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Wednesday in the Word

Second Baptist Church

May 18, 2016

Genesis 31:1:55

  1. Verses 1-3. Both Laban and his sons were unhappy with Jacob's success. Essentially, Laban's sons were accusing Jacob of stealing their inheritance. And from their perspective, it was disappearing right before their very eyes. As a result, they became envious and bitter toward Jacob. Laban also treated Jacob differently. Six years earlier, Laban was willing to pay any price to have Jacob stay and care for his flocks (30:28, 31). But now Laban's attitude was quickly changing. God's blessings upon a believer can illicit one of two responses in those around them: a hunger for God or an ungodly envy. Sadly, when a Christian experience blessings, it is often common for other believers to become envious (Prov 14:30; Jas 4:1-3). When a church experiences numerical growth, other churches can become envious and critical of that church. This should not be! ln Rom 12:15a, Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice.” We should always seek to celebrate the success of others. As we learn to do this, God is pleased and we remain spiritually healthy. The last recorded revelation that Jacob had received from God was 20 years earlier, while he was still in the land of promise (28:10-22). But now Jacob receives a divine directive to return to the Promised Land (cf. 28:15). He was directed and assured by God. This was an impressive revelation. Yet, we must remember that there was a 20-year gap.

  2. Verses 4-13. Jacob laid out the facts to Rachel and Leah about Laban and God's divine providence. First, he describes the tension with Laban. “You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times.” Obviously, this is an unhealthy work environment. Yet, Jacob sought to persevere and honor God (1 Pet 2:18-23). Many times you have to make the best of a bad situation. Fortunately, despite Jacob's challenges, God proved Himself faithful. In 31:7b-13, Jacob testifies that God has prospered him in spite of his uncle. Jacob now begins to see that it wasn't his scheming but God's grace that prospered him. The Lord showed Jacob how he was going to bless him, and in time Jacob saw God to be true to his word. I don't know if Jacob fully trusted God at first, but now he knows God is real. He didn't share this with his wives when he first heard God's revelation about the flock, but now he tells them that God showed him this beforehand. God did this so that Jacob could leave his uncle and have enough to depart. God needed him there for a season so he wouldn’t leave empty handed. God tells him to go back to Bethel. Sometimes the way forward is to go back! (See Rev 2:4-5).

  3. Verses 14-18. Seven times in 31:4-16, Jacob and his wives mention God by name. Clearly, He is the One that is behind every scene. This may be the first time in quite a while when the sisters Leah and Rachel agreed on anything. They can agree in uniting against a common adversary: their father, Laban! Why? Because Laban had stolen their inheritance, treated them like foreigners, sold them, and used up the money from their dowry. At this point in time Leah and Rachel can see clearly that their father has used them. They submitted themselves to Jacob's leadership. The sisters responded with these words: “Do whatever God has said to you.” lf God has been blessing their husband, they want their husband to continue following God's direction. Men you.have to hear from God. Notice the women are more than willing to go because Jacob has a good track record. Sometimes it is better to show folks then tell them versus the other way around. Jacob packs his family up and they leave on a long journey. It was nearly 300 miles from Haran to the mountains of Gilead. The journey must have been exhausting for Jacob, knowing that Laban might be pursing him from behind in order to kill him, and Esau, his brother, might be waiting ahead, also in order to kill him. Talk about between a rock and a hard place. There are parallels between Jacob's situation and that of Moses’ readers. Just as God protected Jacob in his departure from Haran to return to Canaan, so He had protected the nation Israel in its departure from Egypt to return to Canaan. Just as Jacob and his family still had a lot of rough edges, so Israel had many shortcomings and sins. Yet God graciously had His hand on both Jacob and the nation.

  4. Verses 19-21. Rachel stole Laban's household idols while Laban was busy at work shearing his sheep. These “idols” (teraphim) were small figurines (two to three inches long) used in divination and to bring good luck. The question is: “Why did Rachel take these idols?” There are several possibilities: (1) To guarantee fertility. (2) For divination and protection during the journey to Canaan, possibly to prevent Laban from using them to catch them (cf. 30:27). (3) In order to establish a future claim on Laban’s family inheritance. While we cannot be sure of the exact reason, it seems likely that Rachel simply took them for her own protection and blessing. This is confirmed in 35:2 when God commanded Jacob to “get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves.” It seems more than likely that Rachel may well have been attached religiously to these false gods as she left her father's house. It is curious that Rachel, and not Leah, almost always turned out to be Jacob's greatest hindrance in life. In spite of the fact that Rachel had a growing trust in God, she was reluctant to make a complete break from her idolatrous past. We aren't really any different. We may not be putting our trust in idols, but we still struggle at times with putting our full confidence in God and His Word. Jacob left without informing Laban. Jacob was doing God's will by returning to the land of promise, but he was not doing it in God's way. He was acting in the flesh rather than being led by the Spirit. We can get so caught up in doing God's will that we forget to ask how we are to do God's will. Our methods must always be consistent with God's Word if our actions are to be honoring to God and rewarded by God (cf. Heb 11:6). Jacob was afraid of Laban when he should have been afraid of God (Proverbs 29:25).

  5. Verses 22-24. Catching up with Jacob was not so easy; he had a three-day head start. It took Laban and his men seven days to finally overtake Jacob. But before he did, the Lord appeared to Laban in a dream and warned him “not to speak to Jacob either good or bad.” This is rather astonishing! God Himself appeared to Laban, a wicked unbeliever, and provided him counsel and direction (31:29; cf. Abimelech in 20:3). Indeed, God is a gracious and sovereign God.

  6. Verses 25-30. Laban knows he can't harm Jacob after that dream, but he could at least play on Jacob’s sympathies and see if he could get some of his wealth. Laban plays the part of the offended father and grandfather whose deep affection for his daughters and grandchildren caused him great emotional pain when he found they had secretly left without any good-byes. Then he really overplays his hand when he says that if he'd only known, he would have thrown a big going-away party. Right! Of course the big issue with Laban is, “Why did you steal my gods?” As par for the course, Laban is concerned about himself, his wealth, and his false gods. Laban should have asked Jacob to show him how he could get blessed and get the favor of God on his life, but Laban was only interested in the idols that were missing. Laban might have connected the missing idols with Jacob's blessing. Laban might have equated their theft with Jacob needing them for luck. Laban wanted that luck.

  7. Verses 31-35. Now Jacob doesn't know his wife stole the idols, so he tells Laban you can search us all you want and if you find anything on anyone they will be killed. Laban searches and searches but doesn't find anything because Rachel is sitting on them. Even when he asks Rachel to get up, she claims to be on her menstrual cycle and is unable.

  8. Verses 36-42. When Laban's search came up empty, Jacob commences to giving his father-in-law a piece of his mind, He shares with him that he had no real reason to come at him like he did considering what he had done for his father in law for the last 20 years. Jacob declares that he never stole nor hurt his father in-law in those 20 years and that alone should have been enough. Sometimes people are so used to using you and abusing you, they are not prepared for you to stand up for yourself. Jacob finally stood up for himself and reminded Laban that he had been the one who should be scolded.

  9. Verses 43-55. Two men, neither of whom trusted the other, said in effect: “I cannot trust you out of my sight. The Lord must be the watchman between us if we and our goods are to be kept safe from each other.” Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’ So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. [Laban had two deities in mind when he said “The God of Abraham and the god of Nahor,” as the Hebrew plural verb translated “judge” indicates. Jacob swore by the “fear of his father Isaac,” which indicates that he was worshipping the God of his fathers. Laban swore by the pagan god his fathers worshipped.] Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.

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