Leading to Water- Genesis 37:23-24, 28; 41:38, 40-42

And it came to pass, when Joseph was come unto his brethren, that they stript Joseph out of his coat, his coat of many colours that was on him;
And they took him, and cast him into a pit: and the pit was empty, there was no water in it.
Then there passed by Midianites merchantmen; and they drew and lifted up Joseph out of the pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver: and they brought Joseph into Egypt.

And Pharaoh said unto his servants, Can we find such a one as this is, a man in whom the Spirit of God is?
Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled: only in the throne will I be greater than thou.
And Pharaoh said unto Joseph, See, I have set thee over all the land of Egypt.
And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

COMMENTARY

And when Joseph was come unto his brethren, they stript Joseph of his coat, and cast him into a pit, and sold Joseph to the Ishmeelites for twenty pieces of silver
I have already considered the story of Jacob, and how he became an active author of his life rather than having everything handed to him. And this pattern seems to have been an integral part of his lineage. As seen in the verses I have shared, it was certainly the same for his own son Joseph.
Joseph, like Jacob, began his life in comfort and wealth. He had everything that he needed, but then he also lost it all when his brothers stripped him of his precious coat and sold him as a slave to a foreign land. If anything, he lost even more than his father had.

Thou shalt be over my house, and according unto thy word shall all my people be ruled. And Pharaoh took off his ring  and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and put a gold chain about his neck;
But also he ended up gaining more than his father as well. Like Jacob, he ascended by his personal effort and by his reliance on the Lord. From a slave, to a prisoner, to the second most powerful man in all of Egypt. Who else could claim a similar journey? Certainly it was a far different inheritance than the one he would have expected as a child, but it was an inheritance that was truly all his own.
Like these patriarchs, we are not meant to just “inherit” our journey, or testimony, or purpose in life. If there is anything made clear in the stories, it is that God wants us to have an experience that is all our own. Our lives shouldn’t be built on someone else’s foundation. Mine should be rooted in Him and me, and yours should be rooted in Him and you.

Leading to Water- Review of Jacob

Over the past few days I have considered the story of Jacob in the Old Testament, and I have found that it has several lessons to teach. First, though it is important to understand the context of where Jacob begins his story.

Jacob was born into a rich family and likely lacked for nothing. He even obtained the birthright from his father, and thus all of the luxuries he enjoyed as a son would one day become his very own. His father and grandfather were also very spiritual men, and had no doubt educated him about God and the covenant that he had been born into.

Yet for having had a claim on everything, from a broader point of view Jacob actually possessed nothing. These were Abraham and Isaac’s wealth and blessings just being handed down to him. His forefathers had earned all this, not him. Fortunately, it was not his destiny to just become his father. It was intended that he would find his own self.

And so he was sent out from his home, and his comforts, and his family, and the entire land of his youth. Alone in the wild he made his pillow out of stones and asked God for the thing he wanted most: to just go back home to his father’s house.

But that was not what happened.

God’s intent was that Jacob build his own house. To be motivated in that cause, God led Jacob to Rachel who awoke a powerful love in him. He felt inspired by her to toil and labor for the things his heart yearned for. Fourteen years he served for her, and along the way he obtained for himself large flocks of goats and sheep. These became the foundation of his own personal vocation, a wealth that he had earned rather than inherited.

Eventually Jacob did return to his homeland, bringing with him his great entourage. He received word that his brother Esau was coming to meet him, though, with a large host of men. It seemed certain to Jacob that Esau was coming to kill him and everything that he had. Family, servants, flocks…all of it.

Once again Jacob had a private conversation with God, pleading for the thing he wanted most: that he and his family would be kept alive.

And that was what happened.

Esau’s heart had been softened and he welcomed his brother in peace. Not only this, but Jacob was given a new name from the Lord: Israel. This is a very fitting symbol for how Jacob had truly become a new man. His own man.

His relationship to God was his own. His family was his own. His vocation was his own…. Through the help of God, his entire life was his own.

Leading to Water- Genesis 32:9, 11, 24, 28

And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:
Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.
And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

COMMENTARY

And Jacob said, O God, Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children
Over the past two days I have shared how Jacob entered into a covenant with the Lord in his moment of want and began a partnership with him. From that foundation he gradually accumulated the family, the wealth, and position that would define him. Together with God, Jacob had found himself.
But then, after he had gained so much, he came to a moment where he might lose it all again. Esau, his brother, had previously sworn to kill Jacob, and was now approaching with a battalion of men.
Jacob was in danger of losing everything that he had gained, and not only that, but even of losing the little he had always had, even his own life. In this moment of desperation he once again turned to God and petitioned for help.

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
And he said, Thy name shall be called Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God.

On the eve of meeting his brother and receiving his judgment Jacob was left in total solitude. He was alone with his fears, and here he had another miraculous encounter with God. This one was a bit different more active than the vision he received in his sleep, though! This time he physically wrestled with the Lord, just as he had been wrestling with his fears.
And while I do not know the exact state of Jacob’s mind, I can personally see how in the moment of great duress I would benefit from a moment of exertion and struggle, a time to get out my fearful energy before the calming reassurance was given.
Ultimately Jacob prevailed and his request for preservation was granted. Not only this, but he grew even more fully into his true identity. He proved worthy of a new name, one that would define both him and the nation that issued forth from him.

Leading to Water- Genesis 29:9-11, 18, 20

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

COMMENTARY

When Jacob saw Rachel, Jacob went near, and kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve seven years for Rachel
With yesterday’s passage we read Jacob’s plea to “come again to my father’s house in peace.” At the time, all he wanted was to go back home to exactly what he had before. But at that point he had not yet met Rachel. For as soon as he did meet her he stopped speaking of a hasty return to his father and instead committed to seven years of labor in a strange land so that he could marry her!
And when that dowry was doubled to fourteen years he prolonged his absence from home without hesitation! In fact, Jacob’s relationship to his childhood home becomes so unimportant that his story doesn’t recount anything more of it until he and Esau are burying their father after his passing (Genesis 35:29).

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her
Jacob had a love of his own now. And through that love he found a new vocation and a new home. While his father and grandfather had been well-diggers, he became an accomplished herdsman. While his father and grandfather set their roots in Canaan, Jacob took an extended leave of absence to Padan-Aram. In short, Jacob had become his own person. It was a hard thing for him to leave the nest, but truly it led him to spread his wings.

Leading to Water- Genesis 28: 20-21

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on,
So that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God:

COMMENTARY

And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it.
Yesterday I shared how Jacob was sent from his father’s house to establish his own family and home. But of course, here at his beginning, he has none of those things. Here at the beginning he has nothing. He is alone under the stars with some rocks for his pillow. But it is here, not in the comfort of his father’s wealth, that God reaches out to him in a vision.
Jacob was moved by this, and when he woke up he took what little he had (his stony pillow) and gave it up as an altar. He might have nothing, but he is willing to share that nothing with God.

And Jacob vowed, saying, If God be with me, and keep me in this way, and give me bread to eat, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God
And now Jacob implores God to provide! Here with nothing he sees just how much man must depend on God for everything. And he resolves to be a faithful disciple to God in return, to give God his heart and his fidelity.
And in this we see the wisdom of Isaac pushing his son out of the nest. Yes Jacob was sent out to find a wife and a home and a vocation, but more importantly he is out here to find his own relationship with God. Isaac was a patriarch and a prophet, but he needed to distance himself from Jacob if the boy was ever to become acquainted with the actual source himself.

Leading to Water- Genesis 28: 1-2, 10-12, 18

And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan.
Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother.

And Jacob went out from Beer-sheba, and went toward Haran.
And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.

COMMENTARY

And Isaac called Jacob and charged him, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Padan-aram, and take thee a wife from the daughters of Laban.
I want to start this series by looking at several points from the story of Jacob. These first verses describe the moment where Jacob is pushed out of his father’s nest. He has been raised in the land of Canaan and Isaac wants him to leave that area to marry someone within the Abrahamic covenant. Jacob is sent out to achieve this, and it appears that he was sent out alone.

And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep.
It is also worth noting that this is not Jacob’s natural environment. Where his twin brother Esau loved to roam and hunt it has been previously stated that Jacob “was a plain man, dwelling in tents” (Genesis 25:27).
He was the son of a rich man, and the grandson of another rich man. Now he is out in the wild, laying out hard stones for his pillow. As we will see tomorrow, this hardship is not lost on him. His great desire is to “come again to my father’s house in peace” (Genesis 28:21).

And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it.
But it is in this moment, alone and unprotected by his father, that Jacob has a character-defining encounter with God. It is while venturing out under his own power that he starts to meet his maker.

Leading to Water- Question

Doing this blog has been very helpful for me. I began it because I needed to have a more regular practice for studying the gospel, a place to preserve the things that I have learned, and the social motivation to be consistent.

I also hoped that this blog would be a positive resource for you, the reader. Ideally it would be a way to raise questions of your own and lead you to some important self-realizations. And I intend to keep this blog public in the hope that it can have some impact for good.

But at the same time, the greatest value in research comes when we conduct it ourselves, not when we merely read of it from others. And while I am grateful for many mentors who taught me many true things, the fullest conversion has always come when I relearn those same lessons on my own. It is good for us to share and to teach, but one of the most important lessons to convey is the need to find out for oneself.

With this study I would like to consider how we do this. Where is the line between supporting a friend in their first steps versus becoming their crutch? When is it better to not answer a question so that one can find things out themselves? How do we start relying on our own spiritual study instead of taking other’s beliefs as our own?

As always, I would be very curious to hear about your own experiences with this, too. Can you pick out the moment where you began to stand on your own, personal testimony? What was it that convinced you depending on someone else’s foundation wouldn’t cut it anymore? What was the difference between believing what another told you versus having learned it for yourself?