Sermon Series: Lord, I want to be better
25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.” 29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?” 31 “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 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. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” 34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks. 37 Jacob, 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. 38 Then 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, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
The Bible declares no one knows the mind of God, except God. Admittedly, it can be and very often is a challenge to know or identify the specifics of what God is doing in our lives. It is not always easy to see or understand how God is working out His plan for us. Just when we think we’ve figured it out, life seems to throw us a curve leaving us to wonder what is God doing now. My grandmother used to say, “God appoints and people disappoint.” She also said, “People plan but God changes their plans.” If it seems like things are not working out the way you planned, may be its because God is not finished with you yet. If it appears as though life has thrown you a curve perhaps God is not finished with you yet.
Initially, Jacob’s contractual relationship with Laban was for seven years, but seven years became fourteen. Isaac, Jacob’s father sent him to his wife’s brother Laban to find a wife. The moment Jacob saw Rachel, Laban’s youngest daughter; it was love at first sight. Jacob agreed to work for Laban for seven years at the end of which Rachel would be given to him in marriage. The Bible says the seven years seemed like a few days to Jacob because he loved Rachel. It is amazing what we will do and can endure when we are motivated. A person who is sufficiently motivated can conquer any mountain or overcome any obstacle. Jacob’s willingness to wait reminds us that if we believe the prize is worth it we will put the time in to wait and work for our prize. They say anything worth having is worth waiting for; we just have to make up our mind and be willing to wait for it.
When the seven years ended and Jacob went to claim his bride Laban tricked him and gave Jacob Rachel’s older sister Leah. The trickster got tricked. Jacob who had earlier tricked his father into giving him his older brother’s blessing was now reaping what he had sown earlier. We really do need to be careful about the things we say and do to others, because things have a way of coming back to us. They say your sins will seek you out.
Laban contracted with Jacob for another seven years for Rachel’s hand in marriage. In total, Jacob worked for Laban for 14 years. The 14 years that Laban extracted from the life of Jacob was a down payment on the blessing Jacob received. Jacob took something that belonged to Esau and God used Laban to collect on Jacob’s debt. Every blessing comes with cost. Jacob received something that a) was not intended for him; and b) he received it by deceit. Therefore, he had to pay what he owed. The ninth and tenth commandments are prohibitions against covetousness or wanting what belongs to someone else. The truth is when we receive or take something that belongs to someone else we get everything that comes with it. In the case of Jacob the seeds of deceit that he sowed in stealing his brother’s blessings now bore fruit and it was his time to reap and eat from what he had sown. Jacob’s payment was now due. Whatever God has for you and I God will make sure we get it when the time comes for us to receive it. The Bible says, “To whom much is given much is required.” Whatever God blesses us with comes with a cost. We either have to work for the blessing or we will have to work to keep the blessing. Blessings are like bank loans. The bank gives us a loan and we can either pay off the loan quickly or we can pay it off over time. Jacob got his loan and spent the next 14 years paying it off. Even though Jacob was paying off his debt, he was also maximizing his blessing. Any blessing we receive from God is designed to benefit us, and if you and I do not put the blessing to work we cannot access the benefits. Jacob went to Laban to find a wife. God blessed him with two wives, two maidservants and 13 children. Jacob came to Laban with nothing and in 14 years he had something to show for his time. Jacob put his blessing to work and he accessed the benefits of the blessing.
And so now, Jacob is ready to go. In his mind he has fulfilled his obligation to Laban and he obtained his prize. However, God was not ready for Jacob to venture out on his own just yet, because God was not finished with him. God uses Laban to implore him to stay with him. They both acknowledge that God has increased Laban’s holdings because of the work Jacob has done. How do we know when it is time to go or transition? It’s time to go when God says it time. Until then we have to make the best of it in our current situation. There are times when you and I will think and feel as though we are ready for something, but in the eyes of God we are not quite ready yet. There really is no substitute for seasoning. Jacob needed time for God’s divine seasoning to be absorbed into his person. He needed time to see and comprehend more information about the power of God working in his life. When you and I are trying to open a door that God has not opened yet, we need to settle down and watch for what God is preparing to do next. We need to be open to the things that God wants us to teach us and wants us to learn and understand, because all divine lessons are crucial for our growth, well being and survival.
This time Jacob negotiated the terms of his agreement. The terms that Jacob negotiated greatly favored Laban. Jacob offered to build his flock from multicolored sheep and goats. Laban thought he had Jacob this time for good. He had all of the mottled animals take away leaving Jacob with only single colored sheep and goats. Apparently, he had tricked Jacob once again. However, what he did not count on was the fact that the same God who blessed him through Jacob could also bless Jacob directly. Laban did not realize that the reason God allowed Jacob to stay was because God was not finished with Jacob yet. Before God could allow Jacob to leave with his family, God needed to make sure Jacob and his family did not leave empty handed. Those of us who are in situations that seem untenable, difficult or even challenging should take a page out of Jacob’s book. If we do, we will come to understand that God often reserves exhibiting His greatness in the lives of His people for times that appear difficult, challenging and impossible. When we examine this text and the way God worked for Jacob we discover some valuable lessons about God.
We learn about God’s ability to:
1. Divinely Engineer – Engineers are people who design methods and apparatuses for accomplishing or making things happen. The text points out that using a complex method of cutting branches from specific trees, poplar, almond, and plane, peeling them so that the inner wood was exposed and placing them in the watering troughs Jacob was able to induce breeding among the animals so that their offspring would come out multicolored. In other words, God used Jacob’s understanding of breeding techniques to bring about Jacob’s desired goal. The principle behind divine engineering is that God works through the knowledge, skills and abilities of His people to facilitate their accomplishment of His goals and objectives for them. Divine engineering means that God working through us will accomplish God’s goals and outcomes for us. Whatever you and I need to be successful in any endeavor God has already placed it in us we just have to allow God to work in and through us in our current situation and God will divinely engineer or bring about our success.
2. Divinely Multiply – Through God’s divine engineering we also see God’s divine multiplication. One of the principles of multiplication is that any thing multiplied by zero is zero. Remember, Laban had all of the streaked, spotted and speckled animals removed, and so Jacob was starting from zero. However, through God’s divine engineering God was able to divinely multiply the number of multicolored animals allowing Jacob to build his own flock. Here’s what we know about God, from the beginning of time God has been able to create immediately and mediately. Immediately God is able to create or make something out of nothing (ex-nihilo). God does not need anything to make something, and God does not need any assistance to make something happen. God can create simply because He is God. God is also able to create mediately, meaning that God can take something and make it something else. God is able to take that which exists and through natural and/or supernatural processes create and multiply. Divine multiplication reminds us that we do not need anything in order for God to make something and out of the little we have God can multiply it causing it to increase. Jacob started with nothing. God created something out of the nothing Jacob had and then God proceeded to multiply from the something He created for Jacob.
3. Divinely Fulfill - The Bible tells us that, “God is not a man that He should lie, nor the son of man that He should repent. Hath he said, and shall he not do it?” God made a promise to Jacob that He would bless him. God was now fulfilling His promise. The acquisition of a family was only part of God’s promise to Jacob. By divinely engineering and multiplying Jacob’s flock God was also divinely fulfilling another component of His promise to Jacob. Having a family is nice, but being in a position where you can support, provide and take care of their needs is better. If God allowed Jacob to leave when Jacob thought he should leave Jacob would have left unfulfilled. Sometimes we may feel anxious about our situations and circumstances because they seem to be uncertain or shaky, but in reality it takes time for some promises to be fulfilled. There are some promises that are fulfilled quickly and some slowly, but God is a keeper of His word. The Bible says, not one word from the mouth of God will fall to the ground. That means that the people of God can trust in and take God at His word. Whatever God says He will do we can be dead sure that God will do, honor and keep His word.
In this text we are able to see that it’s not over until God says it’s over. We see that whereas we may think and feel that God is punishing us by keeping us or causing us to stay in situations and circumstances that we want to get out of, God in fact is communicating to us the reason we are still there is because God is not finished with us yet. Potentially, there are some lessons we still need to learn about God and what God can and will do for us. There are also some things that God wants to fulfill and accomplish in our lives. Therefore, we do not need to be anxious or stressed out by what is happening or not happening, we just have to remind ourselves that our time is coming and God’s not finished with us yet.