God's hand
Week 10 is scheduled for study Feb. 28-March 6, 2022. This week we look at the home life of Jacob. It is full of strife, bickering, jealousy, and blessings. And among it all we can see God’s hand fulfilling His promises to His prophet.

Day 1

As you read Genesis 28-33, ponder what you learn from the examples of Jacob and his family. Write down any impressions you receive.

Genesis 28; 29:1-18 – I am promised the blessings of Abraham in the temple.

There are a couple of similarities between the story of Jacob in these chapters and our own temple experience I would like to discuss.

Our position with the Lord

Picture this: Jacob is traveling in the desert and at sundown has gathered rocks on which to rest his head for the night. He dreams, and in his dream he sees a ladder that extends from the ground upwards to heaven itself. Angels are moving up and down the ladder from heaven to earth and back. According to the Old Testament student manual the ladder actually represents the three degrees of glory. In Genesis 28:13 it says that the Lord stood above the ladder and talked to Jacob.

13 And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed;

If you look at the footnote a, it gives an alternate wording that makes much more sense. It says “or beside him.” That the Lord would come to Jacob to make His covenant with Him, and stand next to him while He speaks to Jacob is more like something the Lord would do, rather than talk at him from heaven. So I will talk as if the Lord was actually standing next to Jacob when He made His covenant with him. This makes Jacob’s experience much more like Isaac’s and Abraham’s experiences with the Lord. But that is just my opinion.

In Genesis 28:15 the Lord makes His personal promises to Jacob.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

What do these promises have to do with us and our own experiences in the temple? Are these same promises basically the same as what the Lord promises us?

I “will keep thee in all places whither thou goest” – Doesn’t the Lord promise to protect us anywhere we are? Is there anywhere a covenant maker can go that the Lord refuses to protect them from harm or care for them in times of need? This is assuming, of course, that we are keeping the commandments and not doing something stupid. Just as we promise the Lord to represent the Savior wherever we are and wherever we go, so He also promises to watch over us and protect us from spiritual harm, as well as promise us many blessings of peace, joy, and eternal rest.

To stand beside someone means more than just to physically place yourself next to someone. It also means to support and advocate for someone wherever they are and in all their endeavors. Isn’t this what the Savior has promised he would do for us?

The Lord’s timing with promises

When the manual said to look at Jacob’s marriage with Rachel in terms of our temple covenants, I admit that I was drawing a blank for a while. I had already read chapter 29 and decided that the chapter had nothing to do with the lesson and was just a “filler” chapter. So when I read the study material I had to rethink my position.

Reread Genesis 28:15.

15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.

This time let’s look at the second half of the verse, the part I have underlined above. This is the Lord’s personal commitment that He will not allow anything from His covenant with Jacob to be omitted. He will see to it that every part of that covenant will be fulfilled, or as He puts it, he won’t leave Jacob “until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” And what is that? It is the covenant to prosper him and give him a large posterity. Go back and look at this week’s chapters and you will see that God fulfilled that promise to the letter, though it took decades for his promises to be realized.

The following retelling of Jacob’s family saga has a purpose that I will spell out after I tell it.

Jacob married Leah, thinking he was marrying Rachel. After serving his wife’s father, Laban, for seven years for Rachel, Laban double crossed him and substituted Rachel’s older sister, Leah. The reference to Leah being of tender eyes means that her beautiful eyes were her best feature. I guess they wanted to find something nice to say about her when comparing her to Rachel who is simply described as just plain beautiful all the way around. In any event, Laban felt he needed to resort to trickery to get Leah married. Jacob got Rachel after the week’s wedding festivities were complete (that must have been an uncomfortable week), but still had to work another seven years for Laban in order to settle the debt for Rachel’s hand in marriage.

This is where our discussion of the Lord’s timing in our life comes into play. Leah was barren, so no children for Jacob for years. He married Rachel, and Rachel was also barren, but Jacob rarely slept with Leah, because he preferred Rachel. So the Lord gave Leah four sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, and Judah. The women were of the belief that the amount of love their husband had for them was directly shown by how often he slept with them. Rachel was jealous of her sister’s ability to bare children, so she gave her own handmaid, Bilhah to Jacob, and Bilhah gave Jacob two more sons, Dan and Naphtali.

When Leah saw that she was not bearing any more children, and that Rachel was stealing her thunder by giving Jacob children by the means of her handmaid Bilhah, Leah decided to fight fire with fire. She gave Jacob her own handmaid, Zilpah, and Zilpah bore Jacob two sons, Gad and Asher.

Now comes an interesting story of how Rachel “sold” Jacob’s time and attention to her sister in exchange for some mandrakes. Tradition says that mandrakes were supposed to make a woman more likely to conceive. The end result of this exchange of Jacob’s time must have galled Rachel, because this deal with Leah apparently led to Leah bearing two more sons, Issachar and Zebulun, and Jacob’s only daughter, Dinah. That was hardly the result Rachel was looking for. Now after all this, the Lord finally allowed Rachel to have a child of her very own – Joseph.

My point

We don’t often look at Jacob’s family to see if there is anything that is even remotely like our own. Let’s list a few aspects of what Jacob lived through in order for the Lord’s promises to be fulfilled.

Jacob’s family was dysfunctional. His wives were jealous and envious of each other, always vying for attention from their husband. This would bring with it a constant state of tension in the family. As we will soon see, the children had their own issues that ranged from murder, deception on a grand scale, as well as great moral transgressions.

The Lord’s promises took a long time coming. It may have been quick to read about all this in the scriptures, but remember that every time a child was born, and there are 11 of them so far, at least another year has lapsed. All told, this story took about 20 years to unfold, for this whole time Jacob was still working for Leah and Rachel’s father, Laban.

Life was not easy. Even though Jacob was incredibly blessed by the Lord, his living circumstances were very difficult. Laban was a dishonest man, changing Jacob’s wages 10 times. He kept trying to trick Jacob and profit off Jacob’s successes, but the Lord always blessed Jacob. Even though Laban was quite poor when Jacob moved in with them, by the time Jacob moved away Laban was a wealthy man. Jacob was so afraid of his father-in-law that when he left he had to sneak away, and was three day’s journey before Laban discovered their absence.

Jacob was falsely accused. Laban’s sons became so jealous of Jacob they accused Jacob of stealing their inheritance. This only escalated the tensions between Jacob and Laban’s family. It didn’t even seem to matter that Jacob was supporting two of their sisters. Laban’s boys only seemed to be interest in the amount of wealth Jacob had amassed as an employee of their father.

We have the same eternal blessings promised to us that God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But if you look at any of their families, there was jealousy, tensions, mockery, betrayal, rebellion, and much more. For all these things, God was still able to further His own work and bless His prophets with every blessing they had been given. When the Lord told Jacob that He would not desert him until He had fulfilled every promise He had made to Jacob, we can see that He was true to His word.

When we go to the temple and make promises to the Lord, and receive His promises to us, we can count on Him fulfilling all of His words to us just as surely as He fulfilled His words to these ancient prophets. But we also need to remember that everything happens in the Lord’s own time, and that promises of great things in the future rarely means ease and comfort in the present. We can all count on trials and difficulties, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. The trick is to focus on the surety of God’s word.

Day 2

As you read Genesis 28-33, ponder what you learn from the examples of Jacob and his family. Write down any impressions you receive.

Genesis 29:31-35; 30:1-24 – The Lord remembers me in my trials.

We looked at these examples in yesterday’s lesson material. In the culture of their times, Leah and Rachel’s social standing, and the respect garnered by having sons can’t be overstated. The scriptures indicate this by using such terms as the “reproach” that was “removed” from Rachel once she gave birth to Joseph. But Leah’s status would still have been higher in society because of all the sons she bore Jacob. And don’t forget that each of the sisters had a handmaiden that was their personal property. Each of their children would have been considered the legal children of the respective sister who owned their mother.

The principle behind the title of today’s lesson is a sensitive one for many people. There are many out there who, like Leah and Rachel, long to have children, or some other blessing in their life, but who are never granted the blessing they seek. When we assume that everything rides on being granted that for which we petition the Lord then we also assume that if we aren’t given what we want that the Lord isn’t listening to us, or worse, the He doesn’t love us. The reality is that He loves us all perfectly, and that we need to learn to see that even when we aren’t given what we seek after in this life, that doesn’t mean the Lord is not teaching us other lessons or blessing us in other ways. We are very short sighted creatures, and we all are regularly guilty of not recognizing and giving the Lord His due for having ultimate wisdom and being willing to patiently wait on His timing and His path for us.

When I was cast out of town by my own Church leaders, was homeless for several months, and jobless with four young children in tow as a single parent, it was easy for me to believe that God had forsaken me. Yet during that whole awful ordeal, I now recognize that he was teaching many lessons I would need later in life. I gained a greater perspective about the poor and the circumstances under which they struggle. I learned to be obedient to my priesthood leaders, even when I strongly disagree with their opinion. I learned empathy, patience, humility, and a host of other traits. All of these things were important for me to learn, and unfortunately, I needed to experience such a hardship in order to learn them in the way the Lord, in His wisdom knew I needed to learn those lessons.

We can’t assume that there is only one way to learn a lesson or receive a blessing from the Lord. There are almost limitless ways to learn both. It takes trust in God and His personal love and wisdom for us to accept His lessons in our lives in whatever form our lessons and blessings take. That is all part of being humble and submissive to His will. When we look at Leah and Rachel, they were doing the best they could under some trying circumstances. But for all that, the Lord still managed to bless them and Jacob, despite the pettiness, jealousy, and bickering that was going on in Jacob’s household.

Day 3

As you read Genesis 28-33, ponder what you learn from the examples of Jacob and his family. Write down any impressions you receive.

Genesis 32-33 – The Savior can help us overcome discord in our families.

One of the ways to achieve peace in our homes is through prayer. And one of the principles of prayer is to not only be specific in what we are seeking at the Lord’s hand, but to also acknowledge that we are obeying the Lord’s will in asking what we do. For example, Jacob tells the Lord, ‘You told me to return home, so I am doing what you said to do.’ The Lord does not take offense when we use His own words to justify what we are doing to fulfill His commandments. Doing so only shows Him that we were listening in the first place, and that we are now seeking a way to fulfill His instructions to us. This is a good thing. Jacob then acknowledges God’s many gifts and demonstrations of power in his life (Genesis 32:9-12).

¶ And Jacob said, O God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, the Lord which saidst unto me, Return unto thy country, and to thy kindred, and I will deal well with thee:

10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies, and of all the truth, which thou hast shewed unto thy servant; for with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands.

Next, Jacob gets to the point of need for which he came to the Lord in the first place. He is afraid of his brother and wants the Lord to soften his brother’s heart. Notice that Jacob follows his petition with the Lord’s own promises to him. Jacob doesn’t see how the Lord can make his posterity like the sands of the sea if God allows Esau to slaughter his wives and children because he is still angry with Jacob.

11 Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.

12 And thou saidst, I will surely do thee good, and make thy seed as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.

If you look at this pattern of prayer, you will see it used by many prophets, even in the latter days. Joseph Smith prayed this way in Liberty Jail, and you can find this pattern in many temple dedicatory prayers.

There are, of course, many other ways to promote peace and harmony at home, but in today’s lesson, all of Jacob’s pageantry in his display to Esau, along with his lavish gifts, were pinned on his hopes that God would soften Esau’s heart. Prayer was Jacob’s greatest hope for a peaceful outcome. We can learn from that attitude.

FHE/Personal Study

Genesis 32:24-32 – The value of wrestling

By definition, to wrestle is to twist or wrench. In the case of “wresting the scriptures” it means to twist the scriptures to mean what you want them to mean. That is not a good thing. But when it comes to the emotional struggle we go through in our efforts to understand God, to obtain a blessing we really want, or to obtain a promise from the Lord of some kind, wrestling is a really, really good thing.

Jacob wrestled with a messenger sent from God all through the night before obtaining his new name of Israel, and a confirmation of God’s original bestowal of the Abrahamic covenant. Enos wrestled with the Spirit, meaning he struggled all night long to obtain a forgiveness for his sins, and obtained his heart’s desire. The scriptures are full of stories that show that forgiveness, revelation, and blessings from God don’t come easily or cheaply. When we plan on approaching the Lord for anything, we would do well to remember that there is always a price for spiritual advancement. We don’t know what that price will be ahead of time, for it is always an individual price, and we must be willing to pay it, no matter the cost.

That may sound scary, that we can’t know ahead of time the cost for what we seek from God. But if there is one truth that trumps all the costs for any blessing, it is this – the cost is always less than the reward we receive. Review the life of Abraham and look at what he was made to do for that covenant God made with him. Now look at his eternal rewards of being the source of blessings to the whole family of God, of posterity in this world and the next as great as the stars in the heavens and the sands of the sea, and priesthood power without measure – godhood. Was being homeless for life, but filthy rich, worth it? Was being made to wander and be childless for most of his life worth it? Remember that having posterity as numerous as the sands of the sea only takes one one child to start the process, yet Abraham was still blessed with many children besides his one promised priesthood heir. He was also blessed with revelations of eternity, and had great power with God. Was all of that worth the physical inconveniences he had to endure?

Where is our focus in life? Are we more concerned with comfort and self promotion here, or are we more concerned with our condition for the rest of eternity. Being able to look beyond the present and focus on our future can be difficult, because it isn’t right in front of us, but it does provide us with the greatest view of life.

No matter what we have to do to achieve forgiveness for a particular sin, to find that elusive answer to a gospel question, to forgive that person who betrayed us, or whatever else we need to overcome, our wrestle with the Lord will be worth whatever price we have to pay. But we must be willing to pay it no matter the cost. That cost may mean years worth of faithful service and work before we have learned the lessons we need for the outcome we seek. It may require years of spiritual struggle to exercise the faith needed to prove we won’t quit. Only God knows what payment is required, and only we can provide that payment. Our ability to achieve what we learn about in the scriptures will be different from the prophets and people we read about in the scriptures, but the blessings will be the same. Keep trusting in God’s love and desire to bless us. Focus on that love, and remind yourself that He is on your side in this struggle. The Savior will support you, and the Spirit will guide your efforts, for ultimately, our struggle, no matter what spiritual thing it is we seek, will lead us to become more one with the Godhead.

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OT10-2022 – Surely the Lord Is in This Place

Week 10