The Trickster Gets Tricked Genesis 29

My object all sublime
I shall achieve in time —
To let the punishment fit the crime —
The punishment fit the crime;
And make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!

I was going to sing those words from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Mikado to you this morning – but my spaniels wouldn’t let me They say I will only be allowed to sing at the International Evening on 9th November, and then only if nobody else offers to sing instead. So unless you want an evening filled with me singing all the hits from the Spaniel of the Opera we urgently need some offers of entertainment for the International Evening.

But back to the Mikado – whose object all sublime was always to let the punishment fit the crime, the punishment fit the crime. That’s what we find here in the story of how Jacob the cheat, the liar, the trickster, himself gets tricked.

You will remember how Jacob had tricked his brother Esau out of the blessing which was his birthright at the older twin. Jacob had tricked his father Isaac into giving him that blessing by disguising himself and pretending to be Esau – “a hairy man”. So Jacob was on the run, going to hide with his uncle Laban and at the same time to try to find himself a wife. But while he was on his way something amazing had happened to Jacob. We saw last time ago how God appeared to Jacob in a dream at Bethel – the stairway to heaven!

Genesis 28 11 When (Jacob) reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the LORD, and he said: ‘I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.

We saw last time how in that dream God renewed to Jacob the promises he had first made to his grandfather Abraham, the Friend of God, who had believed God and God had credited it to him as righteousness. We saw how God reminded Jacob of his promises of provision and presence and protection. Promises of descendants as abundant as the dust of the earth, of a Land to possess as his own. Promises that God will bring blessings to the whole of the earth through Jacob’s descendants.

Through that dream Jacob had realised that God was with him when he didn’t even know it. He discovered that the LORD, Yahweh, the God of Abraham and Isaac was HIS God as well. We saw how that encounter with God caused Jacob to turn his life around – to begin to worship and to commit his life to God.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the LORD will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

That stairway to heaven turned Jacob’s life around. But God still had lessons to teach Jacob, to refine him and purify him and equip him for his role as the third of the Patriarchs, the father of all the children of Israel. And for Jacob that meant the trickster gets tricked, the conman gets conned! Let’s see how the story turns out for Jacob.

13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, ‘You are my own flesh and blood.’
After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, ‘Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.’
16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder one was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.’
19 Laban said, ‘It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.’ 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Jacob worked for Laban for seven years. SEVEN YEARS! Not for wages but for the promise that he would be allowed to marry Laban’s daughter Rachel.
’ 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.

Jacob must have loved Rachel very, very much! Here is a side to Jacob the cheat we have never seen before. The man to whom family meant absolutely nothing. The lying rat who had cheated his older brother out of his birthright and his special blessing for a bowl of stew. The man who impersonated his brother and lied to his father and even misused the Name of the Lord to steal the blessing. But that meeting with God at the stairway to heaven had changed Jacob. He had been a scumbag, through and through. But now Jacob had become a man who was capable of falling in love. A man who was prepared to work hard for seven years to win the girl of his dreams.

God had begun to change Jacob. But had he really changed deep down inside? Jacob would face a cruel test of his love and his dedication.

21 Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.’
22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant.
25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?’

What wonderful irony. Surely it was poetic justice when Jacob worked for Laban for seven years to be allowed to marry his younger daughter Rachel whom he loved, only to tricked and end up with the older daughter Leah and another seven years hard labour!
The trickster gets tricked! The cheat gets cheated! The conman gets conned! The hustler gets hustled! The punishment perfectly fits the crime. The first seven years of work followed by Laban’s deception are God’s punishment perfectly fitting the crime for all Jacob’s lies and cons in the past.

Here was the test. How would Jacob react when he was the target of the con? Would he just take Rachel anyway and abandon Leah? That would have been true to form for Jacob the cheating scumbag. But that is not what Jacob did. God was truly changing him

25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?’
26 Laban replied, ‘It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the elder one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.’
28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife.

So Jacob married Rachel just a week after he married Leah. We won’t spend any time talking about the fact that this was polygamy. Just to say that that is how it was in those days. Abraham had more than one wife. So did Isaac. So did Jacob. And in those days God seemed to be alright about that although since Jesus’s time God’s people have been called to monogamy – just one wife for just one husband in lifelong faithfulness. We haven’t time to unwrap the theology of marriage this morning. We simply note that Jacob finally got to marry the daughter he actually loved, who was Rachel.

But what would Jacob do now? Now that he had Rachel as his wife, would he keep his side of the bargain. Or would Jacob head for the tall timber, leaving Leah behind? That’s what we would expect the cheat to do. But no. Perhaps even more amazing than Jacob working for those first seven years, we read this.
30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

Those seven extra years of hard work were God’s test to see if Jacob had really changed his ways. Even after Laban and Leah had tricked him, Jacob kept his part of the bargain. No tricks. No cheating. No lying. He worked for Laban another seven years. FOURTEEN years of hard work for the woman he loved. Jacob must have really loved Rachel!
God had met with Jacob. Now God was working in Jacob’s heart to change him from the cheating scumbag into the man of faith so that all generations, even four thousand years later, would speak of the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.

Christians are people who have met with God in Jesus Christ. We have heard the Good News about Jesus. We know Jesus died on the cross so that we could be forgiven. We know God raised Jesus from the dead and invites us to share his resurrection life, life in all its fulness, eternal life which not even death can take away.

And we have repented. We have confessed our sins and turned to God, promising to stop living life our way and instead to live life God’s way. So we have been born again. God has put the Holy Spirit inside us to give us a brand new life.

2 Corinthians 5 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

When anybody becomes a Christian they become a brand new person inside. They are not the same any more. A new life has begun.

But that is not the end of our journey of faith. It is only the beginning. Just as God was changing Jacob from the cheat into the Patriarch, God is working in the life of every Christian, to change us to be more like Jesus.

The wonderful truth is that God loves us so much that he accepts us just the way we are. Although perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God loves us so much that he accepts us DESPITE the way we are. Either way, God loves us too much to leave us as we are. His love breaks in and works to change us into the people he wants us to be, the people we ought to be, the people we want to be! We will be thinking more about this subject tonight, looking at a couple of verses from 2 Corinthians chapter 3.

2 Corinthians 3 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

If we are Christians, God the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives changing us to be more like Jesus. We will be thinking more tonight about the transforming power of Christ, the power which can save from the guttermost to the uttermost. Jesus transformed the lives of all kinds of people. Changing ordinary fishermen like Peter and Andrew and James and John into the leaders of the Early Church. Transforming that feared enemy of Christians, the Pharisee Saul into Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles by his encounter with the Risen Jesus on the Damascus Road. Jesus changed all kinds of people from respectable Pharisees like Nicodemus to prostitutes like Mary Magdalene and professional thieves (sorry, tax collectors) like Matthew and Zaccheus. Prodigals who were throwing their lives away, returning home and being transformed into children of God! “My Son was lost but now is found – was dead but now is alive again!” Sinners transformed into saints.

Becoming a Christian is not the end of the journey of faith, but only the beginning. God wants to change our lives to make us more like Jesus. A.W. Tozer wrote, “The essence of repentance is to move across from one sort of person to another is: the liar becomes truthful; the thief, honest; the lewd, pure; the proud, humble.”

God changed Jacob, and he wants to change us too. How is that going for you. Are you letting God make you more like Jesus. More loving? More forgiving. More holy?

By Your Spirit You’re making me like You.
Jesus, You’re transforming me,
That Your loveliness may be seen in all I do.
You are the potter and I am the clay,
Help me to be willing to let You have Your way.
Jesus, You are changing me,
As I let You reign supreme within my heart. (Marilyn Baker)

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