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September 13, 2020 | Doug Sauder
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“‘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’ . . . 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. 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, they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 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. Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.”—Genesis 30:31, 37-43 (NIV)
Today’s passage strangely reminds me of a classic childhood movie, 101 Dalmatians. To refresh your memory, the movie begins with the antagonist of the film, Cruella de Vil, obsessed with dalmatian puppies because of their rare, yet beautiful, dotted and speckled fur. This obsession leads her to relentlessly pursue Roger and Anita’s dalmatian pups.
Much like the dalmatians were not very common in the movie, speckled and dotted sheep in Jacob’s time were also not common. However, unlike Cruella’s obsession, the speckled sheep were not very desirable. With this in mind, one might question why Jacob, when finally presented with the opportunity to bargain with Laban who had continually mistreated and tricked him, actually made a bargain that seemed to be oddly in Laban’s favor.
Jacob told Laban he only wanted to keep the less common spotted and speckled offspring that his flock would bear in the future. Jacob even promised that any non-speckled offspring that his flock bore would still belong to Laban as his wealth. He basically allowed Laban to keep the majority of the flock and its profit. Regardless, Laban still attempts to further hinder Jacob’s profit by separating the already speckled sheep “a three-day journey” away from Jacob so he would have a lower probability of producing speckled sheep. Nonetheless, God performs the impossible once again by causing an abundance of spotted and speckled sheep to be born of the solid colored sheep that Jacob tended to. Not only was Jacob able to grow his flock according to the deal he made with Laban, but it ended up being that his flock was also the stronger of all the sheep. Yet, there’s still more to be seen in this story.
This story is not only a testament to God’s just nature and faithfulness, but it’s a testament to His grace and redemption. We were once those sheep—unwanted, unimportant, and wandering aimlessly without purpose or identity. We didn’t deserve anything more, yet our God, gracious and never-failing in love, made a plan so our relationship could be restored. Much like Jacob took an interest in these seemingly worthless sheep, God didn’t give up on us.
Unlike Jacob though, He did not need to strike a deal with anyone to save us. Our God conquered sin and death through His Son, Jesus Christ, the perfect and forever sufficient sacrifice. At the forefront of His mind, He reads your name and calls you beloved, and He wants to call you a child of God if you would only receive Him and believe in His name (John 1:12).
DIG: Reflect on a time when God acted both faithfully and graciously to you.
DISCOVER: Is there a situation you need to trust God with despite the seemingly impossible circumstances?
DO: Ask God for help to trust His perfectly just and gracious character, but also thank Him for those aspects of His divine nature.