Monday, January 7, 2019

Daily Bread for Jan 10, Gen 30-31

Today's readings are Gen 30-31.

Jacob's life, so far, is fraught with tension, jealousy, suspicion and manipulation, much of it brought down on himself by his own actions. Yet, Jacob is the son of the promise! God is faithful to Jacob! This is the theme of these two chapters.

Jacob struggled with his brother Esau, struggled with Laban over his wives and now, in Gen 30, the wives struggle with each other, competing for Jacob's attention and favor by bearing children. When Leah and Rachel are unable to conceive, they employ their slaves Zilpah (Gen 29:24) and Bilhah (Gen 29:29). God sovereignly fulfills His promise to Jacob by giving him twelve sons.

Note, the text neither condemns nor condones the practice of using concubines. It merely states the facts regarding the situation. God blesses through the concubines as an act of grace and faithfulness in fulfilling His promises on His part. So far as the text is concerned, the use of concubines, although blessed by God, always has complications and unforeseen results. What seems like a clever idea to those involved never turns out very well. So is the case with Jacob and his sons. There will be times of unity, but there will be much jealousy and strife as well. Furthermore, none of it seems to dampen the tension between Rachel and Leah.

Amid all the family strife, Jacob manages to become highly prosperous and begins to plan his departure from Laban (Gen 30:25-43). However, his riches do not end his struggles; they magnify them. Laban is not a God-fearing man and claims divination has revealed a few things to him concerning Jacob. While the information is accurate this is not an endorsement of occult practices. Divination will be condemned later in the Dt 18:10. What we should see in this narrative arc is God’s constant protection and provision of Jacob and the fulfillment of the promise He made to him. God demonstrates His authority over the occult by prospering Jacob regardless of any information or devious plans Laban has.

This applies to the events surrounding the spotted and speckled sheep (Gen 30:25-42). Rather than seeing a mystical power in the sticks Jacob uses, we should see God moving sovereignly to protect and provide for Jacob even though Laban seems to be doing all he can to cheat Jacob out of what he has rightfully earned. Jacob does not place his trust in the sticks but in God, as we will see in Gen 31:9. Laban, whether he follows God or not, sees God's hand in Jacob's life.

Rachel adds to the tension, in Gen 31, by taking some of her father's idols when Jacob leaves with his family. Jacob expresses trust in God, who protects and preserves him and his family. Ultimately, what we read shows us that Jacob has maintained integrity before Laban. He has trusted and obeyed God throughout. And even though Jacob is living in a pagan land, being taken advantage of by a pagan man—God protects him, provides for him and prospers him. Many of Laban’s riches end up in Jacob’s possession by the sovereign move of God.

Through all these developments, we see a subtle change taking place in Jacob. He is acknowledging God's blessings more and more, trusting in Him more and more (Gen 31:42). Meanwhile, God is revealing more of Himself to Jacob. At Bethel, He showed Jacob that there is one way to heaven, but He also revealed that God comes to earth in that one way as well. It would be many centuries before this was made clear, but it still shows us much about how God operates. God taught Jacob He has power over the occult and can bless in miraculous ways. Now Jacob openly admits that without God he would have nothing. God is the source of all Jacob's blessings. God not only blesses, but He protects and prospers. All along the narrative, we see that God has been refining Jacob, drawing him closer, showing this profoundly flawed man His grace. While the story continues to develop, we can see the transformation God’s grace is having in Jacob.

Jacob and Laban part ways with a covenant based on the wrath of God coming down on whoever breaks it. Jacob, in the middle of his striving and all this tension, has become a witness to Laban and an example of God's unmerited grace.

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