Baby Steps

Starting at the beginning.

Genesis 29:1-12 (ESV)

Then Jacob went on his journey and came to the land of the people of the east. As he looked, he saw a well in the field, and behold, three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. The stone on the well's mouth was large, and when all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone from the mouth of the well and water the sheep, and put the stone back in its place over the mouth of the well.

Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where do you come from?” They said, “We are from Haran.” He said to them, “Do you know Laban the son of Nahor?” They said, “We know him.” He said to them, “Is it well with him?” They said, “It is well; and see, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep!” He said, “Behold, it is still high day; it is not time for the livestock to be gathered together. Water the sheep and go, pasture them.” But they said, “We cannot until all the flocks are gathered together and the stone is rolled from the mouth of the well; then we water the sheep.”

While he was still speaking with them, Rachel came with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherdess. Now as soon as Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother's brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother's brother, Jacob came near and rolled the stone from the well's mouth and watered the flock of Laban his mother's brother. Then Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. And Jacob told Rachel that he was her father's kinsman, and that he was Rebekah's son, and she ran and told her father.

Jacob’s crash course in theology goes nuclear. Jacob arrives at his uncle’s town for the purpose of finding a wife and gets hit with love at first sight. Jacob promised God that he would become a believer if a whole bunch of things went well for him. Not a bad start, eh Jacob?

Then he single-handedly rolls away the stone that normally the shepherds (plural) would roll away. Gee, why would a guy do something like that in front of a pretty girl?

When he’s done showing off, Jacob kissed Rachel and wept aloud. His weeping is more than just tears of joy over finding his relatives. He recognizes what’s happening (including the parallels to how his dad found his mom) and it’s emotionally powerful.

He’s waking up.

No one is born great; you have to grow into it. God often manages this in amusing ways. The early steps aren’t so much growth as preparing for growth. You have to be shaken before you’re stirred.

But notice that this shake-up isn’t a trial. Trials usually aren’t for beginners and Jacob is definitely a beginner. So God hits him with some good things that are so surprising that Jacob gets choked up. He’s starting to see for himself that God is great and God is good. It’s a child’s lesson, but an important one. Surely Isaac taught him this, but Jacob didn’t learn it; he only memorized it.

Don’t be discouraged when your children (or your students) do the same. The memorization will come in handy later.

The weekly study guides, which include discussion questions, are available for download here:

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.