Forgiveness or revenge?, July 30th 2017

Forgiveness or revenge?, July 30th 2017

Jacob : the great deceiver deceived.

Seventh Sunday after Trinity, July 30th 2017.

Genesis 29:14-28.

Also Matthew 13 – selected verses


A favourite film of mine is from the 1980s, called Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Steve Martin plays an American businessman who is trying to get home for Thanksgiving and his plane is re-routed due to a snowstorm. He ends up travelling – via planes, trains and automobiles – with a slobby man played by John Candy. There is a moment they end up sleeping in a small hotel, sharing a room together. Candy has gone to bed, and Martin goes to bathroom, decides to wash his face. And he splashes the water, then looks down and floating in the wash basin – a pair of underpants Candy had left soaking overnight…

the look on Martin’s face…

Can you imagine the look on Jacob’s face that morning. He rolls over and looks… his scream must have been heard by his Mum and Dad and brother Esau in Canaan! Would you have liked to have been there at that moment…?


This is our bible text. When I thought about it, should I speak to our young people – make sure you know who you are marrying! That is why for example in English wedding services, you ask the bride to lift the veil at the front before the ceremony begins…

Or it is sermon about in laws – or the outlaws as Laban shows.

But this is our text for today – and it is part of our scriptures, it is God breathed and therefore has things to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness – beyond that of, make sure you know who you are marrying!

A briefer message as it is All Age.

Jacob cries – Why have you deceived me?

It is the first time Jacob has been deceived. We have seen how he, had been tricky, you could say deceived his brother Esau to sell his birthright for the pot of stew – and then of course he deceives his father and brother to get the paternal blessing. That deception is why he is there, in Harran – sent by his mother fearing Esau’s revenge. And here he is deceived – did he remember what he had done? This great deceiver, Jacob had sought to exchange the younger for the older, that the younger should be first over the older, when he deceived his father…and now, Laban reversed the trick, exchanging the older for the younger, and again  mistaken identity / deliberate false identity, as he had substituted for Esau, Laban has Leah as a substitute for Rachel…it does make you wonder how Jacob never caught on, was it the wine, or darkness or well we don’t know…

He can marry Rachel if he works another 7 years. The first for love – the second 7 – was this a repayment of his treatment of his father and Esau?

How do we feel when we read this? When we read – yeah, he got what he deserved? Is it like, a relationship ends between us and a girl or boy and later, we hear how that relationship broke up, and a little bit of us goes, ‘yeah’, as we were hurt, now they have been. How do we react when we are hurt and later we hear about the people hurt us, have been hurt? Is there a small inner smile, as maybe Esau may have smiled if he had heard that shock and yell from Jacob as he woke up that morning?

Jesus words. “You have heard it was said ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’” Paul writes in Romans 12 – “Do not repay anyone evil for evil, do not be overcome buy evil but overcome evil with good.” It leaves us in uncomfortable position. OT would say – yeah, glad he got what he deserved. NT, Jesus, Paul, you should be sad, that relationship, after they left you, didn’t work out, that pain they caused you, you should hope for good for them, love them…

Northern Ireland, 1987, on Remembrance Sunday, a bomb exploded, in the town of Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, as people gathered to remember the military and the victims of the WWI and WWII. Two of those – Marie Wilson and father Gordon were involved. In the rubble lay Gordon with Marie, he held her hand as she died,


he shared about those closing moments and his feelings in an interview the day after: “She held my hand tightly and gripped me as hard as she could. “She said, ‘Daddy, I love you very much’.  “Those were her exact words to me and those were the last words I ever heard her say. “But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. “Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. “She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. “She was a pet. She’s dead. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again.

“I will pray for these men tonight and every night.”


‘I will pray for these men tonight and every night’ Not everyone felt that way, in Northern Ireland, by no means. But he was a committed Christian and he saw the footsteps of Jesus, the crucified one, and instead of hoping they’d be killed by a bomb, he’d pray. His faith mobilised and shaped his actions…

This leads us, into forgiveness. A huge topic, where I seek to walk gently as we all have had wounds, carry scars. We do not know how Jacob felt – all we know is Laban gives his reasons – ‘we do not marry younger before older’ –  and then Jacob says no more but marries Rachel, then works for seven more years.

Gordon Wilson forgave people who he did not know. Pain can be so much greater when it comes through those close to us. In fact, isn’t it our loved ones, our kin, our children who can cause so much pain. What they say, or do, or don’t do.

Laban was Jacob’s uncle – his mother’s brother – who seemed to have welcomed him in and was happy for him to marry his daughter – and then the pain, the hurt, the “a monstrous blow, a masterpiece of shameless treachery’, as one theologian writes.

Considering the passage. Forgiveness is not about saying what happened was right, even if excuses are made, and even if the excuses sound right to the one who explains. Pain is pain.

Forgiveness does not mean giving the same level of trust to the one who has broken the trust as they had with you before.

Forgiveness does not mean waiting for the hurter, the Laban to ask for it and say he is sorry – he or she may never say those words, as Laban never does.

Forgiveness does not mean, God has abandoned me or this happened to me because of some secret sin. Remember the promise of God from last week’s reading: at the ladder to heaven, God says to Jacob: “I will be with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you…” God is with Jacob and yet this happens…


When I come to consider it, Forgiveness is saying: what happened hurt very much – not pretending it did not. It can be saying, part of me will probably never be the same again.

Forgiveness can be, saying – it was wrong what was said or done to me. Forgiveness is saying, I do not need to trust you the way I did in the future.

Forgiveness says – I forgive you even though you do not ask for it, maybe never will see what you did was wrong.

Forgiveness, is saying, God I do not know why you allowed this to happen to me, when you could have stopped it. But this will not be a barrier between you and I.  Forgiveness is also not focused upon us. Forgiveness can also bring freedom to others – as Gordon Wilson’s actions encouraged the people of his town to be forgiving, reconciling, than fear and conflict.

Forgiveness also, comes to the cross and not only brings freedom inside us but wants blessing for those who hurt. The cross – as Jesus hangs, he prays – ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing’, (Luke 23:v34). Stephen, as he is stoned, ‘Lord Jesus  do not hold this sin against them…’ (Acts 7:v59-60). Not merely, I forgive, but Lord, bring blessing, your favour to them, even though it is wrong what they do, even though they do not ask for forgiveness, would you do good to them. It is a huge ask but the cross moves forgiveness off a focus only on ourselves but invites us to take a final step. I am challenged that as I look on the cross, I not only see forgiveness of my sins and my idols, but invitation a challenge to forgive others in a same way.


So perhaps, we come to Jacob, and this part of the story revolves around revenge and forgiveness.

But do remember to check when you come to get married, to check the lady below the veil…