Summary: If you want true success in life, don’t depend on your shrewd deals or your spent schemes. Instead, depend on the Lord.
Ted Engstrom and Edward Dayton, in a Christian Leadership Letter some time ago, talked about a young man who was appointed president of a bank. Intimidated by his new responsibilities, he nervously sought the advice of his gray-haired predecessor: “Sir, what has been the secret of your success?”
“The secret, young man, is two words: right decisions!” replied the older man.
“But how do you make right decisions?”
“One word: experience.”
“But how do you get experience?”
The old man smiled. “Two words: wrong decisions.” (Ted W. Engstrom and Edward R. Dayton, editors, “Murphy’s Law,” Christian Leadership Letter, February, 1981, p.1; www.PreachingToday.com)
The secret of your success is usually not what you think it is. Often, true success comes from some a very surprising place. Would you like to know where that place is? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 30, Genesis 30, where Jacob finds good success, but not in the place he expected.
Genesis 30:25-26 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” (ESV)
That’s 14 years of labor.
Genesis 30:27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you. (ESV)
Laban wants Jacob to stay, because he knows Jacob is the reason for his success, so much so that Laban is willing to pay whatever Jacob asks.
Genesis 30:28 Name your wages, and I will give it.” (ESV)
It’s the same thing Laban had said to Jacob 14 years earlier (Genesis 29:15). Then, Jacob asked for Rachel as his wages, but Laban tricked him and gave him Leah. Well, Jacob is not about to fall for that same trick again. So…
Genesis 30:29-30 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” (ESV)
Jacob has 2 wives, 2 concubines and 12 children. Now, he needs to provide for them all. So Laban asks…
Genesis 30:31-33 He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” (ESV)
Wealth in those days was measured in the number of domestic animals you owned, but Jacob is asking for the rarer kind, the speckled, spotted, or black sheep and goats. These are usually the rejects of the flock, but Jacob asks for these to prove his integrity with Laban.
You see, they don’t trust each other, and this is a way to prevent any false accusations and insure that nobody is cheating. Well, Laban can’t believe his ears! Jacob is offering to take the rejects of the flock, and there aren’t many of those. For practically nothing, Laban sees himself getting several more good years of quality labor from Jacob. It’s a deal he can’t refuse! So…
Genesis 30:34-36 Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons. And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock. (ESV)
Laban is being very shrewd here. He doesn’t want Jacob getting too rich off this deal; so Laban gives Jacob’s animals to his own sons to care for, and he separates them. That way Jacob can’t mate his spotted animals with Laban’s white animals and get more spotted and speckled animals than the few he normally would.
Oh, Laban is a very shrewd man; but as we shall see, Jacob is even more shrewd. You see, Jacob doesn’t make this deal because he is stupid. He has a few tricks up his sleeve, and he is counting on this shrewd deal to get rich at Laban’s expense.