God With Us

Genesis 31:31-43

31Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. 35Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

36Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us. 38I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39I 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. 40This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41It 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. 42If 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.”

43Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?

The Crocodile and the Monkey

Have you heard about the story of the Monkey and the Crocodile?

As the crocodile watched the monkey enjoyed eating fruits near a river bank, he craved and asked the monkey some fruits. The monkey gave him some, and they enjoyed eating fruit together. In short, they became friends.

The crocodile went home and told his crocodile wife about his monkey friend. The crocodile wife thought that the heart of fruit eating monkey must be sweet, so she asked her crocodile husband to get the heart of his monkey friend. The crocodile husband hesitated but he wanted to please his crocodile wife.

The next day, the crocodile meet his monkey friend and eat fruit together as usual. Then, the crocodile remember what his crocodile wife said. He told the monkey, “Monkey, there are more delicious fruits on the other side of the river. I don’t know how to climb. If you want you can ride on my back. I will bring you there. You climb the tree and give me some fruits, how about that?”

The monkey had wished all his life to visit the other side of the river but did not know how to swim. The crocodile’s offer was very tempting. So, he agreed, and rode on the back of the crocodile. But while they were in middle of the river, the crocodile confessed, “Sorry friend, but I need to give your heart to my wife.”

Most often, we also put ourselves in trouble like the monkey because we are not satisfied with what we have. We crave for more. You may not necessarily or personally encounter trouble similar to what happened to the monkey, but even with so much precaution, there will always be unwanted, unexpected, or unpleasant challenges and difficulties we may encounter.

Winter is coming and we can expect highway accidents. Even if one drives carefully, accidents can be caused by reckless drivers or sudden car malfunction.

Christ did not promise us to be exempted from troubles. Actually, God lets us to face problems common to mankind to help us realize the magnitude of our trust in Him. When we accepted Christ into our hearts, we believe that God is with us. And, the word of God assures us that, if God is with us, who can be against us that could separate us from the love of God?

God loves us but it doesn’t mean that He would just let us live a lifestyle free from trouble. No! Troubles can be instrumental for God to discipline us.

It says in Hebrews 12:6-8, 6The Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son. 7Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?  8If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

We may realize that even though God has promised Jacob to be with him, watch over him, and provide for his needs until he returns to Canaan, Jacob had to escape from Laban. That was not smooth sailing kind of life so to speak. Jacob’s life while serving Laban may not be pleasant but he endured, why?

Jacob did not complain and say, “Lord, I thought you will be with me, watch over me. Why do you let me endure the hostility of Laban?” No! Jacob’s trust in God includes tough times, and God gave him strength to serve Laban to the best of his ability without complaining. Such is an exhibit of faith in the Lord. Meaning: Jacob trusted God to sustain him in all aspect of his life, and God sustained his needs, not just material needs but safety, strength, health, and emotional needs.

Did Jacob ever feel lonely? Did he ever experience scare? Sure he did!

1. Scare.

31Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.

Jacob admitted that if he informed Laban about his travel back to Canaan, he was scared that Laban would let him go empty handed. Laban changed Jacob’s wages ten times as scheme to have more income from his flock. The more Laban tried to deceive Jacob, the more God prospered Jacob.

Did God help Jacob sense the selfishness of Laban? Jacob was the son of Laban’s sister Rebekah. Jacob was his nephew and his son-in-law, the husband of his daughters but Laban had no concern about Jacob. Laban was more concerned about his life and wealth. His daughter observed it.

Actually, what Jacob feared of what Laban may do, Laban said it himself. Laban’s impulse made it more clearly what Jacob had presupposed of him.

43Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?

What Laban has told him, did Jacob know it even before he escaped?

Did someone inform him what Laban had planned to do if ever Jacob asked him to leave and go back to Canaan? Did God give Jacob the idea to escape rather than to honestly inform Laban about their journey? Those are just possibilities.

Sometimes, God may reveal to us some scary thoughts not to frighten us but to warn us of possible trouble waiting ahead of us. Christ has warned that His disciples will be persecuted. He said in John 15:20, 20Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.

As Christ’s disciples, is it possible for us to be exempted from persecution? No! There are missionaries who were persecuted or killed in the mission fields. There are pastors who are wrongfully accused of something. If faithful servants of Christ are persecuted, does Christ allow us to be exempted from persecution?

Persecution that Christ has warned was practically experienced in the first century Christianity. The Lord warned Paul of persecution waiting for him.

Prophet Agabus

It says in the Acts 21:10-14, 10A prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11Coming over to us, he took Paul’s belt, tied his own hands and feet with it and said, “The Holy Spirit says, ‘In this way the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem will bind the owner of this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’”

12 When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”

Paul was not scared of the persecution waiting for him because God’s grace was sufficient enough for him. Indeed, he was persecuted and maltreated in Jerusalem but God sustained him. Paul testified in 2 Corinthians 4:8-11, 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.

Anyone can get sick. Death has no respect of age. As we grow old, our physical faculties will deteriorate. It’s not pessimism to expect that anytime can be our time to die. So, what’s wiser way to live our life than to earn eternal treasures by obeying Christ’s command to witness for Him and make disciples?

Since we have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, God is with us. How can we practically prove that we have Christ as Lord of your life? God’s grace is at work in our life, and we can rest from worries and not scared about the future.

Jacob was not a coward but the Lord allowed him to be scared of what Laban may do to hasten his return to Canaan. Laban planned to harm Jacob because he suspected that Jacob took his idols. Rachel secretly hid them.

2. Secret.

33So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 

34Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. 35Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.

Truly, it favored Jacob that Laban did not find his idols that Rachel hid. Was Rachel not scared that her father will find out what she did? God did not allow Rachel to be caught for the sake of Jacob, why? Can you imagine how terrible it would be for Jacob when he said that the person who had Laban’s idols will die? And Rachel had just given birth to Joseph a few weeks before they traveled. Jacob loved Rachel so much, and Joseph was his favorite son.

Did God give Rachel wisdom when she hid the idols of her father inside her camel’s saddle? Why did Laban easily believe what Rachel said? Why did he not suspect that she was making some excuses when she told him that she had her monthly period? Was Rachel his favorite child? Did God made him believe?

Do you believe that God will give us wisdom on how to deal with challenging situation so that we won’t be controlled by fear?

Smart Dog

A story was told when a dog got itself lost in the forest. A huge lion was observing the dog. It was his first time to see a strange looking dog. He thought of possible dinner. The dog saw the lion and he was so scared. He considered running away before he picked up a bone nearby. Then, he pretended as if he just had finished eating his meal and said, “Wow! That lion is the best meal ever!”

The lion was scared and turned the other way. He was frightened that the dog might eat him also. Coincidentally, a monkey was observing and told the lion that the dog did not really eat a lion. Furious that he was fooled by the dog, the lion told the monkey to ride on his back, and they returned to where the dog was.

The dog saw what happened, and he was so frightened but he thought and shouted angrily as if he was searching among the branches of the trees:

“Huh! Where was that monkey? I told him to bring me another lion!”

The lion heard it and ran away as fast as he can.

It says in 1 Peter 5:8, 8Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

Until Christ returns, we still encounter unpleasant situations. The devil may cause problems or troubles that may scare us but we don’t need to panic. We just need wisdom from God to solve our problem. In Proverbs 2:3-6, 3If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, 4and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, 5then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. 6For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Jacob did not know that Rachel took her father’s idols but Jacob trusted that God will keep him and his family secure until they reached his native land.

Do you agree that God was in control of the Jacob’s situation when Laban did not find his idols among Jacob’s household? Jacob blurted out his sentiments when Laban found nothing belonging to him.

3. Sentiment

36Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us. 38I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39I 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. 40This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41It 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. 42If 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.”

When Laban did not find anything belonging to him, he sure had proven that Jacob was really honest person. Laban was very cautious of his words and actions toward Jacob because God warned him in a dream. God may have enables Laban to realize that he suspected Jacob of dishonesty because Laban himself was dishonest. God may have given him also an idea that Jacob had escaped because his plan to harm Jacob was never a secret.

Jacob had collected his courage and voiced out his sentiments against Laban. Jacob testified also that the God of his father Isaac, the God of Abraham has been with him and always aware of his difficulties while serving Laban.

It says in 2 Peter 2:9, 9The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.

The Lord Jesus instructed John to write Revelation 3:10, 10Since you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come on the whole world to test the inhabitants of the earth.

Did the Lord promise to rescue us only on the Day of Judgment? Would God rescue us even in our present difficulties? What if we make mistakes in our decision, will God rescue us? What does God do when things get rough?

When Laban pursued Jacob, he brought his relatives with him. Jacob was not intimidated. Instead, he took that opportunity to testify of God’s faithfulness.

Sometimes, God put us in an intimidating situation for us to prove and testify how much we trust the Lord. Some situation could even instrumental to test people we could trust, or friends who publicly say, “I love you!”

Some people may publicly say “I love you!” but not necessarily sincere.

The Monkey and the Crocodile Cont…

The friendship of the monkey and the crocodile could have been wonderful and sincere but it did not end happily ever after. The crocodile love his crocodile wife more than his monkey friend so that he was willing to deceive the monkey to ride on his back, and planned to take his heart.

The monkey put itself in trouble because of greediness for more fruits.

Nevertheless, after the crocodile told the monkey that he would take his heart and give it to his crocodile wife, the quick thinking smart monkey said, “Really? Why did you not tell me earlier? We monkeys will take our hearts and hang them on the tree because it might get wet when crossing the river, you know? So, I left my heart on the branches of the tree. C’mon! Let’s go back and get my heart so that you can give it to your wife.”

So, the crocodile swam back to where they came from. And once they reached the river bank, the monkey quickly jumped and climbed the tree.

The Lord Jesus said in John 15:13-16, 13Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

The Hymn “What a friend we have in Jesus” expresses the author’s faith.

The evening before their wedding, Joseph Scriven’s fiancé got drowned.

Shortly after moving to Canada to become a teacher, Scriven was engaged to Eliza Roche. Tragedy struck again and Eliza passed away from illness shortly before marriage. With those tragedies and hardships in life, Joseph empathized with the elderly and poor. Joseph wrote this famous hymn in 1855 to comfort his mother who still lived in Ireland.

It says in Psalm 40:5, 5Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare.

What practical proof you may have to testify of the presence of Christ in you, that Christ is your Lord? If God is with us, do we have a testimony to tell?

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