A MINISTRY OF LOVE

By

Shelby G. Floyd

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Good morning church. And we welcome all of you who have joined us for worship online. Today I am speaking on a love story and according to the Bible reading, in Genesis 29:20 at least twice it is said that Jacob loved Rachel. We would expect the Bible to have a love story because it deals with human beings and we know that love is a big part of our life. A marriage built on love will last a lifetime. A marriage without love will falter and fail.

THE HOME LIFE OF JACOB, ESAU, ISAAC, AND REBEKAH


Let us take a look at some of the qualities of Jacob’s love ministry to Rachel. I like the word ministry. I had a member of the church who told me that he did not like the word ministry. But that word is found quite a few times in the Bible and it means to serve. So, if somebody says I do not like that word ministry it means that they do not like to serve! Jacob ministered or served in order to gain Rachel as his wife. I begin this morning by saying that the home life of Jacob and Esau, Isaac and Rebekah were not perfect. There are no perfect parents. There are no perfect children. We are all flawed. We try to be the best parents we can be and we try to be the best children we can be, but children are not perfect. We fall short and we have to expect that and we have to deal with that. Now when it comes to grandparents and great-grandparents that is different! They are perfect!

But we notice in the life of Isaac and Rebecca that they were not perfect parents. Esau their first born was not a perfect young man. He sold his birthright for pot of soup and we look at other things about the family. We also find out that his mother and father were really grieved when he went and married Canaanite women because they were ungodly women. Rebekah said she brings me much grief. Young people, if you marry the wrong person you are probably going to bring grief to your parents. Rebekah wanted to make sure that Isaac did not marry a Canaanite wife. And we also remember that Jacob lied to his father and passed himself off as Esau and received his father’s blessing instead of Esau. Therefore, you can see that the family started off pretty bad. Isaac called Jacob after this and he charged him not to take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. They had enough of Esau and his Canaanite wife so he said you better not go out and do the same thing. Do not take a Canaanite woman for your wife.

Then he said what I want you to do Jacob is to go to PadanAram and later it is said he went toward Haran. Today that would be up in what we call southeastern Turkey. Jacob, I want you to go to Haran and find a wife among your mother’s family. Her brother Laban lives near Haran. I want you take that journey and find your wife there instead of these Canaanite women around here. Isaac then prayed to God that he would give Jacob the blessing of Abraham, and he sent him on his way. Jacob headed toward Haran to find a wife.

He stopped and spent the night at Bethel. He slept with a rock for a pillow. I guess we could call that the hard rock motel. He dreamed of a ladder that was from the earth all the way up into heaven, and the angels of God were going up and down that ladder and God spoke to him and God promised that he would give him the blessing of Abraham:

“And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 28:13-14),

I read that several years ago and I kept it on my mind about that ladder and then I was reading the Gospel according to John, and in the very last verse of the first chapter, Jesus is the ladder upon which the angels were ascending and descending:

And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter[a] you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (John 1:51 NKJV).

After the dream Jacob awoke there at Bethel and the word Bethel means House of God. And Jacob made a vow if you ever make a vow to God. Be sure that you keep your word when you make a promise to God. God is not happy when we make promises and we do not keep them! Jacob made a vow that if God would be with him and take care of him, that he would give 1/10 of all that he received. You know we have to learn to give of our material assets just like we have to learn to do other things. And I think that if we learn to give at least a 10th of our income to the Lord we will find out that we will be blessed and we will never have to worry about anything when we do the best we can because God will take care of us. I believe that with all my heart and I have seen it in my own life. So, Jacob set the example here and said, God you be with me, bring me on my journey, let me fulfill my mission and I will give you a 10th of all that I possess.

JACOB’S MINISTRY OF LOVE FOR RACHEL


So that brings us to Jacob’s Ministry of Love for Rachel. Then Jacob went on toward Haran. As he approached the city, he noticed there was a field and there was a well in the field. I remember working on the farm at 46 Street and Millersville Road where I worked as a teenager. There was a well with one of those old-fashioned pumps and it was a wonderful blessing when you were hot and you could pump a dipper of fresh water! Jacob saw a big stone rolled against the mouth of the well and three flocks of sheep. He went over and talked to the shepherds. He said do you know a man by the name of Laban and is he well? They said we know him and he is well and by the way, there comes Rachel his daughter with some sheep. God is working in bringing Jacob the blessing of Abraham and Rachel just shows up right there at that well. Jacob goes over there and you know men like to show off. He goes and rolls that big stone away and waters the sheep for Rachel. He gave her a break and then the Bible says that he kissed her. So here we have an example of kissing and it was not even his first date. He kissed her soon as he saw her. We like a fellow like that. He knows who he wants and he goes after her and kissed her. Then Jacob spent about a month with Laban and rehearsed all the news of the two families. They were related. Laban was his uncle, his mother’s brother. I am sure they had a lot of news to catch up on and so he spent a month there.

Then the Bible tells us why Jacob labored seven years for Rachel:

Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?” 16 Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah’s eyes were delicate, but Rachel was beautiful of form and appearance (Genesis 19:15-17 NKJV).

Jacob loved Rachel because she was very beautiful. Several years ago, at worship one Wednesday night, some teenage girls brought some of their friends to church and we had several little boys sitting close by. I became amused because those little boys could not look forward. They were constantly turning around and looking at those girls because they were pretty. So, I put that in my mind, that even from the time we are young we recognize the difference between pretty and not quite so pretty. They were fascinated with those teenage girls because they were pretty. But as the song goes, everything is beautiful in its own way. There is somebody for everybody even though there is a difference between beauty and not quite so beautiful. And the Bible says that Leah’s eyes were weak but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. Therefore, even the Bible admits there is a difference in the way that people look. But there are people that are beautiful outwardly and very ugly on the inside. And so, the idea is if you are looking for a wife you want one that is beautiful like Rachel outwardly but also beautiful inwardly, with a beautiful spirit.

But anyway, Jacob loved Rachel and the Bible says that he served seven years to get Rachel but they seem like only a few days them because of his love that he had for her (Genesis 29:20). Therefore, Jacob served seven years for Rachel and so after the seven years were up, he said to Laban, we have a deal. I have served my seven years and now I want my wife. Back then the women wore head coverings like we see in some of those countries today. And about all you can see are their eyes and so Laban sends supposedly Rachel in to be his wife. But guess what? The next morning, he wakes up and it is not Rachel, it is Leah and so he went to Laban. What is this? I worked seven years for Rachel and when I woke up this morning it was Leah. Well, Laban always had a good answer. He said that up here in our country It is not customary to give the younger daughter until you give the older daughter away. And so you go ahead and finish your week with the Leah and I will give you Rachel. Therefore, after seven years he got Leah and Rachel. He got a double bargain. Laban was a schemer and deceiver.

I remember when I was in the second grade at the Bluff Avenue Elementary school and it was Valentines week. There was the prettiest little girl that I had my eyes on and we had a big bag of those Valentines cards and we would fill those out and give them to the girls. After recess when I got back there was a card with a note on my desk from this little girl. She told me how much she liked me. My heart started to pitter patter and I could not wait to answer that note and put it over on her desk. This went back and forth for three or four times and then finally I figured it out. She was not writing those notes, but some of those boys behind me. I learned a good lesson that things do not always turn out as they appear. And I learned that it is good to have a healthy skepticism until you have the full proof. But then as a young adult I met this girl here from Gallatin, Tennessee. We dated for three years, got married and celebrated 60 years of marriage this past December.

And Jacob was happy to get both of those girls, because he got Rachel the one, he wanted. He worked seven more years for Rachel and that makes 14 years altogether, and I think before he left there with all the goods that God gave him, he spent about 20 some years altogether. He was not lazy, he worked hard and God blessed him not only with a beautiful wife and we might say two wonderful wives because Leah and her handmaiden and Rachel and her handmaiden gave him 12 boys and one girl. These 12 sons became known as the children of Israel. God changed his name from Jacob to Israel. The Jewish people seem to know how to get sons.

BENEFITS OF THE MINISTRY OF LOVE


“So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her” (Genesis 29:20).

Jacob served seven years to get Rachel but they seem like only a few days to him because of his love for her. That is a wonderful statement that we need to memorize and know of the many benefits that true love brings into our lives.

Love Shortens the Time
Jacobs experience says that love shortens the time, for he served seven years but it seemed like just like a few days because of love. He loved Rachel so much that it seemed only a short time. Seven long years was not short, but it seemed short because he had so much love for Rachel.

Abraham dwelt in tents for 100 years in the land of Palestine and the Bible says he did that because he looked for a city that God was going to create and he was looking for a better heavenly country that God had prepared for him and all his children, an eternal city and not a temporal homeland. Abraham served God 175 years and he did not get one foot of land in Canaan.

The journey from Egypt to the promised land was a long journey that took 40 years. It could have been a short journey, but because of sin, it ended up being 40 years and Joshua was with Moses for 40 years. But I am sure it did not seem like 40 years because Joshua was looking for a land that flowed with milk and honey. He loved God so much and he loved the promise that God made about the promised land. Love will definitely shorten the time.

Love Makes the Load Light
When you are serving because you love somebody, love makes the load light. Why is it that people will not leave the bedside of a mother or father, a companion or somebody that is critically ill? You know you are going to become tired and weary while caring for those with terminal illnesses. But why do people not give up and continue to serve? It is because we love those people and abiding love makes the load light.

Some of us have preached for 60 years and we have covered a lot of ground. I look back and ask, how did I carry that responsibility for so long? It is because I love what I am doing. I love God and I love the church and I love you people. If we love God and one another, then the time will be short and the load will not be so heavy. When we love God and one another it applies to marriage and family, but also to the church as a family.

Love Paves the Road We Travel
When we serve God and one another with love, then love paves the road we travel. The road we travel as all of you know is not paved with roses, nor with concrete. As an example, Paul went on his first evangelistic journey and it took about three years. Paul was stoned, yet the stones were not so hard to Paul because he loved God. Paul and Silas were in the Philippian jail, they had been beaten with many stripes and their hands and their feet were fastened in the stocks, but they loved God and at midnight they started singing psalms and hymns and they prayed to God. Paul was on a ship to Rome with a lot of other passengers and a hurricane blew up and they thought they were all going to perish. They started throwing things off of the ship to lighten the ship and finally they had a ship wreck at Malta. You know, Paul said, be of good cheer for I believe in God and not a single passenger lost their life. They landed on that island and they were treated well by the native people and they even started a fire for the people to warm up that were on that ship. Even death to Paul was an entrance to a better world. James says, “Count it all joy, my brethren, when you fall into manifold temptations” (James 1:2).

Love Helps to Bear the Burdens
Love helps to bear the burdens and we all have some burdens we must bear! John said, “And He, bearing His cross, went out to a place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha” (John 19:17). Jesus had to bear his own cross. Why? He carried his own cross because he loved us so much. And he loved us so much that He was crucified and shed his precious blood. Jesus did not have to bear the cross. He could have called for 12 legions of angels, but he did not do that. He bore the cross for each one of us. And the Bible says that we are to bear our own cross. And we know that the way of the cross leads home.

LET US ALL MAKE THE LOVE MINISTRY GROW


Because we love the Lord let all of us make the love ministry grow in our family relationships and our love ministry here at Heartland Church of Christ. We love one another according to the qualities mentioned in that beautiful song of love (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

All family counselors and marriage counselors will agree that the things that I am presenting will work to make your love ministry grow in your marriage, family, and the church.

Communication
The first is communication. If married couples have problems and they stop talking to each other, then they have a big problem that must be solved. And good communication also applies in the church. Paul encourages good communication to the church at Ephesus:

“but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—” (Ephesians 4:15 NKJV).

Paul, how do we make the love ministry grow in the church—we speak the truth in love. You can speak the truth, but if you do not speak in love it will not work. And the same thing is true with husband and wife. It is a skill that a lot of people are lacking. In any loving relationship when we talk to one another we must realize that we are all flawed. We all make mistakes because we are weak sinners. And good listeners are as hard-to-find as good speakers. When other people sense that you are not listening any longer, they will stop communicating. A loving relationship will be enhanced when each party makes suggestions to one another how they can deal with the situation.

Affection
We all can make the love ministry grow when we show affection to one another. Paul taught the Romans to show affection to one another: “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10). In the church we should be affectionate to one another and I think we do a good job here at Heartland. If you grew up in a family where your parents did not show you much affection to each other and to you, it will be very uncomfortable for you to show affection. But you can overcome that difficulty. Most marriage counselor will say a wife and husband should hug each other four times a day. And hugging can lift depression. It can breathe life into tired body. It can make you feel younger and vibrant. And in both the Old and New Testament God’s people are often said to embrace each other. We do a pretty good job here but were not recommending that until the Covid plague is over! But church worship is probably one of the safest places we can be present.

Forgiveness
Another way that we can make the love ministry grow in our family and in the church is by forgiveness. To the church at Ephesus Paul wrote,

“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).

God forgave us through the sacrifice of Christ and we must learn to forgive one another because we all fall short. We all have flaws. We all make mistakes, we all commit sin and we have to make allowance for that and learn to forgive one another and not just hold it in until it explodes.

Honesty
We have to learn to be honest with ourselves and others. Solomon in a very brief proverb graphically described how good it is to be honest:

Like a kiss on the lips is the one who gives an honest answer (Proverbs 24:26 NET).

One of the members in this congregation that I have observed always gives an honest answer and it seems to work very well with her relationships. We can all learn to be more honest in our relationships with one another. All of these principles will work to make our love ministry grow spiritually.

And now I remind all of us of God’s love ministry. God commended his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8-9). Jesus was asked one time what the greatest commandment is:

Jesus answered, “Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31 NASB).

And Jesus said in John 14:15-16, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

And before Jesus left earth, he charged his disciples to, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. 16 The one who has believed and has been baptized will be saved; but the one who has not believed will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16 NASB).

Jesus would not ask us to do something that he would not do himself. Jesus did not need to be baptized because he had no sins to be forgiven. Jesus came to John the Baptist and John was figuratively the Elijah who was to come into the world. John said why are you coming to me. I need to be baptized of you:

But Jesus, answering, said to him, “Allow it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he *allowed Him. 16 After He was baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and settling on Him, 17 and behold, a voice from the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:15-17 NASB).

God proclaimed Jesus to be his beloved Son after he was baptized, and God will also claim you as His child after you are baptized for (“in order to” SGF) the forgiveness of your sin.

If you are not a Christian today would be a wonderful time to come forward and confess the sweetest name that ever fell for mortal tongue and be immersed in water for the forgiveness of sin. *

* Copyright © 2021 Shelby G. Floyd, All Rights Reserved. I am indebted to G. K. Wallace, one of my teachers at Freed-Hardeman College for some of these thoughts.

Shelby G. Floyd delivered the essence of this sermon February 14, 2021 at the Heartland Church of Christ, 1693 West Main Street, Greenwood, Indiana 46142.

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