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Jacob’s Ladder

Click here to read Genesis 30 on BibleGateway.com

 “So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me.” – Genesis 31:9

specleWhen we first meet our good friend Jacob, he forces his starving brother Esau to fork over his inheritance before he gives him a snack.  Nice guy.  Then he bamboozles his father into giving him the blessing that should have belonged to Esau.  Even nicer. When his loving elder sibling understandably wants to throw Jacob in front of some stampeding buffalo, Jacob has to run to away from home, and right into the arms of his uncle Laban, a man who also never met a con he didn’t like.

After working for Laban’s ranch for a few years, Jacob decides he wants to start his own livestock business.  But how to start?  Resorting once again to his favorite artform – deception – Jacob asks Laban if he can have all the “imperfect” animals from the herds.  Both men agree to the terms, and then proceed to try to rip off each other.  Laban removes all the imperfect animals before they can breed, and  Jacob tries to tip the scales in his favor by having all the weak animals mate out in the sunlight, and all the strong animals mate in the shade.  Theoretically, this was supposed to ensure that all of the strong animals would belong to Jacob.


Nowadays, we recognize that the amount of sunlight an animal receives has little to do with the type of offspring they bear.  (in fact, this story is often used by non-believers to mock the Bible.)  However, notice that Jacob himself comes to realize the futility of his action.  In chapter 31, Jacob tells his family “God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.”  Jacob realizes that his efforts were pointless, and that it was God who was increasing his flocks.

Over the course of his life, Jacob began to rely less and less on his own cleverness, and more and more on God’s provision.  That’s how it is for a lot of us.  Getting close to God is rarely a single event, like they show in those well-meaning yet somehow uninspiring movies.  We make little decisions each day, and we look back and think “how did I get here?”  We start by going to church once a week, and then doing five minutes of devotions, and then ten, until one day we look around and realize that spending time with Christ has become the focus of our lives.


But it can go the other direction, too.  In surveys of prison inmates, many look back on a single small action – went to that party, told that one lie, shoplifted that little item – as the start of a journey to where they are now.  Almost no one starts off murdering – they start off stealing from their parents, then friends, then the local grocery store, and one day they look around and realize they’re a career criminal.  How does it happen?  That little decision in the beginning.

Today, look at your little decisions and where they might be leading.  Do you need to stop something before it starts?  Avoid that “coincidental” meeting at the water cooler with her; don’t leave that little thing out of that report; don’t “lose” that notice.  The little things may be difficult, but the longer things go on, the harder they become to stop.

The next time you look around, what do you want to see?

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