Introduction: We continue in this week’s notes to see the ferment and upheaval in the life of God’s beloved but erring saint Jacob. No wonder Jacob confessed to Pharaoh at the end of his life: “My years have been few and difficult,” (Gen. 47:9). Yet despite all his trials, we see clearly that God has more than enough grace and spiritual provisions stored up to make Jacob content in the end with what the Lord did for Him. May the Lord likewise work in our lives through all our trials to give us deliverance from all our fears to live a life of resting and meditating on His goodness to us.
Monday: read Genesis 30:19-28 and 31:6-7. Restlessness and discontent seem to taint much of Jacob’s family life. Leah restlessly hopes that the birth of her sixth son will move Jacob to honor her and give her more affection in Gen. 30:20. Rachel discontentedly demands another son from the Lord in Gen. 30:24 – even while she is still nursing her first born! In Gen. 30:25-26, Jacob itches to return home after years of hard labor for his father-in-law. Laban also is not content with the near ‘slave-labor’ which Jacob has given him for 14 years and compels him to stay longer, promising him new wages. Yet, after about 5 more years of labor, we discover that Laban was never content with the compensation promised to Jacob, and actually changed his wages 10 times in Gen. 31:6-7! From every angle: what a recipe for fermenting, restless and discontented family life! How can we avoid such discontent, greed and self-centered resentment? One answer comes from years ago, in the recorded testimony of one handicapped member of William Still’s congregation in Scotland, blind from birth, who spoke as follows on the subject of learning to rest in God’s will:
“Though I had been a Christian for a long time…up until the end of last year, my days were often empty, fraught with frustration, filled with resentment and – dare I say it – a degree of resentment towards God. I felt that, as I had made every effort to overcome my physical limitations and use my abilities… that somehow God had a bargain to keep by providing me with challenge, if not success. Not so! I am very grateful to the Lord for graciously leading me into a clearer understanding of his purposes for my life and for not allowing me to remain trapped. I did not realize that the Devil had tricked me into thinking that God no longer loved or cared for me and, foolishly, I used circum-stances – and not God’s Word – as a guide and measure of the Lord’s concern. But through the preached Word, I suddenly became aware that instead of resenting my physical limitations, God really cared about me and would use me in spite of them… Sight is a gift, and like every other good thing, not a right. Once I had grasped this and allowed the Lord to heal the emotional hurts of many years, the tension, inner conflict and sadness left me and God led me in a wonderful way into a quiet place where my mind could meditate on his Goodness and where I could feel more physically relaxed and less troubled.”
Meditate and Pray: Let us ask God to give us the contentment and peace expressed by Philippians 4:11: “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…” It would take years for Jacob to learn such resting in God. But God was determined to change him patiently over the years. Thank God that he is just as determined to teach us what the Apostle Paul found after long experience: “I have learned to be content in whatever the circumstances.” Amen.
Tuesday: read Genesis 30:27-28; Genesis 26:27-28 and 39:2-5. Laban is not the first unbeliever to recognize God’s blessing because of the presence of a man of faith under his roof. The Philistines came to Isaac in chapter 26 and confessed to him that “we saw clearly that the Lord was with you…,” (Gen. 26:28). Potiphar recognized the Lord’s blessing on Joseph and so put him in charge of his whole house in Gen. 39. In the same way, Laban has discovered “by experience,” (New King James translation, better than “divination” in the NIV) that his whole house and property have been blessed because of Jacob (Gen. 30:27). In this way, the unbelieving world leaves itself without excuse when it recognizes God’s blessings on people of faith and yet refuses to come and serve the God whose blessings they identify and even benefit from.
Meditate and Pray: Ask God to daily open your eyes to his many blessings and to give you a thankful heart. In this way, we can avoid the sin of ingratitude which condemns the unbelieving world: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.” (Romans 1:21)
Wednesday: read Genesis 30:29-43. What are we to make of Jacob’s thoughts of animal husbandry? Do striped and spotted sticks placed in the line of sight of mating sheep and goats actually make them produce similarly striped and spotted offspring? Jacob thought so, and proposed that all such exceptions to the normal solid dark (goats) or light colored (sheep) of the herds of Laban be given to him as his wages for working for his father-in-law. Laban greedily jumped at this idea since he never expected God to miraculously cause the genetic exceptions of striped and spotted animals to exceed the normal animals in reproduction! Laban even separated Jacob’s new ‘little’ herd of striped and spotted from his own much larger flock in Gen. 30:34-36 and put Jacob’s animals under the care of his own sons in order to make sure that Jacob didn’t ‘cheat’ and interbreed his animals with Laban’s prize flocks. But despite all his precautions, God blessed Jacob’s small herd with vigor, strength and number at the close of Genesis 30!
Meditate and Pray: A man like Laban always loses sleep in his financial dealings – even with his own flesh and blood like Jacob – because he assumes that others will be as dishonest as he himself is. But no matter what deceitful precautions Laban took, the Lord blessed and provided for Jacob and his family. In this day of economic uncertainty, thank God for the assurance which David gives us: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be blessed.” (Psalm 37:25-26)
Thursday: read Genesis 31:1-9, Psalm 33:10-11 and Hebrews 4:16. Laban’s appreciation of God’s blessing on Jacob in Gen. 30:27 begins to wane and his attitude towards his son-in-law to change in the face of so much Divine blessing of Jacob – see Gen. 31:2. Laban’s true nature is revealed in the envy of his sons, (Gen. 31:1). God Himself confirms Jacob’s fears of Laban’s hostile intentions by directing him to go back to the Promised Land in Gen. 31:3, reminding Jacob that He Himself would go with him in his return to the Land of Abraham and Isaac. In this way, God reveals the danger of Jacob’s situation at just the right time, in order to rescue him from the plans of the wicked against him. Truly God’s throne in heaven is well able to provide for us real “grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Meditate and Pray: Thank God for the great reassurance from Psalm 33:10-11 that he can “thwart the purposes of the nations and foil the plans of the nations,” especially when those plans include the harm of his own people. God anticipates the plans of the wicked, like Laban’s plans against Jacob. His help is never late, and his escape routes for us to follow always secure. Ask God to help you never to panic in this world, but to have your confidence and faith firmly fixed upon his timely help.
Friday: read Genesis 31:10-21 and Hebrews 2:14-15. These verses are full of revelations. Jacob reveals to his wives that the Lord did indeed miraculously intervene to bless Jacob’s striped and spotted flocks in Gen. 31:10-13 in order to compensate for the wages which Laban deceitfully withheld from him. Leah and Rachel reveal that they too have been cheated by their father in Gen. 31:14-16 when Laban robbed them of their share of Jacob’s dowry paid for their hands in marriage. Laban is indeed an evil man – and Jacob fears him so much that he makes preparations in verses 17-20 to secretly escape while Laban is away. Thus Jacob’s fear tempts him to adopt deceitful ways. Rachel also is gripped by fear, and steals her father’s household gods not only as a source of wealth in Gen. 31:19 for her lost inheritance, but also to secure any protection they might bring to her and her family.
Meditate and Pray: Fear drives believers like Jacob to adopt the deceitful ways of this world. God will not let Jacob get away from Laban without a face-to-face resolution of their hostilities as we shall see in future Bible Notes. We ought not to fear men in this world. But how to find courage in the face of such intimidation? How to find courage to face the world another day? Well, thank Jesus Christ that He has dealt with the worst of our fears on the cross, in order to set us free from ‘a life on the run’ and from the bondage of intimidation. How does Hebrews 2:15 describe the result of Christ taking our flesh and blood as His own in order to fight against death and Satan? As “… freeing those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”
I close with this prayer, paraphrasing John Owen’s words on Hebrews 2:14-15: “Lord Jesus, thank you that the first and principle reason you took upon yourself our flesh and blood was not to reign in our nature, but to suffer and die in it. Glory was to follow, but sufferings and death came first. In fact, Lord, we marvel all the more when we consider that you were already a king, sharing the glory of your Father before the world was (John 17:5). You did not need to take our flesh and blood to rule, but to die for us you took our nature up as your own. Lord, thank you so much that, when men came to make you king (John 6:15), you hid yourself from them. But when they came to arrest, bind, crucify and pierce your flesh and blood, you not only permitted them so to do but even declared that such cruel treatment of your body was the reason you had come into this world (John 18:4, 5 & 11)! For such love and condescension to us in our bondage to the fear of death, we thank and worship you. Amen.”