Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Tender Shepherd

"The Meeting of Jacob and Rachel" by William Dyce (1806-1864)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Genesis 29:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept." Genesis 29:11

Today's reading paints a very human Jacob. A tent-dweller versus outdoorsman, he was a mama's boy (Genesis 25:27-28). Now, due in no little part to his and his mother's cunning, he (at 40+ years - Genesis 24:34) is forced to leave home due to twin brother Esau's threats to kill him after Dad dies.

Traveling east, he arrives at a well where shepherds are gathered with their flocks. He inquires if they know his mother's brother Laban, and they do! Then, even as they're talking, who should come along but Laban's beautiful daughter Rachel with her father's flock.

Jacob promptly removes the stone from the well (he may have been the indoors type but was obviously no wimp), waters Rachel's flock, tells her who he is, and kisses her in a patriarchal greeting, so overjoyed at finding his family he breaks down in tears.

We know, from reading the whole story, how his trials are just beginning. But God has big plans for him. To put them in motion, Jacob needs to leave home and live under the discipline of Laban. Laban will give him a taste of his own treacherous nature and Jacob will, as a result, develop into a man of character. Unlike Esau who sells his birthright to quell hunger pains, he will end up working 14 years for the girl he loves.

The happy 'coincidences' in today's reading will no doubt reassure Jacob, as he thinks back on them in the years ahead, when he again feels Godforsaken. They will remind him that God has led him, caring for him tenderly and personally—the shepherd of a human sheep, if you will—all this time.

God is the same with us. For if we examine our histories we will see how God's hand has been with us too, moving the pieces on the game boards of our lives in the big things, like meeting our spouse, to the little, like reminding us that we need to drop by the store. As Jesus put it:

" ' My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.' " John 10:27,28.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for watching over me as closely as you watched over Jacob. Help me to remember this and be reassured when I feel alone and afraid. Amen.

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Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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