Day 1

From Genesis – Jacob’s Covenant with Laban

from the 2016 Year in Review reading plan


Genesis 31, Genesis 32


Poor Steve Bartman. On the evening of October 14, 2003, the Marlins were playing the Cubs for the NLCS title. The Cubs were up 3 games to 2 in the series, and they were up 3-0 in the eighth inning of Game 6. If the Cubs won the game, they would win the NLCS (which they had not done since 1945) and advance to the World Series (which they had not won since 1908).

The Marlins second baseman, Luis Castillo, fouled deep to left field. If the Cubs outfielder, Moises Alou, caught the ball, they would only be four outs away from history. But as the ball came down, Steve Bartman, a Cubs fan sitting in the outfield seats, reached for the ball, deflecting it away from Alou’s glove. The Marlins went on to score eight runs that inning, and then knocked the Cubs out by winning Game 7 the next day.

Guess who people blamed for the Cubs’ failure to make it to the World Series. Need a hint? Steve Bartman. Of course, Steve Bartman had little to do with the number of runs and outs each team scored over the span of those seven games, but history remembers him for his “transgression.”

Our mistake, failures, and wrong-doings often have a lingering effect. In some cases, unfortunately, we come to be known by them. Jacob was a man who played a lot of angles in his life. He prospered through trickery. He made a lot of enemies.

In today’s passage, Jacob is reaping the whirlwind of his scheming with Laban. He had manipulated his uncle, whose patience had run out. Fearing for his life, Jacob bolted. But as he fled from Laban, he encountered Esau, whom he had also angered earlier through his deceit.

The pressure of having to flee from Laban only to encounter Esau broke something in Jacob. He became a desperate man. He came to the end of himself. It is in this posture that Jacob spent the night wrestling with the angel on the banks of the Jabbok River. In more ways than one, he was fighting for his life.

It is a mercy when God takes us to the end of ourselves—when He exhausts our manipulation, our greed, our narcissism, and the angles we can play. When our best schemes fail and the only play we have left to make is a plea for mercy, God is not punishing us. He is loving us. “The LORD disciplines the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:12).

Steve Bartman didn’t deserve the wrath of Cubs fans. Jacob, on the other hand, deserved almost every bit of the distrust and anger Laban and Esau felt for him. But God used the lingering effects of Jacob’s scheming to bring him to the end of himself, in order to show Jacob his deep need for God’s help. May we learn to regard the disciplining hand of God as a merciful demonstration of His love, as He works to untie us from the tangles of our own scheming.

Written by Russ Ramsey

Post Comments (9)

9 thoughts on "From Genesis – Jacob’s Covenant with Laban"

  1. Austin says:

    I wonder when we try to make things happen, even though we are promised, if god allows bad things to happen as a sign to teach us that we are in the wrong.
    Is it possible I’m in the wrong? Is it possible I am trying to make IT happen? Am I trying to map out my destiny , instead of using god’s map that he has for me?
    God help me to use your road map, not mine. Help me to choose your ways , for which are higher, than mine. Help send clarity in this process for me in life

  2. Nathan Selby says:

    I feel like I don’t even get disciplined… almost like I have gone so far into sin that I’m a lost cause. It’s a scary feeling.

  3. Joel Selby says:

    2016 was a year of God’s discipline for me, much like 2015 was before it. I had spun a deep, intricate, strong web of deceit, pride, and selfishness, and God allowed the growing fear, doubt, and distrust that lay underneath my web to make me come to the end of myself. And it was all because I asked for His discipline. Yet through all of it, He blessed me with so much: material blessings, a beautiful baby daughter, help from my amazing, beautiful wife. My prayer is that I will find the courage to face 2017 with a deep trust in the one who seeks me every day.

  4. Oli says:

    I did nothing to make God choose me and be gracious to me. Thank you Lord for pouring out your love in Christ’s shed blood for me, to take away the just punishment I deserve. I continually make foolish decisions and dip my toe in sin’s acidic water, and you continue to offer open arms and a loving heart. Please help me to have a better vision, to see my sins as wretched and foul before you, and to have my eyes fixed on Christ, the redeemer and owner of my soul. Turn my heart from sin and draw me by your Spirit to holy living to Christ and holy dying to self. In His name. Amen

  5. Nathan Porter says:

    It’s important to remember Gods hand was in the restoration of Jacob’s relationships even though Jacob lived in a lot of fear. He used lies and ran away from his problems, but when he confronted them, God brought about peace.

  6. Dalton Beaty says:

    I am amazed at the part of this passage when Jacob is wrestling with the angel. What an awe-striking sight and experience. Why is he wrestling with the angel? What is the significance? Jacob was one who received all of his riches through deceit, which is not an uncommon occurrence in our society now. A dishonest living is almost to the point of applaud in our world now. We don’t care how one receives his/her riches, we just applaud that he/she is rich. God brings Jacob, and the rest of us, to a place of humility every time when we begin to walk in this way. Just when we think we’re getting it all done on our own, God sweeps in to bring us back to Him. Praise God for that. Where would I be without the longing God has for my humble heart. I would be an arrogant egotistical maniac always looking for more and boasting in myself. Praise God for His longing for my heart. This passage is a beautiful example of God’s pursuit of us.

  7. Evan Tinklenberg says:

    What’s incredible to me about these verses is how Jacob has made for himself an unbelievable mess, and he knows it; in his prayers he never fails to mention how much lying and deceit has characterized his life. And yet he still prays! And he prays that God would forgive him and protect him!

    What’s especially poignant is how Jacob realizes he doesn’t deserve the favor of God, but as is the case throughout Genesis and the rest of the Old Testament, God uses imperfect people to accomplish his purposes in ways no one would expect.

    In these passages, God proves himself opposite the main actors in the story – trustworthy, full of love and integrity, not deceitful, and extremely generous. And even though this puts the character of every person in the passage at odds with the character of God, he does not choose to act in aggressive opposition to the things these people do; instead, he works through their wrongs and lies and evil deeds to work for his glory and their joy, particularly the joy of his people.

  8. Matt Rouse says:

    It’s easy for me to think about God as the my big in and out of my life as I do well or poorly. But Jacob was a man who was continually making bad and selfish decisions, but God never left him. He lovingly steered Jacob to the place that he wanted him and molded him into the man he wanted him to be. God will do the same for me! Though I often will make foolish decisions, God will be by my side slowly leading me into paths of righteousness. His glory and righteousness are for my good. Our happiness and his are not at odds; they are exactly the same. We just perceive our happiness to be in a place that is within our grasp when in reality they are in Gods grasp and he opens his hand so that we can partake. What a good father! 😃

  9. Adam Freeman says:

    I feel as though I am Jacob. I have had many different experiences with similar effects of scheming things in my best interest and am now reaping what I have sown. I’m at my breaking point because of all the things I have done and have put my family into jeopardy. I am turning myself to god and asking him for the direction I need to take. I have faith god will save me from all my mistakes and wrong doings. This scripture and the following words have hit me deep and this is the first devotional I have done and it’s actually the most relatable to what I’m going through.

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