JACOB IN THE LAND OF THE EAST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-22-58 8:15 a.m.
You are listening to the services First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early-morning message entitled This Is Not Your Rest or Jacob in the Land of the People of the East. Now in the Scriptures we turn to the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Genesis 29.
Last Sunday morning we left off at the conclusion of the twenty-eighth chapter which is the story of the angel ladder, the vision, the dream of Jacob at Bethel when all the stones in that stony, stony place came close together and formed a staircase from this earth to heaven, and the angels of God ascending and descending [Genesis 28:12-13]. And that staircase is none other than our Lord Jesus, who made a way for us into heaven [John 14:3, 6], and the angels of God ascending and descending upon Him [John 1:51]. That is where we left off last Sunday morning.
Now this morning we begin at the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis. Now look how it begins. You have it translated here, “Then Jacob went on his journey, and came into the land of the people of the East” [Genesis 29:1]. Young Carlise here, who led our prayer this morning, has his Hebrew Bible with him. I said to him just now, “Let’s turn to the twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis in the Hebrew Bible.” I said, “Look at that.” He looked at it. I said, “It says in the Hebrew Bible, ‘Then Jacob lifted up his feet.’” Isn’t that what it says? That is the Hebrew, “Then Jacob picked up his feet—lifted up his feet.”
Well, that was a description, and an apt one, of how Jacob felt after that beautiful dream when he laid down at Bethel with a stone for a pillow [Genesis 28:11]. He was blue and discouraged and dejected. He was running away for the fear of his life [Genesis 27:43, 28:5, 7]. But after that wonderful vision he awakened [Genesis 28:16], and the Hebrew says, “Then Jacob picked up his feet” [Genesis 29:1]. He walked on wings. He was light in his heart and happy in his way; God’s assurance was with him.
Well, in the twenty-ninth chapter is the story of Jacob and Rachel [Genesis 29:1-30]. Now we must encompass a great deal this morning. So let’s plunge immediately into it. The Lord God chose Jacob [Genesis 26:23]. And Isaac and Rebekah have sent Jacob to her father’s house that he might find a wife [Genesis 27:45-28:2]. So this morning, the first part of this message is going to be devoted to the building of a true, a happy and a beautiful home, a happy marriage.
I could not emphasize too much that the most important decision any young person makes, outside of the decision that he makes for Christ, is the decision of his choice of a wife; or of a girl, her choice of a husband. It is all-important, more important than anything in life outside of God.
The importance of it can be seen most evident as I go through these chapters in Genesis. Abraham made old Eliezer put his hand under his thigh and swear that he would not take a wife for his son Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites but that he would send to his father’s house in Haran and find a bride for Isaac [Genesis 24:2-4].
And when Isaac and Rebekah see what happens to Esau who married the daughters of Heth in the land of Canaan, the Scripture says in Genesis 27:46, that Rebekah wearied of her life because of the daughters of Heth. And she says to Isaac, “If Jacob also marries in the land, what good is my life to me that I live at all?” And it was on that basis that Isaac and Rebekah send Jacob away. It was to find a wife of the household and of the people of the Lord. So Jacob is on his way, and he is going for the ostensible, and open, and avowed purpose of finding a wife according to the will of God [Genesis 28:1-2].
Now you have the story delineated here of that courtship and of that marriage. And I find four things here in the life, in the courtship, in the marriage of Jacob and Rachel that are ingredients—constituent, component parts—of a happy marriage. All right, let’s look at them
The first one is in Genesis 29:18. There’s the first one and the personally all important one. Genesis 29:18: “And Jacob loved Rachel; and he said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel.” There is the first one, “Jacob loved Rachel.”
Why do people marry? Ah! Listen, if you could just sit down in that pastor’s study and listen to the recounting of the providences that brought two people together; the things that you will listen to! Sometimes they marry for spite. Isn’t that the strangest thing you ever saw? They had been going together with somebody and they break up and get mad. And then just for spite against that one, they’ll marry somebody else. Now that is the honest truth. And it is frequent. They marry for spite many, many, many times. And especially is this true with a girl.
Many, many, times they marry because of uncongenial surroundings. They are in a home where there is a stepmother or a stepfather or the parents somehow are not kind. And any thing, any way to get out of the house, to get out of the home, to get away—and they marry just because of uncongenial surroundings.
Sometimes they marry—and now this is an endless succession—they marry for money. They marry for prestige. They marry for fame, for fortune, for personal advantage. Many times they marry in order to be supported, to marry to have a home. Ah! And how many things will you find that have caused a couple to marry. There is only one honest-to-goodness real reason for a marriage, and that is that Jacob loves Rachel, and Rachel loves Jacob.
Now I suppose, now this is a supposition on your pastor’s part. I am just looking now. I am just talking. This isn’t Bible. This is just me right here. I suppose that when time goes on, and the years wear away, and you have an old man and an old woman or maybe a middle-aged man and middle-aged woman and they are congenial and they want to marry for convenience’ sake, just to have somebody take care of them when they are sick or in age you know, I suppose that’s all right. I suppose it is just to marry just to have somebody feed you, or cook for you, or clean the house for you, or do the laundry for you, or whatever it is that old folks would marry for. I suppose that’s all right. I suppose that’s all right. I’m just talking now. That’s just me.
But outside of that, outside of that and especially could I say it to young people? Outside of that, no girl, no boy, no matter what should ever marry for any other reason than that you love the guy. You love the fellow. He loves you and you love him. I tell you if you marry for that, whether you live in a chicken coop or a palace, whether you are poor or rich, whether you are famous or infamous, whether you live here or there it won’t matter very much. But you have got to love the fellow. And if you do, you have the first basis for a wonderful and a happy marriage.
Now you have the second one here. You have the second one here. In the nineteenth verse, here is another thing, an ingredient, a component part of a happy marriage. It is this. It is good to have the good will if at all possible of your parents and your friends when you marry. Laban said, the father of Rachel said, “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to any other man” [Genesis 29:19].
“Fine,” said Laban. And that’s what Isaac and Rebekah said. Isaac called Jacob and blessed him and charged him and said, “Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan” [Genesis 28:1]. I’m reading in the first part of the twenty-eighth chapter:
But arise, go to Padanaram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of
Laban thy mother’s brother.
So there’s the second thing that is wonderfully fine, and good, and portends, and harbingers, and announces good things for a young couple when they can marry with the blessing, with the happiness, with all of the love and gladness of heart of the fathers and the mothers.
When the groom’s mother and father sit there on my left, and while I am performing that ceremony, they’re just beaming on that boy of theirs because of that wonderful girl he is marrying, and when the bride’s mother and father sit there on my right while I am performing that ceremony, they are just beaming over a marvelous boy that girl of theirs is marrying—now when you’ve got that going you’ve got everything pretty well going. That’s a wonderful thing. All of those ducks are just one right after another going right down the line. That’s good. That’s good.
All right in the next verse is another qualification, an ingredient, a part if it is possible. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had for her” [Genesis 29:20]. And Jacob served seven years for Rachel. He had a job.
There’s the third part that goes into the making of a good marriage; if the young man, if that young man has a good prospect of working and taking care of his wife and his family. Now a young man may do a deed of gallantry, one of them, but I tell you it takes something on the inside of the boy to work seven years for a girl but that showed the turn of his heart [Genesis 29:20]. It showed the character in him. It showed the devotion in him. He was working to get that girl and to support her and to sustain her. And he stayed with it.
It finally came out he worked fourteen years to get Rachel [Genesis 29:20-30]. Anytime you can get a boy to work for you fourteen long years just for the love of you, boy, girl you’ve got it. Stay with him. Stay with him. Ah! You have found a jewel. You have found a diamond. And that’s one of the five ingredients of a marriage, to have some way of support, some livelihood, some way to sustain the home.
All right, now the last ingredient. I said the first one: marrying for love. Jacob loved Rachel [Genesis 29:18, 20]. I said the first one was the most important personally. The last reason is the most important, spiritually, eternally, heavenly, celestially. First Corinthians 7:39: “Only in the Lord,” that’s what Paul says about marriage. You are free to marry whom you will, “only in the Lord.”
In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, Paul says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers.” You are not to marry outside of the Lord. And if I had about an hour and a half, we could go through this Bible on what the Scriptures have to say about mixed marriages. Mixed marriages are the most prolific source of misery of any relationship you will find in time, and tide, and life.
“Thus, have I spoken,” says the Lord God to Moses, and Moses repeats it, “Thou shalt not make marriages with these people of the land; thy daughter, thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son” Deuteronomy 7:3. Mixed marriages do not please God. They don’t make for happiness. And when you enter into them, you are entering a life of tears, and of sorrow, and of disappointment, and many, many times of ultimate despair. You are to marry in the Lord [1 Corinthians 7:39]. If it is possible for you to marry somebody in your own church, that is great; that is the best, that is good.
Ah! If our church didn’t do anything else but try to bring together young people so that a boy can fall in love with a Rachel in the church and not somebody on some dance floor, or some honky-tonk, or some nightclub, or some parked car, or some beer joint, or some outcast place, if our church didn’t do anything else but bring together fine young men and women in the circle and friendship of Jesus, I’d say the church was worth it. It was a success if it didn’t do anything else but that.
That’s the reason our church ought always to have a wonderful Young People’s program. That’s the substance and that’s the stuff. That’s the weave. That’s the thread out of which are woven all of these homes, and these children, and this life. It is all important. And that’s that last ingredient here, “Only in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 7:39].
You go up there to the house of your mother, a family that worships God, and find a wife there in the Lord [Genesis 28:1-2]. This thing of mixed marriages—when you turn to the last chapter of Nehemiah, the thirteenth chapter of Nehemiah, mixed marriages were ruining Israel [Nehemiah 13:23-30]. You know, a lot of these people are all around—you know, trying to get not only mixed marriages in faith but mixed marriages in race And I don’t know what all.
I will tell you the Lord God sure did inveigh against it. Now these sociologists may know better than God. These sociologists may be smarter than God. And these new psychologists may know more about the human family and how to put it together than the Lord God who made them, but I’m just telling you that in the Bible it inveighed against mixed marriages. It’s there in the Book, and it isn’t good, it isn’t best; “in the Lord” [1 Corinthians 7:39].
Now let’s go on. Look at the last part of the twentieth verse of that twenty-ninth chapter of Genesis. That is one of the most beautiful and precious sentences you will find in the whole Scripture. Its beauty charms, allures, intrigues, look at it. “Jacob served seven years for Rachel: and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” [Genesis 29:20].
Now let’s just stop there and preach a little bitty short sermon on, “for the love he had to her” [Genesis 29:20]. Seven years and it turned out to be fourteen [Genesis 29:20-30], “and they seemed but a few days, for the love he had to her.” Ah! What you could think through of that beautiful and charming sentence, “For the love he had to her” [Genesis 29:20].
Those three mighty men of David when David said, “Ah! For a drink of water from the well which is by the gate of Bethlehem,” and Bethlehem was in the hands of the Philistines. And those three mighty men sacrificed and jeopardized their lives, offered their lives to go through the enemy lines and bring to David a draft of water from the well by the gate of Bethlehem for the love they had to him [2 Samuel 23:15-17].
And think of what you could say about our Lord who suffered the agony of the cross and went down to death for the love He had to us [Matthew 27:26-50]. And think of those disciples who gave their lives, some to the sword; some to privation, and exposure, and exile; some to crucifixion; all to stripes, and confiscation, and sorrow, and persecution [Hebrews 11:32-39]; and in these later years, to the rack, and the fagot, and the stake, and the dungeon; all for the love they had to our Christ.
And you can just look at that and think of a mother, or a sweetheart, or a dear loved friend, who in the vigils of a night may be with a disease that lingers and lasts—couldn’t hire anybody to do it, money couldn’t pay for the service—but there in the day, there in the night ministering, helping; faithful unto death for the love he had to her, for the love she had to him.
Ah! I tell you, there is just hardly any little sentence you will find in the Bible more full of charm, and love, and blessing, and meaning than that one. “And they seemed to him but a few days,” fourteen years, “for the love he had to her” [Genesis 29:20].
Now we must go on. We are just barely getting started what I have prepared this morning. Now we come to the twenty-first and following verses, and we come to Laban as he enters Jacob’s household. Now look at this: after seven years, why, Laban gathered all of those men and people together and made a great feast for Rachel, ostensibly, apparently, Rachel’s marriage to Jacob [Genesis 29:21-22].
But instead of giving him Rachel, he gave him Leah [Genesis 29:23]. And then he gave him Rachel the younger daughter, for the reason, he said, that it wasn’t the custom in his house that the younger should marry before the older [Genesis 29:25-26]. Actually what Laban was doing was just holding Jacob to a task seven more long years [Genesis 29:27].
Now we are going to speak of the sorrows that came with that dual marriage. Poor Leah, poor Leah! Poor Rachel, poor Rachel! Poor children, poor children! Poor Leah, her husband did not want her; her husband did not like her [Genesis 29:31]. And when God had pity upon her and gave her the desire of an Oriental woman, the mother of many sons, the very providence and gift of God was a terrible source of misery to her [Genesis 29:32-35]. Because it says in the next chapter and the first verse, “Rachel envied her sister” [Genesis 30:1].
Look at Leah; the very names of her boys are milestones of her misery. Look at it here in the last part of that twenty-ninth chapter, and the thirty-second verse, look at what she calls the names of those boys:
And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.
So she called his name Reuben. Now in your Hebrew Bible there, Reuben: “Behold a son,” this son. All right look at her second son:
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because
the Lord hath heard that I was hated, He hath therefore given
me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.
Shim’on, from shama, to hear, “The Lord hath heard that I was hated,” shama, shim’on. All right, look at the next one:
And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this
time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born
him three sons; and she called his name called Levi.
Lawah, “to be joined together, to be joined to, to be brought together,” every one of her sons is a mark and a story of the heartache and the misery of her life. You can just name them, one after another, all of them sources of tears and heartache; poor Leah, poor Leah!
Poor Rachel! She was the one that her husband loved, but she there in the home seeing the heirs of her husband; not hers, but some other woman’s, even though that other woman is her sister, her children—Leah’s children, not Rachel’s—are growing up to be the heirs in the home. And the sorrow that came to her. Poor children! No wonder Reuben was unstable as water [Genesis 49:3-4]; no wonder Simeon was cruel and Levi an accomplice in a horrible crime [Genesis 34:1-31, 49:5-6]. Poor family!
May I pause here to make an observation? It is to the eternal glory of the Anglo-Saxon, Germanic peoples that they have always been monogamous. Did you know that? No small reason for the tremendous virility and racial power, and I think superiority, of the Germanic, Anglo-Saxon people lies in their everlasting devotion to a monogamous home. Even Tacitus observed that, way back yonder in the first Roman centuries, writing about the Germanic peoples—the Anglo-Saxon people—writing about you. He expatiated upon the tremendous strength and power of these Teutonic peoples because of their monogamous family life.
Why did God permit that? Well, that is what they asked Jesus. When they turned back here to this Book and read these things, they asked Jesus about it [Mark 10:2, 10]. Why did God allow such a thing as that? And you remember what Jesus said? God allowed it because of the hardness of their hearts [Mark 10:5]. Many, many times God will give you what you want. He will allow it, but He also sends with it that inevitable judgment that accompanies it. Oh! That God would give us the heart and the spirit to want things that are precious, and wonderful, and devoted, and consecrated, and given to Him.
Lots of times, you want things for your children, and you pray for them, and God gives them to you. But along with those gifts, there accompany tremendous judgments. You know we are all like that. I don’t want my child to have the hard time I had: grow up poor, didn’t have anything in the world! Didn’t even have electric lights, didn’t even have running water in the house, didn’t even have a car, didn’t have anything, didn’t have anything!
You don’t want your child to grow up poor like that so you ask God, “Lord, let me have all of these things for my child. And give them a college education, and give them this, and give them that, and give them everything.” And the Lord may answer your prayer. And your child grows up in the lap of luxury, but also there are some other things that go along with it. They don’t have the virility and the gratitude.
Did you know to this day I notice that I can turn on an electric light when I walk into my house? To this day I notice we have a bathroom in our house. To this day I notice we have running water in our house. To this day I notice we have an automobile at our house. To this day I notice we can buy new clothes at our house. I never knew any of that when I grew up, but it put something in me for which now I have become grateful. I do not regret it. I don’t regret I grew up way back from nowhere, nor do I regret the years that I spent in little, little churches. It put something in my heart I could never forget.
Well, that is what Jesus said back here: because of the hardness of their hearts God permitted that [Mark 10:5]. But it didn’t please the Lord, and God never made it that way. “In the beginning,” said Jesus, God made them one and one, a man for a woman, a woman for a man [Mark 10:6], and how happy, happy, happy in the providence of heaven when they can find each other in the Lord.
Now we must close. We will just pick it up instead of trying to encompass what I had for the remainder; it’s too much. We will just close and start next Sunday morning here at the latter part of the twenty-ninth chapter of the Book of Genesis.
Now while we sing our song, somebody this morning to give his heart to Jesus, somebody put his life in the church; while we sing the song, would you come and stand by me? “I take the Lord as my Savior this day.” Or, “I put my life in the church this day.” A family you, or one somebody you, while we stand and sing, would you come?