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“Jacob took him rods of green poplar, and of the hazel and chesnut tree; and pilled white strakes in them, and made the white appear which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had pilled before the flocks in the gutters in the watering troughs when the flocks came to drink, that they should conceive when they came to drink. And the flocks conceived before the rods, and brought forth cattle ringstraked, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob did separate the lambs, and set the faces of the flocks toward the ringstraked, and all the brown in the flock of Laban; and he put his own flocks by themselves, and put them not unto Laban's cattle.” (Genesis 30:37-40)
Jacob peeled the bark off from these trees, until the rods had white streaks in them. He, then, set the peeled rods before the cattle as they were breeding. He did this so that their offspring would be “ringstraked, speckled, and spotted.” Anyone who might have seen what Jacob did would have thought he was either a madman or a sorcerer. He was neither.
Jacob employed this very unlikely means of gathering the cattle he wanted from Laban’s herds because the Lord God had told him to use this means. He acted in faith, obeying God and expecting God to perform the wondrous thing he had promised. And the Lord caused the herds to bring forth their offspring “ringstraked, speckled, and spotted” (Genesis 31:9-16).
There was nothing in the peeled rods that could, by any means, cause the cattle to produce such offspring. Yet, those rods were the means God had ordained to produce the result he purposed. In order to get these “ringstraked, speckled, and spotted” cattle, Jacob had to breed the herds of Laban before those peeled rods, just as Naaman was required to wash in the river Jordan, in order to his being cured of his leprosy.
In all things, our God has ordained the means as well as the end. He has ordained the salvation of his elect. Every chosen, redeemed sinner must and shall be saved by God’s omnipotent, irresistible grace. And they will all be saved by the means he has ordained — the preaching of the gospel (Romans 10:17; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:23-25). God chose his elect unto salvation through sanctification of the Spirit (the new birth) and belief of the truth (faith in Christ).
God’s servants, gospel preachers, are as useless as Jacob’s peeled rods. They have no power to effect any change in the souls of spiritually dead sinners. Every true gospel preacher knows that is so. Yet, as Jacob put the rods before the cattle in faith, believing God, we preach the gospel believing God. And God, by the grace and power of the Holy Ghost, effectually calls chosen, redeemed sinners to life and faith in Christ (2 Thessalonians 2:14), causing all who trust his Son to be “partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6).
God, give me grace to preach the gospel in faith, expecting your blessing upon the preached gospel, knowing that by your blessing, according to your promise, it is and shall be “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth!”