Jan 11, 2015 Genesis Sermon # 10
Genesis 30:25-31:21 “Nurturing a Crockpot Faith in a Microwave Culture”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Introduction: Think about your life and your family: If you could describe it in terms of types of meat, has it been a tender fillet mignon or a tough rump roast? Compared to other people and other families, have you experienced a buttery tenderloin, or have you been gnawing forever on a tough piece of grizzled chuck? (Disappointments, dying to your dreams, defeats, death, etc.)
I would guess that most of you think your life has been more tough chewing than melt-in-your-mouth dinning. If that’s the case, then I think we can all profit from considering how God’s chosen people fared, in the Book of Genesis, because they struggled with tough portions.
I’ve been calling our series in Genesis “Divine Hope for Dysfunctional Families,” and today we get another slice of how one man, Jacob, and his family struggled. Yet in the midst of those hard times, we see that the Lord was with them, He was protecting them, and He was prospering them, all according to the gracious covenant He had made with Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.
And I would submit to you that when God in His sovereign and gracious wisdom sends us some tough cuts of meat, that we get out our spiritual crockpot, our slow cooker, and let the Lord tenderize each tough piece… believing that in the end, after God has done His work, the end product will be just right…as God “slow cooks” us.
Let’s remember the bigger picture here: God has graciously entered into a covenant, and in that covenant the Lord has promised to bless Abraham’s descendants, make them into a great nation, and to give them land. So while there appears to be all sorts of tough meat along the way, the big picture is that God is sovereignly directing Jacob’s steps, in order to accomplish His glorious purpose of salvation through judgment. In fact, in the “crockpot” of God’s sovereign plans, all the tough pieces not only are softened, but they flavor each other in a way that enhances the whole meal. And so it is with our lives… if we allow God to “slow-cook” us!
So let’s consider Jacob’s Tough Life, in Gen. 30-31. He’s been having a tough 20-plus years away from home! He came to this area to escape some trouble at home, and with his parent’s blessing he went looking for a good, god-fearing wife. And what has he gotten for his efforts?
First, at home, he ends up with two wives, Leah and Rachel, (two sisters), including one he didn’t bargain for, and these sisters who are also sisters-in-law to each other are in competition for Jacob’s heart, and they are making life difficult for him. They name the kids, they tell him who to sleep with, and one even blames him for not giving her any children! Jacob probably wishes he was single.
Second, at work, His boss/ employer is his own deceptive and manipulating father in law, Laban, who he’s worked for, slaved for, sacrificed for, for 20 years, and gotten nowhere!
Laban has changed the terms of Jacob’s contract ten times; he’s cheated and manipulated Jacob so many times, and so that Jacob feels like his career and his pay scale are going nowhere.
So Jacob says “Enough! I’m outta here! I’m going back home!” [Even this frustration is part of God’s plan, as we will see in 31:3, when God tells Jacob to go back home]
We read in Gen. 30:25-26 “After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”
But Laban doesn’t want to lose his golden goose; he wants to keep Jacob around so he can continue to profit from how God blesses him and those around him, so Laban replies in vv. 27-28…. “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.”
Jacob retorts (29-30): “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?”
Jacob proposes a plan (vv. 31-34) by which he can build up his own flock and not be dependent on Laban, but Laban is planning on cheating him – again- so he can keep Jacob there and make more profit off him.
But this time Jacob out-manipulates Laban, (no small feat; ultimately it’s because God is blessing Jacob, according to the covenant) and winds up with the bigger flocks. (Gen. 30:35-43)
However, when Laban’s sons realize what’s happening, and how Jacob’s flocks are prospering and their father’s flocks are not, Jacob gets wind of this negative attitude toward him. But before he decides to do anything about it, The LORD appears to Jacob and says “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (31:3)
Notice two things there: One, God gives Jacob a command (“Go back”), and two, God gives Jacob a promise (“I will be with you”). These are part of the covenant that the Lord has made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which brings steadfast assurance and confident hope to God’s people, especially in trying times. How much more for us today, who enjoy the greater blessings of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ! Think about Matthew 28:18-20, where Jesus Christ commands us and promises to be with us: “Go into all the world…. I am with you always.”
So Jacob gathers Rachel and Leah and tells them (31:5b-7) “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, 7 yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.”
Here again we hear of God’s protective presence “but the God of my father has been with me”
“However, God has not allowed him to harm me.” If God is with us and for us, in Christ, who can be against us? He will protect us. Ultimate safety is always found in the place of trust and obedience, no matter what the outward circumstances. We need to nurture a crockpot faith in a microwave culture.
Jacob continues in 31:9-13 “So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.” “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’ ”
The Lord appears to Jacob, as He had before at Bethel (Gen. 28), and as He will again in Gen. 32, and here the Lord affirms that He has been watching over Jacob. All that Jacob has suffered at Laban’s hands has not gone unnoticed (12); and once again, The Lord commands Jacob to leave this place and return to his native land, because God is bringing the promises of His covenant to come to pass… though it will take over 4 more centuries!
Notice here two things: One, when the time is ready (in God’s calendar), He will direct our steps; He will move us out of one place or situation to another. Two, how comforting to know that God sees all the hard things we are going through, and He cares about us.
By the way, note the similarities to what God said to Jacob here and what God would say to Moses, in Exodus 3-4. That is, God’s actions with Jacob here prefigure what God will do when He sees the misery of Israel in Egypt, and promises to deliver them out of bondage. Furthermore, we see in 1 Cor. 10:1-4 that these things are written for us, for our encouragement!
We will continue with Jacob’s story in two weeks, Lord willing. But for now, let’s make sense of what we’ve read and seek to apply it to our lives.
Now if you were Jacob, you might very well be thinking, “Why does everything have to be such a prolonged struggle in my life? Why is it always ME, Lord? My father loved my brother, not me; my brother was going to get the birthright and the blessing, not me. When my father needed a wife, his father sent a servant, and bingo! – he got his wife. But not me. I had to leave my home and travel 500 miles to find a wife. I’m the one with two wives and a dozen kids by four different women- not my choice! I’m the one with Laban as a father-in-law! I’m the one who has been cheated out of my wages again and again. I’ve had enough. Why is it always me, Lord?”
Can you identify with Jacob? Have you had your share of tough cuts of meat, rather than sirloin steak? If so, I want you to remember three principles:
1. God works in decades and centuries. Yes, His timetable seems very slow to us, but He is at work, and no one can thwart his purposes and plans. Therefore we need to develop a crockpot faith in a microwave culture. Furthermore, God is working out His sovereign purpose in your life not only in decades, but also through some very crooked lines (and for Jacob, even through a crook named Laban!) Remember: “God writes straight on crooked lines” Can you trust God for that in your life?
2.God doesn’t work the same exact way with each person, not even with twin brothers! Therefore, it’s not helpful to compare our situations with others and ask “Why me, O Lord?” Think about the ingredients that you might put in a slow cooking crockpot, and how each time it might come out a little differently. That’s what God is doing in your life with your unique set of circumstances. As one person put it: “Don’t compare your love story to those you watch in movies. They are written by scriptwriters… yours is written by God.” Can you believe God for this?
3. God sends trials to those He loves, to tenderize us. Difficult relationships and situations are not necessarily a sign that God doesn’t love you; in fact, it often means just the opposite! He wants to make you “delicious” by putting you in His “slow cooker” of trials and suffering. (See Heb. 12; I Peter; James 1). Do you believe that?
God’s Greater Plan for His Glory
This is God’s covenant plan: to bless the world through Abraham’s seed. This plan of God will take many strange and interesting turns. At times it will seem like 1 forward and 10 steps back. At time the plan will seem to stall and lose all momentum, as nothing happens for 400 years! Then, in a few weeks or days, there will be dramatic and quick-moving action, as we see God’s mighty hand at work. Who can make sense of these seeming starts and fits, ups and downs, twists and turns? But through them, we are kept very dependent upon God’s grace and God’s promises. Therefore, be sure to nurture your crockpot faith in today’s microwave culture.
In the midst of all of Jacob’s troubles, God is sovereignly working out His plan… but not just His plan for Jacob (Can you imagine sharing the four spiritual laws with Jacob: “Jake, God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life!”) Rather, God is working out His far greater plan for His own glory and for Israel’s salvation, and even for the whole world’s physical saving (in the time of Joseph). And moreover, it all leads to God’s ultimate plan in the sending of His Son to save us from Satan and from sin and death! So don’t just think about hardships and trials are impacting your life; try to remember that there is a far bigger picture of what God is doing in the whole world, for all time!