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Sermons from Moorpark Presbyterian Church

Jacob’s First Date

by Pastor Dave Wilkinson

Genesis 29:1-11, 1 John 4:7-10

August 6, 2006

Note: this sermon is partially adapted from a sermon by the Rev. Bob Kraning preached at Forest Home Christina Conference Center .

       A woman tells about the friendship her son Christopher struck up with Katie, the neighbor’s daughter.  The two five-year olds were inseparable all summer – climbing trees, riding bikes, swimming and having great fun out of doors.

       Then September came and they eagerly awaited their first day in Kindergarten.  On the big day Katie put on a pretty dress with lace trim.  When she rang his doorbell, Christopher rushed to open the door, took one look at Katie and ran to his room crying.

       “What’s the matter, Christopher?” asked his mother.

       “It’s Katie,” he sobbed, “she’s a girl!”

       Christopher’s discovery is one that comes to every young man sooner or later.  Jacob, the son of Isaac was certainly no exception.

       In the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis we learn what happened when Jacob met Rachel.  This is the first detailed love story in the Bible.

      We looked at a portion of Jacob’s story three months ago.  Jacob deceived his father Isaac and stole the blessing that belonged to his older brother Esau.  As Jacob fled from Esau’s anger, God appeared to him in a dream at Bethel .  Rather than giving Jacob what he deserves, God acted in grace.  God promised to be with him and to fulfill for him the promise first made to Abraham.

       After his incredible vision at Bethel , Jacob goes on his way with a light heart.  The Hebrew phrase translated “continued on his journey” literally means “lifted up his step”.  He gets under way filled with joy by his surprising experience with God.

       His journey is a long one, but at last he comes to Haran the place where his Uncle Laban lives.  He meets some shepherds who tell him that Laban lives nearby.  These shepherds then point out Laban’s daughter Rachel who is coming to the well with her father’s sheep.  Jacob takes one look at Rachel and decides right away that he wants to be alone with her.

       Men, do you remember when you were visiting a girlfriend and you wanted to be alone with her, but her obnoxious kid brother kept hanging around?   I used to be one of those kid brothers. 

       Jacob faces a similar problem.  He wants to be alone with Rachel but these shepherds are there and don’t seem ready to leave.  He says to the boys: “look – the sun is still high; it’s not time for the flocks to be gathered.  Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”  They reply that they can’t do it that way.  For whatever reason, they want to wait until the flocks are all together at the well before they remove the stone and water the sheep.

       Rachel then walks up with her flock and Jacob goes to the well.  He lifts the stone away, and waters her sheep.  He wants to do something for her.

       Now I’m not suggesting a model for dating behavior to any teenage guys here but Jacob is a man of action.  He doesn’t wait around.  He finishes watering the sheep and then, verse 11 tells us, he kisses Rachel.  This guy isn’t bashful.  He sees her, she looks good and he kisses her.  And that’s not all.  It says he kissed Rachel and then he “lifted up his voice and wept.”

       No, I don’t think she had bad breath.  I think he was just so happy to meet the person he somehow senses is going to be his life partner.

       Love at first sight is a very interesting thing.  In love at first sight, you see a person who physically appealing to you.  And since you don’t know that person, since that person is, to you, a blank canvas, you are free to project onto that person all of the attributes that you think you ideal love should have.  This is why love at first sight doesn’t work – except this time.

       Now some may think that the account of Jacob meeting Rachel is the result of a young man being out in the sun too long or being on too long a journey.

       But I believe that there at the well Jacob experienced true and deep love.  The proof of it is seen in what he does with the rest of his life.

       Jacob goes with Rachel to see her dad, Laban.  And he and Laban get together.  Jacob says, “I’d like to stay and work for you.”  Laban says “Good idea.  You stay and work for me.  I don’t expect you to work for nothing.  What would you like for your wages?” “Well, if I work for you I would like to have your daughter, Rachel, for my wife.”  Laban says, “Good idea.  Better you than anybody else.”  So the two of them decide that he’s going to have Rachel.  “You work seven years for me I’ll give you Rachel for your wife.” 

      We assume that Rachel doesn’t mind being bargained for in this way.  If she had, she would have made it known.  We discover later that Rachel is just as strong-willed and tricky as Jacob.  I mean, if they’d signed up for E-Harmony.com they would have matched on at least 24 out of 30 categories. 

       Jacob contemplates seven years and he contemplates Rachel and he thinks that it’s a pretty good thing.  Verse 20 of this chapter then tells us something special: “Jacob served seven years for Rachel and they seemed to him but a few days because of his love for her.”  Jacob may have experienced love at first sight.  But he demonstrates its reality by his continuing faithfulness.

       The second event that demonstrates the reality of Jacob’s enduring love for Rachel occurs toward the end of his life – about seventy years later.

       Jacob is sick and dying.  Before he dies, he wants to pass on the patriarchal blessing just as his father had passed it on to him years before.  Joseph, one of two sons Jacob had with Rachel, is called in along with Joseph’s two sons – Manessah and Ephraim.

       Jacob uses the little strength he has left to sit up on the bed.  He begins his blessing, taking Joseph’s sons as his own children by which means they become fathers of two of the tribes of Israel .  He is in the middle of his blessing when he suddenly says: “As I was returning from Paddan, to my sorrow, Rachel died in the land of Canaan , while we were still on the way, a little distance from Ephrath.”

       Now what does that have to do with the patriarchal blessing?  Nothing, it’s just that Jacob’s heart is full.  Perhaps he sees something the face of Joseph or his sons that reminds him of Rachel’s face as he first saw her by the well. His mind suddenly goes back to Rachel and his love for her and he relates the sad experience of their earthly parting.

       Jacob was in many ways a scoundrel and manipulator.  But he also knew how to love Rachel in a selfless way.  He started young and he kept it up when he was old.  That’s a pretty great human love.

       But even this is not to be compared with the love of God – God’s love for Jacob and God’s love for us.  In the Book of 1 John we really find what love is all about.  It says: “By this the love of God is shown to us, that God has sent His only begotten son into the world so that we might live through Him.  In this is love, no that we loved God but that He loves and sent His Son to be the way of forgiveness for our sins – we love because He first love us.”

       People need love – especially when they don’t deserve it.

       A husband asked his wife a dangerous question: “Tell me dear.  Have you ever been in love before?”

       She thought for a moment and then replied, “No, darling.  I once respected a man for his great intelligence.  I admired another man for his remarkable courage.  I was captivated by yet another for his good looks and charm.  But with you, how else could you explain it, except love? 

       Jesus invited us to his table.  He calls us to be with Him.

       Honestly.  How else could you explain it, except love?