by Anne Lang Bundy
Elaborate on the why's? Why did Jacob place striped and not striped branches in the trough? Why did Moses hold the staff above his head during war? (I love that the Lord asks us to act with faith in His miracle.)
~ Tana Adams
The question partially answers itself. The Lord provides His people with unexpected directions, asking us to act in faith for His purposes, whether or not He immediately reveals the "why."
But with the Lord—in both Bible stories and our personal story—there is certain to also be a bigger picture.
And with many such parables [Jesus] spoke the word to them as they were able to hear it. But without a parable He did not speak to them. And when they were alone, He explained all things to His disciples.
~ Mark 4:33-34 (NKJV)
Children aren't the only ones who benefit from object lessons. The Bible is filled with stories and parables that teach something much bigger than an apparent moral of the story. Biblical commentators (including yours truly) usually offer differing insights on the various levels of applications for any given story.
The biblical answers provided in this blog's articles are based on a comprehensive familiarity with Scripture, supplemented by a wide variety of biblical reference materials, and by extra-biblical sources as needed.
The above question's example is a story of Jacob breeding his sheep to his own benefit, and includes curious details about the diet of ewes when they conceived (Genesis 30:28-43). For this question, I prayerfully reviewed the passage describing Jacob's actions. No immediate answer became apparent. I went on to search my library, and then the internet about sheep breeding, without obtaining relevant details. But I later found an answer in another portion of Scripture—where I should have known to look in the first place:
"And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted."
~ Genesis 31:10 (NKJV)
It appears that God simply gave directions to 91-year-old Jacob, a lifelong caretaker of sheep, that wasn't even evident to the sheep owner Laban. Because God chose to reveal an otherwise inexplicable course of action to one of His people, and that man responded in faith (as noted in the original question), God rewarded him.
There are certainly additional why's to be answered about this and thousands of other object lessons in the Bible. Especially in the Old Testament, the physical and natural world is used to explain spiritual realities to us.
... there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things ...
~ Hebrews 8:4-5 (NKJV)
When studying the Bible, we can be quickly satisfied with an answer about the immediate lesson. But God has ever deepening spiritual applications for us. If we are disciples of Jesus and spend time seeking and heeding His directives—accepting that we won't understand everything at once—then He will give us needed understanding in the hour we are able to hear.
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What questions do you have about Christianity or the Bible? You're invited to leave them in the comments below (anonymous questions welcome), or email buildingHisbody [plus] @ gmail.com.
© 2011 Anne Lang Bundy, all rights reserved.
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