A DIVINE APPOINTMENT
Have you ever experienced delays, changes of plans, or redirections in your everyday life? Have you ever felt that God is leading you somewhere you weren’t planning to go and you end up meeting someone you weren’t planning to meet? Have you ever had a coincidence that was so special that it seemed as if God had to be involved in it? Psalm 37:23 declares that “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” God orders, arranges, and establishes the details of the lives of those who are following and are surrendered to him. God is sovereign, all-knowing, and all-powerful and if we are willing to let the Holy Spirit lead us, God can and will use us to do miraculous things in the lives of the people he brings us in contact with.
God will give us encounters with another person(s) that God has specifically and unmistakably arranged. The Holy Spirit sets up these encounters because someone needs what He can offer them through you. You may be one conversation away from God doing something awesome in your life or in the life of the person he brought you to. Our prayers for God’s will to be done in our lives opens up divine appointments and the conversations that can come from them. Our words and actions are powerful, no matter how seemingly small or insignificant. God can lead his followers to cross another person’s path, resulting in amazing things, if they are willing to submit to his leading and guiding through the Holy Spirit. Throughout the Bible we find many examples of divine appointments:
In John 4, Jesus has a divine appointment with a Samaritan woman at the village well and her life was changed along with those in her village. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah had a divine appointment with the Widow of Zarephath, who had nothing so that God could provide for her and her family supernaturally as a result of her faith. In Acts 16, Paul was directed by God to go to Macedonia where he ended up in jail. There he had a divine appointment to bring salvation to a jailer and his family. In Acts 8, Phillip had a divine appointment with the Ethiopian Eunuch where he was able to open up the scriptures to him. The Ethiopian Eunuch believed that Jesus Christ was the Son of God and was baptized.
This morning we are going to be studying Genesis 29:1-14a where we find Jacob again on his journey to find the family of his mother’s brother Laban. He was instructed by his father to go there and take a wife who would be the next mother of the covenant people. Last week Pastor Stuart showed us Jacob’s encounter with God at Bethel. There God promised to always be with Jacob and Jacob vowed that the Lord would be his God. Jacob had finally surrendered to God and God ordered, arranged and established his steps to a divine appointment in Paddan Aram or Haran. There he would meet his mother’s brother, Laban, and his daughter Rachel and other members of his extended family.
If we are continually seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit and letting Him determine where we are best suited to serve Him, we will providentially be given divine appointments where God’s will can be done on this earth. Imagine walking in the Spirit as God gives us divine appointments using us to help those in need physical, emotionally, financially and spiritually. That brings us to our big idea this morning, which is, for Christ followers, there are no coincidences, only divine appointments.
Before we begin our study of this divine appointment let’s dedicate our time to the Lord. Dear Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us and open our hearts and minds to what you want us to hear, learn and share this morning. Thank you for your only son who was crucified, dead and buried and rose again on the third day. May we never forget his sacrifice and love for us as we strive to love one another in the same way. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
There are two points to the message: Providence and Performance. We will begin with Providence found in Genesis 24:1-8. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Jacob set out on his journey, and went to the land of the people of the east. He looked, and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it, because they watered the flocks from that well. Now the stone on the mouth of the well was large. When all the flocks were gathered there, they would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place on the mouth of the well. Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” So he said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” And he said to them, “Is it well with him?” And they said, “It is well, and here is his daughter Rachel coming with the sheep.” Then he said, “Look, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered. Water the sheep, and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot, until all the flocks are gathered, and they roll the stone from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”
The first thing we notice is the word “then” which is referring to the events that were recorded at the end of chapter 28. If you remember from last week, Jacob had a dream of a stairway resting on the earth with its top reaching to heaven. There were angels ascending and descending and the Lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac, spoke to Jacob there. He made the Abrahamic covenant with Jacob, promising to him and his descendants the land he was lying on, that his descendants would be like the dust of the earth, and that all people would be blessed through him and his offspring. The Lord also promised to be with Jacob, to watch over him wherever he went, to bring him back to the Promised Land and that he would not leave him until he had done all that he promised. Jacob took the stone that was under his head and set it up as a pillar and worshipped God vowing that the Lord would be his God.
It is from this encounter with the Lord that Jacob “set out” on his journey. The literal translation of “set out” is he “picked up his feet” meaning that Jacob now had a “spring to his step.” The experience with the Lord at Bethel had renewed Jacob’s faith to continue this long journey and the promises encouraged him after essentially being exiled from his home. The hand of God was directing Jacob. We are told that he came to the land of the “eastern peoples.” Normally, Genesis is more specific with its directions so the lack of specificity might imply that Jacob didn’t know exactly where he was going. He was going to a distant, alien and foreign land to find his mother’s brother’s family and Goldingay says, it would be “like looking for a needle in a haystack.” Jacob was going to have to rely on God to direct him to exactly the right place, at the right time, and to the right person if he was going to locate his mother’s brother, Laban, and take a wife from one of his daughters.
Also, in Genesis, going east has meant going away from the presence of God. It meant “judgment” in Genesis 3:23 as God sent Adam and Eve east out of the Garden of Eden and in Genesis 4:16 as Cain left the presence of the Lord and settled even farther east of Eden. Going east has also meant vanity as Lot chose the outward “well-watered” appearance of Sodom and journeyed eastward to eventually dwell there. Abraham sent his servant back east to his homeland to find Isaac a wife but Isaac wasn’t supposed to go there. And now Jacob has been sent to the “eastern peoples” to find a wife. We will see in the coming weeks that his journey will be filled with many heartaches and it will not be until Jacob journeys west back to the Promised Land that he will have peace.
Next we notice Jacob comes to a well in the field. Wells have been a theme so far in the lives of the patriarchs as they were signs of God’s blessings. We have seen Abraham digging wells and prospering in the future promised land, Isaac found water every time he dug a well, Abraham’s servant is led by God to a well where he found a wife for Isaac and now Jacob will meet his future wife and the next mother in the covenant line at this divine appointment at a well. Wells again become a place where Yahweh will provide. The phrase “in the field” reminds us where Isaac and Rebekah first met each other. Next we notice the word “behold” in verse 2, “He looked and saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep were lying there beside it.” We are reminded of that same word in chapter 28:12, “And he had a dream, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth” and verse 13, “Then behold, the Lord was standing above it.” The three-fold use of “behold” indicates Jacob’s success in finding the right place. The promises given to him at Bethel will begin to find fulfillment in this divine appointment at the well.
Jacob sees three flocks of sheep lying near the well because the flocks were watered from this well. There was also a large stone covering the mouth of the well. The narrator proceeds to explain the practice of the watering of the sheep at this well. When all the flocks had gathered at the well, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth, water all the flocks of sheep and then put the stone back in place. The repetition of the size of the stone and the need for all the flocks to be there before removing it implies that the stone was too large for one shepherd to move it by themselves. It will later reinforce Jacob’s strength that was given to him by God to move it. The use of the large stone and this practice was probably for at least three reasons. One, it would keep the well from being contaminated. Two, it would ensure that the well couldn’t be filled in by enemies. Three, only those who were supposed to use the well could. This reminds us that water in the desert was a valuable commodity.
This was the scene when Jacob arrived at the well. He engages the shepherds there in conversation about where they were from. He finds out that there are from Haran which is probably the closest city to the well. He then asked if they knew Laban, the grandson of Nahor and they replied that they did. Jacob inquired about his well-being and the shepherds said that Laban was well. They then announced that his daughter, Rachel, was approaching the well at this very moment with the sheep. This was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacob in 28:15 that “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go.” We aren’t told if Jacob thanked, praised and worshipped the Lord for his providential leading to the right place, at the right time and to the right person. Because we aren’t told we can believe that he didn’t and the narrator wants us to contrast Jacob with Abraham’s servant.
The Lord will order, arrange, and establish divine appointments for those who are following and are surrendered to him. Big Idea. It is important to thank, praise and worship the Lord when we recognize his providential hand working in our lives. That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card. My next step is to thank, praise and worship the Lord when I recognize his providential hand at work in my life.
Instead of worshipping the Lord for his providence, Jacob proceeds to arrogantly question what the shepherds are doing just sitting around. He seems to insult them by telling them how to do their job. We can imagine how they felt to have an outsider command them to get their sheep watered and out to pasture? Jacob’s rational was that it was “still high day” meaning it was around noon and wasn’t yet time for the sheep to be gathered. The sheep were usually gathered at the end of the day in order to lead them back home. We aren’t told why Jacob tried to insist the shepherds get the well open, water their sheep and get them back to pasture. Maybe he wanted them to leave before Rachel showed up so he could meet her alone. Maybe he thought it would impress her to have the well open when she arrived. She would be able to water her sheep right away and he could take the credit for it. We notice that even after Jacob is told about the “way things work”, he doesn’t hesitate to disregard it.
The shepherds repeat what the narrator told us in verse 3, that they were not allowed to move the stone and water the sheep until all the flocks were gathered. The repetition tells us that this practice or custom was important. It was probably something like a covenant or contract between the shepherds. This would ensure that the well wasn’t contaminated or sabotaged and the proper shepherds were using it. Walton says, these types of “contracts were necessary where water is scarce and distrust is often warranted.”
The second point this morning is Performance found in Genesis 24:9-14. This is what God’s word says, “While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of his mother’s brother Laban, and the sheep of his mother’s brother Laban, Jacob went up and rolled the stone from the mouth of the well, and watered the flock of his mother’s brother Laban. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and raised his voice and wept. Jacob told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and that he was Rebekah’s son, and she ran and told her father. So when Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he ran to meet him, and embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. Then he told Laban all these things. And Laban said to him, “You certainly are my bone and my flesh.”
Jacob was still speaking with the shepherds when Rachel arrives at the well. We are told that Rachel is a shepherdess and that the sheep are her father, Laban’s. The narrator wants us to know that Rachel was performing a real job with real responsibility and would be a capable patriarch’s wife just as Rebekah was. Since the shepherds refuse to move the stone, Jacob takes things into his own hands and single-handedly moves the stone from the mouth of the well and water’s his “uncles” sheep. Gangel and Bramer say, “Jacob says nothing he just simply performs.” And Mathews says, “The servant worshipped the Lord when he discovered Rebekah’s identity, Jacob flexed his muscles, proving his capacity to serve Laban’s house.” The narrator is contrasting Jacob’s energy with the shepherd’s laid-back or lazy approach. The three-fold repetition of “mother’s brother Laban” in verse 10 implies that Jacob is not trying to impress Rachel for her own sake but trying to impress her to get to her father, Laban.
Jacob had been told to go to the house of his mother’s father Bethuel and find a wife from among the daughters of Laban. He knew that the first order of business was to get to Laban and his way to Laban was to impress one of his daughters. At every turn God had ordered and directed Jacob’s path. He was led to a well outside of Haran where they knew Laban and he came face to face with his daughter. This was a divine appointment orchestrated by God for his chosen man to find a wife that would continue the covenant promises for his chosen and covenant people. Big Idea.
We may not have expected what happens next: Jacob kissed Rachel and then raised his voice and wept. Usually men would kiss another man as a greeting but it would not have been normal for a man to kiss a women like this. This was probably not a romantic kiss because Jacob was more intent on getting to Laban at this point in the narrative. Why did Jacob weep? Maybe he didn’t forget that it was God who had providentially guided him to exactly the right place, at exactly the right time and to exactly the right person. He was probably overwhelmed with emotion as he thought about the providence and promises of God. God had kept his promises to be with him and to watch over him as he journeyed from Canaan to Haran.
Then Jacob told Rachel he is a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. And just like Rebekah did, Rachel, ran to tell her father. That Rachel’s response was the same as Rebekah’s indicates that she was to be the next mother in the covenant line. As soon as Laban heard about Jacob he ran to meet him, embraced him and kissed him and brought his to his home. Laban was even more demonstrative than Jacob was. The first hearers may have been reminded of Jacob kissing his father in bad faith and thinking about the things that would transpire between Laban and Jacob in the not so distant future. We aren’t told what Laban was thinking when he heard about Jacob’s arrival. He may have been thinking back a hundred years ago when Abraham’s servant came looking for a wife for Isaac. Abraham’s servant had brought gold and silver jewelry, clothing and costly gifts for his sister and the family. Wiersbe says, “Abraham sent a caravan with his servant to find Isaac a wife. Isaac sent Jacob to find a wife with nothing.” We aren’t told if Laban was disappointed when he met Jacob and noticed that he had no entourage and no gifts with him. But true to form he extended his hospitality and brought him into his home.
At Laban’s home, Jacob told him “all these things.” We are not told what Jacob recounted to Laban. Maybe, like Abraham’s servant, Jacob told him about what happened at the well. The servant told Laban about how God sent him to the right place at the right time and to the right person. He gave God the glory and worshipped as he told Laban the whole story. Again, it is telling that the narrator doesn’t mention Jacob gave God glory for this divine appointment. He probably told Laban why he was there (which was to marry one of his daughters) and what his plans were for his future (which was to take said daughter and return to Canaan). We can also surmise that Jacob told Laban about single-handedly moving the stone from the mouth of the well and watering his sheep. Jacob probably thought this would ingratiate himself with Laban and convince him to let him stay awhile in his home and work for him. Laban may have been thinking he had a prospect of a strong and healthy worker which could possibly make up for the lack of the bride price. As we will see in the next few weeks this is exactly what took place.
Laban then proclaimed that Jacob was “my bone and my flesh.” In the ancient near east the ties of family were very strong and if you were visiting relatives you were given every hospitality in their home even if you had never met them. This reminds us what Adam joyously said when God brought Eve to him in Genesis 2:23a, “At last this is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” Jacob had found the family, through the providence of God, in which he could take a fitting bride for himself, just like Adam. The phrase also implies a reciprocal commitment or oath was made between Laban and Jacob. Laban had instituted a bond of sorts between nephew and uncle. As we will see later in the narrative that phrase will prove that Jacob and Laban were “cut from the same cloth.”
I heard a story a couple weeks ago from a youth pastor friend of mine. His son is going to be a missionary to Muslims and is discerning which country to go to. He follows some Christian leaders on Instagram and from one of those he received an Instagram direct message that was hidden because it was from someone that he was not followers with. The message was from a Muslim man in West Africa asking if he was a Christian and if so, could he tell him about how to become a Christian. It seems that he had sent the same message out to a bunch of people and my youth pastor friend’s son was the first to respond. So he shared the gospel with this man through Instagram and the man accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior. That was a divine appointment sent from God to my youth pastor friend’s son. He was prepared and obedient and immediately took the opportunity to act on that divine appointment. I would like to go just a little farther with this story. This man is the only believer in his village. He had previously told his father he wanted to become a Christian and his father beat him and his friends left him. This man also told some orphans in his village about Jesus and they accepted him as their Lord and Savior. This Muslim man has continued to talk with my youth pastor friend’s son and wants to know how to get baptized. This divine appointment is ongoing and far-reaching.
There are three specific things we can do to capture the divine appointments God has for us. One, pray for divine appointments. How do we as Christians allow the Holy Spirit to make such appointments for us? The answer is prayer! Every morning when we get up, we should be praying that the Holy Spirit leads us to a divine appointment or appointments. Two, we need to be prepared for divine appointments. The Bible says in 2 Timothy 4:2, “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season.” 1 Peter 3:15 says, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If we start looking for “divine appointments,” we will find them. By making ourselves available to God, we will see things happen that we would have never expected. He will give us eyes to see and ears to hear, the who, what, when and where of our divine appointments. Three, we must be ready to act on the opportunity of a divine appointment like my youth pastor friend’s son did. Divine appointments happen in the regular course of our lives so we need to be prepared to act at all times.
Divine appointments are about how much God cares about His people. God will order, arrange and establish the details of your life if you are truly following and are surrendered to him. I encourage you to look for those opportunities and moments in your everyday life when God is wanting to use you as a divinely appointed son or daughter to be a source of hope, comfort, and love to those he brings you in contact with. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to daily pray for, prepare for and be ready to act on the divine appointments God places in front of me.
As the praise team come forward to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, I pray that we would leave this place today watching for your providential hand working in our lives. When we recognize it I pray that we would thank, praise and worship you for it. I also pray that each one of us would pray for, prepare for and be ready to act on the divine appointments you lead us to in our everyday lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.