“Poplar and Almond Branches”

Genesis 30: 37-43

Abraham had Isaac and Isaac had Jacob.  Jacob was a twin, the younger twin.  I have twin boys so I love the very real stories of sibling rivalry between these two brothers.  They were fraternal.  Esau was the red, hairy one, interested in the outdoors.  Jacob, the younger twin, was born grabbing his brother’s heel so was named “the grabber,” and he was an inside person.  True to his name Jacob deceived his brother out of the blessing of the first born and had to flee across the desert to his uncle.  He is deceived by his uncle and ends up with two wives whom he paid the bride price for by working.  Jacob made an agreement with his uncle.  All the solid colored sheep and goats would be the uncle’s and the speckled and spotted and streaked ones would be his.  Jacob took poplar and almond branches and cut strips in them and placed the stripped branches in front of the water holes so that as the animals mated they saw the stripes and bore striped young.  Jacob became rich in herds.  Tension is mounting.

         As Jacob’s herds increase, the uncle becomes jealous and feels wronged.  Jacob makes a plan with his family to flee to his home country and it is at this point that Jacob shares, Genesis 31:10-13, that he had a dream where he finally gives God the credit for the breeding plan. God had seen the injustice Jacob was experiencing.  The poplar and almond branches were not magic but were symbolic for a wise breeding program God gave Jacob.  A geneticist could explain this better but the point is not that good breeding strategy produces good herds.  I think the point is that God sees the injustices we suffer and can use something as small as a branch of a tree to direct the path of our lives. 

         Perhaps it seems insignificant at the time but the small choices we make have ripple affects that impact history.  Perhaps it is like an earthquake in Hawaii starting a tsunami wave that hits the coast of California.  Or perhaps the decision to help a stranger or forgive an offense bears results we are unaware of.  Small actions that may seem unimportant but which are done in obedience to God, may often result in blessings we cannot even imagine now.  The science behind the act may not make sense but the presence of God makes a difference.  May we faithfully listen for that still, small voice that nudges us in a direction that will eventually bless many.  Thank you Lord for speaking into our lives and seeing!

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