Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have. (James 4:1-2a)
Jacob waited till Rachel gave birth to Jacob. By that time, Jacob had eleven sons, which resulted from the unfathomable love of God. But Jacob yet had to realize this amazing truth. Jacob was of the world, and he had been little changed since he met God once when he was truly in a desperate situation.
About twenty years ago, Jacob fled from his brother Esau who tried to kill Jacob. Esau found that Jacob stole his blessing by deceiving his father Isaac, and Isaac gave all of Esau’s blessings to Jacob. On the first night of his run from Esau, Jacob was alone in the middle of the wilderness. He searched a stone and laid his head under the night sky. He found that he was completely helpless and afraid of his brother in his guilt. As he fell asleep, God came to Jacob in his dream and comforted Jacob by showing the same promise to his grandfather Abraham, and his father, Isaac. Jacob realized that God was with him. Early in the following morning, Jacob built an altar and worshiped God for the first time. He also prayed to God, which was his first truly authentic prayer to God. Getting comforted and strengthened by God, Jacob hurriedly arrived at his uncle’s house in Harran, which was about 700 km away (i.e., about 430 miles away) from his home.
Jacob’s uncle Laban welcomed Jacob, “You really are my own flesh and blood!” which made Jacob truly comforted. Jacob, who was so cunning as to deceive his father and brother, childishly believed Laban. But Laban was an equally trickly person. Laban deceived Jacob. Jacob loved Rachel, his younger daughter, and Laban promised to give Rachel for seven years work of Jacob, but he switched Rachel with Leah on the wedding night. Jacob found this fact the following morning. Jacob, for the first time, was completely deceived by someone other than himself. He made a complaint, but he quickly realized there was no other way but accepted the new term presented by Laban. Jacob worked yet another seven years for Rachel. Jacob had never forgotten this.
As he got eleven sons, Jacob approached Laban and said,
“Please release me so I can go home to my own country. Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you.”
“Please listen to me,” Laban replied. “I have become wealthy, for the LORD has blessed me because of you. Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it.” Laban knew the time came. Laban politically responded by giving some credits to Jacob. He wanted to be nice to Jacob for this time because he needed Jacob, who was a capable worker.
Jacob replied, “You know how hard I’ve worked for you.” Jacob emphasized his toils for long twenty years by telling twice. Jacob worked hard for Laban, which was true, but it was Jacob’s tactic to build up a case for his advantage carefully. The worldly Jacob now started shining again. Where was Jacob who encountered God, which was powerful enough to make Jacob truly worship God and authentically pray to God for the first time in his life? After twenty years, Jacob had completely forgotten it as his life has been getting better.
Jacob continued, “You also know how your flocks and herds have grown under my care. You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously.” Again, Jacob stressed what he has done by telling uncle Laban’s riches were increased by himself. We know it was not Jacob, but God did it.
Then Jacob even used the name of God to cement his contribution by saying, “The LORD has blessed you through everything I’ve done.” It reminds me of my friend’s saying, “If anyone uses God’s name to justify something, don’t listen to the person.” The motive is usually not pure, and the person introduces God to support oneself rather than praising or glorifying God by giving all credits to God.
As Jacob finished laying the foundation for his demand, he finally presented his request to his uncle Laban. Indeed, Jacob cornered Laban with his smooth tongue and good words so that Laban could not deny Jacob’s credits, and Jacob put God on his side. Then Jacob got to the real point by asking his uncle, “But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?”
Jacob was so skillful at making his listener convinced to do what he wanted to do, and Jacob successfully did to Laban for this time. Laban had nothing to say but support Jacob. Laban had to ask quietly again, “What wages do you want?”
Jacob already thought through and prepared his plan. The plan looked good to Laban, but it only served Jacob in reality. Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Give these to me as my wages. In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.”
Jacob said he would continue working as he used to do and demanded far less than Laban expected. Jacob wanted less valuable flocks with speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Hmm. Who would want such sheep or goats? Laban was surprised. Jacob did not ask for anything valuable to Laban. Instead, Jacob wanted those flocks that Laban did not want to own. It sounded awfully good to Laban.
However, Jacob’s tricky plot was to take away a big chunk of Laban’s entire wealth. Remember that Jacob had never forgotten what happened to him. Laban deceived Jacob by using a “bait and switch” tactic. Jacob bit Laban’s bait, Rachel. Then Laban switched Rachel with Leah at the wedding night. To get Rachel, Jacob had to work seven more years.
To Laban’s ears, Jacob’s proposal was too good to be true, and Laban was also a greedy person. Laban wanted to grab the excellent deal. Additionally, Laban quickly made a plan to protect his own and maximize his gain while sacrificing Jacob even further. Laban wanted to have yet another sweet victory over Jacob.
All right,” Laban replied. “It will be as you say.”
But that very day Laban went out and removed the male goats that were streaked and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted or had white patches, and all the black sheep. He placed them in the care of his own sons, who took them a three-day journey from where Jacob was. Meanwhile, Jacob stayed and cared for the rest of Laban’s flock.
All things happened as Laban planned, and his sons followed his instruction exactly. Laban became very happy because Laban always worried about Jacob. He knew Jacob would demand his portion, which he did not want to give out as Jacob demanded. Laban planned to minimize Jacob’s portion while maximizing his wealth.
However, Jacob had his own plan too. Two worldly experts full of greed collided.
Laban thought that he won because he had already isolated his good portion. His sons protected his good portion, and they would not be mixed with the lesser flocks of Jacob. Laban successfully put a three-day journey distance from Jacob’s flocks, which was far enough to guarantee to protect his flocks. However, Laban underestimated Jacob.
Then Jacob took some fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled off strips of bark, making white streaks on them. Then he placed these peeled branches in the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink, for that was where they mated. And when they mated in front of the white-streaked branches, they gave birth to young that were streaked, speckled, and spotted. Jacob separated those lambs from Laban’s flock. And at mating time he turned the flock to face Laban’s animals that were streaked or black. This is how he built his own flock instead of increasing Laban’s. Laban thought that he completely protected his good flocks, but it was not. Jacob did all kinds of tricks and made Laban’s flocks to his flocks slowly and steadily.
Whenever the stronger females were ready to mate, Jacob would place the peeled branches in the watering troughs in front of them. Then they would mate in front of the branches. But he didn’t do this with the weaker ones, so the weaker lambs belonged to Laban, and the stronger ones were Jacob’s.
As a result, Jacob became very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, female and male servants, and many camels and donkeys.
But Jacob soon learned that Laban’s sons were grumbling about him. “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.” And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him.
However, Jacob realized that he had no place to go if he left his uncle’s house. Why? His brother Esau was waiting for Jacob to kill to revenge for stealing his blessings from his father. It was the reason why he fled to his uncle Laban’s house, which was about 700 km away from home. Jacob found no longer he could stay with Laban because Jacob stole his uncle’s wealth by tricking Laban. It was a part of his payback to Laban, who tricked him into working seven more years for free. However, his paying back made Jacob into yet another problem, which the smart Jacob could not figure out. Sadly, Jacob was little changed, and Jacob had no place to go.
Jacob could not sleep that night. He fell into the same difficult situation. He deceived and stole what he wanted, but it made him again isolated and lonely. His future was unclear, which made him extremely anxious. His fear of Esau had never left him, who truly wanted to kill him.
While struggling through the night, he suddenly remembered his first encounter with God in the middle of the wilderness. When he was lonely and in fear, God came to him in his dream. He met God in awe and fear. He got up early the following morning, and he bowed down to God and prayed to God. For the first time, Jacob prayed while spreading out all his concerns, anxieties, and fears, which was the 2nd authentic prayer to God in his life. God, who always cared for Jacob, waited for this moment for a long time. About twenty years ago, Jacob met God, and now Jacob returned to God in his contrite and authentic prayer, which was what God did for Jacob in His love.
God, who always loved Jacob, answered. God said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”
To Jacob, it was more fearful of going back home because Esau must have been waiting for his return to kill him. To get killed by his brother Esau was the last choice for Jacob. However, God told Jacob to return home where Esau was. God exactly knew Jacob’s fear of his brother Esau. God added the most precious and comforting words — “I will be with you.”
Jacob looked back at his life since he left home. He met God with His mighty and comforting hand, and Jacob worshipped and prayed to God in awe and fear. But his relationship with God did not last long. He quickly went back to himself, who thought he was the smartest who could do all things using his cunning smartness by deceiving and stealing from others while treating them inferior to him. To Jacob, all others were objects of which he could take advantage. He was wrong.
But Jacob was a slow learner. Only after he fell into the same situation twice, he started to learn. Jacob was a tough nut to crack, but God patiently and gradually chipped away Jacob’s jagged sinful personality. In the difficult situation, Jacob met God again, and he rediscovered God in his life. Jacob, indeed, was not the same Jacob who deceived his father and brother, which was what God did for Jacob. God was always patient with Jacob and faithfully loved Jacob. For this time, Jacob prayed to God even though he did not dream or see a vision, which was a huge improvement. God, in fact, just accelerated God’s plan in Jacob’s life to transform Jacob, the true heir of God’s covenantal promise.
Despite the fear of Esau, Jacob heard God and obeyed what God said. We are often afraid of the world, but we need to trust God and make our step forward by being obedient to God. Jacob decided to go back to his home. Jacob made a huge step forward in God to follow God despite his fear of Esau.
So Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching his flock. He said to them, “I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed. But the God of my father has been with me. You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm. For if he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wages,’ the whole flock began to produce speckled young. And when he changed his mind and said, ‘The striped animals will be your wages,’ then the whole flock produced striped young. In this way, God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me. Jacob minimized his trickiness, but he just blamed his uncle Laban. Then he even used God to justify himself against Laban, their father.
Jacob was God’s work in progress. Jacob still used his worldly wisdom instead of God’s. What he said to Rachel and Leah was at the borderline of lying. His goal was to make Rachel and Leah on his side. He again used his cunning smartness to convince Rachel and Leah. Jacob might think his smartness made it work, but it was not the case. God had prepared Rachel and Leah’s hearts before even Jacob told his own story. Jacob was still of the world, and in his world, everything revolved around him, although God was the master of his world, who sit at the center of his world.
Therefore, Rachel and Leah immediately responded, “That’s fine with us! We won’t inherit any of our father’s wealth anyway. He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us. All the wealth God has given you from our father legally belongs to us and our children. So go ahead and do whatever God has told you.” Jacob was so happy to see both Rachel and Leah were with him. Again God prepared their hearts to respond to Jacob positively.
Indeed, God was always with Jacob not because Jacob was worthy of God’s companion, but God loved Jacob unconditionally. Jacob kept behaving worldly while forgetting this truth, but God never forgot Jacob. God kept guiding Jacob through the paths of righteousness.
So Jacob put his wives and children on camels, and he drove all his livestock in front of him. He packed all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-Aram and set out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lived. At the time they left, Laban was some distance away, shearing his sheep. Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her. Rachel learned from Jacob!
Jacob outwitted Laban the Aramean, for they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving. So Jacob took all his possessions with him and crossed the Euphrates River, heading for the hill country of Gilead.
God had never given up Jacob. God was mightily patient to Jacob, who, again and again, repeated the same worldly behavior to take advantage of others by stealing through his deceptions. Those whom Jacob deceived became furious. Esau became truly hateful of Jacob and decided to kill Jacob. Laban became truly upset because Jacob stole his flocks and his daughter along with his grandchildren. Jacob was still of the world. Only was the difference that Jacob experienced God and learned God’s presence in his life. However, to God’s eye, it was a significant improvement that Jacob made.
As being born, Jacob grabbed his brother, Esau’s heal. Jacob was always jealous of his brother because he was not the firstborn, and he could not be happy until he took away the birthright and the blessings set aside by his father for the firstborn. Jacob was a truly tough person and perhaps the last person we want to be associated with because such a person would hurt us sooner or later. However, God was faithful to Jacob. God slowly and patiently chipped away Jacob to be the one God wanted. Nobody liked Jacob, but God kept loving Jacob. Why? God is love. Once God chose Jacob, God had never changed his love toward Jacob, and God always held Jacob tight.
Are we better than Jacob? Would you please look deep into yourself and answer this question silently?
We are not much different from Jacob. If the condition is right and the world entices us, then most of us will soon become like Jacob due to our sinful nature. Doesn’t God know who we are and our very sinful nature? Yes, God knows exactly who we are and our innermost sinful nature. Even so, God loves us. It is not all, God is always with us. Wherever we go, God goes with us. Why does God do all these to us? Because God loves us as God loved Jacob, not because Jacob was upright, faithful, or a good person.
God is love, and His love is greater than all our sins combined. God tells us
“Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the LORD.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool. (Isaiah 1: 18)
Come, come to God, which is what God says even today at this moment. What God wants from each of us is nothing but our contrite heart. Please come to God, and authentically pour out our heart to God by spreading out all our concerns, fears, anxieties, and sins. Then look up God, who is in Heaven. His face is full of mercy, grace, and love. Surely, we will see His mercy shining on us and His abounding grace. He will embrace us as He embraced his prodigal son, who once lost but returned. God is love, and His love never changes. Just come to Him and tastes His unfathomable love that only comes from Our Ever-Loving Father, God!
Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39)