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And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ringstraked, speckled, and grisled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. I am the God of Bethel, where thou anointedst the pillar, and where thou vowedst a vow unto me: now arise, get thee out from this land, and return unto the land of thy kindred. (Genesis 31:11~13)
Jacob went to Laban’s house, married Leah and Rachel, had children, and herded Laban’s cattle. Time passed and Jacob said that he would go home. Then Laban said, “You decide your wage. I will give you your wage.” Jacob said, “I will not ask for anything, but if cattle that are ring-streaked, speckled or spotted are born, uncle, those shall be mine, and have all the white sheep yours. Then I will herd your cattle.” Laban saw that most sheep were white and not ring-streaked and spotted, rejoiced and agreed to do so. That day, Laban removed the ring-streaked, spotted and speckled sheep from his flock and left them to his son, and then had Jacob herd the rest of the flock. Jacob continued to herd Laban’s flock. The interesting thing is, Jacob saw that the sheep mated at the creek where they drank. Thus Jacob came up with a scheme and took the rods of green poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees and pilled them to make white streaks in them. Then he mixed them with green branches and made them mottled. Then he laid these before the sheep when they would mate and when the sheep brought forth offspring, they had ring-streaked, speckled, and spotted young. Jacob became very excited. Thus when the stronger sheep would mate he would lay the prepared branches before them and did not do so when the weaker sheep mated. Therefore the stronger would bring forth ring-streaked and speckled sheep, and the weaker sheep brought forth white sheep. Jacob was very excited and thought he was doing well. But later on, what did God say to him? God had made the rams that brought forth offspring that were all ring-streaked, spotted, and speckled. It was not because Jacob had pilled the rods of green poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees and laid these branches before the sheep when they were mating that ring-streaked, spotted, and speckled sheep were brought forth. It was God who had done this. Jacob did not know this and thought such offspring were brought forth because of what he had done.
People Who Think Themselves to be Good
I once asked a doctor if placing pilled branches of poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees that had been mottled in front of sheep would bring about such offspring. The doctor said that that had no basis whatsoever. It was not that Jacob did this that allowed him to gain the speckled, spotted, or ring-streaked offspring, but he thought he had gained by doing what he did. This is not only true in life, but also true in spiritual life. “I prayed and God blessed me. I witness hard and God protected my life. I was very helpful to others and God blessed me.” There are many people who believe this way. Let us talk about this in detail. There are good people among us and there are also bad people. There is a difference in standard depending on the people, but there are people who are better and there are those who are evil. But this is only to the extent of the standard of man. If measured by the standard of God, no matter how good a person may be, he is only a filthy, dirty, pitiful, and evil person. If you think God gives punishment because you have done evil, there would be no one on earth who could stay alive. Let’s think about it. Do you sin only once or twice? Do you commit wickedness once or twice? Do you lie once or twice? Do you go against the Word of God once or twice? Most people do not have their standard upon God but upon the wicked, so even if they are committing wickedness, they see themselves as better than the wicked. Even in spiritual life, people who base their standard on those whose spiritual life is a mess for the most part think, “That person is so pious. He acts like he has so much faith when he comes to church, but do you know how wicked he is out in the world? At least I am not like him. I do sin, but I did not put a nail through Jesus’ heart.” People think that they are blessed because they have been good and truthful. On the other hand, there are many people who think, “What sin did I commit that you are giving me this hardship, God?” when going through difficulties. When difficulties arise, in the beginning they don’t know what to do, then think about it when there is some quiet time. There are so many people who think, “I did not live wickedly. I lived as a good person. What did I do wrong that God is doing this to me?” People do not know themselves precisely. It is because God is graceful, merciful, and good, and it is because God bestows His grace unto us that we can live as we do. If God punished us each time we sinned; if God repaid us for all the sins we committed, there is no one among us who could stay alive.
In addition, people who think they have done good are only good by their own standards. There are many people who say, “I grew up always being called good.” But the funny thing is which passing adult doesn’t call children good? If you say hello well once, adults say, “Oh, you are a good boy,” and give compliments for the smallest deed. So who doesn’t grow up hearing compliments? But the fact that they have been called good remains for a long time in their heart. When I was young, I once finished first in a sprint. From then on I always remembered myself as someone who ran well. Because people remember what they have done well for a long time, no matter who it is, he rates himself better than what he actually is. Therefore it is terribly wrong for you to see yourself with your assessment of yourself. But this is how most want to assess themselves.
It is the Grace of God…
God allowed Jacob to realize. And the angel of God spake unto me in a dream, saying, Jacob: And I said, Here am I. And he said, Lift up now thine eyes, and see, all the rams which leap upon the cattle are ring-streaked, speckled, and grizzled: for I have seen all that Laban doeth unto thee. Laban constantly changed the wages using humanistic methods and did not want to give wages to Jacob. Thus God stood on Jacob’s side and had the sheep bring forth spotted, speckled, and ring-streaked offspring. Jacob was able to have a lot of cattle and became rich through God. But Jacob thought that such offspring were brought forth because he had pilled the poplar, hazel, and chestnut trees and mottled them and placed these branches before the sheep, bringing forth offspring. We are just like Jacob. We eat and live through receiving the grace of God but people think that they can eat and live because of their own greatness. If one places first in a contest, that, too, is through the grace of God, but he thinks that it is because of his own greatness that he won first place. Suppose I practiced the violin until my neck was bruised, my arms cramped, and the strings on my bow were all torn and I finished in first place. But can I perform if my arm is broken? Suppose you became confused in your thoughts. If you cannot concentrate during your performance, your performance will be broken up. Of these many things, if just one thing goes wrong, the performances cannot be successful. As a pastor, I am so thankful that I can stand at the pulpit of our church each Sunday morning and give a sermon. I once said, “I am so thankful that I can stand at the pulpit,” and one brother replied, “What is that to be thankful about? Isn’t that something natural for you, Pastor?” I then said, “What are you talking about? So many conditions have to be met for me to be able to stand at the pulpit. I cannot stand if my legs break, I cannot stand if I become weak, I cannot stand if I have nothing to preach about, I cannot stand if there is no one to listen, I cannot stand . . . .” There are many preachers who quit along the way. At one point they used to preach spiritual words, and some quit after one year, some after five years, and some after ten years . . . . That is why it is so funny to say that I could keep the pulpit. If God takes away wisdom today, if He removes the Word from me, what will I preach and what would I talk about? I become someone who is absolutely nothing. Even in doing business in the world, there are so many instances where able and smart people one day become bankrupt, or become diseased and fail. Often well-known companies have to close overnight. People think that they are doing something well because they are great, but that is actually not so.
Why Were the Days of His Years Evil?
God shows us the world of the heart from Genesis. Later in Jacob’s life, he finds out that Joseph has become governor and goes down to Egypt and stands before Pharaoh king of Egypt. Pharaoh asks Jacob, “How old are you?” Right then Jacob says, “I am one hundred thirty. I have not attained the years of my fathers, yet few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” Jacob went through evil years because he was always scheming. When Jacob was in his mother’s womb, the two children were fighting inside the womb and their mother, Rebekah, prayed to God. Right then God said this: “Two great nations are within you. Two manner of people shall be separated from your womb. One people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder shall serve the younger.” God selected Jacob from the mother’s womb to be blessed. But Jacob sought out to be blessed through using human methods such as buying his older brother’s birthright with a bowl of pottage of lentils. These humanistic methods and means made Jacob fall into emptiness and put him through rough days and years. Jacob was smarter and was sharper than anyone else. Therefore with that wisdom he always lived using human methods. Jacob trusted his own methods and means. God would even have provided a wife for him, but he felt, “Rachel is pretty. I’d better make Rachel my wife,” in his heart. Therefore he tried to marry Rachel, but out of nowhere he spent the first night with Leah. God permitted this to happen to Jacob. How does God lead us? We can never reach the standard of God through our wisdom or methods. We can realize salvation when the wisdom of God comes upon us. The power of God must come for us to defeat sin. We must receive the grace of God for us to become holy and righteous. All of this happens through God, but we trust in our own power. I will keep the Ten Commandments, I will be faithful, I will not sin, and I will try to do good. God knows that this will not work and tells us not to do this, but we think that things will go well through our own intelligence and wisdom. We think that all things are accomplished through ourselves, but this is so foolish.
God Who Makes You Fail
God made us unable to keep the law to have us realize our true image. Who can keep the law? There is no one who can keep the law. God has made you unable to live a life that pleases Him. Therefore, He crumbles down your heart to believe in yourself. When the faith to believe in yourself crumbles down, the faith to believe in God begins to arise in you. It is impossible for me to reach the seat of blessing through doing good, my righteousness, keeping the law, and serving God well. One should be blessed not through himself but through the faith to believe in God. To have this faith, you have to give up on yourself. For this, God had you fail. Even though you grind your teeth and make up your mind to not sin and live a life of pleasing God, it does not work. Isn’t that so? You have failed. “God, now I will keep the law! From today I will not sin!” Today there are countless church goers who become determined and make up their minds. That is exactly like Peter’s determination when he said, “Though they all deny you, I will not deny you, Lord! Though I die with you, I will never deny you!” Everyone, did Peter do as he was determined to? He did not. It did not go according to how he had determined. God did not allow it. If things do go according to people’s determination, they would all believe in themselves. People who believe in themselves cannot believe in God. True spiritual life is made of “repentance” and “faith.” Repentance is not merely confessing, “I committed theft. I committed adultery.” It is saying, “I had believed in myself. I absolutely should not trust myself! I am not worthy of being trusted! I am weak, evil, and dirty!” and turning from trusting yourself. Then you can believe in God. Turning from yourself to the side of believing in God, that is true repentance.
Who Can Make Me Fall if God Establishes Me?
Jacob trusted his schemes. He believed his methods and trusted his ways. Therefore God made all the things he did turn into pain. When he was in his mother’s womb, God already had Jacob be blessed through the promise, “The elder shall serve the younger.” Jacob, through his scheme, tried to be blessed but thought that his older brother would kill him, making him run away to Badan Aram. Everything Jacob did was this way. He tried to marry Rachel but he ended up marrying Leah first. He tried to increase his wealth through scheming when the sheep mated but later found out it was a blessing from God. Before Jacob realized this, he trusted himself and thought he could do everything with his methods. But later on he says, “Evil have the days of my years been.” People of faith all go through this process. Abraham also tried to have a son through human effort and had Ishamel. Later on, he realized his methods were useless, then had Isaac through faith in God. We, too, must go through that process in spiritual life. Most people believe in themselves and rather than expecting what God will accomplish for them, they try to reach the standard of God through their own effort. That is so foolish in the eyes of God. Loving folks, isn’t it so? Don’t you trust yourself and are trying to do something before God? That is so foolish. You have to completely throw yourself away and rely on God because we cannot reach God through our methods. We cannot wash our sins away, but God has to wash them for us to be clean. Our lives do not become clean through our effort or determination but we can live a clean life through God cleansing us. God has to make me prosperous for me to be so, and for me to be holy God has to make me so. All of this is not done through our determination or resolve, but people do not know this and rely on their determination, effort, and resolve. There are so many people living spiritual life this way. If you hold onto God, Satan can quickly make you let go. It is because Satan is stronger than we are. But if God holds us, who can make His hands let go? No one can. If you rely on yourself, you can easily fall over, but if God establishes you, who could make you fall? If God sanctifies you, if God justifies you, if God cleanses you, if God blesses you, who can make these fall? Putting hope in God is true faith.