Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Grace Foundation Part 5

Last week, we continued the “Grace Foundation” series. In this 5th part we looked at Jacob’s handling of Laban’s flocks and how God blessed him despite Laban’s cheating. We also looked at Jacob’s decision to return home to his family in Canaan. 

In Genesis 30, Jacob makes a deal with Laban to take, as his wages, all of the spotted, streaked and black sheep from the flock. Laban agrees, but then steals away all such sheep and has them hidden three days’ journey away.  In this story we can see some “types” and images. Jacob represents Jesus and grace. Laban represents law. Jacob had worked, fulfilling all of the requirements of Laban. Jesus did all of the work required by the law for us. 


Jacob’s wages had been cut ten times by Laban. If Laban represents law, we can make an association: There are TEN commandments. We also know that the wages of sin (that were defined by the law) is death. Jesus is the one who does all of the law’s work for us, enduring the wages for us.   

What is Jacob interested in? He wants all of the blemished sheep that were under the authority of Laban. Jesus wants all of the blemished sheep under the law. The reality is that all are blemished, but the law thought it produced some clean, pure sheep. Those that believe they are already clean by their works will not receive grace through Christ. Grace is not looking for those who think they are pure. It looks for those who know they are not, who acknowledge the need for the redeemer.  Where did Laban hide the blemished sheep? They were “three days’ journey away.” Jesus had to go on a three day journey to rescue those trapped by the law. What a great illustration!

We read about the methods Jacob used to get Laban’s sheep to produce more spotted or streaked sheep. He strips bark from certain types of wood and places them in the watering troughs that the sheep drink from and mate in front of. Apparently, what the sheep see when mating was supposed to affect the appearance of their offspring.   In chapter 31, he says the Lord gave him a vision in a dream, though we do not know at what point in the story he had that dream and all of the details of the vision. There is a lot of debate about this story. I came to a few  possible conclusions – but all of them lead us back to the same lesson to learn:

 1.       Jacob had been working in these fields as a shepherd for 20 years and could have adopted some of the superstitious beliefs of other shepherds in the area – thinking they were working. However, the dream may have come later where God reveals it was Him who was causing the sheep to produce as desired. God may have worked despite Jacob’s actions. This would be a sign of God’s grace and faithfulness to the promise to bless Jacob, not because of what he did or who he was but because He made the promise to Abraham.

2.       Jacob may have had that dream at the beginning of the process and might have been using the sticks as a diversion to anyone observing him.

3.       God may have revealed to Jacob in the dream to use the sticks to get this desired result. I read a paper written by a geneticist that said the amino acids present in the types of wood Jacob used, if mixed in their drinking water, could cause the desired “defects” in the sheep. But wouldn’t it require a lot more than a few sticks in the water to produce those results? You would think so, but God is a miracle-working God. He usually works through the obedient hands of man to produce His results. He may have multiplied the effectiveness of the sticks because Jacob obeyed His instructions.


There may be even other theories, but all of them seem to lead to the same point – that God found a way to bless Jacob simply because He made a promise and He is faithful to His promises.  That same promise is yours! Paul tells us that when we become children of God through the blood of Jesus, we are now children of Abraham and heirs according to the promise. The blessing is ours simply because we are in the right family – not because of our works.

Blessing alone does not ensure abundant life. As we have been finding out through these stories, we must follow God’s ways in order to experience the blessing we have been given. We must know that, by grace, the blessing IS OURS. Then we must allow that same grace to lead us to right living so that we do not forfeit the benefits of the blessing we’ve been given.  Even though Jacob was always living in blessing, his decisions and actions often caused much more pain and trouble than he should have had to deal with.

The second part of the story we want to look at in light of this typology is the stealing of Laban’s household idols. When Jacob packs up the family to head back to Canaan and his family, Rachel steals her father’s household idols. Jacob is unaware of this, so when Laban catches up to them and demands the return of his idols, Jacob swears no one in his camp has them and is willing to punish anyone who could have taken them.  Laban goes through the entire camp, finally getting to Rachel’s tent. She is concealing them in a bag that she is sitting on. She explains that she cannot stand up because she is having her monthly cleansing. Laban leaves empty-handed. Eventually Jacob learns that Rachel had taken them and has them destroyed.

This part of the story seemed odd to me. It has none of the normal “Old Testament” results that come from dealing with idols and false gods. No one died or was rebuked. First of all, this was before there was law.   A clearer picture was formed when I researched the meaning of these idols. In the region where Laban lived, the head of the household had such idols or gods. They were frequently passed on to the eldest son as a sign of birthright blessing. If a man had no sons, it was acceptable for him to present them to his eldest son-in-law – passing the birthright blessing to him.

Remember that Jacob has a reputation for “stealing birthright.” Laban might have thought he’d had the birthright that belonged to his sons stolen by Jacob. Also, remember the typology here. Laban represented law.  What is the birthright inheritance of law? It is death. Jacob has the birthright inheritance that comes by grace. Jesus, like Jacob, took the inheritance associated with the law and destroyed it!  What great pictures we see in these Old Testament stories when we can look at them through New Testament, grace glasses.

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