1. How God Blessed Jacob 

God earnestly promised that He would bless Jacob, but that blessing was not going to come without effort on the part of the promised man (Genesis 28:13-15).  In subsequent years, truly, Jacob got very blessed, and he admitted that the Lord had “dealt graciously” with him (Genesis 33:12), but the gracious blessing came through very hard work, as we may tell from the blessed man’s grieved complaints to his wives and to his boss.  God blessed Jacob, but not while he folded his hands and vigorously ‘claimed the promises.’

To his relatively unblessed boss, Jacob the blessed man lamented, “Thou knowest HOW I have served thee, and HOW thy cattle was with me” (Genesis 30:29).  For clarifications on the ‘how’ and ‘how’ of his service to his boss and uncle and father-in-law, we go to his complaints to his wives:

And ye know that WITH ALL MYPOWERI have SERVED your father.  

And your father hath deceived me and changed my wages ten times(Genesis 31:6-7)

  1. Faithful Service to an Ungrateful Master 

Jacob the blessed man had a master neither blessed by Papa Isaac nor Father Abraham.  Jacob served that unblessed master – a very mean uncle and father-in-law at that, who missed no opportunity to cheat him – ten times.  It probably got so bad that Jacob opened a diary to keep count of the abuses.

Jacob served his ungrateful master “with ALL [his] power,” never taking undue advantage of the family connections between them.  He didn’t serve shoddily.  He didn’t serve lazily.  He didn’t give eye service.  He served.  He served with ALL his power – with every power in his bones and in his sleep shot eyes.  Jacob didn’t serve for a short weekend then escape into a compensatory five-star Las Vegas holiday resort ‘to rest.’  There was, in fact, nowhere to run to.  With a cheated and furious sword-drawn brother waiting back home, even home was no option at all; at least not yet.  He was marooned where he had found himself, but Destiny had a hand in his ordeals.

Jacob served for over two decades, under very strenuous conditions.  Despite those abuses, he did not steal from his office.  He gave no excuse for losses.  According to him, he worked day and night, in the cold and in the heat until “sleep fled from my eyes.”

  1. Should a Blessed Man Labour? 

God was with Jacob, yet he laboured and suffered hardship.  The blessing and presence of God did not mean for him a ‘prophetic’ folding of the hands.  God did not bless Jacob’s positive confessions.  God blessed what Jacob described as “my HARDSHIP and the TOIL of MY hands.”  Should a blessed man such as Jacob, with abundant divine promises on his head, have hardship and toil?  His parting protest speech to his very exploitative boss is worth hearing at length:

38 “I have been with you for TWENTY YEARS NOW. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I BORE THE LOSS MYSELF. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The HEAT CONSUMED ME IN THE DAYTIME AND THE COLD AT NIGHT, and SLEEP FLED FROM MY EYES. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I WORKED FOR YOU fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and YOU CHANGED MY WAGES TEN TIMES. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen MY HARDSHIP and THE TOIL OF MY HANDS, and last night he rebuked you” (Genesis 31:38-42, NIV).

  1. Here am I; Send my Neighbour!  

Jacob said, “But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands.”  Does God see HARDSHIP and TOIL – of people with a promise?   Is toiling consistent with blessing?  What does He do when He thus sees their hard labour?

Not everyone with the blessedness of Jacob can speak thus like Jacob.  They could speak not of THEIR hardship but that of others, to which they claim a right for blessings; they could speak not of the toil of THEIR hands but the toil of others hands that they believe should provide their ‘prophetic’ and promised bread and butter.

  1. Joseph’s Business Couch 

It was under a hard master such as Laban that Jacob got well apprenticed in business, and transferred the same pricey skills to his children in later years.  It would then appear that God had meant the hardship as a crucial training – for Jacob’s ultimate good.  If, years later, Joseph his son was a master manager in a foreign land; if Joseph became a saviour in Egypt, he learned it from his father who had been trained under merciless Uncle Laban and loving Papa Isaac.  A balanced training that was – the pampering of loving Papa Isaac and the pepper of harsh Uncle Laban.  Not all buttered, and not all peppered.

How many in my age would have endured such rigours and denials, especially if they had had an open-heaven Bethel-encounter and believed that God was on their side?  How many in my age would have survived the unmerciful Laban if they believed so much in the ‘generational blessings’ of Abraham their grandfather, and prided themselves in the blessed hands of Isaac that had been laid on them?

  1. Too Favoured to Labour? 

God did not bless the promise on the life of Jacob.  God blessed the toils of Jacob’s hands to fulfil the promise on Jacob’s head.  The promise of God’s blessings is sometimes not without the toil of the blessed hands to fulfil it; not without sleepless nights, scorching heat, and frosty nights.  That hardship is sometimes the training it takes to manage and maintain what God gives.  The promises of God usually demand the labours of men to fulfil them.

Mean and ‘abusive’ masters such as Laban could sometimes be a blessing, as trainers of a unique kind. Often have we cited the blessings and blessedness of Jacob, but not so often have we stressed his tedious path to that enviable glory.

God always blesses something.  He does not multiply nothing.  God asked Moses in the wilderness, “What is that in your hand?” (Exodus 4:2).  Everyone has something in their hand that God could bless, if only they would discover it.  O God, open our eyes.  Amen.

Anyone too favoured to labour could be serving a different God than Jacob knew.  Anyone too anointed to toil might need another name to call their state.

From The Preacher’s diary,
October 10, 2022. 

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