We are reading the Bible through together this year, using the Discipleship Journal Reading Plan published by the Navigators. You can download it free of charge from: https://www.navigators.org/resource/bible-reading-plans/
Today’s 4 readings are: Matthew 5:21-32; Acts 7:39-60; Psalm 12, Genesis 29-30.
Today’s account of Jacob laboring for a flock of his own after 14 years of serving his father-in-law Laban is a lesson both in careful Bible reading, and a display of wondrous grace.
There is no question that the account is somewhat puzzling. What is all this about Jacob peeling sticks to get the flocks to mate and produce striped and specked offspring that would become his wages? The bottom line was, Jacob, still not having learned to live by faith in trusting God’s promises, sought to use folk magic to get his desired result. He was still up to his old ways of trying to manipulate external things to get his way, rather than trusting God that He could and would bring His promises to pass.
We must be careful not to assume that Jacob’s attempt to use folk magic is countenanced by God. God had determined to bless him. The folk magic contributed nothing to that. But if we are not careful, we can take this example as something to be emulated instead of recognizing how God often blesses in spite of ourselves. This is not an endorsement. And Jacob himself will have to admit in the next chapter that it is God who has made things work out the way they did. And God told him that too! (31:9-13) What is described here is no more a method than Gideon’s fleece. In fact, it is something much greater. It is a record of God’s amazing grace in the face of human foolishness.
When our faith is small, or our Biblical knowledge of God and how He works is scant, we too can easily fall back on human means to achieve God’s ends. But it would be a sad mistake to assume those means really brought about the desired result rather than God being willing to bless in spite of our foolishness. Oh how gracious He is toward our brokenness and foolishness. And how careful we must be not to make unwarranted direct cause/effect connections in events, when we employ things God has not appointed for His ends, but in His mercy He grants anyway.
Ours is always to go back to the Word, back to His promises, back to trust His character and His sovereignty and stop trying to manipulate Him, events or people. He knows how to deliver. And none of His promises can fail.