Just men reading, memorizing and studying the bible together!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 2 Kings 8–9
Chronological Order: Psalms 43-45, Psalms 49, Psalms 84-85, Psalms 87
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 3–5
New Testament Only: Luke 16:1–17

Daily Verse: 1 Thessalonians 5:16   1 Thessalonians 5. 16

Bible Study

Daddy Daughter Night

Passage: None

Brothers, I will not be making commentary today. I know I promised you commentary on Jacob’s wrestling with God but I have a higher commitment I must honor. You see, every Friday evening I take my daughter out for dinner and desert. We usually have an early dinner and then walk around various stores until our food has settled. We then go have a desert together. I love these Fridays with my daughter and I think she enjoys them too. Usually, after having spent a couple of hours with her old dad, my daughter is ready for some alone time. Today, however, she seemed to desire some more time with me. We are going to watch something together on Netflix. This means that I must give up my time for commentary so I can spend additional time with her.

I hope you’ll forgive me but I only have so much time left with her before she is grown and out of the nest. I’ll resume commentary on Monday. We’ll pick up with Jacob’s wrestling match then.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 2 Kings 5–7
Chronological Order: 1 Chronicles 1-2
Old Testament Only: 1 Samuel 1–2
New Testament Only: Luke 15:8–32

Daily Verse: Genesis 32:10  Genesis 32. 10

Bible Study

Make Amends And Do Things God’s Way

Passage: Genesis 32:1-21

Have you ever wrestled with God? I have on numerous occasions. Those occasions usually occur when I have gone my own way only to find trouble and suffering along that path. The consequences of my bad choices brought me low. It is in that low place where I realized I was stuck in a dead end, unable to go forward or backward. It is in that place where I would turn to God and urgently and passionately call out for His help. The wrestling part was really me wrestling with myself. Would I accept my responsibility for my actions? Would I acknowledge God’s way is the only way? Would I admit I am not God and He is? Would I submit to His lordship? Would I make amends for what I had done?

In today’s chapter we see Jacob in similar straights. He had run away from his uncle only to see Laban catch up to him. God prevented Laban from hurting Jacob. Even so there was such bad blood between them that they agreed to a non-aggression pact. They set up a stone pillar and promised that each would stay on his side of that boundary. Jacob’s relationship with his uncle was ruined and he couldn’t go backward. The only direction he could go from there was forward toward the land of his birth and inheritance. Unfortunately, before him lay another familial relationship in tatters. Jacob had fled to his uncle’s house to begin with to escape his brother Esau who was plotting to murder him for the theft of his father’s blessing. No place to go but forward and there waited one who sought his death.

Jacob had come to the end of his scheming. He had been god of his life, and as is always the case, that life now lay in the gutter. The wheels had come off all his plans and schemes. What is a man to do? As I first read Genesis 32 today I found myself condemning Jacob for once again putting into motion a plan of his own devising rather than seeking God’s guidance. I might be right to condemn him for this. I would think if he had consulted God first the Bible would have told us so. Since the Bible does not tell us that he sought God’s guidance before putting his plan in motion I think this was his plan.

The plan seems to be an attempt to bribe Esau into forgiving him. He sent wave after wave of livestock ahead as a gift for Esau. The messages he told his servants to deliver to Esau were humble, almost apologetic. If in fact this plan was a humble attempt at giving restitution and seeking forgiveness then I’m actually okay with this. You see I have the benefit of further Scripture through which I can understand what God would have me do when I have wronged someone. Now maybe Jacob knew this truth as well. Either way, his plan could actually be consistent with God’s will.

In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells us the following:

Matthew 5:21-25 ESV

[21] “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ [22] But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. [23] So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, [24] leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. [25] Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison.

Jacob received two things from his brother. The first thing he received was something his brother sold to him; the birthright of the first born. Jacob did nothing wrong in the exchange of stew for the birthright. Jacob had stew, Esau was hungry and willingly traded his birthright for the stew. It was a foolish bargain but Jacob didn’t cheat Esau out of it. We sure do like to blame others when we make a shortsighted and ill-advised deal. Unfortunately, the second thing Jacob received from his brother was the blessing Isaac intended to give to Esau. Jacob, at the instigation of his mother, deceived his father into thinking that he was blessing Esau. This was out and out theft. Jacob did grievous wrong to his brother by stealing that blessing. Esau had every right to be angry with Jacob; though murder was not justified.

There is a godly principle shared by Christ in Matthew 5:21-25. That principle is that if you have done your literal or figurative brother wrong, you should make amends quickly before the consequences come fully to bear. If you want to have a right relationship with God, if you want to live a life that brings glory to God, which is really the only good gift we have to offer Him, then, as far as it is within your power, you must make amends to those whom you have injured. You must apologize and seek forgiveness.

If this was Jacob’s plan, if he was attempting to make amends rather than make a bribe, then I think it was a godly plan. You see, it isn’t really about what Jacob did here but rather why he was doing it. God has always been concerned with the condition of His children’s hearts. You can do the right thing for the wrong reason and it will benefit you not at all in a spiritual sense. I really don’t know which of these two motives stand behind Jacob’s strategy. I have my doubts that it was strictly an act of contrition. It is the following verse that makes me think he didn’t have pure motives.

Genesis 32:20 ESV

[20] and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.”

It is interesting that this is the last thought of Jacob we read before he wrestles with God. We’ll look at that wrestling match tomorrow. In the meantime, what can we take from the verses we looked at today? As has been the theme for some time now, when we do things our way things go off track. When we do things God’s way things improve. When we inevitably find ourselves at the end of our rope, we need to return to God and start doing things His way. Accept responsibility for what you’ve done wrong, make amends to those whom you have hurt, and then move forward as God would have you go.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 2 Kings 1–4
Chronological Order: Psalms 6, Psalms 8-10, Psalms 14, Psalms 16, Psalms 19, Psalms 21
Old Testament Only: Ruth 1–4
New Testament Only: Luke 14:25–15:7

Daily Verse: Psalm 78:4   Psalm 78. 4

Bible Study

Lead Your Household

Passage: Genesis 31:25-55

Verses 25 through 55 of Genesis 31 tell the story of Laban catching up to Jacob as he ran for home. I think the text makes it very clear that Laban intended to do Jacob harm. Jacob’s fears were well founded if one did not take God’s promises into consideration. The text also shows that Laban viewed Jacob’s wives and property as his. I have no doubt that had God not intervened to stay Laban’s hand, Jacob would have been out on his ear with nothing.

Verse 24 shows that God told Laban to behave himself. Still, Laban showed up and bragged that he had the power to do Jacob harm. I’m reminded of another biblical character that said something similar to Jesus Christ. His name was Pilot and he asked if Jesus did not realize that he had the power to release Him or crucify Him. Jesus said “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11). Now this is Jesus we are talking about. We cannot equate ourselves with Him completely. We are, however, Children of the Living God, and as such it is true that no one has any power over us but that which God allows. This was true about Jacob as well. God told Laban to leave Jacob alone which meant that Laban did not have the power to do him harm.

Now let’s be careful here brothers not to take the wrong lesson from this. Can others do us Christians harm? You know the answer to that. Others can indeed do us great physical harm; just as they did great physical harm to Christ. Today Christians are being slaughtered in extremely cruel and bloody ways and numbers not seen since the time of Nero. God has not promised to make a multitude of nations out of you or me. He has promised to deliver us to eternal life in His presence. He has also promised that His followers would suffer greatly for His sake; for the sake of the Gospel. The people who do such great harm to Christians today could not do so if God did not allow it. Obviously the question then is why God allows it.

God allows it because persecution of the Church purifies and grows the Church. Those whose hearts were not truly changed, but rather simply masquerade as Christians, will fall away as things get uncomfortable. Others who see how true Christians face persecution will be drawn to that which sustains us in these trials and tribulations. I have got to tell you guys that I have my doubts about this pre-tribulation rapture idea which is so popular these days. Until sometime in the 1800’s the Christian church had no such theory about the end times. It is a thoroughly modern idea. The fact that it is modern doesn’t make it wrong, but the Church has never grown as fast and as deep as when it suffered under persecution. If the whole point of us Christians remaining in this fallen world is to spread the Gospel, and if it is true that the Gospel never spreads faster or deeper than when Christians are persecuted, then I find it hard to believe that God would take away those He left here to do that job before the time was up.

I’ve wandered haven’t I? I want to close out Genesis 31 today so let me touch on one other little point from this chapter. Rachel stole her father’s household idols/gods before departing. Why? When Abraham sent his servant back to his family in Ur to find Isaac a wife, he did so to ensure that Isaac would have a wife that had a relationship with God. If Isaac had taken a wife from the local population, he would likely have been drawn away from the One True God to follow after man-made gods. You see, when there is a godly father, it is likely he will raise godly children. Unfortunately this is not universally true. It seems to have been true of Terah and his sons Abraham, Haran, and Nahor.

Nahor was the father of Bethuel and Bethuel was the father of Rebekah (Jacob’s mother) and Laban (Leah and Rachel’s father). It seems that the faith of Terah was passed down to his sons (Abram, Haran, and Nahor) and subsequently on to their sons. Once we get down to the great grandchild level, however, we see a divergence. While Rebekah seems to have had a relationship with the One True God, that doesn’t appear to be true of her brother Laban. Laban had household gods. When he spoke to Jacob of what God had told him in a dream, Laban referred to Him as “the God of your father”, not “the God of my father” or “my God” or even “God” (Genesis 31:29). At the end of the chapter, as the two men make their non-aggression pact, Laban says to Jacob “The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” Laban called upon the God of Jacob’s grandfather and his own grandfather. He did not call upon God as his own.

So what does this mean to our story? It may explain why Rachel stole her father’s gods. Her father probably did not teach his daughters about the One True God. If he had rejected the One True God for man-made gods, why would he teach his daughters differently? Some of the struggles we’ve seen in this family, and some of the struggles to come, are directly related to minimal, if not downright nonexistent, relationships with God. Rachel stealing those idols provides us some insight into what is going on with her and the impact she may or may not have had on her family. Jacob, as husband and father of his family, and as one who did have a relationship with the One True God, couldn’t lead his family effectively until he grew up enough spiritually to do so, and much of what we have been seeing so far is Jacob’s spiritual immaturity.

Guys, husbands and dads matter. I heard a statistic recently that was somewhat stunning. I wish I could remember the figures exactly and the provenance of those numbers but I do remember the general figures. When churches are able to get children to church through VBS, or bus ministries, or what have you, they have a 7% chance of getting the rest of the family to church. When churches are able to get moms to church, they have a 20-something percent chance of getting the rest of the family to church. When churches are able to get dads to church, however, they have a 90% chance of getting the rest of the family to church. Don’t tell me husbands/dads don’t matter. Men are supposed to be the spiritual heads of their households. When we don’t do our jobs everyone in our family suffers. Brother, grow up spiritually and lead your household.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 22
Chronological Order: 2 Samuel 1-4
Old Testament Only: Judges 21
New Testament Only: Luke 14:1–24

Daily Verse: 2 Chronicles 20:12   2 Chronicles 20. 12

Bible Study

Turn Everything Over To Him

Passage: Genesis 31:17-24

We have finally come to the place where Jacob returns to the land of his father. He should have gone long ago but his desire for a woman, and later for wealth, caused him to linger. God blessed him through this time of bad decisions, but as is the case whenever we live by worldly standards, a time of reckoning was approaching. Jacob was aware of the growing animosity his uncle and cousins had toward him. He realized that he needed to get out of there. He decided to “get away” while Laban was about a three day journey from home. Here is how it went down.

Genesis 31:17-24 ESV

[17] So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels. [18] He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. [19] Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. [20] And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee. [21] He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. [22] When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, [23] he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. [24] But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

Part of me doesn’t want to be too hard on Jacob for sneaking off from his uncle. Laban was a treacherous man who had no intention of letting Jacob leave, let alone leave with all that belonged to him. The Scripture above, in verse 20, says that “Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee”. In other words Jacob did not deal with this situation as a godly man. He continued to lower himself to his uncle’s level by using trickery to obtain his desires and address his troubles. This is man’s way, not God’s way. I believe Jacob should have walked up to Laban and said “It is time for me to go. Tomorrow I will pack up my wives, my children, and my livestock, all of which are my wages as we agreed, and leave. Goodbye.”

Why do you think Jacob didn’t take that course of action? You know, he did try that once before. What happened? Laban appealed to Jacob’s greed. He told Jacob to name his price to stay and work for Laban. That sounds good doesn’t it? What if your boss came in one day and said to you “I have noticed that everything I have put in your care has prospered and made this company a lot of money. I don’t want to lose you so name your price. What will it take to keep you working for me?” That’s pretty flattering isn’t it? It makes you feel valued and a little powerful to boot. Wouldn’t your mind leap at the possibilities? Why you might demand an equal share of the profits or to become a full partner in the venture. You’d be so wrapped up in the possibilities you might forget how dishonest that boss had been in the past.

I think Jacob knew he was susceptible to Laban’s blandishments. I think his main reason for hightailing it while Laban was gone, however, is because he was afraid the relationship had deteriorated to a point that Laban would keep his two wives and eleven children and all the livestock, and kick him out on his ear with nothing. I think he was afraid to lose what he had worked so hard and long to acquire. Of course Jacob was a trickster from way back. Dealing up right and honestly would have been against his former nature. I say former nature because God was slowly, perhaps agonizingly so, growing Jacob spiritually. We have seen some growth on his part in that he at least recognized that the improvement of his share of livestock was due to God’s blessing rather than his own efforts. Still, he has not really learned to trust God yet.

Here he is, 20 some years later, returning home the way he left, sneaking out before a family member does him grievous harm. He knows that God has blessed him but he isn’t sure he can trust God to protect him from Laban. This is why he left as he did. It turns out that he had some reason to fear Laban. As soon as Laban heard about his nephew’s departure he put together a posse and took off after him. He pursued Jacob and his retinue for seven days. This does not read as a desire to bless Jacob and send him off in style. Laban intended to do Jacob harm. It seems to me Jacob knew Laban would be angry which is why he took off in his absence to begin with.

Please take note, however, of verse 24. God knew what was in Laban’s heart and He came to Laban in a dream and told him to mind his P’s and Q’s. That was it. He said don’t say anything good or bad to Jacob. As we will see tomorrow, Laban did question his nephew about his sneaking off, but he didn’t lift a finger against Jacob and he didn’t threaten Jacob nor did he offer some phony “good deal”. God put an end to the problem just like that.

The way Jacob ran off endangered his wives, his children, and all the wealth God had given him. If it weren’t for God, Jacob could well have ended up dead. How much easier would it have been to trust God to begin with? If Jacob had gone to Laban to tell him he was leaving, could God have come to Laban the night before and told him to let Jacob go? Sure. God could have done any number of things to protect Jacob. Jacob should have known by now that God had a plan for him and that He would ensure that things worked out as they should.

Oh brother, I see so much of myself in Jacob. How about you? I so want to be in charge of my life, to make my own decisions, to show that I am smart, capable and in command. You and I are surrounded by a world that operates with worldly wisdom. It is so easy to succumb to the lure of the world; to pursue worldly things in worldly ways. This is a sure fire way to bring trouble and unhappiness into our lives. It also shows how much more spiritual growing we have to do.

Very shortly we will see Jacob wrestle with God. He will have one of those moments where you come face to face with the creator and you finally realize that you really do need to give everything over into His hand. As Christians we already did that when we submitted our lives to Christ. Our problem is we far too often continue to live by the worldly wisdom we just rejected. This means that we too must wrestle with God from time to time. We regularly have to be reminded to do things God’s way rather than our own way.

I have an exceptionally hard head and God has at times had to nudge me pretty hard and repeatedly to get through to me. There are still many things in which He is schooling me. I sure do get tired of flunking some of these exams. Still, I have a solid hope. My spiritual maturity does not rest on my ability. My spiritual maturity is guaranteed by He who has to power to finish in me what He started. My hope is in Christ. He will grow me to the point where I consistently turn everything over to Him, reject the way of the world, and do things His way.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 19–21
Chronological Order: Psalms 121, Psalms 123-125, Psalms 128-130
Old Testament Only: Judges 19–20
New Testament Only: Luke 13:18–35

Daily Verse: Psalm 32:8  Psalm 32. 8

Bible Study

God’s Mercies In Disguise

Passage: Genesis 31:1-16

Finally, in Genesis 31 Jacob understands that he needs to get away from his deceitful and dysfunctional uncle/father-in-law. Jacob stayed in the hopes of out-witting his uncle and there-by gain some wealth. I want to tell you brother, no good can come from doing business with deceitful people. Nothing outrages a deceitful person more than being deceived. Laban and his sons have become fighting made over the fact that no matter what they did to get the better of Jacob they were always on the losing side. In their twisted minds there could only be one way for him to get the better of them and that is if he cheated somehow.

I had a friend tell me once that he had a cousin who went down to the Bahamas where he gambled and won a significant amount of money. He was murdered shortly thereafter. As it was explained to me, the Bahamas was a “military state” with everything controlled by a very select few. The casinos were all allegedly rigged. I don’t know much about gambling. I know it is a fool’s pursuit. I also know that the old adage is unquestionably true; “the house always wins”. It doesn’t seem to me that a casino needs to “rig” the games because the odds are always in their favor. Whether the games were rigged or not, this fellow was allegedly killed because he had won. Since it was assumed you couldn’t win without cheating, the casino operators had him killed for cheating. Don’t cheat a cheater; they don’t like it.

Well take a look at the first 16 verses of this chapter in question.

Genesis 31:1-16 ESV

[1] Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” [2] And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. [3] Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” [4] So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was [5] and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. [6] You know that I have served your father with all my strength, [7] yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me. [8] If he said, ‘The spotted shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. [9] Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. [10] In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. [11] Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ [12] And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. [13] I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’” [14] Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? [15] Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. [16] All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do.”

I think it took Jacob feeling like his life was endanger for him to turn to God and finally hear Him. I don’t think this was the first time God had told Jacob to return home. I think back in chapter 30, when Jacob spoke to Laban about leaving, God had been urging him to return. You need to understand that God did not send Jacob to Ur and He did not tell Jacob to remain in Ur. All of that was the scheming of Jacob and his mother. I truly have no doubt that if Jacob had remained in the Promised Land and done things God’s way, he still would have had the twelve sons and a great deal of wealth. All that Jacob and his mother gained with their scheming was heart ache and trouble.

Look at how messed up this family had become. Jacob’s wives were constantly struggling with each other and with Jacob over any number of things, least of all children. Leah and Rachel became estranged from their father because of his cheating of their husband and his treatment of them. Laban and his sons grew into a murderous rage at Jacob, just as his brother Esau had so many years before. In fact, Jacob would have to flee for his life once again because he tried to deal with the world by worldly wisdom and tactics. Once again he would have a “come to Jesus” moment at a terribly low point in his life.

I know I made this point the other day, but as we see in the Scripture above, it didn’t matter what Laban did and it didn’t matter what Jacob did. God had determined to bless Jacob for His own purposes. When that is the case just give up! If you are going against God you will eventually lose and if you attempting to “assist” God the best you can hope for is that you don’t hurt yourself. Brother, what you want is far less than what God plans to give you. As you mature in Christ you will learn how to do His will and how to value the results. This is what we see happening with Jacob. He is growing closer to the Lord and learning to lean on Him even though he still has a long way to go.

Our walk with Christ toward spiritual maturity is not a steady march; it is a journey best described as proceeding in fits and starts. We tend to make the same mistakes over and over again until the lesson finally gets through our thick heads. Many times we find ourselves stuck on the journey seemingly unable to go further. It is during these times that we feel “abandoned by God”, dried out, and worn out. In my experience, when we find ourselves in that situation, God will continue to allow the consequences of our mistakes to build until the logjam is broken and we find ourselves moving closer to God once again. I don’t know about you but I have learned far more from my failures than from my successes. It is my firm belief that God blesses His children through their mistakes. He does so because it is when we are at our lowest that we are finally willing to listen, follow, trust, and obey. There is a song that moves me quite a bit. I heard it on the radio just the other day and it came to mind as I wrote these words. I’d like to share a few lines from the end of the song and then provide a YouTube video of the song at the bottom of this post. These lines comer from the song “Blessings” by Laura Story.

What if your blessings come through rain drops
What if Your healing comes through tears
What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
What if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are your mercies in disguise

Brother, the trials of this life are God’s mercies in disguise.

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

Reading Plans
Bible Order: 1 Kings 17–18
Chronological Order: Psalms 18, 1 Samuel 28-31
Old Testament Only: Judges 16–18
New Testament Only: Luke 13:1–17

Daily Verse: Ezekiel 34:31   Ezekiel 34. 31

Bible Study

Worldly Tactics

Passage: Genesis 30:37-43

Let’s close out Genesis chapter 30 today shall we? Earlier we saw that Laban wanted Jacob to stay and work for him even though Jacob should have headed home; he should have never made a deal with a man he knew to be a thieving, dishonest, cheat. Jacob thought he could get the better of Laban and so he made what he thought an honest, and perhaps a bit shrewd, deal. He offered to work for the ownership of the lesser animals. The good, healthy, pure breed live stock would be Laban’s and the spotted and speckled lower quality animals would be Jacob’s. Laban agreed to this deal and then immediately stole all of the lower quality animals and took them three days distance to prevent Jacob from finding what were agreed to be his wages.

Laban thought he had outsmarted Jacob. Jacob’s response was to try and outsmart his father-in-law. In the last few verses of Genesis 30 we read of what Jacob did to win this battle of trickery.

Genesis 30:37-43 ESV

[37] Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. [38] He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, [39] the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. [40] And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. [41] Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, [42] but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. [43] Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

I am unaware of any scientific evidence that supports the notion that if one takes sticks of poplar, almond and plane trees, peels white strips from them and then places them in an animal’s drinking water, the animals will give birth to speckled and spotted offspring. This seems to me to be a bit of an old wives tale or superstition. Here we see Jacob attempting to use worldly wisdom, which is so often wrong, to win his battle against his uncle. He is attempting to overcome the world by using worldly tactics. A sister in Christ share a quote with me a few years ago that said “we don’t fight God’s battles with Satan’s tools”. I couldn’t agree more.

Now verse 43 may lead a causal reader of the Bible to think that these worldly tactics were in fact the cause of Jacob growing in wealth and winning over his uncle, but such a reader would be wrong. It is true that slowly the weak animals became Laban’s and the strong animals became Jacob’s but the cause of this had nothing to do with Jacob’s trick with the sticks. In fact, Jacob acknowledges this fact in the next chapter of Genesis.

Genesis 31:11-12 ESV

[11] Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ [12] And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.

You see, God caused Jacob’s increase and Laban’s decrease. Jacob thought his trickery was cause of his blessing only to find out later that his blessing was actually the result of God’s promise to bless him. If you’ll remember back when Jacob was on the run from his brother and headed toward his uncle, he had a dream in which God told him that He would bring him back to Canaan and bless all of humanity through him and his children. Jacob responded by trying to make a deal with God. He said that if God would go with him and guide him and provide him food and clothing and return him safely to Canaan, then the Lord would be his God and he would give Him a tenth of all he had.

We’ve already discussed the foolishness of trying to make a deal with God, especially after God has already promised to do that which you are trying to gain with your bargain. Jacob did not request much. His request was not really out of line. What was out of line was trying to gain from God by negotiating with Him. In a previous post I noted that elsewhere in Scripture God tells us to seek Him first and all of our needs will be met. Anything above our basic needs are things God has given into our care to suit His purposes. God had determined that Jacob would be the father of twelve tribes through which the world would be blessed. Jacob would need a fairly good financial stake if he were to support such a family. For such a family to achieve God’s purpose of becoming a solid world influence, they would need some financial resources as well. Again, all of this is rather inherent in God’s promise to Jacob during that first dream.

So what is the point? It is the same point God had been making to Jacob, and continues to make to you and me, throughout Jacob’s life. God is sovereign. God will fulfill His purposes through flawed human beings, and the world cannot overcome His plans. Doing things the world’s way is at best a waste of time and at worst damaging to ourselves and our loved ones. God knows what you need, and if you are His child He will ensure that you receive it. The quickest way, however, to blessing is to do things God’s way, not the world’s way. Honesty, integrity, hard work, doing unto others as you would have done unto you, doing all things as unto the Lord; things of this nature are God’s way. But above all that, we must seek first God and His kingdom. This is the road to incredible blessing. As a Christian you are already moving down that road. Just keep going!

Have a blessed day!

Your brother and servant in Christ,

Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!