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ferris wheel

January 24 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Genesis 28:10–30:43

A Ferris Wheel Life

It is winter time in the northern hemisphere. If you live there perhaps you wish to be at a theme park in Florida right about now. Life is sometimes like a Ferris wheel—what goes around comes around. What we do, good or bad, tends to come back our way.

In our last Bible study we learned about Jacob's deception. Jacob tricked his older brother Esau into trading away his birthright for some stew (Jacob caught him in a weak moment when he was very hungry from hunting all day). When the day of receiving the patriarchal blessing arrived, Jacob's mother Rebekah and he deceived Isaac into believing Jacob was Esau, the firstborn. This was a poor choice—he and his mother forced God’s will.

As a result of missing the blessing of his firstborn inheritance, Esau hated Jacob. His hatred was so fierce that he wanted to kill him. His mother sought to protect Jacob, so he was sent away from his family to Haran (Northwest Mesopotamia) to find himself a wife from her brother Laban's family. Perhaps this would give Esau time to cool off and establish his own life without Jacob (which he does).

Another reason for Jacob to find a wife from Laban's family is the preservation of God-fearing people. Rebekah is distressed with the Hittite women in Canaan, two of whom Esau married. The LORD does not want his people mixing with other people who worship idols. Canaanites follow the worship of their sex gods and goddesses, and they are immoral. Isaac reveres God and wants the LORD's continued blessings on his descendants. Jacob travels to Mesopotamia to find a wife from Laban’s family, the brother of Rebekah.

Are any of us lonely and single? Are we willing to jeopardize God's blessings on us and our future children by marrying someone who is not a genuine follower of Christ? How then will our children come to know God? Perhaps they will follow the godless ways of our spouse. If any of us are considering such a thing, let's not sacrifice the need for companionship for someone who does not revere God. If we feel compelled to search for a mate, we should search in places where the godly are more likely to gather. We should not compromise with the world and lose out on the blessings of the LORD. Let's make godly choices.

On his way to his Uncle Laban’s house, Jacob stops to sleep. In a dream, he sees angels ascending and descending a stairway which reaches from earth to heaven.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven” (Genesis 28:16-17, NIV).

Jacob calls the place where he meets with God, Bethel (house of God). Here, the Almighty makes an unconditional promise to Jacob in a dream. He says,

“I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28: 13-15, NIV).

How does Jacob respond to God's generous offer? He responds with a conditional promise.

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 so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 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” (Genesis 28: 20-22, NIV).

Jacob does not know God and is bargaining with him. Do we bargain with him or do we trust him? The LORD is good and fully reliable—he keeps his promises. There is no need to bargain with him—just trust him! Do you know God? He promises spiritual life, forgiveness, and peace to those who trust his Son to save them from their sins (more...).

Jacob deceived Esau and Isaac to obtain Esau's birthright and blessing; and now like a Ferris wheel, which goes around and comes around, Jacob will be deceived. Jacob travels to Haran, meets a beautiful young woman named Rachel and instantly falls in love. He asks his uncle if he can marry her, and he consents. Here the deception begins.

Jacob serves seven years for Laban's daughter, Rachel, but when the wedding night comes, Laban switches her for his older daughter, Leah! Jacob is confused and furious! When he confronts Laban, his uncle claims it is his cultural duty to marry off his oldest daughter first. If Jacob will complete the seven day marriage ceremony week, he will also give him Rachel, if he agrees to work seven more years. Frustrated but desperately in love, Jacob agrees to the terms (Genesis 29:16-25).

Not only is Jacob deceived in marriage; he is also swindled in his employment. When his time of service for his wives is complete, in return for his continued labors Jacob wants something for his own family. After Laban agrees to trade some flocks of sheep for Jacob's labor, he keeps changing the terms of the agreement (ten times). Lesson for us: When we deceive others, we are likely to be deceived—what goes around comes around.

As we might have guessed, having two wives causes a lot of trouble for Jacob (Genesis 29:28–30:24). Fierce competition and jealousy are in their home because of his two sibling wives and his favoritism for Rachel. Leah and Rachel begin a competition for the number of children they bear—it is a matter of jealousy and pride! They even marry off their handmaids to Jacob so the children they bear will count for them (this was culturally acceptable in their time).

Because God allows Jacob to have four wives, however, does not mean God endorses polygamy or condones it. Later, God officially forbids the practice (Leviticus 18:18; Deuteronomy 17:17). From the beginning God approves monogamy—a loving relationship between a man and his wife (Proverbs 5:18-19; Malachi 2:15; Mathew 19:4-6). Jacob bears with a lot of strife for having multiple wives.

Another lesson we might learn from Jacob's family is that if we want peace in our home, we must not show favoritism and set up competition between family members. As much as possible, although we may love each one in different ways, we must try to love them equally. Let’s not give them cause to doubt it.

Lessons to Live By

  • God keeps his promises—there is no need to bargain with him—just trust him. Do you know God? He promises spiritual life, forgiveness, and peace to those who trust his Son to save them from their sins (more...).
  • Do not compromise with the world and lose out on the blessings of God. Make godly choices.
  • What goes around often comes around, so be honest with others and pray to God instead of being deceptive and conniving.
  • If we want peace in our households, we must not show favoritism and set up competition between family members. We must love them individually and equally.

Focus Verse

Luke 6:38 (NIV) “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

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A Look Ahead: What goes around comes around. Is there ever The End of Struggling? How? Find out in our Next Lesson.

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