Stripy Goats!

Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. Moreover, it came about whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, that Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods, but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban’s and the stronger Jacob’s. So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys (Genesis 30:37-43).

Jacob had worked 14 years for Laban, had taken his two daughters as his brides, and felt it was time to move on, however, Laban knew he was on to a good thing with Jacob around, and wasn’t going to let Jacob walk away that easy. Laban knew that God had blessed Jacob and as a result was blessing him. So he offered him anything he wanted to stay. Jacob being a cunning fellow to say the least, thought he knew of a way to increase his wealth, or blessings. All he asked of Laban was to be able to take any goats or sheep that were blemished in some way. Seemed pretty straight forward to Laban, as it wasn’t the norm for there to be a lot of blemished animals anyway. Both men were happy with the agreement.

But as the verses above show, Jacob took some actions and thought that trough those actions, he was influencing the offspring of the goats and sheep. He reasoned that by plant peeling, and rod mating, he’d somehow stumbled upon a method of increasing his own flock, and being prosperous. Amazingly it worked. Or so Jacob thought. His cunning plan was resulting in him being “exceedingly prosperous”. His own works were resulting in him being blessed.

How often do we think like this in life? Numerous self help books published on “how to be blessed”, “how to unlock the blessings of God”,”7 steps to finding your blessing”, etc. etc. I’ve grown up in churches all my life where this kind of message, either directly, or indirectly has been preached. You must do something to release the favour of God on your life. For a long time, I even told this to ones around me. “To see goodness happen in your life, you’re gonna need to do x, y, and z.”

Over the past few years I’ve been on a weird journey. A lot of the things I’ve held sacred about the “Christian Walk”, now seem so futile. God has taken me to passages in the bible I’m not sure I’ve ever read, well read properly anyway. Today being one of those days.

Back to Jacob… The problem with Jacob’s technique for mating lies in the fact that its absurd that peeling bits off trees would result in stripy goats, that laying rods down in troughs would result in mating, and making the flock face the stripy and black animals would end up with more stripy and black animals. Jacob honestly thought his carnal efforts were producing superior animals! The problem being God doesn’t work that way!

 The Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives. I will be with you.” So Jacob sent a message for Rachel and Leah to come to the field where his flocks were. There he said to them, “I can tell that your father’s attitude toward me has changed, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father as hard as I could, but your father has humiliated me and changed my wages ten times. But God has not permitted him to do me any harm. If he said, ‘The speckled animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to speckled offspring. But if he said, ‘The streaked animals will be your wage,’ then the entire flock gave birth to streaked offspring. In this way God has snatched away your father’s livestock and given them to me.

“Once during breeding season I saw in a dream that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, and spotted. In the dream the angel of God said to me, ‘Jacob!’ ‘Here I am!’ I replied.  Then he said, ‘Observe that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I have observed all that Laban has done to you.  I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the sacred stone and made a vow to me. Now leave this land immediately and return to your native land.’ (Genesis 31:3-13)”

God had already given Jacob a dream during mating season showing him that goat’s that were mating were in fact the streaked, speckled and spotted ones. It wasn’t that Jacob’s creative tree peeling was doing the trick, it was the fact that God had already chosen to bless him, and God was making the streaked, speckled and spotted animals reproduce better! 

Today, this is the same for us! It’s not a case of us needing to do something to earn God’s favour – what could we do that would even come close to earning any type of blessing on our lives? Rather as laid out in John 15:1-8, Jesus, the vine, causes the fruitfulness, all we need to do is abide in Him. We aren’t told to be victorious, just obedient, we’re not called to be fruitful, rather to abide in Christ.

God will bless who he chooses to bless, in the way he wants to bless, in the time he wants to bless them. It’s not our job to try and earn that blessing, rather to rest in the blessing that is being in relationship with Him, the Almighty.

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