Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:37-38, 40-43

37 And Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chestnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods.

38 And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink.

40 And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban’s cattle.

41 And it came to pass, whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods before the eyes of the cattle in the gutters, that they might conceive among the rods.

42 But when the cattle were feeble, he put them not in: so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.

43 And the man increased exceedingly, and had much cattle, and maidservants, and menservants, and camels, and asses.

I had always read these verses as saying that goats who conceived while looking at striped sticks would give birth to striped children, which sounded superstitious and unscientific. Reading this again, though, I noticed it said that Jacob put the poplar, hazel, and chestnut sticks in the watering trough, which seems to suggest that they were being used for medicinal qualities to strengthen the goats as they conceived.

But he did not place them before all the cattle, only the ones that belonged to him. Furthermore, verse 40 shows that Jacob did not let his livestock mate with Laban’s, most likely to preserve the recessive gene that caused mottles or stripes in their coats. Thus, Jacob was able to artificially increase the number of speckled goats above the others, and he made them stronger and healthier at the same time.

I was wrong in my past readings of these verses. Jacob was employing shrewd tactics that were based upon a logical procedure, and as a result he came to exceed his own father-in-law.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:35-36

35 And he removed that day the he goats that were ringstraked and spotted, and all the she goats that were speckled and spotted, and every one that had some white in it, and all the brown among the sheep, and gave them into the hand of his sons.

36 And he set three days’ journey betwixt himself and Jacob: and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.

Here we have two small verses that show a subtle, but significant shift in Jacob. He has agreed to continue tending to his father-in-law’s flocks, but first he removes all the cattle that belong to him and moves three day’s journey away. Thus Jacob is still here under Laban’s umbrella, but also he is not. He is physically and financially creating a space to be his own person.

And also notice to whom he is entrusting the goats and sheep that now belong to him: his sons. If Jacob is going to make it as the head of a household, he is going to need the help of the whole household. This is a family affair, and Jacob’s sons are going to have to step into Jacob’s position so that he may ascend to something higher.

And this gives an interesting background to a coming story of Jacob’s sons shirking their sheep-herding responsibilities and young Joseph being sent to monitor their activities.

Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 15:3-7, Doctrine and Covenants 18:15

And he spake this parable unto them, saying,
What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?
And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.
And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.
I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!

COMMENTARY

What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine, and go after that which is lost
At the start of this study I considered Abraham pleading for Sodom and Gomorrah to be spared if even a few righteous people could be found therein. That same mentality is present in this parable from Jesus, where a shepherd will venture out to find even one lost sheep, leaving the masses to focus on the individual.
And I believe that this same mentality greatly helps when trying to maintain hope in a conflicted world. It is easier to despair over a vaguely defined group than over an individual with a face and a name. It is easy to label an entire faction as purely evil, but when we look into the eyes of a child of God we can’t help but see that even among their flaws they still have their divine potential. I might struggle at times to see the good in all people, but I can always find it in a person. Thus if you are finding it hard to have faith in the world perhaps you could start focusing on “the one” instead.


I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth
If you bring one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father!
For even if our worst fears were confirmed and the whole world spiraled down to hell, it would still behoove us to save what souls we could along the way. Our mentality should be like that of firefighters, who do not only enter the burning building when they can save a full 100% of the occupants. They will charge to the rescue even when they can only save a few, or even when they can save only one…and so should we.
Thus if you haven’t figured out how to save the entire world, that’s perfectly alright, none of us have. Only God can worry about salvation on that scale! For you and I, we just save the ones we can.

Seeking Spiritual Witnesses- Isaiah 19:21 (ESV), John 10:4, 27

And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them.

And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

COMMENTARY

And the Lord will make himself known
Ancient Egypt was not a place known for its strong connection to Yahweh. Yet Isaiah prophesied that its people would come to know their true Creator, and that they would do so because of God’s efforts to make Himself known to them.
As a child, one of my great fears was that God might already be speaking to me, and I just didn’t know it. What if He was trying to tell me very important things, but I wasn’t cluing in? What if I missed out on something forever because I didn’t know his voice?
But now when I read this verse about ‘the Lord making himself known,’ I find a reassuring message that He takes the responsibility for speaking to us in a way that we can understand. We still have our responsibility: to seek, but it is up to God to ensure that we actually find. So I don’t need worry whether I am listening correctly, all I have to do is accomplish my part, and then trust that He will do His.

The sheep follow him: for they know his voice
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them
And I have found that God absolutely does know how to speak to me in ways that I understand. My heart is an instrument, and He is a master at playing its strings. He does answer me, and there is no mistaking His voice when it comes.
As Jesus attests, God knows His sheep. He knows them individually. We do not need to worry about whether we will recognize Him when he speaks, we just will.

Service to Others- Matthew 25:34-40

Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

COMMENTARY

These my brethren
I like this set of verses from Matthew…but I didn’t always. Most often I would hear people quote this passage, and then preach a message about it that rubbed me the wrong way. That message went along the lines of “so that’s why you should do kind acts for others, because really you’re just doing them for Jesus.” And I would hear that and think “well shouldn’t I really be doing service to others for their own sake?”
I mean, I would personally feel a bit hurt if someone did a kindness to me and then said “actually, that was for Jesus.” Gee, thanks.
So instead, I prefer to put the emphasis on these my brethren. Here Jesus is telling us how he views these people and testifying of his love for them. “These are my brethren, my kin, my people.” He isn’t trying to tell us to put his image over their faces, he is telling us to put his love over them. He wants us to see how important to him they are, how worthy of being helped, in and of themselves.

Ye have done it unto me
I am a father, and I can attest that any time I see someone do a kindness to my little son, I feel that a kindness has been done to me as well. I love people just for their willingness to give my son their attention and hear what he has to say. But I wouldn’t if they were doing it for me instead of for him. If they were listening to him only to please me, I would feel offended at their insincerity.
So yes, Christ feels served when we do service for others. But I am convinced that he wants us to do that service by making his brethren our brethren. By doing our kindness to them for their own joy. That he will derive joy from the service as well is simply a divine dividend.