I’ve been watching a reality series on BBC 2 called; ‘Special Forces – Ultimate Hell Week’. It isn’t a very nice title and to be honest there is some bad language in it but it is fascinating. The blurb says;
“An ultimate endurance challenge as 29 of the UK’s fittest men and women are pushed beyond their mental and physical limits by battle-hardened veterans from the world’s toughest special forces.”
The volunteers have endured unbelievable trials and all the while, all have they’ve had to do is to say ‘I quit’ and it’s over. One of the methods used by a number of the instructors is called the ‘sickener’. Recruits are asked to perform some gruelling feat and reach the finish completely spent and exhausted, when the instructor says quietly; ‘do it again’.
I think Laban, Jacob’s uncle, would have made a good Special Forces instructor. In today’s reading he gives Jacob the sickener; ‘I know you’ve worked seven years but how about seven more?’ Jacob had run rings around his brother and his elderly father but Laban would be a different story.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.” (Galatians 6:7)
Beware your heart. It’s obvious; Jacob is completely smitten by Rachel (lovely in form and beautiful 29:17). We are told of his love for her three times (29:18, 20, and 30). There was nothing wrong with that of course, they were both unmarried, God had brought them together and Jacob was seeking a wife from his own people after all. But there is just the sense that Jacob, normally so sharp, was blind to Laban’s schemes because all he could think about was marrying Rachel. It’s a warning to us. Love is very powerful and we are all susceptible to the dangers; falling for the wrong person and failing to see the wrong things being done by those we love. We need to stay close to God and allow him to lead us into meaningful relationships.
A man reaps what he sows. Jacob was indignant at the deception and it’s hard not to smile. The schemer had been caught. There is a sort of symmetry in that Jacob robbed the blessing from Esau so that the youngest was blessed but Laban’s deception meant it was the oldest before the youngest. It would not be the last time Jacob was deceived. Jacob had some very hard lessons to learn.
The amazing thing about all of this is that God was in control. He had promised Jacob;
“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.” (28:15)
God was faithful to Jacob and his promises in spite of all the deception. Jacob didn’t really know God at this stage but God was still leading and changing him.
Faithful One so unchanging
Ageless One You’re my rock of peace,
Lord of all I depend on you.
I call out to you again and again
I call out to you again and again.
You are my Rock in times of trouble
You lift me up when I fall down
All through the storm your love is the anchor
My hope is in you alone (Brian Doerksen)