(List the following “sins” on the board: lying; adultery; worshiping other gods; murder; denying knowing Jesus; cursing; etc.)
1. Which of the sins listed on the board disqualifies a person from being used in God’s kingdom?
2. What are some excuses people use for not taking an active role in Christian service? What are some excuses people use for excusing others from Christian service?
3. How might these excuses point to a faulty understanding of God? In what way?
Does a person who has committed a grievous sin and has been confronted with their sin, acknowledged it, confessed and repented have a deeper understanding of God’s grace and mercy than I do! Who are we to stand and say to a person, “You can’t serve because of something in your past!” The role a person serves in may change, but God can and does use sinners…like us!
The point is—God uses imperfect people! Actually when we stop to think about it, that’s all He has to work with!
Today’s session will reveal that God uses imperfect people with imperfect lives to advance His plans.
Read Genesis 29:13-15
Jacob, sent to Haran by his parents in hope he would find a future wife, found more than a wife. He learned the value of putting those he loved above himself, along with the value of working for what he wanted instead of using deception.
Jacob’s Proposal! Read Genesis 29:16-20
During the first month Jacob was working for Laban his work ethic impressed Laban. He wanted to agree on wages!
The customs of that day were that the father of the groom or the groom himself would reimburse the father of the bride for taking her in marriage. So for Jacob to offer to work for Rachel was all he could do because he had nothing else!
1. What of great importance did Jacob find in his work now? (Purpose!)
A lack of purpose can fill one’s life with a sense of hopelessness, making it difficult to get out of bed and face the day. Meaningful work, no matter how mundane, can make time pass swiftly, and most of all, make life worth living.
2. What kind of work gives you pure joy (e.g. a career, hobby, skill, or volunteer work)?
When we follow God’s plan, we can find joy in the work He gives us to do. God gave Adam and Eve work to do in tending the Garden of Eden. Only after the fall did difficult labor become part of the curse on humanity brought on by our sin.
Purposeful work is a good part of God’s plan for us. Good, honest, purposeful work brings satisfaction!
3. Why did these seven years seem like only a few days to Jacob? (Jacob was so in love with Rachel his labor had purpose and he worked hard to earn his prize!)
4. What can be learned from Jacob’s example of purposeful work?
5. How can we find purpose in our work regardless of the nature of that work? (Col. 3:23-24. Eccl. 9:10a “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”)
Laban’s Deception! Read Genesis 29:21-24
The bride in this culture wore a veil covering her head and face! The bride was also silent, it seems!
In Session 1, Jacob deceived his father into receiving the blessing reserved for the firstborn. Jacob was on the other end of the deception, reaping what he had sown. We should take seriously that in God’s economy, people reap the actions and attitudes they have sown. I had a boss once who was always seeking to get revenge on those who had wronged her or anyone who worked for her. Her favorite quote was: “What goes around comes around!”…and she saw that it did! (Not a Christian attitude. Let God do the payback.)
1. In what ways was Laban’s deception similar to Jacob’s deception of Isaac? (Laban deceived Jacob, just as Jacob had deceived his father in obtaining Esau’s birthright and blessing. Jacob reaped what he sowed and suffered the consequences of having to struggle between two wives and work an additional seven years for Rachel.)
Ultimately, our choices will reap the consequences we sow, whether positive or negative!
Read Gal. 6:7 and Num. 32:23
2. How could the principle of reaping and sowing cause one to reconsider his or her actions?
3. How might Leah have felt about her role in the situation? (Leah cooperated with her father’s deception, but she would have been expected to obey what her father told her to do. She was given a husband, but she was not the wife Jacob had intended to marry. She, ultimately, secured for herself the protection of a husband but not the love she desired.)
Seven More Years! Read Genesis 29:25-30
1. What kind of emotional state do you think Jacob was in now? (Disbelief, anger, and resignation or acceptance of the situation.)
2. What do you think about the way Laban behaved?
Believers can thank God for His faithfulness to His promises even when our plans are contrary to His wise design. Little did Laban know, God used Laban to fulfill His promise of making Jacob’s offspring as numerous as the dust of the earth.
From Jacob’s two wives and their handmaidens would come twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel, fulfilling the promised covenant God made with Abraham. God had compassion on Leah, giving her the privilege of bearing Jacob his first four sons who would love her, reminding us God hears the cries of our broken hearts.
It is important to note here that God’s design for marriage is one man and one woman, evidenced by Adam and Eve and reinforced by the teachings of New Testament writers. Never confuse man’s plans with God’s purpose, and never confuse His permissiveness with His approval.
3. Why is maintaining a godly perspective in challenging times important for believers?
4. How can believers maintain a godly perspective?
Summarize and Challenge!
1. How did today’s study help you understand how God uses imperfect people with imperfect lives to advance His plans?
2. How can we use work to demonstrate Christ to others?
3. What steps do we need to take to get involved in a work project that benefits our community?
4. How do your attitudes impact your actions?
5. What attitude changes need to happen in your life?
God’s plans are often far beyond anything we can plan for ourselves. Sometimes we don’t see how His plans are going to work out for the best, yet we must trust that His ways are higher than ours. Even when we choose our own way, God can ultimately work through our imperfections to advance His plans!
Pray that God would give us wisdom to recognize and follow His plans this week!