I am not a very patient person. I like things to happen exactly when they are supposed to. I like knowing in advance when something is scheduled to occur. If I am meeting someone and they are a few minutes late my imagination goes into overdrive, thinking up all sorts of disasters that could have held them up. Which makes travelling on public transport difficult. This morning I was meant to get on a bus to travel to visit friends several hours away from where I am living for the summer. I made sure to be at the bus stop in good time to wait for it. And I waited. And waited. After the bus was 30 minutes late one of the other people waiting went to ask at the ticket desk for an update. They said that as the bus came from Canada it sometimes got held up at the border crossing into America. So I waited some more. And got more and more anxious as I waited, and waited. Eventually it turned up 2 hours and 15 minutes late – lesson of the day – don’t use Greyhound coaches!
It got me thinking about Jacob. You may know his story from Genesis 29. He had stolen his brother Esau’s blessing and so had fled to stay with his uncle Laban in Paddan-Aram. While he was there he worked on his uncle’s fields and spent his spare time noticing that his cousin Rachel was smoking hot “Rachel had a beautiful figure and a lovely face” Genesis 29:17 (note – this was before God said don’t marry your close relatives so it was all above board.)
Jacob wanted to marry Rachel. Laban wanted to pay Jacob for caring for his flocks. So an arrangement was reached. Jacob would work seven years, then he could marry Rachel. Jacob was a man with patience – seven years is a long time to wait for a girl. Most christian couples I know tend to be in a rush to marry as soon as possible, I can’t think why…
But there was a problem. Rachel had an older sister, Leah. Leah was something of a plain Jane. “There was no sparkle in Leah’s eyes” Genesis 29:17. In the ancient customs the older sister had to marry first, but Leah’s looks were putting any would be suitors right off. So Laban hatched a sneaky plan.
Seven years passed, Jacob did the work and was ready to enjoy the reward. The wedding day came. Everyone in the neighbourhood was invited to the feast. “But that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her.” Genesis 29:23. Ironically Jacob, who stole a blessing by pretending to be his brother, had now ended up married to someone pretending to be her sister!
But Jacob wasn’t to be put off by this hiccup. He went back to Laban, and asked to marry Rachel too. Laban agreed, as long as he would work another seven years. Jacob agreed (Rachel must have had seriously good looks…) and fortunately this time Laban let him marry Rachel up front and then do the work.
Jacob was a patient man. He was prepared to do what it took to get what he wanted. So often we are guilty of coming to God with our list of requests of things we want right now, with no effort. ‘God if you could just let me walk into this exam room, ace the exam, come home to a dream job offer waiting for me on my voicemail and if I could meet my perfect spouse as I stop for coffee after the exam that would be great’. But maybe God wants us to learn from Jacob. Maybe He wants us to wait and work. Lots of people like to throw out verses about waiting on God’s timing, but waiting alone is not enough. God isn’t calling us to be passive waiters. He wants active waiters. People who will get busy as they wait on His timing.
Jesus told his followers to wait for his return. But he told them that as they wait, they should go. They should go to Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria and to the ends of the world to tell of his kingdom, to share his love, to preach the forgiveness that is found in the cross. God wants us to be patient and wait. But that is not an excuse for sitting on our laurels. As you wait, work!