Israel served for a wife, and for a wife he guarded sheep.Hosea 12:12
In conversation with Laban, Jacob described what he had done: "These twenty years I have been with you. . . . What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes."1
Even more arduous than this was the life of our Savior here below. He watched over us until He was able to say, "Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one."2 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; suddenly 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 bride.
Cold mountains and the midnight air,
Witnessed the fervor of His prayer;
The desert His temptations knew,
His conflict and His victory too.
It is helpful to meditate upon the spiritual parallel of Laban having required all the sheep at Jacob's hand. If they were torn by beasts, Jacob must make it good; if any of them died, he must guarantee their replacement.
Was not the toil of Jesus for His Church the toil of One who was under obligation 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 will tend His flock like a shepherd."3
1) Genesis 31:38-40
2) John 18:9
3) Isaiah 40:11