Saturday, February 11, 2006

The God of Jacob

Genesis 30 - 31 is the acccount where Jacob had left his homeland to find a wife. According to customs at the time, it was desirable for the older daughter to be married before the younger. Jacob really wanted Rachel, but agreed to marry Leah first and work 7 years for the father, Laban, in order to be able to marry Rachel, too. After marrying both Leah and Rachel, Jacob was obligated to serve their father for another seven years. Now he wanted to return to his homeland with his family. Genesis 30:25 - 31:55 shows us the rivalry between these two men and how it escalates to the point of open conflict.

Strained and fractured relationships take their toll on people. Resentment and anger from broken relationships can hurt....a lot! Holding onto resentment or anger damages me more than the person(s) it is being directed at! It is much better to forgive the other person in your heart, even if you don't necessarily tell them about the hurt and that you have forgiven them already. It takes a certain type of maturity to be able to do that, but the rewards are far greater. It ends up taking so much pressure off and the resentment and anger no longer have a hold on me! This indicates to me that there must be something very profound in the old cliche': "To err is human, to forgive is divine."

This portion of Scripture really drove such a point home with me. I must tell you, the women who share in the discussions at my current Bible study are really awesome! I have personally studied the book of Genesis three times, but I always find that I learn something completely new at each and every study!

The account in Genesis 30:31-38 could be confusing. One might ask what was the purpose of the removal of the speckled and spotted lambs. The deeper issue though, was the fact that the two men were each involved in deceit. Laban purposely removed the speckled and spotted lambs (that he had previously promised to give to Jacob) and gave them to his sons instead. This made it difficult for Jacob to leave.

However, since the speckled and spotted lambs were removed, Jacob had the stronger female animals mate with the stronger male animals and thus, he was able to make separate flocks for himself from the stronger herds. In effect, Laban had taken the weaker ones back and Jacob's original flocks now came from the babies born from the stronger sheep.

It is interesting to note that because the ways of genetics was not known at the time, the stronger herds of white sheep still carried the recessive genes to birth speckled and spotted lambs. Jacob was skilled and knew how to get the sheep to mate (the branches near the water etc.) and he was able to get many speckled and spotted lambs for himself before his departure from Laban's land.

In Genesis 31:1-13, Laban's sons found out what Jacob was doing and accused him of stealing all that their father owned (which was a lie). In fact, Laban had cheated Jacob from his wages. Laban's attitude towards Jacob changed negatively, too. Then God (the angel of God) came to Jacob in a dream. (Many biblical scholars agree that this appearance is one refered to as a theopany of the pre-incarnate Christ.) Jacob was told that the lambs would be provided to him and that he should leave Laban's land and go back to his native land. It is at this point where we can see Jacob's mindset beginning to change.

Although Jacob was treated unfairly by his employer, God knew what he was going through. God is always with us, no matter what!

Jesus told us in Matthew 28:20 - "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen."

Knowing this is a great comfort! We can know that we are safe in His love and can look forward to spending eternity with Him! We have his help to guide us. We just need to listen! We need to continually study and apply the Word of God.

We find that Leah and Rachel agree to go back to Jacob's native land with him, but Rachel secretly stole Laban's idol god statues. The women were most likely concerned about losing out on an inheritance from Laban.

Jacob, of course, deceived Laban by not telling him he was running away.
They both defend their actions. Laban claimed that he came looking for the idol gods that Rachel took. When Jacob was confronted by Laban (because he secretly left with his wives, Laban's daughters), Jacob confessed that he thought that Laban would take back his daughters by force. (see Genesis 31:22-42)

At our study, we often ask and discuss contemporary issues related to what is happening in the Scriptures. Our study contained a very interesting question. The question was, "why is it so difficult for us to see the other's point of view in a disagreement?

One person pointed out that we are often selfish. We are often too busy with our own point of view.

I had pointed out that sometimes we may not know all of the facts behind another's attitudes and actions. We may be unaware (as Jacob was unaware when Rachel took the idol god statues) of the reason why someone else suspects us of wrongdoing. In the case of Jacob and Rachel (who was really the guilty party for taking the idol gods that belonged to Laban), Jacob was unfairly suspected and accused for the theft.

I see this happening quite often when people are in disagreement. This is probably one of the reasons why our laws need to include the concept of innocent until proven guilty.

In Genesis 31:43-55, we learn how Jacob and Laban reconcile their differences. They make a covenant between the two of them. They took God as their witness for the covenant promises made.

I found it interesting that Jacob only referred to the LORD - Jacob's God as a witness between the two of them. Yet, Laban, on the other hand, mentioned both the God of Abraham and the "god of Nahor," which referred to the idol god that Laban worshipped.

Jacob was careful and faithful NOT to equate Laban's idol god with the One True God. However, in true step with what could be labeled as "political correctness and religious pluralism in ancient times," Laban made his part of the covenant by including a god of his own making as well as Jacob's One True God.


Because Laban saw how the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob unquestionably worked in Jacob's life! He knew that Jacob's God was real and genuine. Yet, Laban also desired to cling to the god of his own making as well.

Another great question in our study asked, "what have you seen in this passage that can help you deal with a strained or fractured relationship?

One woman at our study mentioned that we often "want it fixed right now!" Practically everyone nodded in agreement on that one. We also see that it is better to be honest and forthright in a disagreement. You can respect a person without having to agree with or respect their sinful actions.

Compromise is often the way that the world works when disagreements abound. Ever notice that? It is the morally relativistic mindset of secular humanism that butts heads with the truth and principle found in God's Will, Words, and Ways.

This, in effect, is what the non-Christian person is really fighting against. They don't want to listen to God's Will, Words, or Way in their lives. They, instead, choose to follow the idol 'gods' of their own making. They judge that doing what is right in their own eyes takes precedent over what God wants us to do in our lives. Many times, the true reason why Christians are disliked and hated is because we value God's Will and Ways far more than having everyone like us.

Prayer and communication with God keeps us tuned into what He would have us do. Continual Bible reading, studying and application are the valuable tools that win the day as regards to arguments. People can ignore, debase, reject, defame, belittle or compromise God's Word in their lives. As a result, they often do the same things and have the same attitude towards Christians. However, they cannot overcome the absolute truth of God's Word, no matter how hard they try.

The spiritual armor provided by God (see Ephesians 6:10-24) contains many defensive pieces of armor. They include the belt of truth, the gospel shoes, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. But the one offensive piece of armor is the Word of God.

The Whole Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-24 NLT)

10 A final word: Be strong with the Lord's mighty power. 11 Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. 12 For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.

13 Use every piece of God's armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. 14 Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness. 15 For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared.* 16 In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan.* 17 Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. 18 Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.

19 And pray for me, too. Ask God to give me the right words as I boldly explain God's secret plan that the Good News is for the Gentiles, too.* 20 I am in chains now for preaching this message as God's ambassador. But pray that I will keep on speaking boldly for him, as I should.

Hebrews 4:12 (KJV) - For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

A very good friend of mine who attends our Bible study shared a profound truth that I had not ever focused on before. She had previously participated in a study about the life of Jacob.

The minister conducting the sermon asked, "have you ever wondered why Christians refer to God Almighty in the Old Testament as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

He went on to explain that whenever a profound change and/or conversion occurs in the life of a person in the Old Testament, the LORD often changes that person's name. We see this when Abram became Abraham and Sarai became Sarah. In the New Testament, we see this when Saul become Paul. However, in the Old Testament, Jacob eventually is renamed Israel. So why do we not refer to God the Father in the Old Testament as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel? Could the reason be the simple but profound truth that even though Jacob had his faults, sins, and even had the nerve to "wrestle with God" (see Genesis 32:22-32), God loved him all along; even through his most difficult times in his life? Could the sins he committed and the suffering he endured along the way in his journey to recognition of God and his ultimate commitment and worship of God have been necessary to lead him to his conversion?

Can we see how God loves us although we 'are yet sinners'?

Jacob recognized the fact that he had wrestled with God. In verse 30 we read, "So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying , "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."

In Genesis 33, we find that Jacob's heart changed drastically (for the better) after his encounter with God.

Look at verse 32:28. "Then the man said, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

Jesus loves us so much! How do I know? Because while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us! He wants us to overcome just as Jacob overcame his struggles with men and his struggle against God! How do we overcome? Through the life of Jesus Christ and his indwelling Holy Spirit in our hearts.

The pre-incarnate appearance of Christ wrestling with Jacob and his life being spared is a foreshadowing of the forgiveness, mercy, grace and love that Jesus demonstrated for us at the cross!

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