Devotional & Reflection

Week 2, Dec 2003

Gen 30:37-39 & 31:11-13 :
Corporate Strategy or Divine Intervention

By Pang Hee Hung, Katartizo Resources Ltd

Gen 30:37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. v38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, v39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted............Gen 31:11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, `Jacob.' I answered, `Here I am.' v12 And he said, `Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. v13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.' "

Have we not congratulated ourselves when we made a killing in the stock market, or successfully arranged a big deal, or scored well in a game or studies? At times we are tempted to think it is our ingenuity and strategy that make us so successful in our endeavours and exploits. Although I have studied Business and Corporate Strategy utilizing motivated ability (SIMA) in strategizing, I do get worried when Christian executives get overly engrossed in the corporate visioning, planning and strategizing and applying them without critical evaluation of their suitability to churches. Yes, we do need vision, plans and strategies. But sometimes, God grant us success in spite of our human visions, plans and strategies.

Jacob was one such person. Here in the passages under study, Jacob practised what was human wisdom and strategy of his time. He seemed to believe that when animals mate whilst looking at speckled objects, they would produce young that would be speckled (Gen 30:37-42). It sounds close to sympathetic magic. In ancient times, when gods were sympathetic with the people, they would be blessed with what they wished for. The fertility cultus was a case in point. Any sexual union with a temple prostitute would produce the much needed rain to provide sustenance of their crops and herds. Similarly if animals, which were mating, looked at streaked or spotted branches, they would produce streaked or spotted offspring - or so Jacob thought.

But in Gen 31:12, the angel of God clearly told Jacob that it was God who had seen all the bad that Laban was doing to him and was protecting him with streaked, speckled or spotted animals. Notwithstanding that Jacob used his human wisdom and was smart enough to base his breeding of females that were stronger (Gen 30:41), there had to be divine intervention in order that insemination was by streaked, speckled or spotted males - without which there would be no streaked, speckled or spotted offspring at all.

The point of the passage that God was reminding Jacob for his success (Gen 30:43) was God's intervention - not because of, but in spite of his dependence on human wisdom. We too may strategize with the best technology and wisdom of our time. We may be highly effective and efficient. But even the best corporations have discovered to their dismay that their humanly achieved success is at best temporal.

Jacob worked for Laban for at least 20 years (Gen 31:38, 41). In Gen 30:27-28, Laban requested Jacob to stay on to tend to his flock and agreed to give all the spotted or speckled animals as his wages. Even then, Laban cheated him by removing all the spotted and speckled animals and putting them under the care of his sons (Gen 30:35). With only single-coloured animals to work from, Jacob's chances of having spotted and speckled offspring would have been severely reduced - or so Laban strategized.

Strategizing and counter-strategizing. Sounds very much like our workplace, doesn't it? If you are presently suffering from unfair treatment, take heart. God is moulding your faith and testing your longsuffering.

1. What part does human wisdom and God's wisdom play in our success?
2. How would you personally define success?
3. How would you respond to unfair treatment?

The same trial that can make a person bitter, can also make the person better. God allows trials not to impede us - but to improve us.

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