Accompanying Bob Deffinbaugh sermon: Jacob Gets Laban's Goat
In our passage today we see God blessing Jacob in spite of his scheming, not because of it.
The 14 years of working for Laban as a dowry for his two wives is now over, and Laban wants to renegotiate the terms of their deal so that Jacob will continue to work for him. There is no love lost between these two men that's for sure. It seems that at this point Laban had had sons of his own, and no longer considered Jacob his heir. They strike a deal that both feel will benefit themselves.
However, Jacob is blessed by God simply due to grace, not Jacob's efforts.
God had not commended him for his attempts to manipulate matters against Laban to his own advantage. In fact, the prosperity which he experienced had nothing to do with his fervent efforts. All of his poles and peeling and segregating were of no profit whatever. A careful look at the words describing the dream will make this clear. Notice how God drew Jacob’s attention to the fact that the males that were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled (verse 10, 12).
Previously we asserted that all of Jacob’s efforts were based upon a faulty premise—that a visual impression during conception would influence the animal born. In the vision which Jacob had from God there were no peeled poles, no segregated flocks, but only male goats mating that were striped, speckled, and mottled. Now what lesson was God getting across to Jacob, or at least to us?
What determined the offspring of the flocks was not the circumstances (visual impressions) at conception but the characteristics of the male that mated with the female goats. Jacob’s attention was drawn to the fact that all the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. To put it another way, only the striped, speckled, and mottled males were mating, none of the rest.
Now this we know to be a very significant factor in determining the characteristics of the offspring. “Like father, like son,” we say. While Jacob operated upon an entirely false premise, God was working on a premise that is scientifically proven. How was it that only the striped, speckled, and mottled males were mating? Simple. God appointed it to be so in order that Laban’s wealth would be passed on to Jacob.
Think of it. All of Jacob’s efforts were of no benefit. All that time peeling poles and separating flocks and striving to outdo Laban was all for naught. What seemed at the moment to be the work of Jacob’s hands and the outcome of his schemes was nothing of the sort. It was the hand of God in spite of his scheming, not because of it.
Self effort is useless to us when it comes to salvation.
Countless men and women are trying to work their way into God’s heaven by their own devices. Some of these would include church membership, baptism, confirmation, communion, church leadership, charity, and so on. Now all of these activities may have great value to the one who is already a Christian, but they are useless to the one who is trying to win God’s approval and blessing by doing them. The appearance of benefit may be there but not the reality of it. People may think we are Christians. They may commend our devotion to duty. But self-effort is mere pole-peeling so far as God is concerned.
The only way to enter God’s heaven is to recognize that we are undeserving of it. We must come to distrust anything we are or do to merit the favor and blessing of God. The work of salvation is God’s sovereign work. It has been accomplished by His Son, Jesus Christ. He bore the penalty for our sins. He provided the righteousness which God requires. Salvation comes when we trust in nothing more and nothing less than the sufficiency of Jesus Christ for our eternal blessings.
I think people often confuse fruit with success. I have often heard people justify immoral activity by using their success as proof - after all, God would not bless them for immorality, and the Bible itself says that we will be known by our fruits. But fruit does not equal success. When the Bible talks about fruit it is talking about spiritual fruit, not worldly success. Just because a ministry is growing in numbers, does not been it is Bible based. Just because a church is growing doesn't mean it's pastor isn't a false teacher. We are to judge based on spiritual fruit. And to remember that material or worldly success does not imply God's blessing.
We also need to remember that our job is not to out con a con. We are to work diligently with integrity, even when we have an unethical boss, and leave the results to God.
We are called to live by trusting in the grace of God, not self-effort.
We are called to live by faith, doing good works out of thankfulness to God for His grace, and to bring glory and honour to Him, not us.
We are called to live counter-culturally.
Monday's scripture focus: Genesis 31:17-55
Sunday's passage: 2 Chronicles 29-30
Monday's passage: 2 Chronicles 31-32, Psalm 123, 1 Corinthians 11