My wife and I dated for three (long) years before we married. Due to family and life circumstances, we had to wait about two years longer than we’d hoped to finally become husband and wife. We waited, sometimes patiently and sometimes impatiently, for the day we could finally enter into the covenant of marriage together. Even in our dating, we pursued God together and sought to be faithful to one another, but it wasn’t the same. When our wedding day finally arrived, we stood face-to-face and promised to love one another faithfully and unconditionally. By God’s grace, this is still true nearly eight years later. My deepest desire, though tainted by sin, is always to love her, care for her, protect her, and serve her.
In today’s reading, the relationships between man and wife include extenuating family circumstances, making my own story seem almost neat and tidy by comparison. In the ancient near eastern culture in which Jacob’s story takes place, we see the cultural background rather clearly. There were customs and stipulations related to marriage, and sometimes those rules come with unintended consequences and outright trickery. Laban quite clearly uses his own daughters as chess pieces to advance his own selfish desire to acquire wealth and free labor.
It’s doubtful anyone would confuse this story with a marriage manual. Jacob’s love triangle with Rachel and Leah (and the insertion of Zilpah and Bilhah) is messy indeed—certainly not a pattern any of us would endeavor to follow today. Interestingly, God’s only clear interactions in this story occur when He looks upon the situation with concern and pity for the women involved. Our God is a God of life and justice, and He is clearly moved to compassion by the barrenness of the women and the way they are used as pawns in Laban’s game.
Jacob’s love for Rachel is clear by the lengths he is willing to go in order to marry her, but it is also clearly far from perfect and not without complications. However, God’s love for those involved in this story shows us a glimpse of how much He loves each one of us—fully, completely, and without complication. By sending His Son to save us, the Father has proven that He will go to even greater lengths to reveal Himself to us. The cross reminds us that as His Church and His Bride, we should not be confused by His willingness to sacrifice Himself for us.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are joined to Christ and look forward to the day when we will gather around His table at the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7–10). There, we will know fully the extent of the unbreakable covenant we have made with him, and that he has made with us. We will know without a doubt that we are not pawns in some supernatural game of chess, but that we are pursued, loved, and cared for by the Creator of the universe. May we rest in that promise today.
Written by Brandon Smith