Genesis 31

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It is a pleasure and a privilege to be speaking with you, speaking with you guys today. I get the I get the privilege of speaking through Genesis chapter 31, which is a long chapter. It’s 55 verses, and I get to do it in a span of 40 minutes. So bear with me. We’re going to be going through a lot of verses, and if you remember what has happened up to this part of Scripture, this part of Scripture where it focuses on Jacob, this section, Nathaniel called it last week. I think he said it was like watching an episode of Jerry Springer. And as much as I would like to disagree with Nathaniel, I think he hit it pretty close to the mark. So without further ado, let’s start in Genesis chapter 31, verse one, and it says, now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, Jacob has taken away all that was our fathers, and from what belonged to our father, he has made all his wealth. So first question are they right? Is Jacob a thief? Has he stolen from Laban? The short answer is no. In fact, in Genesis 29 and 30, it’s pretty laid out pretty clearly that Laban has been stealing and cheating Jacob. Laban has changed their agreements. The wages that are supposed to go to Jacob, he’s changed them up to ten times. Yet despite all of Laban’s conniving and scheming and trying to get one over on Jacob, Jacob has been blessed by the Lord.

And because of that, he is prosperous. His herds and his wealth grow. While Laban’s doesn’t it? And the end of chapter 30 details for us. What happened? It says in verse 42 through 43 but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in. So the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. So the man that being Jacob, became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. So no, Jacob hasn’t cheated or stolen from Laban. God has blessed Jacob with prosperity. But does the truth of that really matter to the sons of Laban? No. Why? Because they aren’t impartial judges on the matter. They paint themselves as being outside, looking in, but in reality they have much to gain or lose by the standing and wealth of their father. Right. They guise their anger in in righteousness by saying their father has been cheated, that something unfair has happened, he’s been wronged and it should be made right. But my guess is what they are really concerned about is their own inheritance. Right. They have a stake in how well off their father is, although they don’t acknowledge it with what they’re saying in verse one. What’s happening to the Sons of Laban is that they are being filled with envy. And that spirals, that envy spiral spirals even further, because they fuel and feed one another with saying to one another how much Jacob has been cheating and stealing from them, and what he has rightfully belongs to us.

Are we going to let that happen? And if I was Jacob, alarm bells in my mind would be going off. And I don’t think it’s because I’m a paranoid person. It’s because envy is fertile ground for all kinds of evil. James 316 says this, and these are not the only passages that talk about the evil that comes from envy in Scripture. But here is two that I think sum it up pretty well. James 316 says, for where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder in every evil practice. Titus three three. At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived, and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. Envy is a catalyst for evil, and perhaps it’s most distasteful and prevalent. Fruit is murder. Right. Think about the first murder in Scripture that happened in the book that we’re in right now. It’s Cain killing Abel. And why did Cain kill Abel? It’s because Abel’s sacrifice was accepted by the Lord and Cain’s wasn’t. God blessed Abel and not Cain. God’s favor was on Abel and not Cain. And Cain’s response out of envy was to kill his brother because he wanted what Abel had received, and in his own mind, he rightfully deserved. Cain thought if God was not going to be just towards me, I was going to take justice into my own hands.

Why is Jacob with his uncle right now in Haran? Well, it’s because his brother Esau is angry with him and he wants to kill Jacob because in Esau’s mind, Jacob has stolen what rightfully belongs to him, that being the birthright and blessing of Jacob. And if we look ahead in the story, we see that Jacob loses his. Most beloved and most favored son, Joseph, because his brothers are jealous. Of what? Of the attention and love that Jacob shows Joseph. And now, instead of killing Joseph, which which was their original idea, they originally wanted to kill them. One of them says we could make more money if we sold them into slavery instead, so it’s not really that much better and they get to gain from it. That’s what they decide to do, right? The threat of envy is a serious threat to Jacob in his family, and I don’t think it is lost on Jacob the seriousness of this threat, because in the next verse it says that Jacob goes to the source to try and find out, you know, is this just Laban’s son saying this, or does Laban also feel this way? And in verse two it says this, Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly right. Jacob realizes that the sons of Laban’s words might have some weight to them, and that Laban is possibly holding a grudge against Jacob for his prosperity while his wealth is diminishing.

And is Laban’s wealth diminishing? I don’t think so. Probably not. In fact. Why Laban wanted Jacob around in the first place, why Jacob is there and Laban hasn’t kicked him out is because Jacob is making Laban wealthy. Because the Lord is blessing Jacob, and Laban was benefiting from that. Genesis chapter 3025 through 20 says, and seven says this now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, send me away, that I may go to my own place and my own country. Give me my wives and my children, for whom I have served you, and let me depart. For you yourself know my service, which service which I have rendered you. But Laban said to him, if now it pleases you, stay with me. I have divined that the Lord has blessed me on your account. He continued, name me your wages, and I will give it. But he said to him, you yourself know that I have served you, and how your cattle have fared with me, for you had little before I came, and it has increased to a multitude, and the Lord has blessed you. Wherever I have turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also? What verse 30 tells us is that Laban has more than he has ever had, and it’s thanks to the Lord blessing Jacob. But that does not matter. That doesn’t matter. Why? Because he’s not comparing his wealth to what he once had.

He’s not comparing his wealth to what he needs. Laban is comparison, comparing his wealth to what Jacob has. And because of what Jacob has, it is not enough. And because of that he is angry with Jacob and as we will see later, he is so angry that he is going to murder or steal all of Jacob’s stuff. That being his own son in law, his own nephew, the person that made him rich and has spent the last 20 years with who he manipulated and cheated. Why? Because of the power of envy. Because eyes filled with envy make seeing the truth of a matter impossible. The bias of covetousness blinds our eyes to reality, making being thankful or content with what we have a joke. For there can be no recognition of the grace that we have received. Enjoy with only focusing on what others have. Right. How many of you raise your hands? How many of you grew up with siblings? All right. Most. Most. I’ll just assume you know those who didn’t raise their hand, who were too cool that you all also have siblings. If not, maybe you have some kids, so maybe you’ll be able to relate. I grew up with three other brothers in Michigan, and not every summer, but some summers my family would rent a cottage in northern Michigan that was on a lake. It was like some of some of my favorite memories. It was perfect.

You know, there was a lake you could swim in all day. Spending time. We had so much fun. And then we had this tradition that we would make homemade ice cream. We didn’t do it every night, but one of the nights that we were there, we would make homemade ice cream and I would put semi-sweet chocolate chips in Michigan, blueberries in it, and it was perfection. I don’t there’s as far as like the tier list of pure joy in my life that is towards the top right. And if you’ve had homemade ice cream, maybe you know what I’m talking about. But I can tell you that my joy and my happiness even then, could have been dissipated and destroyed in a second. And all that it had, all that had to happen was my parents giving me one scoop and giving my brother two. Because as soon as my parents would do that, the next words out of my mouth would have been, that’s not fair. Why does he get two scoops and I only get one? And they just started a war that I am not going to lay down my arms until they give me two scoops, because there’s no way that I am going to be happy with what I have. Not because I have any less. Then I would have been content with otherwise. But because of my brother, because of him having more. And what I don’t have, it was because of my focus, not because of the thing that I actually had, and it would make me completely unsatisfied and unable to enjoy my ice cream or my time at the cottage in the lake.

And we like to think that we grow out of this when we get older. But the truth is, we don’t. Or we can fall back into it because still we look at other people’s ice cream. No matter whether no matter what that ice cream is. And think why them and not me. We are just as prone to envy as Laban and his sons were. And just as in the case of Genesis 31, it endangers and often ruins relationships with one another and with God, because resentment at God for giving other people what we think we deserve and seeing God as unjust. Erodes a healthy faith. You can’t trust in a God that you view as unjust. Nor does resentment at friends for receiving blessings is conducive for healthy relationships. And that is where Laban and his sons are at right now. And it is a very dangerous place for Jacob and his family to be. And it’s at that point, if I were Jacob, I would definitely start panicking. I mean, who knows what Laban and his sons are going to do? If you’ve been with us for the past several Sundays, you will realize that Laban is not a guy of upstanding character. He’s not trustworthy, right? He’s been manipulating and cheating Jacob for the past 20 years to get what he wants.

And and he is constantly taking advantage of Jacob in the picture that we accumulate of Laban in Scripture is that his God is money and that he serves only himself. That he values his wealth and his possessions above everything else, and that includes people, his family, his friends. He is willing to manipulate and cheat them to get what he wants. So panic, I think, would be the right response if and it’s a big if. If it wasn’t for the Lord. Because Jacob really doesn’t have a place to go. His brother and his uncle, both places he’s lived, both want to kill him. He has a lot of stuff, but that also makes him more vulnerable where he goes, and he’s effectively homeless if he decides to leave. But the Lord is with Jacob. He met him at Bethel and has been with him ever since, watching over him, blessing him and all that he has done. And God isn’t going to abandon Jacob now. Verse three of Genesis 31 says this. Then the Lord said to Jacob, return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you. God instructs Jacob to leave, and he gives Jacob a promise. A very important promise, the promise that he will be with him. And that is all Jacob needs to hear. For he doesn’t sit around and find out or plan really that much. What he does is he calls his wives, and he begins to explain to them why they need to leave.

And he asked them, are you going to go with me? Effectively? Verse four. So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field and said to them, I see your father’s attitude that it is not friendly towards me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me, and you know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. However, God did not allow him to hurt me. Jacob goes on to describe exactly how he is cheated in verses eight and ten. You are welcome to look there, but we will go on to verse 11 where he says, then the angel of God said to me in the dream, Jacob. And I said, here I am. He said, lift up now your eyes, and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and modeled. For I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to me. Now arise, leave this land and return to the land of your youth. And Rachel and Leah respond to Jacob in verses 14 through 16. Rachel and Leah said to him, do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has entirely consumed our purchase price.

Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our fathers belongs to us and our children. Now then, do whatever God has said to do. And what effectively Rachel and Leah say is that we are with you. We will not abandon you and whatever God has instructed you to do, do and will be right beside you. And when Jacob hears that, he tries the the old Irish goodbye. Right? Tries to leave before Laban or his sons can say anything or try to stop him. Verse 17 through 18 says this. Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels, and he drove away all his livestock and all his property, which he had gathered his acquired livestock, which he had gathered in Paddan Aram, to go to the land of Canaan, to his father Isaac. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. All right. Why did Rachel steal her father’s idols? Now there are two explanations as to possibly why Rachel did this. The first explanation is that she wanted them to worship. She still had a connection, loyalty to that God, and believed in that God’s power. The second is that she feared that her father would find them. And I know that it’s weird to say, but earlier in chapter 30, it tells us that Laban divined the truth.

And I know, I know, it’s weird, but it wouldn’t have been uncommon for them their time and place to use idols to divine truth to find out what is true. Uh, they would ask the idol something and do something with it. You know, it’s weird to say, but I’m sure at some point. Or maybe not. But maybe you guys have seen in either movies or television, or read a book where a person has tried to divine truth by seeing animal entrails. Right? It’s weird. We don’t do it, but it would have been common in some places. And for for Laban to be someone who divines truth. The idea is that he would use this idol to find out what is true. And so. Rachel could have stolen that idol to blind Laban to keep him from asking the idol where they were. No matter what the reason is, whether it’s one the first explanation or the second explanation, the fact remains is that Rachel put way too much stock into the power of that idol, and not enough faith in the power of the living God. Right. A wise man once said that being Pastor David Guzik. Don’t ever worship a god that can be stolen. Right. Don’t ever worship a God that can be stolen. And I think that is wise advice that is as applicable to Rachel and Laban as it is to us today. Continuing in verse 20, And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing.

So he fled with all that he had, and he arose and crossed the Euphrates River and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. When it was told by Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, then he took his kinsmen with him. His kinsmen, by all accounts, are those who are blood relatives of Laban. So he would have picked, and his kinsmen would have been made up of his sons. Some of them would have been his sons. And as we know, Laban and his sons are holding a grudge against Jacob. They don’t like Jacob. And they pursued him, went too far, and pursued him a distance of seven days. Journey in overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. All right. This isn’t a small undertaking for Laban in his kinsmen. They are pursuing Jacob. Hundreds of miles take seven days. And this is without rest stops or McDonald’s right there on horses. They’re on camels. They’re on foot. But they eventually catch Jacob because Jacob is hampered with his possessions, he’s hampered with his children. And before Laban can reach Jacob, God intervenes on Jacob’s behalf. Verse 24, God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad. Now I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that God saved Jacob’s life right here. Laban wasn’t pursuing Jacob to say goodbye.

He was pursuing Laban, pursuing Jacob for a reason, even though he comes across as though that’s the reason why he’s, you know, traveling seven days as fast as he can to try and catch up. Uh, in verse 25, Laban says this. Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with all his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. Then Laban said to Jacob, what have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me so I could send you away with joy in singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. Right. This is where Laban might have a point, right? Jacob obviously shouldn’t have left in such a hurry and in a deceitful way. But there was a reason why Jacob left. And it becomes clear in this next verse and in the verses to come, verse 29, I have the power. This is Laban speaking. I have the power to harm you. But last night the God of your father said to me, be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. Now that command from God to Laban, to say either good or bad is literally means don’t make anything from good go to bad or bad to good.

It’s a rough thing to translate, but what Laban is commanded to do by God is to not contradict or to convince in any way for Jacob to stray off his current course. Right. What is told to Laban is that he better not bribe Jacob to come back to Haran. By saying, I will give you all these things if you come back. And he’s also said, do not use force. Do not use force of threats to make him come back. And what is implied, and what most commentaries and scholar agree, is that Laban and his sons pursued Jacob, and were meaning to take all of his possessions with them back, with or without Jacob. But God warns Laban in the night before not to say anything, not to even say anything that would change Jacob’s plans. And Laban relents. See, God is watching over Jacob, and he told Jacob that everything he had, uh, everything that has happened between him and Laban, God has seen and he has promised that his presence is going with Jacob and is to protect and provide and watch over him in his family. And God saves Jacob. From destruction, from 20 years of being Huron, coming with nothing and then leaving back with nothing. And Jacob knows what the Lord has done for them. He knows what has happened. And he says this to Laban in verse 42, If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac had not been with me, you surely would have sent me away empty handed.

But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands. And last night he rebuked you. Right. Although Laban’s wrath and his plans are foiled by God intervening, he is still looking for his idol for his God. Verse 30 says this and now you have gone away, because you longed greatly for your father’s house. But why did you steal my gods? Jacob answered and said to Laban, because I was afraid, rightfully so, for I thought you would take your daughters from me by force. Anyone, anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live in the presence of your kinsman. Our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it now. Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. Right. Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel really has stolen from Laban. Which is probably Laban’s most treasured possession. His his God, his his, his idols. And verses 33 through 35 detail Laban searching Jacob’s stuff, searching his tent, searching his wives tents, and not finding this idol. Rachel has them in her saddle underneath her, and she says, father, forgive me. I can’t get up right now because the way of women is upon me. And Laban says, I’m not going to go near you then, right? And she cleverly, cleverly, but deceitfully ensures that Laban doesn’t find the idol. And as Laban is going and searching through this, Jacob becomes angry.

His frustration that has been building for the past 20 years with his father in law, finally reaches a boiling point. And he says in verse 36, Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Laban said to Jacob, said to Laban, what is my offence? What is my sin that you have hotly, hotly pursued me? For you have felt through all my goods. What have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen. And oh, that I just read the wrong verse. I am sorry, sorry. All right. No, I didn’t, man, that’s embarrassing. All right, set it here before me and my kinsman. Right, man. Anyways, uh, verse. Okay. That’s where I am. Sorry. It’s at this point where Jacob’s frustration with his father in law hits the boiling point. And verses 38 through 42, if you want to read them, go right ahead. Jacob lays into Laban and tells him of all the ways that he has cheated him right, and that if it wasn’t for the Lord, Laban would have left him destitute. But safe to say Laban does not see it that way. Laban and Jacob do not see what has happened in the same way. Laban answers Jacob after Jacob, accusing him of all these different things that he’s done, and Laban. Laban says, the daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these daughters or for the children whom they have borne? Now, what is clear is that Laban still thinks that everything that Jacob owns rightfully belongs to him.

Which leads Jacob in Laban making a covenant with one another. They take these stones and they pile them together, and they erect what they call a mizpah, which means watchtower, and they set it between them. And what they effectively do is they make a peace treaty. They give each other terms and agreements, and then they swear and say, if any one of us either party. Uh, trespasses this agreement. May God avenge the aggrieved party for us. And they do that. And Jacob says, you know you can’t come and steal my stuff. You can’t come over this river and steal and take all that is mine, because Laban still views all those things as his own. And as we finish Genesis 31, it’s clear that Genesis 31 is a messy chapter, and I hope that it makes you a little more thankful for your own in-laws. But I don’t know. I don’t I don’t know your in-laws, so hopefully they’re a little better than than Laban. We see, even with all the things that happen, all the terrible things that are happening, all the the envy we see God working. And we see one of the themes of Genesis come to light. And one of the themes of all his Scripture come to light, which is the idea of what man has planned for evil, what man has meant for evil, God purposes for good.

Laban can sense consistently tried to take advantage of Jacob, and Jacob suffered for it. 20 years of effectively being Laban slave. But God was still with him through all of it. God still saw Laban. And in fact, those 20 years of slavery effectively slavery in Haran. We see Jacob grow through that. God does not waste that time, because before Jacob came, he was just like Laban. He was manipulative, he was deceptive, and he used people to get what he wanted. But Jacob is changed, and we see this contrast between Jacob and Laban in this chapter. Laban seeking to avenge Jacob just like Cain and Jacob, on the other hand, having a valid claim against Laban, but does not seek vengeance in return. He doesn’t seek to cheat Laban like he has been cheated. He serves him with integrity, with all his strength, even though he could have cheated him. Why? Because Jacob has learned to trust in the Lord. God told them that he was with him, and that he has seen everything, and that seen everything that Laban has done with him. And in turn, Jacob’s trust is that the Lord will hold that to account. And so he doesn’t have to. And we see that in the New Testament. Paul charges this same attitude, commands that believers have this same outlook in Romans 12. 17 through 21.

It reads repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all, if possible. So as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God. For it is written, vengeance is mine. I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not overcome. Don’t be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Right. Laban is entitled. He’s selfish. He’s filled with envy because in his mind, he deserves. He. Everything belongs to him. But Jacob knows and freely admits that everything that he has received has come as a gift from God. Laban seeks his own justice to make sure his kingdom keeps growing, and Jacob is trusting in God by attempting to walk in integrity with how he serves Laban. By obeying God’s voice and trusting that the Lord is with him. But above all. What we see in this chapter is God’s faithfulness. Despite Jacob’s failings, God promised Jacob that he would be with him, and he was. Now. God’s presence presence didn’t ensure that Jacob wasn’t going to go through any suffering. He did. But God did not allow Jacob to be crushed. He was watching over him and he would save Jacob when he needed to be saved.

And Jacob was never alone. And we as believers should not forget that we who are in Christ have received the same promise that God has given to Jacob. And God is just as faithful and merciful and aware as he was with Jacob. I can think of no better verse or way to end with reading Hebrews 13 five through six, which summarizes so much of what we’ve been talking about today. It says this. Keep your life free from the love of money. And be content with what you have. For he has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. So we can confidently say, the Lord is my helper. I will not fear what man can do to me. Jacob was in a dangerous place because of Laban’s envy. Because of Laban’s love of money and himself. And we can, we can. We can be like Laban sometimes, but we are called to do and be is to be content with what we have to trust that the Lord will provide for us, and that he is our helper, that he has promised that he is for us. And if he is for us, who shall be against us? We serve a God who sees us. Who loves us and is watching over us. And just like Jacob, he will not let us be crushed. He was crushed for us so that we could have life in him.