Why Holiness Takes A Long Time (Part 2)

by Jan 24, 2011

(Continued from Part 1)

Jacob has been pursuing his idol Rachel, and has gone to work for her father Laban. Laban wants to hire Jacob as an indentured servant, and asks Jacob to name the price, already knowing what Jacob will say. And sure enough, Jacob says, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”

Jacob doesn’t have any money to pay for a dowry, so he knows the only way to get her is to work for her. Laban agrees, so Jacob works seven years for her hand in marriage. But when the seven years is up, Laban has a surprise in store for him. Genesis 29 says:

Laban gathered together all the people of the place and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and he went in to her. (Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her servant.) And in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.

God strips away your idols

Laban has just pulled the oldest trick in the book – the bait-and-switch! Like when you call a used-car dealer on the phone to confirm that the Honda Civic you saw on Craigslist is still available, but when you get down to the lot, he says, “You’ll never believe this, but I just sold that Civic. What about this Hummer? Don’t believe what you hear about the gas mileage – you can make it all the way to Ala Moana on one tank!” In one swoop, Jacob has lost everything he worked seven years to get.

That’s what God does to refine you: He strips away your idols. God is using this situation to take Jacob’s attention away from the idol of Rachel. He’s used a  as part of his plan to give Jacob another wife who he won’t worship more than God.

But Jacob still doesn’t see it that way. He frantically goes to Laban and screams, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?”

If you know the meaning of Jacob’s name, you realize that things couldn’t get get more ironic than this. “How could you even think about pulling this kind of scam on your own flesh and blood? Have you no shame? Who would stoop this low?”

This is the guy who’s name means deceiver! The one who tricked his own brother out of his birthright for a bowl of stew. This is the most poetic justice in history! And it’s also the way God works.

Galatians 6 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption.”

God lets you reap what you sow

Jacob’s been sowing to his flesh his entire life. The reason he had to run away to his Uncle Laban was because he sowed to his flesh and deceived his brother. Now he’s reaping the corruption that comes from that.

While God promises forgiveness and grace through Christ Jesus, that doesn’t mean you won’t pay the natural consequences for the things you do. Even Laban understands this, and uses it against Jacob.

That’s why he says, “It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.”  He’s using Jacob’s past against him, saying, “You might be able to get away with disrespecting the rights of the first born in your country, but not in our country, amigo.” Then he tells Jacob he’ll have to work another seven years in order to marry Rachel.

He’s scammed his nephew into working fourteen years for free.

In Honolulu, the average wage for construction workers is $53,000 a year.  So Laban’s making $742,000 off of Jacob’s infatuation with Rachel. And at this point, Jacob seems to finally recognize that God has divinely brought his deception back around to bite him, because he uncharacteristically says nothing. God must be in charge, and there’s nothing Jacob can say.

He’s still a major work in progress, but there’s one encouraging sign of growth you can see in him: he’s actually going to stick it out and work the full 14 years for his lying uncle Laban.He’s going to be faithful to the guy who was supremely unfaithful to him.

God causes slow spiritual growth

If he was the same sneaky and impulsive Jacob he was at the beginning of the story, he’d say, “Sure Uncle Laban, I’ll work for 7 years for you! “… and then when he fell asleep he’d run off with Rachel to Fiji.

Jacob’s still pursuing what he wants more than what God wants, but at least he’s not using deception anymore to get it. God is helping him take baby steps toward righteousness.

Growing in holiness and faithfulness is a slow process! That’s something most of us just don’t understand. You’ve got 4 fast-forward speeds on your Cable DVR. When you text someone, you start getting impatient when you don’t hear back within 10 seconds. We’re not used to waiting for anything.

That’s why we ask questions like, “Why do I keep tripping over the same things? Why can’t I get past my anger… my anxiety… my jealousy… my lust?”

I hope you’re encouraged by Jacob. You might have a long ways to go, but I hope you can see the distance God has already brought you.

Almost everyone has heard Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” That’s a verse everyone loves. I’ve even had a Buddhist in Starbucks quote that verse to me.

The problem is that most of us have a different definition of what’s good than what God has in mind. We think if God works things out for our good, that means making life comfortable. But the next verse helps us understand God’s definition of good: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”

God’s definition of good is making us more like Jesus. And he’s doing that in every single situation you encounter in life.

Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:20). What a blessing it is to know that God gave us righteousness through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and he’s slowly conforming us to that righteousness through the power of the Holy Spirit.