Hosea 12:12 Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he kept sheep.

Jacob, while expostulating with Laban, thus describes his own toil, “This twenty years have I been with thee. That which was torn of beasts I brought not unto thee: I bare the loss of it; of my hand didst thou require it, whether stolen by day, or stolen by night. Thus I was; in the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night; and my sleep departed from mine eyes.” Even more toilsome than this was the life of our Saviour here below. He watched over all His sheep till He gave in as His last account, “Of all those whom Thou hast given me I have lost none.” His hair was wet with dew, and His locks with the drops of the night. Sleep departed from His eyes, for all night He was in prayer wrestling for His people. One night Peter must be pleaded for; anon, another claims His tearful intercession. No shepherd sitting beneath the cold skies, looking up to the stars, could ever utter such complaints because of the hardness of his toil as Jesus Christ might have brought, if He had chosen to do so, because of the sternness of His service in order to procure His spouse-

“Cold mountains and the midnight air,

Witnessed the fervour of His prayer;

The desert His temptations knew,

His conflict and His victory too.”

It is sweet to dwell upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob’s hand. If they were torn of beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must stand as surety for the whole. Was not the toil of Jesus for His Church the toil of one who was under suretiship obligations to bring every believing one safe to the hand of Him who had committed them to His charge? Look upon toiling Jacob, and you see a representation of Him of whom we read, “He shall feed His flock like a shepherd.”

Life Is about Choices (1)

Daniel resolved not to.” Da 1:8 NIV

When Daniel was taken prisoner to Babylon, he was quickly promoted to leadership in the king’s palace. But as a Jew he refused to “defile himself with the royal food and wine.” Could his choice have affected his career, or even cost him his life? Absolutely! But what we choose to do under pressure results from one of two things: (1) Clearly established convictions we live by. (2) Fuzzy convictions we’re willing to compromise for personal gain. Hard times don’t make you, they reveal you! In Leadership Gold John Maxwell writes: “After visiting twenty cities in seven days, it was good to be coming home! As the small private jet approached the runway, we were celebrating the success of the week. Then, in a moment, everything changed. The plane was hit by wind shear and dropped straight down to the runway, the wheels hitting out of balance. All conversation stopped and our eyes widened as we realized we were in danger. The pilot, without hesitation, pushed the throttle and launched the plane back into the air…We all realized that could have been it! We sat quietly as the plane circled the airfield, and a few minutes later we landed safely.” As he got off the plane, John asked the captain, “When did you make the decision to put the plane back into the air?” He replied, “Fifteen years ago.” He went on to explain how as a young pilot in training, he decided in advance what decision he would make for every possible air problem. His decision was made long before the crisis. So have a game plan in place before the problem arises.

Ephesians 4:30 Grieve not the Holy Spirit.

All that the believer has must come from Christ, but it comes solely through the channel of the Spirit of grace. Moreover, as all blessings thus flow to you through the Holy Spirit, so also no good thing can come out of you in holy thought, devout worship, or gracious act, apart from the sanctifying operation of the same Spirit. Even if the good seed be sown in you, yet it lies dormant except He worketh in you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. Do you desire to speak for Jesus-how can you unless the Holy Ghost touch your tongue? Do you desire to pray? Alas! what dull work it is unless the Spirit maketh intercession for you! Do you desire to subdue sin? Would you be holy? Would you imitate your Master? Do you desire to rise to superlative heights of spirituality? Are you wanting to be made like the angels of God, full of zeal and ardour for the Master’s cause? You cannot without the Spirit-”Without me ye can do nothing.” O branch of the vine, thou canst have no fruit without the sap! O child of God, thou hast no life within thee apart from the life which God gives thee through His Spirit! Then let us not grieve Him or provoke Him to anger by our sin. Let us not quench Him in one of His faintest motions in our soul; let us foster every suggestion, and be ready to obey every prompting. If the Holy Spirit be indeed so mighty, let us attempt nothing without Him; let us begin no project, and carry on no enterprise, and conclude no transaction, without imploring His blessing. Let us do Him the due homage of feeling our entire weakness apart from Him, and then depending alone upon Him, having this for our prayer, “Open Thou my heart and my whole being to Thine incoming, and uphold me with Thy free Spirit when I shall have received that Spirit in my inward parts.”

Get Out of the Box

He brought me…into a large place…me, because he delighted in me.” Ps 18:19

A respected counselor says: “First you crawled; then you learned to walk and the world grew bigger. Then you rode a bike…drove a car…bought a plane ticket. Suddenly the horizons were limitless. Then doubts crept in: I can’t (you fill in the blank)…and your world shrinks a little. I shouldn’t take that trip…I’ll never find my way around…I’ve too many responsibilities. And it shrinks a little more…[until] you’re sitting in a little box with the lid tightly affixed. No experiences, no lessons, no life. Boxes can be comfortable…but no matter how cozy you make it, it’s still a box. They come in all shapes and sizes. When we let unrealistic fears hold us back we can be fairly certain we’re climbing inside another box…and sooner or later we’ll run into the walls. Find one small I can’t in your life, and take the lid off the box…try for a minor impossibility…apply for that dream job…start pursuing your vision…Poke the top off your box. Stick your head out and look around. Find a fear and turn it into a ladder. Get out of the box of doubt and insecurity and into the freedom of courage and belief.” If you let it, fear will cause your imagination to run riot. But “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power…love and of a sound mind” (2Ti 1:7 NKJV). A sound mind restores your perspective and helps you see things from God’s viewpoint, where all things are possible. Today He wants to give you the courage to climb out of the box and bring you “into a large place,” because He “delights” in you.

Eyes of Mercy

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”

“Here I am,” he answered. — Genesis 27:1

The  portion for this week, Toldot, which means “offspring,” is from Genesis 25:19—28:9, and the Haftorah is from Malachi 1:1–2:7

This week’s reading contains one of the most dramatic scenes in the Bible. It is the story about how Jacob tricked his father into believing that he was his brother Esau so that Isaac would bless him. After Jacob was blessed, Esau returned from a day out hunting ready for his blessing only to find out that his blessing was taken. Isaac was shaken as he realized what had occurred. Esau cried out in anguish as he realized what had transpired. It was a traumatic day for everyone.

The story is introduced with the information that “Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see.” This is the source of the drama in the events that unfold. Isaac’s physical blindness was what allowed Jacob to pull off the ruse. Moreover, the Sages teach that Isaac’s spiritual vision was likewise clouded and contributed to the events as well. Isaac couldn’t see that Esau was undeserving of the blessing and that the future of mankind rested on Jacob, the worthier son, being blessed. However, we must ask why Isaac ended up so blind. He was no less righteous than Moses, who never weakened in his vision (Deuteronomy 34:7).

The Sages suggest several reasons for the loss of Isaac’s eyesight. One interesting suggestion is that Isaac’s sight was changed by the tears that the angels in heaven shed when Isaac was on the altar. Those tears were tears of mercy. They got into Isaac’s eyes and left his vision compromised forever.

Here’s what this means: When Isaac was spared by God at the altar, he experienced God’s mercy. This forever changed Isaac so profoundly that everything he would see from then on would be viewed through a lens of mercy. He judged everyone he saw through the lens of mercy. This is why when he looked at Esau, he was incapable of seeing him as all bad. He saw the good in him, had mercy on him, and embraced Esau with love.

This is what it means that Isaac’s vision was compromised. He refused to give up on Esau and only saw his good side. Was this a grave mistake – something we should avoid?

The Sages teach that the world is a much better place because Isaac saw good in Esau. Esau never fully repented, but all his good points, which he passed down to his descendants, stemmed from Isaac’s embrace.

Friends, it always pays to look at the world with eyes of mercy. See the good in others, even in those who seem so far from God. When we look at others through the lens of mercy, God will look at us in the very same way.