex. And you say, well, that sounds kind of crude. Yeah, Robert Alter, the Jewish commentator on Genesis, says it is uncharacteristically crass and crude that ancient narrators never put that kind of stuff in a narrative. So the fact that he puts it in there means that he's trying to show some of the vulgarity of what's going on in Jacob's mind. He is obsessed with Rachel.
Just give her to me. I've been thinking about this for seven years so that we can have sex. For seven years, he's been thinking about one thing. You see, Jacob does what a lot of people who deal with deep disappointment in life do. They search for their answer to their life's problems in finding that one true romantic love, someone they think will fulfill them, someone who will give them meaning, someone who will make their life worth living.
I've described it before. Jacob, most guys, they're floating, they're drowning in a sea of loneliness and despair and low self-esteem. And along by floats a five-foot-two, blonde-headed life preserver. What does a drowning man do? He sees a life preserver. He reaches out and he clings to it.
He clings to it for dear life, and he suffocates the life out of her because he's looking for something in her that she was never designed to give to him. That's what Jacob is doing with Rachel. Well, it comes time for the ceremony. In comes Laban with Jacob's bride, whom he's worked for for now seven years.
She's wearing, of course, the traditional veil, which covers not only the face but the whole head. They go through the ceremony, and Jacob is so happy that he really pounds down the booze at the reception. And after the party, he takes his veiled wife back to his tent, in the dark, of course, and they spend their first night together. For the first time in his life, Jacob feels like something has gone right. Verse 25, and Jacob awoke the next morning, and behold, it was Leah.
Behold, indeed, it was Leah. Some of you have some bad honeymoon stories. I have a couple of bad honeymoon stories.
I've told you, I think, some of them. I have one where my wife and I went snorkeling on our honeymoon. I was in the water first, and I see her jump in. She got this red bathing suit she bought for our honeymoon. We've been married for three days, so I swim up to her underwater, all secretive, and I start tickling her. Just like a man should only tickle his wife.
Let's just leave it at that. And she's kicking and thrashing and yelling, and I'm thinking, this is hilarious. After like 20 seconds, I pop up out of the water. It's not her. It's not her. And it's just a girl saying, wrong wife, wrong wife. And I look up at the boat, and there's my wife and this girl's husband, both kind of looking into the water like, what's going on? So I put my head underwater, and I swam. It was probably a mile and a half before I emerged. I find my wife like an hour later, and I just said, I don't want to talk about it. And of course, we kept running into this same couple at every restaurant that we ate that week like, hey, there they are again. So I have a bad honeymoon story.
But there ain't nothing that's ever happened to any of you like this. Jacob goes back. Of course, he's furious. And he says to Laban, what's the deal? Laban says, oh, it's not the custom in our country to marry off the younger before the older. Now, I've always wondered why Jacob didn't say back.
Well, that would have been a great point to make seven years ago. No custom gives Laban the right to commit fraud, but Jacob never even insists that Laban honor the contract. Jacob does not so much as offer a single word of argument. Why not?
Why not? Because I think when he says to Laban, why have you deceived me? I think he realizes that it's the exact same phrase that Isaac had said to him.
In fact, it's the exact same way it's written in Hebrew. And when Laban says to him, it's our custom to honor the firstborn, Jacob remembers how he had stolen the right of the firstborn from his older brother. Just like Isaac had reached out in the dark thinking it was Esau and Jacob deceived him. So Jacob has now reached out in the dark for Rachel and Laban has deceived him. The deceiver has been deceived.
Do you see it now? Jacob is brought face to face with who he is. He's so obsessed with Rachel, however, that not even this can deter him. So he gets Laban to agree that if it will work for another seven years, then he'll get Rachel as his wife too. Graciously, Laban gives Rachel to him right away instead of making him wait the seven years. It's like he gets Rachel on credit. He got Leah through the layaway program, but Rachel, he gets immediately on credit. So in the space of one week, he's gotten two sisters as wives, who one is extremely jealous of the other one. What kind of house do you think that yielded for Jacob?
I want you to think about this though. How bad must this have been for poor Leah? I mean, she's a person, right? And all her life, she's grown up in the shadow of her stunning sister.
And the only way her deadbeat dad can get her married off is to get some guy crunk and swap her out in the dark. Which is why, verse 31, the narrative switches to her. Verse 31, but because Leah was unloved, the Lord let her have a child. While Rachel was childless, so Leah became pregnant and had a son.
She named him Reuben, which in Hebrew means see, a son. For she said, the Lord has seen, he has noticed my misery, and now my husband will love me. You see, here's Leah, and Leah is thinking, Jacob doesn't love me.
I'm not very pretty, but you know what? Rachel can't have kids, and I can. So I know that when I have a son, I know that when I have a son, then that'll make me lovable, and then Jacob will love me. So she has a son, and she says, see, a son, don't you love me now?
Do you think it works? Well, look at the very next verse, verse 33. She soon became pregnant again and had another son. She named this one Simeon, which in Hebrew sounds like the word heard. For she said, the Lord has heard that I was unloved and has given me another son. So did the one son make Jacob love her? No, because she's still unloved in this verse, right? So she's thinking the first son didn't work, but now the second son, it'll work. God has heard my misery, and God has answered my prayer by giving me a son that'll make Jacob love me.
You think it works the second time? All right, well, keep reading, verse 34. And again, she became pregnant and had a son. She named this one Levi, which is the Hebrew word for attached, because she said, surely now my husband will feel attached to me.
He'll feel affection to me since I have given him now three sons. Do you see what's going on? Just like Jacob, she is dealing with her disappointment in life by reaching out for that one true love also. When we deal with disappointment in life, we almost always respond the same way, right? Well, I didn't find it in that romance, so it'll be the next romance. That's what it'll do it.
That'll make my life complete. Not in this job. Oh, but I know if I get another job, then my career will feel complete, and then I'll be happy. We're just like Leah. We keep having sons and thinking that one more son is going to solve the problem.
Another relationship, another attempt, another job, but it always ends up the same. And then in verse 35, we get the gospel. This is the best part of the whole story, verse 35. Once again, she became pregnant, and she had another son. She named this one Judah, which means literally praise to God, for she said, now I will praise the Lord.
And then she stopped trying to have children. And you're like, what, gospel? I don't see any Jesus in my place in there. It just lets you quit having kids.
All right, a couple things. In Genesis, there's two ways to write God's name. One way comes from Hebrew Elohim, and it just means God the Creator. The other way, and in your English Bible, whenever it's Elohim, it's just G-O-D. That's how it's written. In your English Bible, whenever it's the other name, which is Yahweh or Jehovah, it's going to be written capital L-O-R-D. Yahweh or Jehovah was the name that was given to God as His covenant name. It was the God of the promise that gave Himself to Abraham and said, I'll always be with you and I'll always bless you and I'll give you salvation and I'll go with you everywhere and I'll take care of you and I'll always be your God.
And that's the covenant name, and it only is for people who have entered into that covenant. So the fact that she says praise be to God means that I am now finding my joy. I'm finding my joy in God's covenant with me and not in my ability to have sons. That's the name that Leah uses, and what it means is praise to the God because of the covenant He's made with me. In other words, Leah stopped trying to earn the love of Jacob through having sons and received the love of God that was given to her as a gift and that became the source of her joy and the source of her praise in life.
Here's what's more. Judah is going to grow up to be the ancestor of a very important great-great-great-great-great-great-grandchild. Jesus is going to be referred to as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
This would be the son through whom Jesus Christ Himself would come. In other words, listen to this, her lineage became beautiful, not because she had some physical beauty to pass on to them, but because God gave beauty as a gift in giving Jesus. Right in the middle of her painful, ugly, unloved life, Leah learned the gospel. An encouraging message from Pastor J.D. Greer on Summit Life.
If you'd like to listen again, you can find the full program online at jdgreer.com. We've been talking a lot about prayer the last couple of weeks, but J.D., I have a difficult question today that many of us may have. Is there such a thing as unanswered prayer?
Not really. If you're God's child, not really, because a father never turns a deaf ear to his child. Now, that said, there are prayers that God redirects because as a dad, He knows better than us. Sometimes God in love answers your prayer the way that you would have asked it if you knew what He knew. So just because it doesn't look like an answered prayer doesn't mean it isn't an answered prayer. Furthermore, there's a lot of things that God wants to give us through persistence and asking. It's just a repeated theme in Jesus' teaching. God is testing our resolve in His goodness, our belief that He really is good. So much of our Bibles was written in the posture of people who are waiting on God believing that He is going to answer and come through.
I really wrestle with that question throughout this book, Just Ask, because it's been one of the biggest impediments. It's been one of the areas, ironically, that God has used to deepen my own spiritual life and increase my trust in Him. So in Just Ask, we really kind of get into that and say, practically, how do you let that fuel and motivate your prayer life rather than stymie it? You can find it at J.D. Greer.com. I know that prayer can be a struggle, so we want to do everything that we can to help you make it a delightful and essential part of every single day. Allow us to get this new resource to you by reaching out at J.D.
Greer.com. You're welcome to request it when you support this ministry with a donation of $25 or more. When you give to Summit Life, you're really giving this program to your fellow listeners, making sure that we stay on your station and the web. The book is just our way of saying thanks for your support. Remember to ask for your copy of J.D. 's newest book, Just Ask, when you call 866-335-5220.
Or if it's easier, you can give online at J.D. Greer.com. I'm Molly Vidovitch, and I'm so glad that you joined us this week. Make sure that you join us again Monday when Pastor J.D.
wraps up this message about Jacob, Rachel, Leah, and the search for one true love. That's Monday on Summit Life with J.D. Greer. Today's program was produced and sponsored by J.D. Greer Ministries.
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