Lessons from Jacob’s life history- #5, God orders the steps of the Godly and is a potter who shapes the clay at wheel
God orders the steps of the Godly and is actively involved in their decisions and establishes the ways. God is like a potter who shapes the clay at wheel.
The desire to go back to Canaan.
After the birth of a son from Rachel, Joseph, Jacob said to Laban to send him away to his own place – to his country. He said to give him his wives and children for whom he served and reminded Laban about his service to him for the last many years. However, Laban requested Jacob to stay on with him and continue to watch over his flocks and herds. There is a reason why Laban said this. Laban said he had divined that the LORD has blessed him on Jacob’s behalf. Laban also Jacob could request the ages he wanted and would be given.
Spilled over blessings from a Godly person.
Laban recognized the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob. However, Laban’s blessings were not because of his faith in the Lord but due to his association with Jacob. This takes us back to Abrahamic blessings in Genesis 12:3 which said, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses, I will curse.” Laban, of course, deceived Jacob many times.
However, God caused the Abrahamic blessings and blessings given to Jacob at Bethel to spill over to Laban’s life based on Genesis 12:3. Laban said he divined that the Lord had blessed him. It indicates Laban did not possess faith on the one true living God. Divination is a practice of heathen religion by which they read things based on their idol or star connections.
You see, God can bless those who associate with Godly children without the basis of their own personal faith. Lot’s blessings were because of his association with Abraham. If you have a wife or husband or friend who loves the Lord, keep that relationship because God in his sovereignty can spill over spiritual blessings to you. Bible reiterates this in 1 Corinthians 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” If one person is a believer and the other spouse is not, the other person and the children have a special sanctifying blessing from the Lord. God’s blessing spill over to them based on the faith of the believing partner.
Jacob said to Laban that he had only little when he came to his house, and now it has increased to a multitude. The Lord had blessed him wherever he turned. But Jacob still wants to leave to his own country. I believe even after 20 years of serving Laban, Jacob remembers the divine encounter he had from God at Bethel in his dream. (Genesis 28:20-22). God initiated the desire in his heart to go back. It was the Lord at work in his heart.
Stay extended on one condition.
Jacob agreed to live with him for another period of time on one condition. His wages to serve him would be all the speckles and spotted goats and sheep and also all the black lamb in the herd. Laban liked the idea because the spotted goats and sheep and black lamb are apparently not that many numbers and he visualized to be a winner according to the terms and conditions. Immediately Laban isolated all the speckled and spotted ones and moved them about three days journey away. Per the agreement, Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. Laban purposely removed the stripped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted animals away so that they won’t produce more of spotted, speckled and black animals.
God even uses people’s ideas and imaginations to accomplish His purpose.
Jacob had another idea came into his mind when he saw Laban’s smart actions. As he was feeding Laban’s rest of the herds, he placed peeled rods of poplar and almond and plane trees and exposed the white in the rods when the animals came to drink water. At that time the animals that mated by these rods and flocks brought forth striped, speckled and spotted. Jacob separated all the lambs and did not put them with Laban’s flock. He did another idea. Whenever the stronger animals were mating, he placed the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters. He did make them mate by the rods. When the animals were feeble, he did not put them in. Therefore all the feebles animals became Laban’s and stronger ones became Jacobs.
Jacob had an idea that whatever an animal looks at while mating will produce the same type of offsprings. Of course, he was using his own plan and ideas. There is no scientific proof that whatever an animal look at the time of mating would produce the same type of offspring. He was doing a scheme based on his own calculations. However, his idea worked and gave the result he intended. The animals when they mated looking at the striped rods brought forth striped, speckled and spotted offsprings. In this way, Jacob became more blessed than Laban because he ended up having more stripped, spotted and black animals.
Jacob’s personal understanding of God in the midst of the heartbreaking events.
Though he used his own ideas, imaginations, and plans, later he gave credit to God and said to his wives God had taken away your father livestock and given them to me. (Genesis 31:9). We still see Jacob as a schemer who trusts in himself and not completely trusting in God’s provisions and ways.
We need to take note of this fact. It was God who blessed him because of His faithfulness to the promise given to Abraham, Isaac and later to him in Bethel, and not because of his human agendas. Romans 8:28 says, “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Even before his birth, God chose Jacob while he was in his mother’s womb and the promise of Abraham must come through Isaac and then later through the line of Jacob. God had caused all things to work together for good in Jacob’s life. It was all God’s gift and not because of any merit of Jacob. God would do the same thing in our lives. All things mean all things – good and bad- God turns into His children’s ultimate good. Jacob suffered a lot of deception in the hand of Laban, his uncle. God was in the midst of all to cause all things -good and bad -for his ultimate good. Thus God fulfilled His purpose in Jacob’s life.
Genesis 30:43 says, Jacob became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys. God kept His promise He made to Jacob in Genesis 28:15, “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 promised you.”Jacob gave all the credits to God in his testimonies. We can read Jacob giving credit to the Lord for all his blessings in Genesis 31:7, 9, 11-13, 31:42.
As a man who believed in manipulations, maneuverings, and strivings, Jacob was progressively learning to credit God and lean on God. Many of us are like Jacob. God is at work in us to mold us to His plans and provisions. The truth is this- if you love the Lord and if you are called according to His purpose, no matter what happens, do not be discouraged. The Lord shapes and molds us into his own image as we progress in faith life. The Lord is fully committed and He will not leave us until His plan is fulfilled in our lives. He is powerful to cause all things to work together for our good at the end. He will do it period!
Of course, Esaus and Jacob were different. There is no reference in the Bible Esau ever acknowledged or gave credit to the Lord. He was basically a fleshly man with no spiritual insight or connection to God. Jacob, in contrast, would respond to God’s revelations and acknowledge Him in life.
Now Laban heard the words of his sons. They said Jacob has taken away all that was their fathers and made himself wealthy. With God’s blessing on Jacob, the things turned around in favor of Jacob. The stipped, spotted and black animals were in minority but now they became the majority in Laban’s flock. No wander Laban’s sons became jealous toward Jacob. Jacob also noted the attitude of Laban toward him had changed. He was not friendly toward Jacob as he was in the past. Now the Lord appeared to Jacob and said to return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives and promised He will be with him. (31:3). God was ordering the steps of Jacob. God used Laban’s bad attitude and his son’s jealousy toward Jacob to accomplish the divine plan of God that was revealed to him in a dream in the night at the place called Bethel. Sometimes, we also come across such times of confusion and turning of events that cause anxiety and confusion. However, nothing happens in the life of a child of God without the knowledge and approval of God. Bible says in Psalms 37:23 says, “The LORD directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”
Jacob announces to his wives his decision to go back.
Jacob announced his plan to return to his land and people to his wives. He said to them he served their father with all his might and strength. But Laban cheated him and changed his wages ten times. Jacob also said God did not allow him to hurt him. He said this because Laban did not keep the terms and conditions he agreed regarding striped, speckled and spotted sheep and goats as well as black lambs. Laban cheated him by changing the terms and said only speckled would be his. When he said all the flocks brought forth specked ones. Then Laban said only stripped ones are Jacobs. Then all the flocks brought forth stripped ones. God was working behind all of Laban’s cheatings and changing terms and conditions to bless Jacob. Then Jacob said to his wives the God had taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. God in His power repaid Jacob for all of Laban’s mistreatments. He told them the God of Bethel where he anointed a pillar and made a vow called him to go back to his land and people (Genesis 31:13). Rachel and Leah agreed to go with Jacob to his land and people.
The flight back to Canaan
Jacob put his children and wives upon camels and he drove away all his livestock and properties which he had gathered in Paddan-Aram to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. They did not tell Laban that they were fleeing. Jacob fled with all he had and crossed the Euphrates river.
You see, God was at work sovereignly in Jacob’s heart to move back to his father’s people and land. This is part of the owe Jacob entered with God in Genesis 28 when God appeared to him in the night time in a dream. It says there, Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” God was faithful to him though there were hardships, deceptions, pains he suffered along the way. God never forgets His promises. 2 Corinthians 1:20 says, “For every one of God’s promises is “Yes” in Him. Therefore, the “Amen” is also spoken through Him by us for God’s glory.” (HCSB).
What is an idol to do with a true believer in God any way?
Now, Rachel, his wife stole Laban’s household idols and Jacob was unaware of it. We do not know for sure why she stole the household idols because no reason is given here in the text. The idols may have been made of precious materials and that means it had financial value. Or it could be she partially believed in the superstitious power of the idols and she wanted to the idols to be with her as an added blessings or good fortunes. Bible clearly detests the idols and the people who make it because the one and true living God made the heavens and earth and all in it cannot be fashioned into any of the idols or images. The first commandment of the ten commandment says in Genesis 20, “You shall have no other gods before Me. “You shall not make for yourself an idol or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Bible also people do not stop and think about the folly of making idols. Listen to what the Bible says about the people who make idols in Isaiah 44. Read and slowly think about the foolishness of making and worshipping idols.
“He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
Rachel teach us a lesson.
Whatever the reason the fact is Rachel stole his father’s household idols as they were fleeing from Laban’s house. Before we put too much blame on Rachel, let us stop and look into our own lives. How many idols, superstitious believes, nonchristian traditional or cultural practices that we hold on even after coming to the understanding of the truth and liberty in Christ? Even some of the so-called Christian denominations that ought to have known the truths of the Word of God by this time stands in front of man-made images and idols is a very sad thing to see. This is especially true when the Bible clearly hates the practice of idol and image worships. In certain denominations, the traditions have more value than the truth of the eternal Word of God that is inspired and breathed by God Himself. (2 Timothy 3:16).
Don’t you know the patriarch Jacob was a work in progress?
Jacob’s separation from Laban also informs a fact. Sometimes a clear separation is needed to progress in God’s eternal plan and purpose. The return to Canaan by disconnecting tie with Laban was the right step to take to go with God and His plans. And Jacob did it.
When Jacob was told about Jacob’s flight, he took his kinsmen and pursued him to a seven day’s journey. However, God intervened and warned Laban in a dream that he should not speak good or bad to Jacob. Laban asked Jacob why did he secretly fled and deceived him. He also said why Jacob did not give him enough time to send them away with joy and song and allowed him to kiss his daughters and children. Laban said he has the power to do harm to Jacob, but the God of Jacob’s father appeared and said do not say good or bad to Jacob. Then Laban asked why did you steal my gods? Jacob said he was afraid that Laban would take his daughters (Rachel and Leah) from him by force. Because Jacob was unaware Rachel took the gods of Laban, he said whoever he finds with idols shall not live but die. Laban went into the tent and search everywhere but Rachel put the idols in the camel’s saddle and sat on it. She said to Laban I cannot rise up because the menses was on her. Thus Laban did not find the idols. Jacob got angry and said, all these twenty years I have been with you whenever an animal was torn he did not bring it to him and bore the loss of it himself. Whether an animal was stolen by night or day, Laban required if of his hand. The day heat consumed him and night frost by night. He served 14 years for two of his daughters and six years for his flock and he changed wages ten times. An account of his hardships working for Laban. Then he said, “If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”
Jacob says in the midst of Laban’s deceptions and unfair practices toward him, God of Abraham and Isaac have repaid him and blessed him. Had God not been with Jacob, Laban would have sent him empty handed with nothing.
The man now acknowledges the hand and guidance of God in his life. Jacob has come a big way now in his understanding about the God of his grandfather and father- Abraham and Isaac. Still with flaws, maneuvering and schemes. Jacob was work in progress. We are not patriarchs like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. However, we are also God’s work in progress, aren’t we? God sent Jeremiah to potters house to get a lesson. Jeremiah closely watched the way the potter working on the clay at his wheel. God gave the message by saying, “you are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter.” This message is from the Lord.”