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Sunday, February 23, 2020

posted Feb 23, 2020, 2:41 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Feb 23, 2020, 4:46 PM ]

THE GOD OF JACOB AT PADDAN ARAM

 

Genesis 30:25-31:55 

Key Verse 31:13

 

am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. 

 

First, Jacob became exceedingly prosperous (30:25-43). Look at verse 25, in chapter 30. In 14 years investment, Jacob came to have 4 wives and 11 sons and 1 daughter - it was pretty good. Now Jacob wanted to go back to his homeland. But Laban didnt want Jacob to leave. He knew that, because of Jacob, he was blessed. So, he said, Name your wages, and I will pay them. Jacob said to Laban, Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. Usually, these speckled or spotted or dark colored animals were minority among them; maybe, among 10 sheep, 8 sheep were white, and only 1 or 2 were speckled, or spotted or dark colored. So, what Jacob suggested sounded really fair - the owner would get about 80% of the profit, and the employee would get about 20%. Laban agreed, but on that very same day, before Jacob had any chance to claim his wages, Laban culled the flocks and placed the spotted, speckled and dark colored animals in the care of his sons, and sent them on a three days journey away. What a terrible employer he was! He did not want to give any salary to his faithful employee, Jacob, but wanted to use his labor for free. Actually, this was the beginning of him cheating Jacob. Later, Jacob said to his wives in 31:6-9 that Laban had cheated him by changing his wages ten times. When Laban saw his animals bore white ones, then he said that the black ones would be Jacobs wages. When the animals bore black ones, then he said that white ones would be his wages. In this way, he changed Jacobs wages ten times. He was really a terrible employer. Who could survive under this kind of terrible employer? Jacob should have given up and left to his homeland empty-handed. But how did Jacob respond? Lets read 37 through 39 together. 

 

37Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 

 

Jacob did not give up. He put striped sticks in front of the water troughs and made sure that the animals mated in front of these striped branches. His idea was that, if the animals mated in front of these striped branches, then, their babies DNA structure would be influenced and streaked, speckled or spotted young ones would be born. Does this genetic engineering really work? I dont know. But whether it worked or not, what was really important was that, despite the odds, Jacob did not give up; instead, he did something, and it became a clue by which God could intervene into the situation, help and bless him. Simply, by not giving up, but doing this strange genetic engineering, Jacob offered God a chance to intervene and help him. This was the secret of Jacobs success. God blessed him and Jacob became exceedingly prosperous. 

 

This is the principle we must remember all the time. In regard to finding a job, there are always odds; we try many times without success. If we give up, then, nothing happens, and we live as losers. But by faith in God who knows our situation, and who is willing to help us, we keep looking for a job, doing something or anything, maybe, sending more resumes, or calling the companies, or even visiting them. Then, what we do becomes a clue for God to intervene into our situation and help us. In the matter of finding sheep and harvesting them into the kingdom of God, there are a lot of odds; simply, despite our struggles as shepherds and shepherdesses, nothing seems working. Many ministries and people try to do Gods work on the college campuses. They dream about having a successful ministry among young college students. But when things seem not working despite their hard efforts, when they have a lot of difficulties, or even some pains, they give up and quit; sonothing happens through them. But when we do not give up, but keep striving to do Gods work on our campuses, what we do becomes a clue by which God can intervene into the situation and bless us. Only those people who do not give up, but continue their work come to experience Gods help, and through them, God establish his kingdom on college campuses. People, when they do Gods work, keep looking for a better method, thinking that if they use a better method, they would be able to do Gods work. But what is important is not that we use a better method, but that we keep doing something, anything by faith in God despite all odds continually - people need to set their feet in the promised land no matter what. Using a better quality branch or more expensive branch was not a matter. Those who, like Jacob, do not give up despite all challenges, and thereby, keep striving to do Gods work come to enjoy Gods blessing - God uses them for his kingdom work preciously and establishesmany powerful disciples through them.

 

Second, Go back to the land of your fathers (31:1-55).Look at 31:1-2. Laban and his sons felt bad that their wealth went to Jacob and that he became exceedingly prosperous. They felt cheated. Jacob noticed it. He was a little burdened. Then, God gave him a new direction. Lets read 31:3 together. 

 

Then the Lord said to Jacob, Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.

 

In Paddan Aram, God was with Jacob and thereby, everything went very well: Jacob had established his life in Paddan Aram very well - with four wives, 11 sons, and 1 daughter, with great wealth; he had built a great household. Indeed, it was the land of success for Jacob. Yet, it was never Gods intention for Jacob to stay in Paddan Aram continuously.Instead, Jacob had to go back to Canaan and live as Gods covenant person. Thats Gods plan for him. So, when Jacob sensed that Laban and his sons attitude toward him had changed, when he had a certain sense of problem, God gave him this new direction to go back to the promised land. 

 

At this, Jacob called all his wives for a family meeting. There, he said to them, I see that your fathers attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that Ive worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.Here, we see Jacob acknowledging Gods help in his wage matter. In Paddan Aram, Jacob was not concerned about God; actually, he had never been concerned about God; instead, he was just busy to pursue what he had desired. Yet, while doing so, in Paddan Aram, Jacob recognized that God had helped him in his wage matter. How? Laban changed his wages ten times so that he would not have to pay him too much. When Laban saw that the animals gave birth to speckled, spotted or dark colored young, which Jacob had claimed as his wages, he changed the terms, saying that the new born white animals would be his wages. Then, all the flocks gave birth to white young. So, Laban changed the terms again, saying, The speckled ones will be your wages, then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, The streaked ones will be your wages, then all the flocks bore streaked young. This happened over and overagain that even Jacob could see that it was God who was helping him. As the conclusion, Jacob said to his wives, So God has taken away your fathers livestock and has given them to me.Jacobs point was that God had done this. How amazing it was for Jacob to see that God was helping him in his practical matter, such as his wages. He was very comforted, thankful and happy. That way, in Paddan Aram, God became very real to him, and thereby, Jacob was developing personal faith in God. He was very attracted to God. Thats how God helped Jacob grow as a man of God in Paddan Aram.

 

Like Jacob, before, we did not have any concern for God; we were not spiritual; we were just busy with our own things, pursuing worldly, fleshly and even sinful things. Had not God intervened and helped us, we would have lived that way to the end, and our life would have been really miserable and empty. But God was with us and helped us, even when we were sinful and worldly; God revealed himself to us over and over again in our practical matters such as school, job or family that even we came to recognize God in our life; we became very serious about the meaning of life; we came to acknowledge the existence of God, the reality of heaven and hell. While others lived a happy-go-lucky sinful life, we were really burdened about what we were doing and how we must live our life. Then, when the right time came, God sent his servant who taught us the Bible. God has been with us. Today, we are growing up as spiritual people, children of God, all thanks to Gods love and grace. The God of Paddan Aram is a gracious God

 

In verses 10 through 13, Jacob shares his encounter with God that happened in his dream. He says, In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, Jacob. I answered, Here I am. And he said, Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. Now we understand how come Jacob came up with such a crazy idea of genetic engineering. He just did what God showed him in his dream. And amazingly, everything worked in the way God had shown him. With this, God gave him a direction. Look at verse 13. Lets read this verse together:

 

am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. 

 

Here, God revealed Himself as the God of Bethel, where Jacob had anointed a pillar and made a vow to God. God accepted his vow and answered all of Jacobs requests: He was with him in Paddan Aram, provided him with everything he needed, and protected him from his uncle. God had blessed him. Then, after completing his end of the deal, God asked Jacob to keep his part of the vow by returning to his native land. God had blessed him so much so that eventually, he would be ready for his purpose and go to the promised land so that he would do what God wanted him to do.

 

This passage makes us think about Gods purpose for us.He has been with us; He has shown us his grace; He has helped us and protected us. By his love and grace, we have grown up and have come up this far. Then, very naturally, we come to have this question: Why has He done so? What is his purpose? Yes, it is because He loves us so much that He has helped us and blessed us. He never wants us to perish in darkness; instead, He wants us to thrive, and enjoy this new life in Jesus to the full. Yes, thats the reason why He has helped us and blessed us. Then, does it mean that we just sit down and say, Thank you,all the time? No. There is Gods real purpose for us; there is Gods plan for us - what He wants us to do. As we see Gods helping hands for us, as our hearts are open to him, weacknowledge his will for us, and then, out of thanks, out of love for him, we really do it. Then as we live according to His plan and purpose, there we come to enjoy really a wonderful life, doing something really meaningful and very fulfilling - we are to do the very thing God prepared for us to do in advance. Thats what we must do, and thats how we can really enjoy this new life in Jesus - doing amazing and great things for Gods gloryaccording to his plan and purpose. Thats why Jacob, instead of just enjoying a happy and prosperous life in Paddan Aram, had to go back to the Promised land, where he would serve Gods plan for him.  

 

In January 2004, I attended Brazil Summer Bible conference. There, after the conference, Mother Barry led special Bible study for all the missionaries based on John 15. During Bible study, based on John 15:9, which reads, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love,she asked all of us a question, saying, Here, Jesus says that the Father has loved him. How did the Father love Jesus? What was the expression of the Fathers love for his son Jesus? There could be many answers to this question. So, several missionaries answered this way and that way - they were right answers, but not the right answer Mother Barry had in mind. Who would know whats going on in her heart? Only God knew the right answer. After the answers from several missionaries, Mother Barry still waited, about 5 minutes or even 10 minutes - it seemed that she really wanted to talk about it. While I was thinking about it, the Holy Spirit helped me, reminding me that somewhere in the book of Psalms, there was something like Jesus talking about Gods love for him, but it was not clear. I tried hard to figure it out, asking Him for help to clarify. I was almost there, but not clear, and I wanted to answer before Mother Barry gave us the answer. Then, suddenly, God opened my eyes to see it clearly. So, I raised my hand and answered, The Father, because He loved the Son, included him to work with him, and quoted from Psalm 40:7,8, which reads: Then I said, Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. It was the right answer Mother Barry wanted! Gods expression of love for us is that He has included us to work with him for his world salvation plan. God loves you. So, He includes you to work with him. Jesus says, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love. Jesus loves us, so he includes us to work with him for Gods redemption plan. This is the nature of Gods calling for us - the very expression of Gods love for us. God has helped us; God has blessed us; so, we are growing in him. Why? So that we can do what He wants us to do. Thats the way you can really enjoy a wonderful life in God.

 

This passage also makes us think about Gods promised land. God is almighty; He can do whatever He wants, and certainly, He is not limited geologically. Yet, for Abraham, God asked him to go to the Promised land, even by leaving his family - he would never see them again. For Isaac, God asked him to stay there in the promised land, even though he could not find a job there to support his family. Now for Jacob, God asked him to go back to the promised land. In that specific place, God would do something real with him. What about all the things in Paddan Aram - such great struggles and amazing success? They were just preparation for the real work that God and Jacob would do together in the promised land. So, Jacob must go to the promised land. Long time ago, as I was reading a book written by one of the leaders in Charismatic movement, I think, it was from Joy Ministry, one interesting episode I found. After the author served one meeting successfully, a 70 year old man came to her and asked her a question, saying, When I was young, God really showed me that I would be a missionary. But how come, that will of God has not been fulfilled in my life? At this, she answered, When God called you to a certain ministry He had prepared for you, did you obey Gods will? At this, he was shocked; he dropped his head low and went away sad. There is a specific place God calls each Christian to be so that they can be equipped and trained to do Gods work reallyThats what church is about – the body of Christ. Thats what Gods calling is about. For us, all college campuses in the world are Gods promised land; we are to go and claim those campuses, and every campus we set our foot will be given to us. For this, we have been protected and guided and blessed; for this, we have been called and prepared.  

 

Look at verse 16. After listening to Jacobs testimony, all his wives said to him, Do whatever God has told you. They decided to leave Paddan Aram and go to Jacobs homeland, Canaan. So Jacob took everything - his children, his wives, his camels, his livestock, his servants, and all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram - and set off towards his father Isaac. He did not tell his uncle about his departure. Three days later, Laban learned of it and started to pursue him with his relatives for seven days. But when he was about to catch Jacob, God appeared in a dream at night and said to him, Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. God was in a serious business with Jacob, and He did not want anyone to intervene between them. So Laban did not harm him, instead he and Jacob made a covenant and went back home.

 

Jacob had many good qualities to be a spiritual giant. He had very good spiritual value system. He was not flesh-oriented. He was a man of commitment, hard-working, diligent, and faithful. He was a material for the father of many nations. But he was very difficult to change because of his strong personality and ambitious character. How did God help him in Paddan Aram? God never acted in haste with Jacob; God never rebuked him or challenged him to repent. When Jacob wanted love, God did not say, Flesh counts for nothing. When Jacob wanted wealth, He did not say, You cannot serve both God and Money. Instead, God followed him and gave him what he desired abundantly. When Jacob wanted love, He gave it to him abundantly - not just one, but four wives. When Jacob wanted wealth, He blessed him abundantly. When Jacob went to the right, God followed him and supported him in that way; when Jacob went to the left, God followed him and supported himthere. Then, in the course of time, Jacob came to see Gods helping hand in the practical matters and came to acknowledge God in his life. God became real to him. In that way, God was growing him up as a man of God. In Paddan Aram, God patiently bore with Jacobs worldliness and raised him until he acknowledged God in his life and later, he would be changed into a spiritual person, Israel. 

 

When we think about how God treated Jacob in Paddan Aram, we see that thats how God has treated us all this time -He has been with us, bearing with all our worldliness, sinfulness and character-flaws patiently. While we were wandering in sin and darkness, God did not rebuke us or threaten us, but followed us, protecting us from real harms and evil until we came to recognize him in our life and turn to God. The God of Paddan Aram is the God of tolerance, who patiently bears with our worldliness and weaknesses in hope that we will become spiritual giants. The God of Jacob at Paddan Aram is a gracious God. 

 

One word: Jesus Says, Remain In My Love.

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