Vayetze – “And He Went Out”

This week’s Parasha is Vayetze and covers Genesis 28:10 – 32:3. Jacob has had to flee his home after deceiving his father into giving him the blessing intended for Esau and, at his parents’ instructions, journeys to his uncle, Laban.

In chapter 28, Jacob has traveled a full day’s distance, and arrives at a certain place where he rests for the night. He has to use a stone for a pillow. That night he has a dream and sees angels ascending and descending a staircase or ladder stretching between Earth and Heaven. It is a representation of Messiah, who is our Mediator, reconciling man to God. Yeshua Himself affirmed this in John chapter 1.

In the dream, the Lord tells Jacob that the land will be given to him and his descendants, who will be too numerous to count, and spread out in every direction Jacob’s offspring will be blessed and the Lord will be with them. We should note that God chose Jacob, not based on his deeds, but simply because Adonai is gracious. Even after receiving this blessing, Jacob tries to negotiate with God, saying that if Adonai does everything He promised, then Jacob will be loyal to Him. He still has a long way to go from being Jacob the deceiver to becoming Israel who follows God. Adonai often allows us to suffer the consequences of our own foolishness so that we might learn from it. Hardship can build character. It certainly helped build Jacob’s.

In chapter 29 Jacob reaches Haran and rests by a well. He encounters shepherds there and asks if they know Laban. They respond “yes” and tell Jacob that Laban’s daughter Rachel is now approaching. Jacob, no doubt wanting to impress this beautiful maiden, goes to the well and removes the large, heavy stone by himself, and proceeds to water her father’s sheep. He is then brought to their home to meet her father Laban, and is invited to remain with them.

After Jacob has been living and working there a month, Laban asks him what kind of wages he wants. Jacob is in love with Rachel and asks for her hand in marriage. Laban agrees to give Rachel as his wife in exchange for seven years of work for him. The years pass quickly and pleasantly. Finally the big wedding day comes and after much celebration, including plenty of wine, Jacob takes his wife into his tent to consummate his marriage. It was the custom at this time for brides to wear a full veil. In the morning when Jacob sees his wife, he realizes it is not Rachel, but Leah her older, less attractive sister. Jacob the deceiver finds himself up against an even bigger deceiver – his father-in-law. I wonder how much time Jacob spent contemplating how he had deceived his father by pretending to be his brother, only now to be deceived into marrying the sister. Oh the tangled web we weave!!

The shrewd Laban agrees to also give Jacob Rachel, whom he loves, in marriage in seven days if he consents to work for another seven years. Jacob agrees to this new contract. Laban will ultimately change Jacob’s wages ten times before the two part ways. I am reminded of Galatians 6:7-8 where it says, whoever sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction, but that anyone who sows to please the Spirit will reap eternal life. At this point, Jacob and Laban are sowing to their sinful nature; but praise God that Jacob will soon see the light and eventually become a new man, and acquire a new name.

After some years Jacob tells Laban that he wants to return to his own country. Laban realizes that he has been blessed because of God’s favor on Jacob, and persuades Jacob to remain. Jacob agrees to stay and they work out an agreement whereby all the choice animals (those that are solid in color) will be Laban’s and all the speckled, spotted and striped animals will be Jacob’s. Meanwhile, Jacob has learned a lot from his father-in-law and now employs some “creative animal husbandry” resulting in the birth of far more speckled, spotted and striped animals, so that Jacob’s flock increases, while Laban’s flock dwindles.

In chapter 31, God comes to Jacob and tells him to return to the land of his fathers. This seems to be just in the nick of time, because Laban and his sons have grown resentful towards him since he is now wealthier than they. So now, Jacob, who once fled from his brother, whom he deceived, now flees from his father-in-law, whom he has also deceived. There is a direct correlation between Jacob’s deception of his father, his brother and his father-in-law, to what will happen to him in years to come when his own sons deceive him with his favorite son Joseph. Remember, we reap what we sow.

So what can we learn from this Torah portion? Jacob repeatedly took matters into his own hands, deceiving others, and being deceived himself. How much are we like Jacob? We try to make deals with God, saying that if He will just do this or that thing for us, we will do something for Him. We connive to get the things we want, and deceive ourselves into believing that the end justifies the means. We are no better than Jacob, but we do have the Holy Spirit who constantly nudges us back onto the path of righteousness. We need to listen when the Holy Spirit speaks to us and convicts us of our sin.

Hebrews 12:6 says that Adonai disciplines those He loves and He punishes those whom He accepts as sons. Brothers and sisters, what I want you to remember most today is that we reap what we sow. Sow honesty and goodness, and bless others, and the Lord will bless you. Sow trickery and deception and the Lord may have to make an example of you. Pray that the conduct others see in us leads them to the path of righteousness – the path of our Messiah Yeshua. And let’s be grateful and praise God that He has so much mercy, grace and forgiveness for us, His chosen followers, when we return to Him time and time again.