|Genesis 31 (NKJV™)|
|1||Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth."|
|2||And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before.|
|3||Then the LORD said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you."|
|4||So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock,|
|5||and said to them, "I see your father's countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me.|
|6||"And you know that with all my might I have served your father.|
|7||"Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, but God did not allow him to hurt me.|
|8||"If he said thus: 'The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: 'The streaked shall be your wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked.|
|9||"So God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me.|
|10||"And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted.|
|11||"Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, 'Jacob.' And I said, 'Here I am.'|
|12||"And He said, 'Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you.|
|13||'I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.'"|
|14||Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, "Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house?|
|15||"Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.|
|16||"For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children's; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it."|
|17||Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels.|
|18||And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.|
|19||Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father's.|
|20||And Jacob stole away, unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee.|
|21||So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead.|
|22||And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled.|
|23||Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead.|
|24||But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, "Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad."|
|25||So Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead.|
|26||And Laban said to Jacob: "What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword?|
|27||"Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp?|
|28||"And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing.|
|29||"It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, 'Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.'|
|30||"And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?"|
|31||Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, "Because I was afraid, for I said, 'Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.'|
|32||"With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live. In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you." For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.|
|33||And Laban went into Jacob's tent, into Leah's tent, and into the two maids' tents, but he did not find them. Then he went out of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's tent.|
|34||Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel's saddle, and sat on them. And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them.|
|35||And she said to her father, "Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me." And he searched but did not find the household idols.|
|36||Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban, and Jacob answered and said to Laban: "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me?|
|37||"Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both!|
|38||"These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock.|
|39||"That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night.|
|40||"There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes.|
|41||"Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times.|
|42||"Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night."|
|43||And Laban answered and said to Jacob, "These daughters are my daughters, and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock; all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne?|
|44||"Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me."|
|45||So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar.|
|46||Then Jacob said to his brethren, "Gather stones." And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap.|
|47||Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed.|
|48||And Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me this day." Therefore its name was called Galeed,|
|49||also Mizpah, because he said, "May the LORD watch between you and me when we are absent one from another.|
|50||"If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us--see, God is witness between you and me!"|
|51||Then Laban said to Jacob, "Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me.|
|52||"This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.|
|53||"The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us." And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.|
|54||Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate bread and stayed all night on the mountain.|
|55||And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.|
New King James Version®, Copyright © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.
How can we know God's will for our lives? Genesis 31 offers beautiful lessons for the child of God. We'll see God confirm His will to Jacob through circumstances and His Word as he packs up his family and leaves Padan Adam to head home.
The book of Genesis is rich with theology including creation, the fall of man, and justification by grace through faith. Genesis, the book of beginnings, provides foundational truths from which we can learn who God is and how He operates in the lives of His people.
In this study of Genesis, Pastor Skip Heitzig presents an in-depth examination and fresh perspective of familiar stories like the creation, Adam & Eve, Noah and the Flood, the call of Abraham, and Sodom and Gomorrah. This series offers solid information to equip believers with truth in today's battle against the lies of evolution, the basic goodness of man, and a "fairy tale" approach to the Bible.
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Keywords: Jacob, Laban, God's will, Rachel, idols
We've noted something about Genesis. It's a book of beginnings. It tells us the beginning of God's creation, of the heavens and the earth. It tells us the beginning of mankind as God placed man upon the earth. It gives to us the beginning of sin, the Fall of man and sin entering into the bloodstream and perverting everything and everything becomes depraved after that. Genesis also reveals to us the beginning of God's plan to heal the sin that is in the bloodstream and His plan includes, in Genesis chapter 3, the Seed of the woman that would crush the head of the serpent. We see the beginning of human government. We see the beginning of marriage. We see the beginning of a nation which includes the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And now we've already entered into the next phase, the twelve sons of Jacob, which become the twelve tribes of Israel. So once again, by way of reminder, for those of us who may not have it on the tip of our minds, the book of Genesis is divided, as we mentioned, into two sections. Chapters 1 through 11: primeval history. Chapters 12 through 50: patriarchal history. A patriarch meaning a male leader--Abraham, Isaac, Jacob--were patriarchs. And one of the things we noticed about all three of these guys is they were highly imperfect characters which causes us to rejoice because we relate to them. We see ourselves in them. We think God used these nerds? Boy is there hope!
Now with Jacob we saw that, from the beginning, he was a manipulator, right? Even from his birth, his name was really prophetic of what his character would be. For he came out second after Esau, grabbing Esau's heel, as if to trip him so he was given Jacob which means one who trips or heel-catcher or manipulator or Mr. Con Artist. And he was good at it. He stole his brother's blessing. And for a bowl of stew, his brother Esau traded the spiritual heritage, the right of the firstborn, to the second-born, to Jacob. Jacob got it. As soon as he got it and as soon as he got the blessing later on conferred on him by his father Isaac, he had to flee. He ran away from home. He was scared that his brother was going to murder him.
Keep that in mind for next week when he sees his brother again after 20 long years. He has to run, he has to flee, and in the middle of the wilderness, in a barren spot, he's feeling all alone, he's feeling rejected, he thinks I'll never see my family again, and he must've felt alienated even from God until that night he had a dream. The Bible says he was tired, he went to a place called Luz and he pulled up a rock for a pillow under his head and he fell asleep and he saw a vision of the angels of God on a ladder from earth to heaven. They were descending, coming down, and ascending, going up, into heaven. He woke up the next day and he went, wow, this place is awesome! He was from California--awesome! And then he said the Lord is in this place and I knew it not. I know it now but I knew it not. And it's not the Lord was but the Lord is in this place. But he's still on the run. He builds a pillar, pours oil on it, makes a covenant with God. God says go and I'll protect you and you'll come back.
So he goes to a place we know today as Iraq, northern Iraq, a place called Padan Aram back then. One of the northern Mesopotamian provinces where Laban lived and he fell in love with a beautiful young girl named Rachel. You know the story so I won't get too much into it but he got, I was going to say a two-for-the-price-of-one deal, he got two wives, but he really, it was two-for-the-price-of-two and what a steep price it was. He served Laban 14 long years for Leah and Rachel, though he really only loved Rachel. He ends up staying another 6 years. He wanted to go, he said I'm leaving back in chapter 30 verse 25, he said I'm going back to my father's place, and Laban says please don't go, please stay for I know that the Lord has blessed me just because you're hanging around me and I want you to hang around me so you name your wage and you can have whatever you want.
So he stays for another 6 years and all that he said he wanted was the ability to have what Laban would consider the castaways, the leftovers, of his flock. Jacob, as we saw last week, came up with a very interesting way of reproductive management of his flocks. He took these pieces of wood from poplar trees, chestnut trees, and almond trees and he peeled back the bark, made little strips on them, and put these pieces of wood into the watering troughs of the sheep, believing that when the sheep saw them and they would conceive, that the Lord would stack the odds in his behalf and his flocks would grow, giving them a kind of speckled and streaked animals that he said that he wanted from Laban.
Now I mentioned last week that that was probably a superstition on his part. However, as I think about it a little more deeply, it could have been superstition or a possibility, just a possibility; it could have been a revelation because in this chapter he's going to say that the Angel of the Lord revealed something to him in a dream. And though he doesn't spell all of that out, what he did in the last chapter, it could be that the Angel said, now if you do something that's going to sound really stupid and there's really no scientific reason why this should work, but if you do it by faith and trust, the Lord will increase your flocks. Whatever it was exactly, the Lord increased his flock and that's where we come to now in chapter 31.
As I mentioned, it's a long chapter, there are 55 verses in this chapter. I've divided it up into three sections and we'll go through all three of the sections in one chapter tonight. Beautiful lessons in chapter 31! Beautiful lessons. There is, first of all, a heavenly confirmation in the first section. A heavenly confirmation as God confirms His will to Jacob to go back home. Number two, there is an earthly confrontation. Now I don't know what the relationship is like with your father-in-law, but no matter how bad it might be it couldn't come close to this one. Jacob and his father-in-law had been at tense odds for years and that confrontation comes to a head. And then third, and finally, there will be a carnal cooperation and that's how the chapter ends.
So beginning in chapter 31 in verse 1: "Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth." And Jacob saw the countenance of Laban, and indeed it was not favorable toward him as before." The body language, the way Laban looked at Jacob, had changed. In communication it's not just what we say, it's how we say it, right? Body language can convey much more than even words. For instance, you can say something but, by the tone of your voice or the stiffness of your posture or the rigidity of your lips, you can mean something completely different. You could say, for instance, to your wife, you look great. That will mean one thing to her. If she says, honey, how do I look? And you glance up and go, you look great, that will mean something different to her. And if you were to even take it a step further and say, don't you look great? That will mean something, and I suggest you don't, it means something wholly different than the first two.
Now 20 years there had been a tension between Jacob and Laban. A tension and agreement, but a tension. They were both con artists and Jacob was great at lying and manipulating and being a con artist, as I mentioned, but El Manipulator Numero Uno was Laban. He was a pro at it and they would go back and forth and have this long contest to see who would outwit each other. And it continues tonight. But in the midst of that contest between con artists to see who would outwit each other, they seemed to adjust to the tension.
You can adjust to any kind of tension in a relationship. In fact, if you think about it, sometimes out of great tension can come great harmony. Opposites attract. Probably what drew you to your wife or your husband has also become a source of conflict. But even out of that tension can come great harmony. Example is a piano. And this, well--piano got raptured. It's a selective rapture. Unless it's behind the stage. But a piano has up to 12,000 moving parts and can exert the pressure of those tight strings on that harp of two tons. Two tons of pressure on a metal harp. But out of great tension can come beautiful harmony.
So this tension between them for 7 years, for one wife, 7 more years for another wife, 6 more years to get the flocks he wanted--tension. But now we see something different. The tension moves into friction and the friction is the jealousy that Laban's sons, in fact Laban himself, has toward Jacob because he's so successful. God is blessing him. Now, in the previous chapter, he tells Jacob, don't go, man, I love having you around because I'm blessed because you're with me so, whatever it takes, you name your wage.
But things have changed. He's so successful and it's so showing off or up Laban, the body language has changed. And I'm sure he was cold to him. Jacob, how are you? Very formal, very aloof, very stiff. But he could see that something has changed. So the sons accuse him in verse 1. "Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what was our father's he has acquired all this wealth." Now that's a false accusation. "And Jacob saw that the countenance," or literally the face of Laban, "indeed it was not favorable toward him as before."
If you're a public speaker you can appreciate the value of not getting hung up on looking at people's faces. It's an interesting view from this angle looking at all of you, looking at a crowd, looking at a group, a person's face can be very unsettling. You don't know it but when people listen, they don't always do this. Sometimes they do this. It can be unsettling to a speaker. Or sometimes they do this. Or they get up. Or they look contemplative and they're truly just concentrating and contemplating but the look of contemplation on a person's face can sort of look grumpy so that's why public speakers will often scan the crowd to find the happy faces--the yes faces rather than the no faces. The faces that smile. Those that take notes.
Now, no wonder when God called Jeremiah the prophet, who was a teenager when God called him, and sent him as a prophet to the nation, He said, I've called you. Do not be afraid of their faces because I will be with you. It would be a temptation as a prophet is giving a heavy message and people are scowling at him, to look at the face and get all freaked out and not want to go through with the boldness that God prompted you to have.
I was once in New York City. I was teaching, preaching, at a church in Manhattan and somebody in the crowd caught my attention because he had a smile. Not only did he have a smile, he was taking notes, taking notes, taking notes, like, like it's the first time he ever heard a Bible study in his life. So I was concentrating on him a lot and then afterwards, I asked the pastor, I said who is this, it was an old guy, who is this old guy? He said, interesting, this guy is a man by the name of John Delorian. John Delorian was a guy who developed several cars, including the Delorian car used in Back to the Future and was indicted for 24 million dollars worth of drug smuggling and put into prison and while he was, then the charges, he was cleared.
But when he got released from prison, he showed up at Mike's church every week and he could not get enough of Bible study. And just soaked up God's Word until he died. But filled with truth, filled with God's Word, and the countenance on his face was so wonderful to look at. So I digress. Let's get back to the story.
Verse 3: "Then the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you." It's worthy to note how God prepared Jacob to move from Padan Aram back to the place he left 20 years before. And I want you to note it because I think it's an important principle in your life. The first thing that God did is put a desire in Jacob's heart to go back 6 years before this. 6 years before this in chapter 30 verse 25, he announces to Laban after Joseph was born, I'm going back. I need to go back home. My heart is there. I need to be back in the covenant land of Abraham and Isaac. Gotta go back. He didn't go back. He was talked into staying and he did stay for 6 more years but that desire never left him. It was a desire deep in his heart. He didn't react or act too quickly on it, but God put a desire in his heart and that's the first step that God uses to move us from one experience to another or one place to another. He puts a desire deep within.
David writes in Psalm 37 if you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart. I don't think that means God will give you your heart's desire, whatever little feeling you have in your heart at that time. I really want that--ok, I'll do it. I think what it means is that when you delight yourself in the Lord, the desires that you have are the desires that God plants within your heart. Where did this desire come from? It came from the Lord. He put that desire in your heart. Now that desire that you have has to be confirmed. You don't want to act on every desire you have. It might be impetuous--might be impulsive.
So the second thing that happens are circumstances. He has a desire to go back but he stays but now the circumstances go from tension to friction and now listen carefully: the circumstances toward Jacob are not favorable. They're unfavorable. There's jealousy. There's accusation. There's lies. In other words, the nest is getting stirred up for Jacob by the circumstances around him. He has a desire but now the circumstances are against him so he thinks it's time to get out of here. I really need to leave. What I feel in my heart is now being confirmed by the circumstances that the Lord has placed around me. Keep that in mind.
When things turn sour in your life, you're apt to complain. God can't be in this! Don't be so sure. Oh, God why would You allow this to happen? I can just hear the Lord sometimes going, really, you're going to ask Me that? You've been praying for two months that something would change in your life so now you got fired, it's about to change in your life. You had that old job, you didn't even like it. Now you got fired. Now you're in a position of looking for a new job. I'm gonna give you a new job. And so the Lord stirs things up by circumstances and they may not be favorable and that could be the Lord doing something to move you along.
The third thing that happens is the Word of the Lord comes to him. It says in verse 3: "the Lord said to Jacob". Now the Word confirms what he felt in his heart and what the circumstances were telling him. God says return to the land of your fathers. So when life turns sour, God may have some sweet blessings right around the corner. Don't complain. Don't moan. Just say great! What opportunities might God have in store if I trust Him and I move forward?
So the friction causes him to seek a new direction. Verse 4: "So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, "I see your father's countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me. And you know that with all my might I have served your father. Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times". What would you do if your employer changed your wage ten times? Not in that direction. Then you'd go thank you, Lord! What if it goes in that direction? Notice what he says, ten times he's done it, "but God did not allow him to hurt me."
Evidently, or at least probably, Jacob took his flocks that had grown substantively and moved them out toward the west, toward the road that would lead back to the land of promise where he felt the Lord wanted him to go. But before he left, he was smart. He called his wives out and conferred with his wife--wives. Honey number one and honey number two, I feel the Lord wants me to go back home. Your dad has spooky eyes looking at me and I think God has spoken to me so what do you say? He confers with them. He says he's changed my wages ten times but the Lord has been with me. God did not allow him to hurt me. Verse 8: "If he said thus: ‘The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flocks bore speckled. And if he said thus: ‘The streaked shall be your wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked."
There's something that I noticed this week and it spoke to my heart. He was mistreated by his employer. That's not new to our culture. It's not novel in our generation. He was mistreated by his own father-in-law but also by his own employer. But notice what he appeals to. There was no H.R. Department back then to appeal to. He didn't level a complaint or sign a petition or go on strike. He appealed to God and God took care of him.
Now I this is gonna sound really simplistic to some. If you want to live your life at the level of the world, God will let you. If you want to complain and file a report and sign a petition--have at it. What a miserable way to live. Or the most exciting way to live is to simply trust and to trust simply. Trusted God. I've lived above approach and God has done this. God has increased my flocks. This is how it came down and the Lord has not allowed him to hurt me.
"So God has taken away," verse 9, "the livestock of your father and given them to me." He's increased. "And it happened, at the time when the flocks conceived, that I lifted my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the rams which leaped upon the flocks were streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted. Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.' And I said, ‘Here I am.' And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.'"
Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, "Is there still any portion or inheritance for us in our father's house? Are we not considered strangers by him? For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money. For all these riches which God has taken from our father are really ours and our children's; now then, whatever God has said to you, do it." Laban was a really bad manager of his personal finances. He was not good at money and it was bad because he took what was the dowry, remember the dowry was money that was given for the bride and money that was given to the father for the bride was to be kept by the father of the bride as the, as the future basis for the financial security of those women. It was to be kept aside if something happened, if the husband died, or if the husband left her. There's financial security provided in advance, in a dowry, and the father kept it. He spent the dowry! He emptied their piggy banks and wasted all the money!
So they're putting two and two together. It's not like they're going, no I can't leave! I've never gone to this crazy land that you're from. I don't want to go 300 miles to the west. They say well you know what? Our father hasn't treated us very well and if God has spoken to you, let's go for it. Now there are some people like Laban. They make money but they don't know how to keep it. They make it but as soon as they make it, it leaves. No matter how much they make. They just need basic budgetary skills. Otherwise it's gone.
I thank the Lord for my father. My father was very keen at his finances and at saving money so that when I came to a place here in Albuquerque where Lenya and I wanted to buy a home, my dad surprised us and said well, I've saved up for this day and I have the down payment for your home. He did that with all of the boys. He was thinking in advance a way to prepare for the future, knowing that when you're young and you start off married you don't have much, so he prepared for that inevitability.
But the gals give him the go-ahead. If you want a marriage to work, here's a little principle before we move on. You should consult with your wife. You should listen to your wife. They may not agree with your decision but you should at least listen to them.
Also a key in marriage, women, is to allow your husband to lead. I've met women who say all I want in my home is a leader of the home but as soon as the husband starts to make a choice to lead and make a decision, they go what a dumb choice that was, how can I follow that? So while they're barking that he's not leading, as soon as he assumes leadership they complain about that. It's not fair.
The Bible says, and it's the dreaded word of this generation, wives submit to your husbands just like you would submit unto the Lord. I know what you're thinking. You might be gritting your teeth, even, and saying are you kidding? What if he makes stupid choices? That's ok. That's not your responsibility. God won't hold you responsible for the idiotic choices your husband makes. He will hold him responsible for the idiotic choices that your husband makes. He will hold you responsible for submitting to your husband or not.
And as I look at Jacob's life and the lives of his wives, it seemed that God was taking care of them. And again, as I said, if a husband is smart, he's gonna listen and consult his wife. Encourage your husbands.
"Then Jacob rose," now they're gonna go, "and set his sons and his wives on camels,"… man! No cars, no trains, no buses, no 747s, here's a plane ticket. Have you ever ridden a camel? Ok, some of you went to Israel and they had a little camel ride. I took a camel ride around the Pyramids in Egypt and I thought how on earth did people do that? Put everybody on a camel, "And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
Now Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel had stolen the household idols that were her father's." Now what is up with that? This is Rachel? This is the wife of the great patriarch Jacob? Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and here's Rachel, who is married to him for all of this time and he was under this covenant relationship with Yahweh, the God of the patriarchs. What's the household idols all about? The word in Hebrew is teraphim and they were little statues that resembled people and it was used, some believe that they were to remind them of their ancestors or that the spirit of their ancestors lived within them, others believe that deities would be working behind the statues and so people in those days would actually consult the statues to get direction for their lives.
Can you imagine how ridiculous that is? Excuse me, Mr. Idol, I'd like to know if I should go on this journey or not. Now why is that ridiculous? Because the idol, the statue, has no capacity to hear or to speak. David writes about in Psalm 115: the idols of the heathen are futile. They have mouths but they can't speak. They have eyes but they can't see. They have ears but they can't hear. They have hands but they can't touch. They have feet but they can't walk. They have mouths but they can't speak.
So you can pray to a little statue but the statue's not gonna say, hey, turn right. The eyes were painted on by a person so whenever you make a god, you have made a god less than yourself because you can speak, you can see, you can hear, and the idol, the statue, that you made, can't. It's absolutely ludicrous! But it was believed that these little statues would give direction and would give protection.
Now when I grew up my mother would place in her car a little statue on the dashboard. I remember seeing this as a kid, a statue of a saint or of Mary and I'd see it had a little magnet, the dashboard was metal in those days, so it stuck to it. But as a kid I even used to notice, I said, now she's got the statue facing her and yet she's going in that direction. I mean, it only makes sense, mom, turn the statue around, at least it can see where you're going. Even I had that much sense back then. She didn't want to listen.
"And Jacob stole away," verse 20, "unknown to Laban the Syrian, in that he did not tell him that he intended to flee. So he fled with all that he had. He arose and crossed the river, and headed toward the mountains of Gilead." If you were with us a couple of weeks ago in Israel, if you remember the day we were going to Bethshean and going then down the Jordan Valley toward Jerusalem, as you're going down the Jordan Valley on the left-hand side, or the eastern side, of the Jordan River were the mountains of Gilead. A landmark. That's where he was headed. 300 miles to the west of Iraq.
By the way, something else. There's a town in northern Iraq called Nuzi and there have been archaeological excavations and they've found documents, tablets, at Nuzi, that talked about household gods, little teraphim they were called in Hebrew, that whoever had them proved that they had the legal right of the inheritance of the family, and probably that is why she took them, because she was the daughter of Laban but this, having these things, would, in the future, prove that all that he has was under the legal jurisdiction, because she had the household idols, that's revealed in the documents found at Nuzi. So just a little F.Y.I. on that one.
So Jacob, notice how he leaves Laban. Middle of the night, doesn't tell him, he flees, which was his M.O., right? That's how he left home in the first place. That's how he left his brother Esau and his dad and his mom under the stealth and the cover of night. "And Laban was told on the third day that Jacob had fled.
Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead." Ok. Jacob had a three-day head start but he had lots of flocks and lots of people that he was driving across the wilderness. So, at best, he was maybe going 20 miles a day, and that's a good pace. But Laban, without the flocks and without the huge entourage, he had some men, but he could drive it hard all day long and one evening, he saw the encampment of Jacob and he camped there that evening and was getting all ready to get in the next day and confront him. I believe that Laban wanted to kill him and you'll see why in just a moment.
Verse 23: "Then he took his brethren with him and pursued him for seven days' journey, and he overtook him in the mountains of Gilead. But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, "Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad," or literally from good to bad. Don't let this conversation be impassioned with your own desire. Don't let it go from good to bad. I believe he had fully intended to kill Jacob and you'll hear some of the language that he uses in the confrontation.
Now from verse 22 onward is the second part of the chapter. It's the earthly confrontation. After the heavenly confirmation, he goes, now the earthly confrontation, he catches up with him. "So Laban overtook Jacob," verse 25, "Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the mountains, and Laban with his brethren pitched in the mountains of Gilead. And Laban said to Jacob: "What have you done, that you have stolen away unknown to me, and carried away my daughters like captives taken with the sword?" Oh he's so melodramatic. "Why did you flee away secretly, and steal away from me, and not tell me; for I might have sent you away with joy and songs, with timbrel and harp?"
Yeah, sure you would've. I'd have thrown a big party, man, cake and music and really cool stuff. You have deprived your own family of a party. "And you did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters. Now you have done foolishly in so doing. It is in my power to do you harm," bullies love to throw that out, "but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.'" Of course, it doesn't sound like he's listening. "And now you have surely gone because you greatly long for your father's house, but why did you steal my gods?"
What a great question! How would you like to have gods that could be stolen? What a worthless god! I can't find my gods! Did you steal my gods? My gods have been kidnapped! Not much of a god if you have to watch it, if it can't watch you, if it can't take care of you, keep you from getting lost, you have to keep it from getting stolen. Why have you… why did you steal my gods? I can't get over that verse. "Then Jacob answered and said to Laban, "Because I was afraid," that's an honest statement, "for I said, ‘Perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.'" Fear is an awful taskmaster. Fear will keep you from fulfilling all of the potential God has for you. It's a self-imprisonment. 63 times the Bible says, "Fear not." And that's worth a study, by the way. Go to your concordance or your computer and type that in: fear not. And notice all the times the Lord commands His people not to be afraid.
One of the most notable ones is the daughter of the synagogue in Capernaum. She fell sick. She was at the point of death and the ruler of the synagogue came to Jesus in Luke chapter 8 and said, Oh Lord, please. You've got to come and heal my daughter. He had just a little bit of hope and the hope was in Christ alone, but he just had that thin thread, his daughter's about to die, but then the hope vanished when somebody came to him and said, don't even bother the Master. Your daughter is already dead. Now at that moment great fear filled that man. Jesus turned to him and said, do not be afraid, only believe. Do not be afraid, only believe.
The cure for fear is faith. In fact, they're mutually exclusive. If you are a fearful person, you don't have faith. If you're filled with faith, you won't be filled with fear. One cancels out the other. Don't be afraid, only believe. Jesus healed that young girl. He said I was afraid. I said perhaps you would take your daughters from me by force.
Now listen to what he says. Listen how bold he gets. "With whomever you find your gods, do not let him live." Uh-oh. "In the presence of our brethren, identify what I have of yours and take it with you." For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. And Laban went into Jacob's tent, into Leah's tent, and into the two maids' tents, but he did not find them. Then he went of Leah's tent and entered Rachel's tent." He's getting warmer. "Now Rachel had taken the household idols, put them in the camel's saddle". A camel's saddle was probably simply a blanket or a cloth folded up and placed on the camel back then. And that's what she was seated on. And she sat on them. "And Laban searched all about the tent but did not find them."
Now watch this: "And she said to her father, "Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is with me." In other words, dad, I'd love to get up but you know it's that time of month, I'm having the menstrual period and otherwise I'd love to give you the customary greeting. So where do you think she learned all of these lies? From dad and from hubby. I mean, this whole family is enmeshed in this nonsense. "And he searched but did not find the household idols." Then Jacob is angry. Now he's gonna just light into Laban.
"Then Jacob was angry and rebuked Laban". The word in Hebrew for angry means to glow or to burn. He's just hot under the collar and he rebuked Laban. That means to lash out or contend. So both inwardly and outwardly, he just let it go. He answered and said to Laban, "What is my trespass? What is my sin, that you have so hotly pursued me? Although you have searched all my things, what part of your household things have you found? Set it here before my brethren and your brethren, that they may judge between us both! These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried their young, and I have not eaten the rams of your flock. That which was torn by beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it. You required it from my hand, whether stolen by day or stolen by night."
Now in those days, even up to this day, if a shepherd keeps the flocks of an owner, if one of the little lambs gets attacked by a predator the shepherd has to prove that he didn't steal that missing lamb, that it was indeed attacked. How did he do that? He would bring whatever body part was left--an ear, a head, a limb, the fur--and prove I didn't steal it; this is what happened to it. Here's the blood, here's the carcass. What Jacob is saying, I didn't even bother you with that, I assumed the loss, replacing it from my own flock. I went above and beyond the call of duty. "There I was! In the day the drought consumed me, and the frost by night, and my sleep departed from my eyes. Thus I have been in your house twenty years; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times." He's brought that up a few times now, hasn't he? He hasn't let this go, has he? This whole wage thing really bugs him. "Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night."
Stop for just a moment before we finish the chapter and close. Jacob felt totally justified in getting angry inwardly and contending outwardly with Laban, did he not? He felt justified. He felt righteous--a righteous indignation. He felt this was right to rebuke him. But was it right to rebuke him? No it wasn't. He didn't have all the information, though he thought he did, he didn't have all the information. He's working on the premise that no one in his family has stolen anything from Laban but did someone steal something? Sure. Rachel did. He doesn't know it yet but he's just hot under the collar, not having all the information, getting in his digs, and lashing out Laban. He was not right. He was not justified.
Next time you are ready to lash out at a person and you think, I have all the information I need, you think twice. In fact, you think back to this chapter. When you're thinking, how could she, why did he, I've got the documentation, you may not have all the story. And when you're ready to get in those digs, you're just being Jacob all over again. You see, the Bible says we see through a glass darkly. There's only One that I know of Who knows everything about everything. Everything about every situation. Who knows about every person's motive and exactly what happened at what time and that would be God Himself.
The writer of Hebrews says all things are naked and open before the eyes of the One with whom we have to give an account. You don't have all the facts and so, if you or I mouth off in judgment against somebody, be very careful. You're pointing the finger having three fingers point back at you. He was not justified. He was wrong. "Unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham," and he's being very spiritual and that's true of course, but he's feeling very righteously indignant, "had been with me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the labor of my hands, and rebuked you last night." You know what Laban was for Jacob and Jacob didn't see it? You know what Laban was for him? A mirror.
When he looked at Laban, he saw himself. That's what angered him. Isn't it amazing, haven't you found it amazing, that when we're so quick to spot a fault in somebody it's typically, most often, usually, because we have that fault in ourselves. We spot something. We sniff something. Something's foul. I smelt it before. Sure you live with it every day. Laban was a mirror reflecting who Jacob really was.
Have you ever met a nice person? I mean, think really hard, of a real, authentic, genuinely, no guile nice person. I think of my mom. You know, my mother, I never remember her speaking ill of people. in fact, when I would say something about someone, I remember she'd say now you may not have all the facts. You don't know. They probably really meant well in their hearts. She'd always correct it and never see the flaws and all of the bad stuff that we boys saw. But typically you see whatever you're guilty of or whatever flaw is present in your own life. "And Laban answered," verse 43, we'll make it on time, "Laban answered and said to Jacob," now listen, listen to Laban.
Now here's the third part of the evening's message and this is a carnal cooperation. They're gonna make an agreement but it's not on the highest level. "Laban answered and said to Jacob, "These daughters are my daughters," well last time I checked they were his wives, though, "and these children are my children, and this flock is my flock," he's leaving out a lot of details, "all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day to these my daughters or to their children whom they have borne? Now therefore, come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me."
So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. Then Jacob said to his brethren, "Gather stones." And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there on the heap," that is, they had a covenant meal, they cut the covenant, they sacrificed an animal, blood was shed, they cut the covenant, they ate a meal that night by the pile of stones, and "Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed," I like Jacob's name better--easier. The first an Aramaic term; the second is a Hebrew term. The Aramaic and the Hebrew term mean exactly the same thing: a monument of witness. A monument of witness. By the way, Jegar Sahadutha, that little Aramaic construction, is the only time the Aramaic language is used in the Torah, the first five books of Moses. He's using the language from Iraq, from where he's from, and he calls it the pile or the heap or the monument of witness. Jacob called it Galeed, means the same thing. "And Laban said, "This heap is a witness between you and me this day."
Therefore its name was called Galeed, also Mizpah," which means to watch or to witness, Mizpah, "because he said, "May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from another." Unfortunately, this little verse that we just read which sounds so beautiful and so sweet and so spiritual and so romantic has been sentimentalized and romanticized by the Christian church. In fact, there's something called the Mizpah Blessing, it shows up in some of the ancient hymns, I've seen little pendants; it's called the Mizpah Blessing. The Lord watch between you and me and it's seen as this romantic little pendant that you give somebody--a blessing, a benediction--saying, you know, we're not going to be together all the time so we'll just trust that the Lord will watch over us.
That couldn't be farther from the intent of the passage. This is not a benediction, this is a malediction. What he's saying is, you're a jerk, I don't trust you further than I can spit, and these stones are a witness! I can't keep my eye on you any longer so God's gonna keep His eye on you. That's the point. So it just shows the propensity that many times we have as Christians to sacrifice the meaning of the text to give a sweet, romantic little benedictive blessing, when this was not meant to be a blessing at all.
In fact, he says in verse 50, "If you afflict my daughters, or if you take other wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us--see, God is witness between you and me!" Now you have the meaning of the text. "Then Laban said to Jacob, "Here is the heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm." You get it? Here's the line in the sand. Right here. You've come all the way to Gilead. Here's the line. You will not go over this little pillar, this line, and come on my side and I will stay out of your side. And if you dare cross this, God is watching you! And this pile of stones is the witness. "The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us." And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac.
Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his brethren to eat bread. And they ate and stayed all night on the mountain. And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters," any mention of him giving a kiss on the cheek of Jacob? No. Why would he? He probably looked at him and glared at him or maybe nodded at him, hey. "Then Laban departed and returned to his place." This is the very last time you will hear of Laban in the Scripture. He passes away from the text. He passes away from the story. And no love is lost.
The story continues with Jacob in the very, very next chapter. Now chapter 32, which obviously we won't get to tonight, is a turning point in the life of Jacob. He has just left Iraq and he's coming toward, from Gilead now, over the Jordan and his brother is gonna be there. His brother Esau whom he betrayed. So if I were to give chapter 32 a title, I would call it "Between Iraq and a Hard Place."
But we'll get to that; we'll get to that next week. No, no, no. That was a cheap shot. Question for you: have your circumstances in life been moving? They're unfavorable. It's not pleasant. Here you have been praying that God would do something different and great and move powerfully and yet this happened. Ever thought that this could be part of the answer to that prayer? That God is gonna put something in your heart or perhaps already has, the circumstances are lining up with that desire, and now let God speak through His Word and confirm it with His people?
Even as Jacob brought his wives out and they confirmed what he heard from God and felt in his heart, and circumstances around him, they agreed. So let God move. And there's the fourth principle. After God putting something in your heart, after the circumstances lining up, after hearing the voice of God through His Word, the principle of Scripture, the fourth is the confirmation from the family--God's family.
The Bible says in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Get counsel. I don't mind a counselor you have to pay fifty bucks a session for, just the family of Christ, the body of Christ. Just run it by somebody who has maturity and insight and weigh all that together. Further, as we close, could it be that God has been moving you to Him? That up to this point, you've been sort of meandering through life, not really walking with God and God has been moving things in your life to get your attention, to bring you under the covenant of the God that you have not, up to this point, had a covenant with, you haven't committed your life to Christ yet, you've heard about Him, you're on the periphery, you're looking in, you're singing the songs, you're going to church--all good stuff. But something's missing. And God has been moving things around in your life to get your attention to bring you to that place of surrender. Then let tonight be that place.