Not too many people end up at the altar with the wrong bride, but Jacob did. At first glance, the story of Jacob mistakenly marrying Leah appears to be nothing more than a narrative about an infuriating father-in-law, but this story is about much more. It is a demonstration of God’s commitment to refining and molding the life of a child that belongs to Him.
After Jacob deceived his father and stole the blessing from his brother, he fled east to his uncle Laban in Haran. On the first night of his journey, God appeared to Jacob in a dream and promised him, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go” (Gen. 28:15).
This was Jacob’s first real encounter with God. The two scenes that follow reveal two very important principles about how God works in the lives of His children. The first of these principles is good news for you and me; the second is sobering.
When Jacob arrived in Haran, he just happened to come to a well where the shepherds knew Laban, and he just happened to arrive when one of Laban’s daughters, Rachel, came to the well. God orchestrated this. God brought Jacob to the very place where he needed to be. You see, when God is at work in your life, He can make your path smooth.
This is not the only way God works in our lives, however. He also refines us and disciplines us. This is the sobering principle we observe in scene two of this story.
In return for Rachel’s hand in marriage, Jacob agreed to serve Laban for seven years. At the end of seven years, Jacob went to Laban and requested his bride (Gen. 29:21). Laban agreed—but he disguised his older daughter, Leah, under the wedding veil instead of Rachel. When Jacob woke the morning after his wedding, he realized he had unknowingly married the wrong daughter. In this ironic reversal of roles, Jacob, the deceiver, became the deceived.
Why did God allow this to happen? Hadn’t God promised to watch over Jacob? We must understand that God works in the lives of His children in more than one way. He is at work in the lives of His children to smooth their paths, like He did in bringing Jacob to Haran, but He is also at work in the lives of His children to discipline them, to perfect them.
God used Laban to scrape away the rough edges in Jacob’s life. We all need Labans in our lives because we all have rough edges. God often brings difficult people and difficult circumstances into our lives to mold us and discipline us. God does this because He loves us, and He is committed to working in our lives. Sometimes He makes our path smooth, and sometimes He refines us. But thanks be to God, He is always working in our lives.
By Dr. Paul Nyquist, President of Moody Bible Institute
Dr. Paul Nyquist is the ninth president of Moody Bible Institute and featured speaker on Moody Radio’s program “Moody Presents.” With his theological training, pastoral heart and global focus, Nyquist is leading Moody to go across the globe, cultures and generations to equip people with the truth of God’s Word, using new technology, in an agile and innovative community. He and his wife, Cheryl, have been married for 30 years, have four grown children, and are proud grandparents of one child.