When a person is able to overcome a difficult set of circumstances, how is that person able to do so? The world says that we need to be strong, but how? The world says that we need to have faith, but in what? People have attributed a number of different things and processes as the cause of their endurance of trials. However, the Bible makes it very clear where one's strength lies and where one's faith should be focused.
Genesis 32:1-32 documents the testimony of Jacob wrestling with Jesus. The Bible explains that Jacob found himself alone with the Lord, and tried to wrestle against him. This testimony begins by explaining how Jacob ended up alone with the Lord. The Bible explains that as Jacob sought to move his family from Laban, he ventured back towards his home land. However, understanding the dynamics between him and Esau, Jacob had a fair amount of concern. It was true that 20 years had elapsed since Jacob deceived his father and took Esau's blessing. Nevertheless, Jacob was concerned that Esau was holding his grudge and was still seeking to kill him. Therefore, Jacob made efforts to appease Esau.
The Bible explains that Jacob split up his camp. He had one part of his camp go one way, and another part of his camp go another way. Jacob's thinking was that, if Esau captured and killed one part of the camp, the other would be able to escape. The Bible also explains that Jacob really tried hard to earn the favor of his brother. Scripture states that Jacob arranged several caravans containing gifts for Esau to approach Esau. Jacob's thinking was that, as Esau saw these successive groups bringing him various gifts and offerings, by the time Jacob arrived, Esau would not be angry anymore. Essentially, Jacob was expressing a great deal of paranoia. After hearing from one of his servants that Esau was seeking to meet up with Jacob and was bringing 400 men with him, Jacob's mind began to think of the worse possible scenarios and feared for the life of his family, servants and his own. Thus, at the end of all of Jacob's plotting and scheming to earn his brother's favor, he took his family and sent them on their own to a hiding place the night before he planned to meet Esau.
Genesis 32:1-32 explains that the night before Jacob and Esau met up, that Jacob was by himself. He had sent companies of servants bearing expensive gifts to meet his brother ahead of him. Jacob had sent his family to a hiding place until morning. Thus, scriptures explains that Jacob was left alone. It is at this time that the Bible explains that "a Man" wrestled with Jacob until the breaking of day. Considering the time reference that is previously given, the time that Jacob spent wrestling this "Man" could have been a couple of hours. Jacob wrestled this "Man" for hours without success, but also would not give up. The Bible explains that when this "Man" realized that Jacob would not give in, the "Man" touched Jacob's hip socket and dislocated his hip joint.
At that point, the "Man" spoke to Jacob and pleaded with Jacob to stop. Jacob was clearly not going to win the match. The match had gone on for hours. Jacob's hip was now dislocated. Yet Jacob kept persisting against this "Man" who was seemingly indestructible. This "Man" didn't get tired. This "Man" couldn't be beaten. This "Man" demonstrated that He could end the fight at any time He desired, yet was being merciful to Jacob to keep allowing Jacob chances to just submit. Hence, the "Man" asked Jacob to just give up. Jacob agreed that he would give up and surrender if the "Man" were to bless Jacob. It is interesting that Jacob wrestled with this man, yet discovered that this man was in a position of authority to provide a blessing. Why would Jacob wrestle with this "Man" that is in a position of authority, then seek a blessing from Him? Typically a person will try to earn the favor of a person they want a blessing from by being nice, not by opposing them. Nonetheless, Jacob requested his blessing.
It is at this point in scripture where the Man uniquely identifies Himself as being the Lord. The Man revealed Himself to be an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ. As Jacob requested his blessing, the "Man" assumed the position of authority to change Jacob's name. Jacob asked for a blessing, and he received a blessing through a name change. The "Man" changed Jacob's name to "Israel," which means, "God Prevails." The "Man" stated that Jacob had prevailed against men, referring to the old quarrels with Esau, and the more recent quarrels with Laban. The "Man" stated that Jacob had also struggled against God and had prevailed as well, referring to the wrestling match that had just taken place. Hence, as Jacob was wrestling with this "Man," this human figure referred to Himself as God, assumed the authority of God to change Jacob's identity as God did with Abraham, and then chose a name that reflected God's possession of Jacob as with Abraham.
The scriptures explained that Jacob had an issue with the Lord. Up until Genesis chapter 32 Jacob had considered Yahweh to be the God of his father and grandfather. Jacob never considered Yahweh to be his own God. Though Jacob was the heir of God's promises, Jacob went about life on his own, seeking to do his own thing. He acknowledged when God had blessed him, but never sought a personal relationship with God to know Him. God acknowledged this problem and sought to correct it by revealing Himself to Jacob. Knowing that Jacob was the heir to the promises made to Abraham, God changed the identity of Jacob. When the Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel, God was stating to Jacob that He was the reason for Jacob's success. God was telling Jacob that He was the cause of Jacob's ability to endure struggles. It is the Lord who prevails and thus allows His children to do the same. Though Jacob struggled with God, it was by the mercy of God that Jacob was able to prevail. God was the cause of it all and God wanted Jacob to understand that truth.
Genesis 32:1-32 then explains that Jacob suddenly became interested in this Man to know His identity. Jacob wanted a blessing from the man, and received a name change. Upon receiving the name change, Jacob was suddenly intrigued by who this Man was. Yet upon asking the Man His name, the Lord refused. Scriptures states that the Lord questioned why Jacob wanted to know the Lord's name. In other words, Jacob had gone his whole life not caring about who the Lord was, why should the Lord yield to the demands of Jacob now that he's curious? This is not to say that the Lord would reject Jacob, but instead that God reveals Himself to those who genuinely seek to know Him. At this moment in scripture, Jacob realized that he had seen God! The person who took the form of a man in order to focus Jacob's attention to Yahweh was called God. As Jesus took the form of man in order to focus the world's attention to Yahweh in the New Testament, the Old Testament shows Jesus performing the same purpose!
God's point to Jacob was powerful. It was true that Jacob showed a great deal of resolve and ability to maintain during times of adversity. It is true that Jacob was heavily blessed and received incredible wisdom while having great success. However, when the Lord changed Jacob's name to Israel, the Lord clearly communicated that all of Jacob's ability and success was on account of the Living God. It is God who prevails. Today as one examines the events of the nation of Israel, one cannot help but marvel. The world is seemingly against this tiny nation, and such has been the case for centuries; yet the nation thrives. It is the Lord who prevails! Terrorists fire missiles at Israel and confess that God changes their trajectory. It is the Lord who prevails! Believers all around the world are able to face opposition and stand firm in their faith in Jesus Christ regardless of threat or consequence. It is the Lord who prevails! The Bible explains that after Jacob wrestled with the Lord, he walked around with a limp for the rest of his life. It is true that Jacob was able to wrestle with God for a time, but in the end, it was the Lord who prevailed and Jacob's limp would be a lifetime reminder of that truth.
Those who oppose the Lord will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who oppose Israel will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who oppose God's Gentile children will loose because it is the Lord who prevails. Those who are able to endure and possess great resolve through trying circumstances must never boast in self because it is the Lord who prevails!
A person's lack of understanding of who God is can put a person in some difficult circumstances. The Bible is clear to explain that God is the God Most High and that there is no other. His Word is candid to explain that He alone is in charge of all things, that all things are His, but that He is also kind, gracious, merciful and loving. Though God is almighty, He is also fair, just, and righteous. Nevertheless, there are often circumstances in the Bible that show people forgetting these truths, and such forgetfulness ends up being problematic.
In Genesis 31:35-55 the Bible completes its summary of the events that took place between Jacob and Laban. In the process of doing so, the Bible shows what happens when two people forget who God is, and how difficult things can be as a result. In Genesis 31:35-55 the Bible explains that Jacob responded to Laban's criticisms and other statements. Laban sought to play a guilt trip on Jacob in order to fulfill the desires that stemmed from his jealousy. Genesis 31:35-55 explains that Jacob took great offense to this. As Laban searched the things of Jacob to try and find his household idols that Rachel had hid, Jacob (who didn't know that Rachel had stolen the idols) became extremely frustrated. The Bible explains that Jacob was angry with Laban. He responded at Laban harshly, asking why Laban was treating him with even more disrespect. Jacob reminded Laban of all the disrespect that he had been treated with thus far in their relationship. Jacob reminded Laban that he worked 14 years for the wives that he had when he originally agreed to work 7 years for a wife he didn't get at first. Jacob reminded Laban that he worked 6 years with Laban's flock, tending it so that it grew and multiplied to be a flourishing flock. However, Jacob also stated that in those 20 years, Laban changed Jacob's wages 10 times!
The Bible illustrates that Laban was never really upfront or honest with Jacob. The Bible explains that Laban had always treated Jacob with the motives of selfishness. The Bible explains that Laban simply sought to maximize his own opportunities by taking advantage of Jacob. The Bible explains that Jacob realized that Laban only treated Jacob well because the Lord treated Jacob well. Jacob understood that if God had not shown favor to Laban, that he would have been removed from Laban's house with nothing to show for long before the time documented in Genesis chapter 31. The truth of the matter was that Jacob felt entitled to a certain quality of treatment because of the blessings that Laban had received through Jacob. Yet Jacob admitted that the blessings Laban received from him were ultimately from the Lord.
Laban's response to Jacob's criticism is interesting. Laban does not acknowledge the truth. Laban does not apologize. Instead, Laban states that Jacob's possessions are still his. Laban states that Jacob's family is his own family. Laban states that Jacob's flock is his own flock. The scriptures explain that Laban still considered all the things that God had given him to be his own. Though God was responsible for all the increase that Laban experienced, Laban was still being possessive considering all of those things his own. Though the Lord had clearly blessed Laban through Jacob, Laban still sought to consider all of the blessings from Jacob to be his own. Nevertheless, the scriptures reveal that Laban ultimately conceded and formed a treaty with Jacob.
Genesis 31:35-55 explains that Laban and Jacob finally came to an agreement. They built up a pillar of stones and used it as a landmark. The two men agreed that neither would cross the pillar with bad intentions for the others. The pillar served to be a landmark that would divide Laban and Jacob in order that they would be peaceful with one another. Laban agreed to let Jacob take his wives, his children, and his flocks, and so long as they didn't cross over the landmark, all would remain peaceful. The Bible explains that the pillar served as a witness. The Bible explains that Laban swore by the God of Abraham and Nahor to keep this oath. The Bible explains that Jacob swore by the Fear (God) of his father Isaac.
Though Jacob offered a sacrifice later that day, and Laban departed from Jacob early the next morning, neither man really understood the work of God that had been taking place. It is important to recognize that, though these men swore to each other, they did not consider God to be their own God as the basis of their oath. They each swore upon the God of other men. Laban swore upon the God of Abraham, never considering Yahweh to be his own God even though God had blessed him through Jacob. On the other hand, Jacob swore by the God of his father Isaac, never considering Yahweh to be his own God even though God had blessed him. Both men quarreled with each other over things that God had given. Both men fought over possessions that were ultimately God's. Though each man considered God to be involved in the circumstances of their lives, neither was willing to confess the full extent of God's power and neither man was willing to submit to God's sovereignty. Though the two men made an oath, the oath was based on a flawed relationship with God.
God desires to be personal with His people. God is not a fan of extended relationships through 3rd parties. God sent His Son to die in order that sin would be forgiven, thereby allowing personal connection between God and His people. Jacob had been blessed by God. The reason God did these things was to show that He desired to fulfill the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. God's promises of grace were personal. Yet Jacob did not understand these dynamics and so was disconnected from a God that desired to be connected. To Jacob, God was still his father's God - not his own. Thus, this disconnect prohibited Jacob from realizing the truth. The blessings that Jacob had received were not his own. He was merely a beneficiary and steward of the things that God had ultimately given him. If God is the one that gave, then God is the source of blessing. Yet, since Jacob did nothing to warrant these gifts and blessings, his attitude should have reflected a greater sense of humility and meekness in response to God's work. Since Jacob struggled with understanding these truths, his life became difficult. Jacob felt entitled to certain benefits. Jacob felt God's things to be his own. Hence, God would have to deal with these things in Jacob and Jacob's life circumstances would be more difficult than necessary. This is an important lesson for all to learn!
It is interesting to see the variety of ways that mankind responds to the voice of God. Scripture often shows God speaking to people, but each response is often different. While there are frequent responses that show people submitting to God in fear (and rightly so), there are also examples in scripture of people responding in ways that are a little different. Though the Bible teaches that God is the Most High God, and has sovereignty over all things as the Creator and Possessor of all things, it is interesting to see human beings respond to God in ways that don't align with these truths.
In Genesis 31:22-35 the Bible shows God making progressive efforts to fulfill His promises through Jacob. The Bible explained that Jacob and his family left the area of Haran that Laban owned and sought to go back to the land of Canaan. Genesis 31:22-35 explains that Laban pursued Jacob. When Laban heard that Jacob and his family had left, his bitterness towards Jacob grew and he pursued him to confront him. However, the scriptures reveal that God interceded. The Bible explains that God came to Laban in a dream at night and told Laban not to engage with Jacob. God was clear that Laban should leave Jacob alone and that Laban should not even talk to him. The scriptures are also clear to explain that Laban clearly heard and understood God's communication.
The response of Laban is interesting. The Bible explains that Laban pursued Jacob anyway and that when he finally caught up with Jacob, he threatened him in sorts. Scripture states that when Laban approached Jacob, Laban first questioned why Jacob left without saying anything. Laban spoke about Jacob's wives and children as if they were his own. Though Jacob's wives were the daughters of Laban, scripture was clear to reveal that the selfish nature of Laban caused him to turn his back on his daughters because of the jealousy he had against Jacob. However, after Jacob fled Laban, he was suddenly acting as if he were a victim that was depraved of his family and extended family, even referring to Jacob's children as his own. Laban tried to give Jacob a guilt trip though God had instructed Laban to keep his mouth shut. Laban told Jacob that if Jacob would have just stated he wanted to leave, Laban would have sent Jacob and his family off with celebration and songs of joy. This is untrue since scripture reveals that Laban kept Jacob in his household for 20 years and changed his pay 10 times!
God had told Laban to leave Jacob alone. In response, Laban approach Jacob to give a fake sob story as if he were a victim. Then Laban accused Jacob of being a thief. Before Jacob and his family left Laban's household, the Bible explains that Rachel took some of Laban's household idols for some reason. Laban took notice of this and informed Jacob that his things were missing. Jacob had no idea that Rachel had taken his "gods." Thus, Jacob invited Laban to search the premise to see if he could find his gods. The Bible explains that Laban first searched Leah's things, the maidservants' things, then Rachel's things. Upon coming into Rachel's tent, the Bible states that Rachel hid the gods in the pouch of a saddle and then sat on it. When Laban came in to search her tent, she lied and said she could not get up from the saddle because "the manner of a woman was with her." Laban left infuriated.
It is ironic to examine the response of Laban in this testimony. The Living God spoke to Laban and sternly warned Laban to leave Jacob alone. Laban heard and acknowledged the voice of God, and even told Jacob that God said to leave him alone. However, Laban continued to do the things he wanted to do and refused to obey the command of the Living God. Instead, Laban searched and tore Jacob's possessions apart looking for some little idols that served to be his gods. Laban stressed over some gods that could be hid in the pocket of a saddle and was angry when he could not find them, yet would not obey the voice of the Living God that he both heard and acknowledged. This simply doesn't make sense! It is amazing to think that one would disobey the voice of the Living God, but then seek after a silly idol that can not speak, respond, and can be taken, hidden, and destroyed by anyone at any time. What kind of a god is that? There is a great lesson to be learned in this testimony. The silliness of Laban's response to God - Yahweh - should cause one to examine the things that one puts trust in, and the things one pursues. If one's pursuits in life and one's "gods" can be so easily misplaced, lost or destroyed, one must reexamine the amount of value and trust that one puts into such things. There is one Living God and there is no other. Pursue Him!
The Bible is helpful to provide an ample amount of testimonies that describe God having control of and being aware of all circumstances, which allows Him to fulfill all of His promises. There are a lot of people who have made promises, but circumstances have often prevented them from fulfilling them, even though they may have worked really hard to see them fulfilled. People are naturally limited in this way. Though a person may desire to honor their promise, people and/or circumstances can often keep promises from being fulfilled. God does not have this problem!
In Genesis 31:1-21 the Bible explains that Jacob sought to separate from Laban. The testimony begins by explaining that there was an environment of jealousy and resentment from Laban's family. Though Laban began with the choice flock and herds, God was blessing Jacob so that his flocks and herds became more superior in quality and more abundant than Laban's. The Bible explains that Laban's sons took notice and began to get bitter. They began to accuse Jacob of various things and Laban's attitude towards Jacob began to change. Though Laban first appreciated Jacob because he was a beneficiary of Jacob's blessings, Laban began to resent Jacob because Jacob was flourishing more.
The Bible explains that Jacob took notice of the attitude changes amongst Laban's family. Therefore, Jacob met with his wives, Leah and Rachel, and suggested that they leave. Jacob explained that he had a dream, and in that dream, he tended to various types of flocks; yet no matter the types of flocks, they flourished. Jacob first tended to spotted sheep and all the sheep became quality spotted sheep. Then Jacob tended to streaked sheep, and all the sheep became quality streaked sheep. The dream that Jacob had made Jacob aware that God was doing the multiplying and that no matter what, this was what God was going to do. Though Jacob was employing certain techniques to tend to his flocks and herds, Jacob recognized that God was ultimately responsible for the increase, and that was not going to change. In other words, Jacob recognized that God was working to fulfill His promises, and there was nothing Jacob could do about it. Hence the jealousy between Laban and Jacob wasn't going to go away.
Jacob suggested to his wives that they move. In order to get away from the jealousy and resentment of Laban, Jacob suggested to Leah and Rachel that they should move to another land - the land that Jacob was born in that God had originally promised to Abraham. Leah and Rachel acknowledged the circumstances. They realized they were not going to receive any inheritance from their father. They realized that Jacob had become more wealthy than their father. They realized that Laban was treating his own daughters like outsiders. They realized that there was nothing in their homeland that they were attached to, so they had no reason to object to moving into Canaan with Jacob. Thus, as God commanded Jacob to go back to Canaan in his dream, Jacob made the efforts to do so in obedience.
If one examines the circumstances of Jacob in Genesis 331:1-021 and compares them to the promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and later Jacob, the situation becomes clear. The reason that Jacob experienced his trials was because God wanted to take Jacob back into the land that He promised. God promised that He would make Abraham's family into a great nation. Hence, God used the deception of Laban to give Leah to Jacob, and the love of Jacob to wait for Rachel, and the contention of Leah and Rachel to produce 11 boys that would become "the children of Israel." Additionally, God used the greed of Laban to multiply Jacob and make him into a great nation. Since Laban wanted to keep Jacob around because of the way that God blessed him, God used Laban's resources to multiply Jacob's wealth. God promised that he would give Abraham's family the land inheritance of Canaan. Hence, God used the spite and jealousy of Laban as a reason for Jacob to leave Haran and go back to Canaan.
How does one fulfill eternal promises? If circumstances are always changing, it forces one to continually be on top of the circumstances to ensure they line up in favor of the promises; otherwise the circumstances prevent the promises from being fulfilled. How can one manage this kind of attention to detail eternally? Mankind is unable to do so. Yet the scriptures clearly show that God is able. His eternal nature allows Him to exist long enough to make eternal promises. His omniscience allows Him to know all things so that He can work in the midst of changing circumstances and have the wisdom to correct the course that leads to the fulfillment of His promises. His omnipotence allows Him to have control over circumstances so that He can intercede in various events through dreams and visions if necessary (as with Jacob) to move people from place to place according to His promises. His mercy allows mankind to live long enough to receive the benefits of His promises in spite of circumstances that should disqualify one as a beneficiary. His faithfulness keeps Him focused on the fulfillment of His promises so that He is not distracted or uninspired to stray from the fulfillment of His promises. These attributes make God incredibly unique and awesome! Thus, when God makes a promise, rest assured that it will be fulfilled, one way or another, no matter what the circumstances look like!
When a person walks with the Lord over an extended period of time, it is not uncommon to find them doing things they never knew they could do! The Lord is gracious to save, but He is also gracious to provide wisdom and abilities of various kinds in order to equip His people to do incredible things for His will and His glory. There are often times in ministry where a person who has no training or worldly equipping of any kind, yet is able to perform in ways that have people impressed and revering about the quality of work put out. This is the work of God through His Spirit that flows through people, and God has been doing this sort of thing for a long time.
In Genesis 30:25-43 the Bible provides an example of God providing a certain level of wisdom and ability that has many people scratching their heads. The testimony explains that, because Jacob's family had grown so big (11 boys and 1 girl), Jacob asked his uncle Laban if he could take his wives (Laban's daughters), the rest of his family, and his possessions and leave to find more space. Laban was reluctant to let Jacob go. The scriptures reveal that Laban understood the dynamics of his life and how they had changed since Jacob came into town. The Bible shows that Laban confessed that the Lord showed his household favor on account of Jacob. Since God had made promises to Jacob and showed Jacob favor, and Laban received Jacob into his home, and God blessed him for it. Laban knew that he was prospering by God's provision because of his relationship with Jacob. This testimony resembled the testimony of Abimelech and Abraham. Abimelech sought to gain the favor of Abraham in order to gain the favor of God. This reality is a witness that God was fulfill His promises. God promised Abraham that those who blessed his family would be blessed, but also that those who cursed his family would be cursed. Laban blessed Jacob by receiving him, and God honored the promise made to Abraham and blessed Laban in return.
However, the blessings of God made things difficult for Laban. The scriptures reveal that he didn't want Jacob to go. Laban figured that if he let Laban go, the blessings he was getting from God would leave with Jacob. Therefore, he sought to arrange a deal with Jacob to get him to stay close by. Laban agreed to pay Jacob any amount of wages that he desired in hopes that Jacob would remain close by and keep Laban in favor with God. Jacob agreed to the deal and the wages were worked out with the flocks of Laban. Jacob reminded Laban that his flocks increased greatly on account of Jacob. Since Jacob had arrived, the Bible explains that Laban's flocks multiplied greatly. Consequently, Jacob thought it was fair to ask for some of the increase he provided as his wages. The Bible explains that Jacob and Laban agreed to split the flocks. Jacob would take the flocks that were speckled, spotted, and brown and give Laban the remainder. In other words, Jacob would take the mixed and undesirable and give Laban the premier of the flocks. The two men agreed on this and the Bible explains that Jacob went his way, three days journey away from Laban.
The remainder of Genesis 30:25-43 is interesting. The Bible shows Jacob performing techniques and practices that were well advanced for the time that he lived. The Bible explains that Jacob was practicing a form of genetic engineering and manipulation to breed better quality of flocks. The Bible explains that Jacob separated the flocks according to the outer appearance of their genetic makeup and used rods of green poplar and rods of almond and chestnut trees to entice the varying flocks to the water troughs at different times to breed them. Jacob was somehow able to discover how to lure each type of sheep to get them to breed with one another as he desired so that the outcome was superior sheep. The Bible explains that Jacob was able to breed the sheep in such a way that he was able to maximize the good genes in his flocks by breeding the favorable sheep of his flock with one another, and used these natural tree rods to do so.
While this might not seem like a testimony of spectacular measure, one must consider the background of Jacob. The Bible explains that Jacob was not the outdoors man that Esau was. He was not a hunter, but instead he worked in the house with his mother. There is nothing in scripture that suggests Jacob had been trained to deal with large flocks such as described in Genesis 30:25-43. There is nothing that shows Jacob being trained by shepherds. There is nothing written in scripture to suggest that Jacob should have any of the wisdom that he had that resulted in the growth of his sheep that ended up being better quality of sheep than the ones Laban had (which were the better ones in the beginning). Since Laban attributed his own favor to the Lord on behalf of Jacob, one must also attribute Jacob's blessing and wisdom to the Lord. The Lord provided Jacob the wisdom he needed to prosper simply because God promised that Jacob would be a great nation. God promised to multiply Jacob and so He provided the wisdom Jacob needed to be multiplied!
The Bible is filled with testimonies such as these. The scriptures repeatedly show that God is able and willing to provide wisdom and abilities of various kinds that exceed the natural capabilities of that particular person. The Bible often reveals that God prefers to work with the unqualified and equip the unequipped so that upon completion of His work, He would be glorified as outsiders see the work of God done through one that is unable. This is an encouraging truth. It is encouraging to see that God is not looking to bless and multiply those who are well trained, equipped, qualified, and able based on worldly standards. Instead, God is looking for the weak, disqualified, and unable in order that He would supernaturally work through them to show that all ability comes from God. God is often found using those who lack training and insight to perform His work so that those around would marvel at how God's people get things done. The only qualification that God desires is that one walk with Him and submit one's self to His use. Jacob was able to perform some pretty amazing feats of wisdom by taking a weak and genetically flawed flock and making it a superior flock through various techniques he previously had no understanding of. Only the power and wisdom of the Living God is able to cause these types of things. Praise God that He is willing to work in these ways!
God's sovereignty is a difficult thing to understand from a human perspective. While it is easy to just say that God has supreme authority over all things, when one examines how God exercises that authority, it is difficult to understand why God does things the ways that He does. It is true that God's thoughts are not like human thoughts and His ways are not like human ways, but when one examines the scriptures to see the ways that God accomplished His plans, it is hard to digest the ways that God is able to make something good out of the mess that human beings make.
In Genesis 30:1-24 the scriptures testify of Jacob's family growth. The Lord promised Abraham that he would be the father of a great nation, and the Lord built a major piece of that foundation through Jacob. The Bible explains in Genesis 30:1-24 that Jacob had 11 sons (he would ultimately have 12 in the end). That is a pretty large family. Considering the ways that people used to revere the births of boys during the times of Jacob, it must have been a great honor for Jacob to be the father of 12 boys. However, when one looks at the way Jacob's family was built, one can't help but cringe just a little. The circumstances that defined the making of this family were miserable and ugly; yet this was the family that God promised the Messiah would come from.
When one examines the testimony of Genesis 30:1-24 through the lens of God's promises to Abraham, the testimony of Genesis 30:1-24 becomes difficult to digest. God promised Abraham that His Anointed One, the Messiah, would bless all of the families of the earth through the blood line of Abraham. One would expect that God would choose the family of the Messiah to be spotless and pristine in quality. One would expect God to chose the highest of pedigree amongst the human race to birth the Messiah out of. Yet the scriptures do not describe Jacob's family to resemble this kind of family at all. Genesis 30:1-24 shows a family that is founded on jealousy, bitterness, competitiveness, sexual immorality, and strife. Nevertheless, God would use this family to accomplish His work.
The Bible explains that after Leah had her first 4 boys that Rachel began to get depressed and jealous. The scriptures explain that Rachel went complaining to Jacob, wondering why she couldn't bear children. Jacob, in his infinite compassion (sarcasm) simply told his wife that he was not God, and that her barrenness was her problem. In order to try to satisfy her craving to outdo her sister, Rachel instructed her husband (whom she as already sharing with Leah) to sleep with her maidservant Bilhah. The scriptures do not show that Jacob objected in the slightest, and so Jacob had 3 more sons through Bilhah. Upon seeing that Rachel's side of the family was growing, the competition between wives became more fierce. Leah was jealous of Rachel once again, but because she could not bear children for a time, she also had her husband, whom was regularly sleeping with 3 different women, sleep with her maidservant Zilpah, and she bore a son as well.
The scriptures go on to explain that over time, the competition between Rachel and Leah go so intense that they began negotiating deals on who would sleep with Jacob on a particular day. Genesis 30:1-24 explains that one day, Rachel negotiated a deal with Leah allowing Leah to sleep with Jacob for a time. Leah stated that Rachel had "hired" him by trading for mandrakes. This was the basis of this marriage. Thus, Leah conceived two more times and gave Jacob two more sons. This of course made Rachel jealous again, but she was finally able to bear a son of her own in the end.
The scriptures show that in the end, jealousy had led Leah to give Jacob 6 of her own sons: Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The Bible shows that Leah's servant also bore Jacob one son named Asher. On the other side of the family, the Bible explains that Rachel's servant was able to give Jacob three sons: Dan, Naphtali, and Gad. Rachel eventually gave Jacob a son of her own and named him Joseph (Benjamin would be born years later and Rachel would die in child birth). At this point in scripture, Jacob has 11 sons, but if one considers the righteous standards of God, this family was hardly formed in a way that God would have been proud of. God commanded for one man and one woman to be joined together as one. Jacob had 4 wives and children with all 4. When Abraham and Sarah did the same thing with Hagar, God was hardly pleased with their conduct then, so there is little reason to think that God is pleased with Jacob's conduct in Genesis 30. The Bible explains that God is not pleased with jealousy, selfish ambitions, contentions, rivalry, and spite. However, the attitude that caused Jacob to have 11 sons was all of the things that displease God. To make matters worse, the Bible explains that as each woman gave birth and named her son, both Leah and Rachel attributed the birth of each son to the work of God as if God approved of their behavior. They were sorely mistaken and showed they had little understanding of who God was.
As one examines these truths, one must ask the question: Why did God chose such a messed up family if He knew the Messiah would eventually come from this bloodline. The conduct of Jacob's family is not really something that someone would be proud of if one is seeking to walk with God and be blameless as He instructs. What does this mean? This means that none are righteous, no not one. This means that God could have picked any family and there would have been drama equally as ugly. This means that no matter which family God would have selected to do His work, He would have to demonstrate power beyond human capacity to make something good of something that is clearly so messed up. The truth is that God made eternally unconditional promises to Abraham. God was not dependent on Abraham to fulfill His promises no more than He was dependent on Isaac, Jacob, Leah, or Rachel. God was going to do what God was going to do, no matter the extent of family issues. This is the extent of God's grace and sovereignty. Though this family was as messed up and filled with its fair share of drama, God would make something good come out of it. Though Jacob's family was clearly imperfect, God's power and sovereignty was such that He could manifest perfection out of it nonetheless. Part of God's amazing being is that He is not only Creator, but also Restorer. God is able to turn the mess of mankind into something as beautiful as the Son of God who died for the sins of the world. This is who God is.
The problems of mankind don't affect His ability or willingness to do good in the lives of His children because He is faithful to His promises. So while the condition of Jacob's family is far from praiseworthy, and far from qualified to bear the seed of Messiah, the scriptures show that God is not looking to use the "qualified" or "good" since there are none. Rather, God is looking to work within the mess of human life and restore it to a condition that resembles His own beauty and glory in order that He would be glorified. Praise God!
The Lord will do some incredible things to get the attention of His people in order to receive the praise He deserves and is worthy of. The Bible explains that God is almighty and sovereign. The Bible explains that God knows all things. The Bible also explains that God is patient and gracious. Thus, the Bible shows God exercising all of these characteristics to involve Himself in the lives of His people in order to reveal Himself to His people and bless them by these revelations.
In Genesis 29:31-35 the Bible explains that the marriage between Jacob and Leah was not going so well. Being that Jacob loved Rachel and had no intents on marrying Leah, the Bible explains that Leah felt unloved as Jacob's wife. Leah's father had deceived Jacob so that the marriage between Jacob and Leah was not something that either person truly sought. Jacob was willing to work 14 years to marry his true love Rachel. The truth about Jacob's affection for Leah was a pretty well-understood matter. Leah was a second thought. Leah was a wife unloved. Leah was lonely and miserable in her condition. However, the Bible explains that God took note of this truth and began to work within the life of Leah.
Genesis 29:31-35 explains that when God began to respond to Leah's feelings, that God opened up her womb - 4 times! Leah had four sons. The first son she named Reuben. The second son she named Simeon. The third son she named Levi. The fourth son she named Judah. In the ancient Hebrew culture, Leah would have been considered extremely blessed for giving Jacob 4 boys. The people of her time would have acknowledged that God was showing her considerable favor. In fact, Leah even acknowledged that she was receiving favor, but her focus was misdirected. Leah's aspirations were to please her husband more than God, and God was using the circumstances of her marriage to redirect her focus.
Leah wanted to have children in order to earn the favor of her husband. Leah's reasoning was that, if she could provide boys to her husband, her husband would find her more favorable than Rachel, who the Bible explains was barren for a time. Leah's desire to earn the favor of her husband began to cause her to be competitive against her sister. The competition she was seeking to instigate was for the favor of Jacob. The Bible explains that Leah had specific purpose when she named Reuben. Leah picked the name Reuben because it means "has seen my affliction" in the Hebrew language. Leah was acknowledging that God had seen her affliction regarding her marriage relationship. However, her second son was named Simeon, which means "has heard," referring to her continued requests for children to please her husband. Leah also attributed the birth of her second son as coming from the Lord, but the naming of her second son shows that the birth of her first son did not satisfy. Leah was still dealing with affliction even though she had her first son. Leah was discontent with her relationship with her husband, and so became more competitive.
The scriptures show that Leah's desire to please her husband was problematic. Though it is good that a woman should desire to please her husband, one should not hold one's husband in higher regard than the Lord. Leah was desiring the approval of her husband more than the approval of God. This point is proven true as the scriptures explain that she named her third son Levi, which means "attached to." Leah's hope was that the birth of her third son would cause Jacob to be attached to her. Though the Lord had blessed her with three boys, she stopped acknowledging God for her blessings, and hoped to be attached to her husband rather than the God who was providing children. Nevertheless, the Bible shows that Leah's focus was properly redirected upon the birth of her fourth son Judah, which means, "praise."
Genesis 29:30-35 explains that God saw the affliction of Leah. Leah wanted to be genuinely loved by her husband. There is nothing wrong with that desire. Leah wanted to please her husband and gain his approval. There is nothing wrong with that desire. However, the scriptures explain that as the Lord sought to deal with Leah's affliction, a greater issue began to surface. Leah sought to receive the affection and approval of Jacob more than the God who was giving her children. Leah had good desires, but in the wrong positions of priority. It should be one's priority to earn the favor and approval of the Lord who provides, not people. It is almost impossible to earn the favor of people many times. The saying goes, "You can't please everyone." The testimony of Leah's marriage proved that to be true. Thus, God desired to work within the life of Leah to show that He's worthy of greater affection, focus, and praise.
Since God is almighty, sovereign, all-knowing, patient, and glorious amongst many other things, He desires that His children praise and worship Him - and rightfully so. God loads His children with benefits daily. He is worthy of praise daily. God died to save His children who deserved death. He is worthy of praise daily. God freely gives life to those who desire it. He is worthy of praise daily. God, knowing these things, used the circumstances of Leah's life to teach her this truth. Upon giving birth to her fourth son, she finally realized that God was greater than her husband. Leah finally realized that the affection she sought to receive from her husband, she was actually receiving from the Living God who created all things! Leah's response to God's provision of her fourth child was praise. Leah named her child "Praise" by naming him Judah. She finally praised God for the work He was doing over the years. She finally acknowledged that the God of the universe was showing her favor while her husband would not. She finally acknowledged that the favor of God was better than the favor of man and praised God for that. Praise God that He is willing to do the things that scripture reveals in order to teach us these incredibly important lessons about who He is!
There is no sin that does not come without its consequence. Though the consequence may not come immediately, the Bible teaches that sin's consequence will manifest in God's time. There are many who think that they can do certain things in sin against a holy, righteous and just God, and that because there is no immediate backlash, they have gotten away with it. Yet the Bible is stern in revealing that God will not be mocked. All who sin will pay some consequence for sin. This does not necessarily mean that all who sin will burn in hell since those who believe in the identity and work of Jesus are justified from sin. This does mean that saved, or not, there are affects of sin that all who sin must deal with.
A great example of this reality is found in Genesis 29:13-30. In this portion of scripture the Bible explains the testimony of Jacob as he stayed with Laban in order to flee the wrath of his brother Esau who was seeking to kill Jacob. The Bible explains that after Jacob had stayed with Laban for a month and helped Laban work the land, Laban approached Jacob and tried to make things fair by offering Jacob wages for his work. Since Jacob was in love with Laban's daughter Rachel, Jacob asked it he could work for the duration of 7 years and then have permission to marry Rachel. Though Laban had two daughters, the younger of which being Rachel, Laban agreed to the terms that Jacob presented. Though the custom was that a father gives away his older daughter first, Laban agreed with Jacob that he could marry Rachel after his seven years of work.
Genesis 29:13-30 explains that Jacob took joy in his work and looked forward to the day he could marry his bride. The Bible explains that Jacob was so excited with the idea of taking Rachel as his wife that the seven years he worked seemed only like a few days to him. Jacob's love and affection was so great for Rachel that the time he spent working towards her was a joy and went by really quickly. In this part of the testimony there is a beautiful picture of the Lord's affection for His bride. Bible prophecy and timelines strongly suggest that the Lord's timetable is working in patterns of 7. As the Lord commanded that there be rest on the 7th day, the Bible prophetically suggests that "rest" will come on "the 7th day" for God's people. The Lord commanded that the land have a "sabbath" every 7 years. The Lord commanded that after 14 years, on the fifteenth year should be a jubilee in which all things are made new and equal, giving everyone a clean slate for that year. These things line up with the literal timeline of the Bible, which shows the age of the world approaching the 7,000th year, which in God's prophetic timeline, resembles a sabbath. Many Bible teachers state that this is a clue regarding the timing of the return of Christ. Since Jesus is pictured as the bridegroom and the church is described as His bride, the testimony of Jacob and Rachel can be viewed as a type of picture of Jesus' affection for His church. As Jacob willingly and patiently worked and waited to be joined to his bride that he loved so dearly, one can see a "type" of strong affectionate love that Jesus has for His church as He willingly and patiently works until the day He's joined to His bride on the "7th" year.
However, the story of Jacob and Rachel does not end happily ever after on the 7th years as one might suspect. Jacob's deceptive habits fittingly caught up to him. The reason that Jacob was in Haran with Laban was because Jacob was fleeing the wrath of his brother Esau. Jacob deceived his father Isaac by making him think he was Esau in order to steal Esau's blessing. While God did not directly respond to Jacob's deception, knowing that He wanted Jacob to have the blessing anyway, that did not excuse Jacob from the consequence of his sin. Thus, Genesis 29:13-30 shows Jacob paying for his sin 7 years later in the same manner that he sinned. In other words - what goes around, comes around.
Genesis 29:13-30 explains that when Jacob's 7 years of labor came up, he approached Laban and asked to marry Rachel as they had agreed upon. Laban agreed and they threw a wedding party. However, as Jacob was in his tent preparing to "consecrate" his marriage with his new wife Rachel, Laban deceived Jacob by sending his older daughter Leah instead. The Bible explains that in the darkness, Jacob slept with Leah instead of Rachel, and when he realized such the next morning, he was distraught. He immediately went to Laban and asked for the meaning of his deception. Laban explained the custom to give away the older daughter first. However, rather than explain these things to Jacob upfront, Laban deceived Jacob, thereby allowing Jacob to get a taste of his own deceptive medicine, finding it to be bitter indeed.
Jacob's sin had caught up with him. It took 7 years for consequence to reveal itself, but the consequence of Jacob's deception appeared nonetheless. Thus, Jacob was forced to work another 7 years for Laban in order to receive the wife he wanted to begin with. Though Jacob was willing to work the other 7 years, the consequence of Jacob's sin caused grief amongst his family. Jacob was married to Leah, a woman that was second to Rachel in the mind of Jacob. Leah was forced to deal with this reality. Rachel wanted to be with Jacob and Jacob wanted to be with Rachel, but both were forced to wait 14 years because of the consequence of Jacob's deception. While God was faithful to fulfill His promises according to His will, He was also just and righteous to allow the affects of Jacob's deception to bear its ugly fruit. This is a tough reality about sin. Just because one doesn't seem to see the consequence for one's sin arise immediately doesn't mean the consequence of one's sin won't manifest at a time that one least expects as it did for Jacob. God is loving, gracious and merciful, but He is also fair and righteous. Though Jacob believe in God and followed God and was saved by God did not make him exempt from sin's consequences. This is why God speaks so passionately about fleeing from sin. He wants to protect His children from situations like Jacob, Leah, and Rachel.
The Bible teaches that the Lord provides. In fact, one of the names of God that defines His unique attributes deals with His identity as provider. While the emphasis of God's provision is on eternal life, it is important to recognize that God will often work in extraordinary ways to provide for His people in order to prove His ability to provide salvation. God is often found working through amazing circumstances, clearly demonstrating His sovereignty in order to provide throughout all of the scriptures.
In Genesis 29:1-12 the Bible describes the testimony of Jacob meeting his wife Rachel. The Bible explains that after Jacob had his vision of the stairway connecting heaven to earth as a picture of Messiah, he continued to Haran with fresh excitement and zeal. Genesis 29:1-12 states that as Jacob approached Haran, he saw a well in the midst of a field and three flocks of sheep in the area. The Bible explains that as he explored who was at the well, he was able to talk to the men tending the sheep, and they explained that they knew Laban - Rebekah's brother. Of all the places that Jacob could have ended up, the Bible explains that the very first place Jacob connected with people was the place he was trying to go. The shepherds explained to Jacob that he was in Haran, and that they knew the man Jacob was seeking. God had led Jacob to the exact place Jacob needed to be.
As the testimony continues, the Bible explains that God went above and beyond what Jacob had imagined. While Jacob was helping the shepherds at the well, the scriptures explain that the shepherds pointed out to Jacob that Laban's daughter was approaching. Her name was Rachel. When Jacob saw Rachel, he immediately went to assist her by removing the stone cap on the well that she sought to use, and then helped her water her flock. When one reads the accounts of Genesis 29:1-12, it is amazing to see how similar they are to the account of Abraham's servant in Genesis chapter 24. In Genesis chapter 24 Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac, and his Rebekah was discovered in a very similar way, which reveals that God works in patters while providing according to His promises.
The scriptures are pretty clear in Genesis 29:1-12. When Jacob saw Rachel, and Rachel saw Jacob, it was really a "love at first sight" situation. The scriptures show that Jacob was incredibly excited to learn that Rachel was the daughter of Laban and his actions suggest that he desired her as a wife to honor the command of his father. Not only was Jacob able to lift the well cap on his own (this usually required a few people to lift this great stone), but the Bible also explains that when Jacob saw Rachel, after helping her with her flock, he kissed her and wept loudly. It is difficult to understand why Jacob wept. The word that is used to describe Jacob's weeping is normally associated with sorrow. Though Jacob had met his future wife, he begins to cry. It is possible that his tears were tears of joy as he realized the work God had done for him. However, the original language does present some difficulty. Either way, one thing is certain - Jacob is emotionally overwhelmed!
The scriptures are clear. God provides just as He promises. The Lord exercised His sovereignty to ensure that Jacob was in the right place at the right time so that His will for Jacob would be done. Though the marriage of Jacob and Rachel would come with great difficulty, God had exercised His power and authority to ensure the marriage that Isaac desired and that God desired. The scriptures reveal that the fingerprint of God is all over the formation of this relationship that would eventually result in marriage. Thus, as the circumstances may seem improbable, the results that God delivers cannot be denied. Though the chances of Jacob and Rachel meeting in such a way might seem to be simple coincidence, Jacob's response to the circumstances suggest that he was well aware of God's involvement in this meeting. Hence, if God can demonstrate His sovereignty and supreme control over all things to orchestrate these types of meetings, He certainly proves Himself qualified to provide according to all of His other promises found in the Bible - especially eternal life!
In the Gospel of John, the Bible explains that Jesus approached a man named Nathaniel. The Bible refers to Nathaniel as a "true Jew," which means he was one that was devout and focused on the Lord. When Nathaniel first heard about Jesus, he made the remark, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" However, when Jesus actually approached Nathaniel, there was an entirely different reaction. Nathaniel was skeptical about Jesus upon first meeting Him, but after Jesus referred to Nathaniel's private activity (likely of worship), Nathaniel changed his tone and worshiped Jesus confessing Him as Messiah. Jesus' response to Nathaniel's change of heart was along the lines of, "You haven't seen anything yet!" Jesus then told Nathaniel that, if he was impressed with Jesus' knowledge of private things, he would be even more impressed seeing heaven open up and angels of God ascend and descend upon the Son of Man!
When Jesus spoke about heaven opening up and angels going up and down upon the Son of Man, He was referring to a specific portion of scripture found in Genesis 28:10-22. In Genesis 28:10-22 the Bible explains the events that took place when Jacob went to Haran to avoid the wrath of his jealous brother Esau. While Jacob was on his way to Haran, he stopped to rest at a place called Luz. While he was sleeping, the scriptures explain that Jacob had a vision. His vision was the exact same image that Jesus described to Nathaniel. Genesis 28:10-22 explains that Jacob saw s stairway that went from the ground to the top of heaven, and that God's angels were going up and down on this stairway. Consequently, many people have referred to this portion of scripture as the "stairway to heaven" scripture.
The Bible goes on to state that while Jacob was having this vision, the Lord was standing next to him and identified Himself as the God of Abraham and Isaac. Thus, the Lord took this opportunity to confirm the promises that were made to Abraham and Isaac also to Jacob. It was at this time that God confirmed that Jacob was the heir of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. God confirmed that Jacob would inherit the land that he was in, even though he was on his way to a different land. God promised that He would bring Jacob back into Canaan, and that the land would be his indeed. God also confirmed that Jacob would be a great nation and have many descendants that would spread out all over the world. God confirmed that Jacob would bless all of the families of the world, speaking of the Messiah being the descendant of Jacob. God confirmed that, as these promises were unconditional to Jacob's father and grandfather, they were unconditional to him as well. God confirmed that He would not depart from Jacob until these promises were fulfilled - whether Jacob deserved them or not. God continued to confirm His own responsibility to bring about the fulfillment of these eternal promises.
There is one major difference however between the vision of Jacob in Genesis 28:10-22 and the reference of the vision by Jesus in the Gospel of John. The Book of Genesis refers to the method by which the angels went up and down from heaven as a "stairway." The Gospel of John states that the method by which the angels of God went up and down from heaven was the "Son of Man." Though the words are different, the meaning is the same. The Son of Man is the stairway, which means that the Son of Man is the method by which God's angels ascend and descend from heaven. Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and that no one gets to the Father except by Him. Jacob's vision in Genesis 28:10-22 confirms this. Jesus referred to Himself as the stairway since His title as "Son of Man" is Messianic reference to His own nature and purpose. Jacob saw the work of Messiah in his vision!
It is for this reason that Jacob responded in the manner that he did. The scriptures show that as Jacob woke up, he built a landmark with the stone he used as a pillow while he had his vision. He renamed the city from Luz to Bethel. Luz means "almond tree" while Bethel means "house of God." Jacob was so inspired by his vision that he sought to rededicate the purpose of the land to be God's house. Having seen the Lord in his vision, and having seen the work of Messiah as access into heaven, Jacob felt the Lord was in the land and sought to identify the land in such a way. At that time, Jacob dedicated himself to God. He stated that he would trust in God's provision for food and clothing. He stated that God would be his protection, enabling him to return to Canaan safely. Jacob stated that he would wholly trust God, even with his finances as he vowed to give God a tenth of his portion that God provided. Jacob's awareness of God, and opportunity to see the workings of Messiah (even in a vision) caused Jacob to serve the Lord in faith! Jacob's understanding of the role of Messiah and the benefits He brings caused Jacob to serve the Lord in faith! Jacob's understanding of Messiah's ability to facilitate access to heaven and confidence in God's ability to fulfill His eternally unconditional promises caused Jacob to serve the Lord in faith!