Saturday, November 24, 2018

Amassing Wealth

Print Passage: Genesis 30:22-32, 43
Devotional Reading: Psalm 46

This fall quarter focuses on God’s World and God’s People. We are in Unit III “God Blesses and Re-creates Regardless” of the three units of the quarter. This is the last of the four lesson study. We have previously studied how Jacob deceitfully obtained the blessing God had already destined for him. He then had to leave his homeland in a hurry due to his brother’s wrath under the guise of having to find a wife pleasing to God. As he walked to the land of his mother, he went to sleep and had the most famous “staircase to heaven” dream, establishing a relationship with God while he was at his lowest. As one of our teachers always said, “God plans His works and He works His plans.”

When Jacob arrived in Haran he soon met Rachel, the love of his life. He also met her father, Uncle Laban, the Master Deceiver. He had met more than his match. Laban observed Jacob’s love for the younger daughter and inquired whether he should serve him for nothing. They agreed to a bride price of seven years of service for Rachel. Upon conclusion of that time, Laban switched daughters for the older daughter, Leah, according to custom. Gal 6:7 states, Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sow, that he will also reap.” (NKJV) It was deceit against Jacob, Rachel, and Leah in order to make sure Jacob continue his servitude another seven years and have both Laban’s daughters married. Jacob agreed to another bride price of seven years of servitude to get his true love Rachel. (Gen 29:1-30)

God had promised Jacob prosperity, dominion, divine protection, land, seed as the dust of the earth, all families of the earth would be blessed from his seed, and He would bring him back to Canaan. It was very interesting to read how the birth of the heads of the tribes came to be. Leah and Rachel were sisters, but they were also the jealous wives. When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren. (Gen 29:31) Leah is recorded as the mother of six sons and a daughter. As the sisters wrestled with each other, they even determined it necessary their handmaidens be given unto Jacob to impregnate. Leah’s maid was the mother of two sons and Rachel’s maid was the mother two sons. God permitted this practice, as He did with Sarah and her maid, Hagar, with Abraham. Jacob is the father of ten sons and at least one daughter through various women in his household. (Gen 29:31-35; 30:1-21) before our lesson begins.

Rachel had been very bitter because she was barren. Yet she was the loved wife. Sometimes we can’t be happy in the joy of another and thankful for what we have. Gen 30:22-24 indicates, Then God remembered Rachel, and God listened to her and opened her womb. And she conceived and bore a son, and said, “God has taken away my reproach.” So she called his name Joseph, and said, “The LORD shall add to me another son.” (NKJV)

However we receive our blessing from God, it will not be by bargaining and we must not have bitter rivalries. We must endure patiently for God to bless us in His time. The Scripture does not say that Rachel had been praying to God for a child as Hannah had prayed for her son. It does appear she is finally happy after the seven year period of her marriage and fourteen years after meeting Jacob. She has watched the pregnancy of her sister and the maids. At last Rachel was glad her time had come. God had remembered and enabled her to conceive. So she named her son Joseph with the double meaning of “to take away” or “to add”. Rachel felt God had taken away her disgrace among women of child-bearing age. Her prayer for the future was “The LORD shall add to me another son.”

Jacob has a large family; it is time for him to make preparations to go back to Canaan, the Promised Land. He was never to have taken root here, for it was not his home. Gen 30:25-26 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go, for you know my service which I have done for you.” (NKJV) Jacob had trust in God and His promises. He would not allow His large family to be without meat.

Why couldn’t Jacob simply take his household and leave? It appears as if he had to get permission to remove his household. Jacob has kept his part of the bargain for fourteen years, even though it was a bride price doubled through deceit. He asked permission to return home without making either a demand or saying please. Jacob reminded Laban of his work ethic. I have come to the conclusion the request was made to see if Laban would willingly offer personal property; i.e livestock, for their journey without adding a requirement. He did not. There is no recording of a dowry (personal property, gifts, etc.) for either marriage. So Jacob would have been leaving with only his household if he had not stated his intentions. He needed provisions for his family.

Because Jacob was faithful and skillful in his job performance and completion of two contracts, Laban refused to give an honest response to the request. He pretended the request was the beginning of another bid for future service. Get real Laban! Jacob is expressing a desire to go home with his family, not work! Evidently the chickens had not come home to roost yet. The shyster is still working to outmaneuver Jacob. But Jacob has God on His side and God is in the blessing business. Gen 30:27-30 indicates, And Laban said to him, “Please stay, if I have found favor in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the LORD has blessed me for your sake.” Then he said, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” So Jacob said to him, “You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming. And when shall I also provide for my own house?” (NKJV)

Laban desired Jacob to stay, not for the welfare of Jacob, his wives or his children. His desire was purely selfish. The NIV indicates Laban learned by divination vs the KJV and NKJV which indicates learned by experience the LORD had blessed him due to Jacob. Divination involves fortune-telling of hidden knowledge versus experience which involves diligent observance. However Laban figured it out, good men are blessings to the places where they live. Jacob simply stated he knew Laban had prospered greatly under his helm. Each of them recognized the abundance as God’s blessing for Jacob’s sake. Although Laban had profited much, it was now time for Jacob to gather necessary provisions for his family’s support.

Jacob wanted to be free of Laban and his deceit. He countered with a plan that would take care of his economic needs and allow him to take his family back to Canaan. Gen 30:31-32, 43 states the simplicity and success of the plan as, So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. Thus the man became exceedingly prosperously, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. (NKJV)

This time around, Jacob manages to outmaneuver Laban. The plan was simple in that the current “undesirable speckled and spotted” animals would be separated from the entire flock. The “undesirable speckled and spotted” animals born after the agreement would become Jacob’s while all livestock of one color would remain with Laban. In this manner Laban could not accuse Jacob of cheating (Gen 30:33). Laban was willing to consent to this plan because he did not have many “undesirable speckled and spotted” animals in the flock. So Laban immediately separated them from the rest of the body of the flock in accordance to the agreement. Jacob was to tend to Laban’s body of flock. Laban gave the separated current “undesirable speckled and spotted” animals to his sons to shepherd approximately three days’ journey away. In this manner Laban didn’t think he had anything to lose. He thought Jacob would never be able to leave him and would always work without a wage. But Laban didn’t have God on his side.

Jacob knew in Whom to place his trust. He knew all of his hard work would not be in vain. Ps 46:1, 10 reads, God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth! (NKJV) Jacob could not help but prosper. He produced more “undesirable speckled and spotted” animals to add to his flock. The method he used was a type of selective breeding based on cultural superstition. Later, however, he attributed the success of his plan to God (Gen 31:9). He that is faithful in a little shall be given much more. Jacob had been a very faithful servant during the fourteen years when he worked off the bride price for his two wives and the next six years to work a plan to be able to take his family home to Canaan. God’s promise of prosperity is now fulfilled. Jacob is now a rich master. He bartered the strong sheep and goats for servants, camels, and donkeys.

Deborah C. Davis

Finding Strength

Print Passage: Genesis 28:10-22
Devotional Reading: Psalm 42:1-5

This fall quarter focuses on God’s World and God’s People. We are in Unit III “God Blesses and Re-creates Regardless” of the three units of the quarter. This is the third lesson of the four lesson study. Last week we studied how Jacob deceitfully obtained the blessing God had already destined for him. In this lesson we shall review how Jacob established a relationship with God while he was at his lowest. As one of our teachers always said, “God plans His works and He works His plans.”

We know Jacob had been successful in cheating his older brother, Esau, by obtaining the irreversible birthright blessing from his father Isaac (Gen 27:28-29). What did he receive? (1.) Prosperity, (2.) dominion (3.) and divine protection.

Esau was quite taken by surprised and wanted to know if there was any blessing left for him. The only promises Esau was able to receive from Isaac was that he and his descendants, the Edomites, would live in desert places, would be warriors, would be subject to the Israelites, but would one day rebel against this rule. (See Gen 27:39-40) Because he was cheated Esau planned to kill his brother Jacob as soon as their father died and the period of mourning was over.

Rebekah discovered Esau’s plan to murder his brother and felt it necessary to implement a scheme to protect her beloved son, Jacob. There was no way their relationship would heal immediately. Distance was needed. She did not explain to Isaac that Esau planned to kill Jacob. Instead Rebekah explained she didn’t want Jacob to marry a woman among the pagan Canaanites as Esau had done. She wanted him to be sent to her brother, Laban, to find a wife among her people to please God just as Abraham had done. Isaac agreed that now that Jacob had the blessing, he must not allow Jacob intermingle and marry a pagan woman. He gave Jacob an additional blessing and charged him to go to Padan Aram to seek a wife. (Gen 28:1-4)

Rebekah thought Jacob would be gone for a short period of time in order for Esau to experience a cooling off period toward his brother. However, she would never see her beloved Jacob again. Rebekah died before he returned. When Jacob did return years later with his family, he was able to see his father and brother again. (Gen 33 and 35)

We are not told much about the specifics as Jacob journeyed from the only home he had ever known where he was the son of an overprotective mother to a land and an uncle unknown to him. We know that he had to flee in a hurry on foot from his brother. We also know Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham, would not allow Isaac to travel to the land of his brethren to choose a wife as Abraham was afraid his son, Isaac, would not return to the Promised Land. And yet Isaac has blessed Jacob to go out alone on foot to seek a wife and receive the blessing of God.

Jacob got what he so desperately wanted, which had been promised by God anyway, but can you imagine his thoughts along the way. All alone and probably believing Esau is in hot pursuit, Jacob continues to walk for above forty miles outside the Promised Land toward the land of Abraham’s kindred before he decides it to be safe enough to take a rest. Gen 28:10-11 indicates Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. (NKJV)

No money and no friends. Sooner or later, God will bring people to the place where they must choose whether they will depend on Him. I can only imagine how Jacob, the son who loved to be at home indoors, must have felt in an unknown land all alone and sleeping on the ground with a stone as a pillow. He had to have felt a sense of guilt for having deceived his loving father, cheated his brother, and causing his mother to create deceitful plots. He was going from his comfort zone and potential death camp to his future labor camp. How did he get in this mess? Better still, how was he going to get out of this mess? Until this time he has only had faith in the God of his father and mother. When and where is he going to find the strength to develop his own relationship with God?

Jacob had to be tired to get a good night’s rest with all this on his mind and a cold ground for his bed and a cold stone for his pillow. But he not only slept well, he had a famous dream on this night. Jacob meets God for the first time and begins his walk with Him. Gen 28:12-15 states, Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” (NKJV)

Jacob had a most surprising dream where he saw a staircase or a ladder was positioned between heaven and earth. On the staircase there were angels or messengers very actively moving, going up to heaven and coming down this ladder to earth to distribute messages and handle their mission as they were instructed by God. God was at the top of the staircase, sitting and ruling the world in all His glory, directing the correspondence and traffic so to speak. However, the angels are not the staircase/the ladder/the mediator. The Mediator is Christ Himself. He is the staircase between heaven and earth. This staircase is meant to be travelled. No one can get to God except through Him. (John 14:6) He is the Door to the Father by which we are saved. (John 10:9) Christ is to us as Jacob’s ladder, by whom angels continually ascend and descend for the good of the saints. (John 1:51) The kind benefits we receive through the ministering angels are all owing to Christ.

It is at this point that the Father God chooses to make his first appearance and speak to Jacob in his dream. He speaks encouraging words, not scolding him for his terrible deeds although Jacob shall still be punished. God’s will had been done, despite the means. Now the LORD starts fresh by introducing himself to Jacob as the LORD of his grandfather and father. He then reaffirms His promises of land and heirs. I found it interesting as I thought how God had this planned. Until this moment, God’s promises to the fathers were that He would make a great nation of their seed and that He would give them the land. Here, however, He promised an individual (1.) divine companionship, (2.) divine protection, and (3.) His faithfulness. Deut 7:9 states, Know therefore that the LORD your God is God, he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. (NKJV)

Jacob awakes and he is afraid and amazed. The door to heaven had opened and God’s omnipresence with a stairway was available to him. Gen 28:16-19 describes his actions following his life-changing dream as, Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel; but the name of that city had been Luz previously. (NKJV)

Jacob had given little thought that God would come meet him where he was, or would come meet him at all, after all he had done. He thought God dwelt only in the Promised Land. He had no idea that God was omnipresent. But he now has this revelation and states, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” You will note that Jacob did not state Surely the LORD was in this place tonight. He knew what was happening in the here and now, and he was afraid. Many times God speaks and we don’t listen. But Jacob listened and heard God speak the blessings of his forefathers into his life and not a judgment. Jacob not only realized how important God’s blessings are, he noted how faithful the LORD is in His promise to always be present, protect, and to bring him back to the Promised Land one day. These words of encouragement were needed for comfort at a time when Jacob’s spirit was at an all-time low.

Not only did Jacob hear God speak blessings and additional promises into his life, he witnessed the stairway to heaven activity. How could he ever forget living through such a dream? Yes, he was afraid with the fear of God. He knew not what to do at first. But as he pulled himself together and analyzed the situation, he knew it was definitely a place where he was supposed to worship. It was the house of God, and this was awesome. Where else would you find God sitting on his throne dispatching and receiving angels ascending and descending on a staircase between heaven and earth?
So Jacob got up to worship God. He took the stone he had used for a pillow, set it upright, and demonstrated his love by pouring oil on top of the stone. We don’t know how big the stone was and that’s not important. What is important is that he used the oil which was highly symbolic in the Jewish faith. The Jews believe the oil is to be used for anointing purposes, when something is to be chosen by God. He memorialized the event by consecrating the stone with oil as an act of worship. So Jacob changed the ancient name of the city of Luz, which means separation, to Bethel, which means House of God.

Jacob had now had a gracious visit from heaven by way of a dream. God had renewed his covenant promise with him. Now Jacob believes he must make a promise to God. He’s not asking for anything but the bare necessities from God. He has to leave this awesome place because he believes Esau is yet in a murderous hot pursuit. Jacob also needs to go find a wife. But he promises as if he is seeking an assurance from God. His vow to change his ways and commit his life are found at Gen 28:20-22, Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (NKJV)

Jacob’s vow appears to be based on a contingency that God keep up His side of the bargained promise. (If you do this God, I’ll do that) However, Jacob did not realize that God is not a man that He should lie (Num 23:19). The unilateral promises given by God were going to be kept. God had already chosen him. But He allowed Jacob to respond in his conversion experience by promising to give God his life, his worship, and his possessions.

God kept his promise to Jacob and continues to keep His promises to this very day. Jacob still had to be dealt with for his deceptive sins, but he has been forgiven. Now he has to find the strength and endurance to finish strong. Jacob chose Bethel (House of God) and not Luz (separation). We must be forever thankful that we have the opportunity to have salvation vs everlasting separation.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Deborah C. Davis