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Sermon No: 74360-Covenants - Part 3



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SERMON TOPIC: Covenants - Part 3

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 26 July 2020

Topic Groups: JACOB, COVENANTS, GENESIS

Sermon synopsis: Let’s look at the covenant of parity (a conditional covenant between equals) established between Jacob and Laban.
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COVENANTS - PART 3: BIBLICAL COVENANTS – JACOB AND LABAN

SYNONYMS: Contract, deal, pact, agreement, treaty, alliance, pledge, constitution, testament or will.

A covenant has always been a crucial part of God’s relationship with his people. Covenant is a legal concept often used in the Bible as a metaphor to describe the relationship between God and humankind.

Let’s look at the covenant of parity (a conditional covenant between equals) established between Jacob and Laban.

But first – some background is needed:

Remember that Jacob insists that his hungry and impetuous brother, Esau, swears an oath (a covenant term) promising him the birthright in exchange for a bowl of stew.

Later, with his mother, Rebecca’s assistance he deceives his blind father, Isaac, to ensure that he receives the blessing (a legal ceremony similar to a modern last will or testament).

IN HARAN

While Jacob uses deceit to get the blessing, Esau has some more serious character flaws. His response is like Cain’s - he plans to murder his brother - out of envy and revenge.

The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.

To escape his brother’s vengeance, Jacob leaves Beersheba and goes to live with his mother’s family in Haran.

Jacob works for his uncle Laban for 20 years, 14 of which are in payment for his wives and the other 6

used to accumulate wealth in terms of livestock. (He possibly was in Haran for as long as 40 years though.)

REAP THE WHIRLWIND

Jacob deceived his father Isaac and stole Esau’s blessing. But he got a taste of his own medicine when he met Laban, a first-class conman.

Hosea 8:7 (NIV) “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.”

Laban accepts Jacob’s offer of 7 years’ service in exchange for marrying Rachel but then dupes him into working 14 years and into marrying both his daughters.

While Laban defends his fraudulent behaviour by claiming it was customary for the elder daughter to marry first, “Jacob plainly had no idea of such a custom, and would not have given seven years’ service for Leah.” (Ellicott) If there was such a custom, why did Laban conclude a covenant with Jacob, contrary to custom?

Gen 31:1-29 (NIV) Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying:

Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.

And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been.

Then the Lord said to Jacob:

Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.

Knowing Esau’s intention to kill him, Jacob needs to act in faith based on the promise of God’s protection.

So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them:

I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.

Then Rachel and Leah replied:

Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.

Then Jacob put his children and his wives on camels, and he drove all his livestock ahead of him, along with all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

So he fled with all he had, crossed the Euphrates River, and headed for the hill country of Gilead.

On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.

Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. Then Laban said to Jacob:

What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war.

Laban spent one week chasing Jacob (who had a 3-day head start) to Gilead. So Jacob is “between a rock and a hard place” – Laban has pursued him, intent on punishing him, while he is heading to Esau, who has earlier vowed to kill him.

CAPTIVES IN WAR?

Laban accuses Jacob of kidnapping his daughters (he doesn’t refer to them as “your wives”). He says, “you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war,” implying that they had been taken against their will.

Yet the passage clearly indicates that the women went freely. They felt there was no longer any bond of affection with their father.

Gen 31:15a (NKJV) “Are we not considered strangers by him?”

SEE YOUR OWN FAULTS

Why did you run off secretly and deceive me?

Laban accuses Jacob of deception - this coming from the man who deceived Jacob as to which daughter would be his wife and who repeatedly changed Jacob’s wages. We often see our own faults more clearly in others. E.g.:

2 Sam 12:5-6 (NIV) David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die! …Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man!”

A CRITICIZED EMPLOYEE

Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye.

Apparently Laban is upset because he would have liked to have thrown a going-away party? This despite the fact that he has pursued Jacob with a posse and the intention of doing him harm.

Previously when Jacob had expressed his wish to return to his family, Laban talked him out of it (Genesis 30). Perhaps Jacob was afraid of being bullied again.

Laban’s sons are grumbling about Jacob, while Laban has adapted a cold and hostile attitude towards him, yet when this criticized employee leaves they pursue him – presumably to punish him, strip him of his possessions, or to bring him back.

HANDS TIED

You have done a foolish thing. 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.’

God has told Laban that he must “be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

This is a Hebrew expression that means, “Don’t use either flattery or threats to try to persuade Jacob to return.” 1

Probably Laban was planning to use force but Jacob has been protected by God. Laban is sensible enough to heed God’s warning and thus his hands are tied and he is powerless against Jacob.

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place-genesis-3117-55

TERAPHIM

Laban then accuses Jacob of being a thief – he has stolen his idols.

Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?

I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.

Unaware that Rachel had actually taken the idols, Jacob challenges Laban to search for them.

But they were not found because Rachel was sitting on them.

Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me. [Gen 31:35, ESV]

Like many people, Laban is quick to suspect his in-laws of wrongdoing, while not being suspicious of his own daughter.

Rachel took Laban’s “teraphim”. Although we are unsure what the word means, from the context and other Scripture it is clear that they were items with religious significance. It is usually translated as idols, or household god(s) and used in conjunction with idolatry. They must have resembled people (or at least a human face) because Michal placed one in a bed to fool Saul’s hitmen into thinking it was David (1 Samuel 19). Laban regarded the teraphim as his “gods.” Josephus has Laban call them “those sacred paternal images which were worshipped by my forefathers, and have been honoured with the like worship which they paid them, by myself.” 1

1 Antiquities— Bk I, Ch 19.10

There’s a humorous contrast here between Laban’s idols and Jacob’s God. Laban pursues Jacob to retrieve his gods. What good are gods that can be stolen? But in his pursuit to get his gods, the living God appears to Laban in a dream and warns him to leave Jacob alone. That should have tipped off Laban about the value of his idols. 1

“A real God is rather more useful than a fake one” – Tertullian (Apologeticum)

But the supreme irony is what happened to his gods‑‑they got sat on, and that by a woman claiming to be on her menstrual cycle! The satire of that would not have been lost on Moses’ readers, who viewed such a woman as unclean. And Laban never found them. He had to go home and make some new ones! 1

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place…

Why did Rachel take them?

Was she a polytheist like her father? Or had she not yet fully accepted the true God that her husband worshipped?

Some argue she took them so that her father would not have idolatrous paraphernalia.

There is possibly a motive that is more mercenary than spiritual. The Nuzi tablets, discovered in that region, dating from about 400 years after Jacob, indicate that the possessor of the father’s household idols was the heir to his estate. 1 In the case of a married daughter, it gave her husband the claim to her father’s property. 2

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place-genesis-3117-55 2 C.H. Gordon, Revue Biblique, p. 35f

By stealing the idols, Rachel may have been trying to secure the inheritance which she felt her father had wrongfully taken from her. Remember that she and Leah say, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate?”

People would often use their gold and silver to have idols fashioned as a form of investment (there were no coins or banks yet) so these idols were probably valuable.

Deut 7:25 (NIV) The images of their gods you are to burn in the fire. Do not covet the silver and gold on them, and do not take it for yourselves, or you will be ensnared by it…

Again Rachel and Leah say, “Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children.”

After years of suppressing his anger, Jacob has had enough. He “was angry and took Laban to task.” (Gen 31:36-55, NIV)

What is my crime? How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night.

In modern times, Jacob would have a good case for the CCMA (labour court).

The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes … you changed my wages ten times.

Unfair labour practice – making the employee take the business risk. But it gets worse: poor working conditions, terms of employment changed without consultation.

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.

Jacob boldly makes it clear that his prosperity is not due to Laban, but in spite of him. He attributes his success to the intervention of the true God (in contrast to Laban’s false gods).

A COVENANT OF PARITY

The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne?

Laban still plays the wounded party and claims, “All you see is mine” – when Jacob had worked for it all, both livestock and wives.

Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.

Jacob attributes his success to God – Laban implies that it is due to his generosity or that he was somehow cheated (“Yet what can I do”). The wind taken out of his sails at Jacob’s sudden outburst, but unable to properly counter his charges, Laban now suggests a covenant.

Laban pretends to have the moral high ground by making a false claim, “The flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine”.

“So, I’m going to be generous with you, Jacob. I’m going to let you have all these things that really belong to me. So let’s make a covenant together. Since I’m letting you have all these things that really belong to me, the least you can do for me is enter into a covenant agreement.” 1

Perhaps this is part of the God’s character discipline for Jacob. Remember he had deceived his father in order to procure the blessing. Now he has to listen to a bigger deceiver tell him that everything that he has actually belongs to him. To his credit, Jacob doesn’t respond and is simply happy to cooperate in Laban’s suggested plan.

1 https:// www.fpcjackson.org/ resource-library/ sermons/ the-covenant-at-mizpah

COVENANT TERMS

If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.

Laban takes Jacob’s accusation of mistreatment and turns it around - by warning Jacob that God will see if he oppresses his daughters.

Yet it is Laban himself who is guilty of mistreating Leah and Rachel. After all, this is the same father who had been so attentive to his daughters that they felt like strangers to him (“Does he not regard us as foreigners?”)

Although it was customary to provide his daughters with a dowry, Laban did not do so. Rather he obtained payment for them from Jacob. The women clearly felt slighted by this because they say “For he has sold us, and also completely consumed our money.” (Gen 31:15b, NKJV)

Leah, in particular, is treated as a commodity and an unwanted one at that. Laban clearly doesn’t think she’ll be able to find a husband so he makes some money out of her by deceptively “selling” her to Jacob, who actually loved her sister.

Yet Laban puts in his covenant terms a condition for good treatment of his daughters! Possibly shamed by Jacob’s outburst – revealing Laban’s true character – he now pretends to have pure motives (the wellbeing of his daughters) when he stipulates what he wants out of the covenant.

Those who have no natural affection often pretend it when it is to their advantage. ‘Oh, I so deeply care about these, my daughters, Jacob. I really want you to take good care of them.’ Now Jacob had shown no indication whatsoever of mistreating these women. And yet Laban, who had clearly mistreated them, is going to give him a lesson in how to treat his daughters. 1

1 https:// www.fpcjackson.org/ resource-library/ sermons/ the-covenant-at-mizpah

Note that it is Laban who suggests a covenant to guarantee security – although he has been pursuing Jacob, initially with an intent to cause harm.

Isn’t it interesting that those who are most spiteful are also most fearful of spite in others … Laban is thinking to himself, “if I were in Jacob’s position, I’d want revenge. I’d better protect myself from revenge.” Calvin puts it this way. “Wicked men always judge others from their own disposition.” In other words they think that everybody else thinks as wickedly as they do … Laban has been sitting there plotting revenge against Jacob for weeks. And he thinks, “well, surely Jacob is doing the same towards me.” 1

Laban suggested a covenant because he feared Jacob. He was afraid that one day Jacob was going to come back and give him his due.

But it’s very clear from this passage that all Jacob wants is to be rid of Laban. He just doesn’t want to have to deal with him anymore. He wants to be out of his sight, out of his presence, out of his memory. He wants nothing from him, he wants to do nothing to him, he just wants to go home. But Laban can’t believe that a man would think like that, because he has enmity and murder in his own heart, he thinks that Jacob has enmity and murder in his. And so he seeks refuge in this covenant. 1

Laban says never pass by this pillar in order to do me harm.

And of course I’ll never do the same either. I would never come this way with an army to harm you, Jacob. But we really need to set up this pillar, and we really need to call on the name of the God of Abraham for me to be able to trust a man like you not to come against me in warfare. 1

God used this situation to get Laban to initiate a peace treaty with Jacob, which served to establish a northern border for Jacob, so that he never was tempted to return to Haran. It slammed the door on that part of his life and locked him into the forward course toward Canaan, in spite of his fears of Esau. 2

1 Ibid. 2 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place-genesis-3117-55

Jacob had offered Esau a second-rate covenant (a plate of stew for a birthright) – now gets offered a covenant by Laban which exonerates Laban for all his cheating by promising no retribution. (This is besides the previous second-rate agreement he agrees to regarding Laban’s daughters.)

Because of the covenant oath, Jacob has to swear that he will not harm Laban although it is he who has been pursued by Laban.

THE WITNESS

And to top it, Jacob also has to swear that he will not mistreat Rachel and Leah – something he has never done before. That must have irritated him and yet, again, he simply says nothing.

Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me.

The men desire peace but do not trust each other, so they build a mound to keep them apart.

So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed.

It was also called Mizpah, because he said:

May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other … even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.

Laban’s statement is not, as is often used, a blessing for friends who are parting. The word “between” rather than “over” shows the mutual distrust between these men. Laban is calling on God to punish the one who violates the treaty.

Galeed - derived from the Hebrew gal, “a heap of stones,” and `edh, “witness.”

The name Laban gave it signifies the heap of witness, in the Syrian tongue, which he used, and Galeed signifies the same in Hebrew, the language which Jacob used … 1

And Mizpah [Heb: Mitspah]

This name in Hebrew signifies a watchtower. And they agreed to give it this second name to remind them and their posterity of the solemn appeal they had now mutually made to the all-seeing eye of God… the Lord take cognizance of everything that shall be done on either side in violation of this league. 1

1 Benson Commentary

THE COVENANT SIGN

v 44: “… let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

V 52: “This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness…”

Is the covenant the witness or is the heap of stones and the pillar the witness? Both are. The covenant is the witness, the covenant sign is the witness. Sometimes the covenant sign is referred to as if it’s the covenant. E.g.

Gen 17:11 (NIV) You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.

Acts 7:8 (NIV) Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision…

This is significant, because it throws light on some difficult passages in the New Testament.

NEW COVENANT SIGN 1

1 Pet 3:21a (NIV) and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also…

Isn’t salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? If baptism “now saves you” isn’t that baptismal regeneration?

But Peter continues:

1 Pet 3:21b (NIV) —not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

In other words, Peter is not talking about water baptism. but about what water baptism symbolizes – salvation (baptism into the body of Christ). We are not saved by water baptism (the covenant sign) but by the covenant it symbolises.

NEW COVENANT SIGN 2

Likewise the cup was the other New Covenant sign, but Jesus speaks of it being the covenant.

Luke 22:20 (NIV) In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

The covenant sign would be a reminder to all of the covenant of security. Everyone who saw the pile of stones and the pillar in the Jacob-Laban covenant would know that there was a covenant of peace.

Likewise when we partake of Communion, which is the second sign of the New Covenant, we are reminded and reassured of God’s good purposes towards us.

1 Cor 11:25-26 (NIV) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

THE OATH

May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac . (Gen 31:53)

Most English versions use a capital G for the god of Nahor, the god of their father. There is no capitalisation in the original – they are interpretive.

If he was making a synonymous connection, it would have read more like, “The god of Abraham and Nahor, the god of their father.”

We know that Terah never served the true God.

Joshua 24:2 (NIV) Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods.’”

Laban, who probably followed his father Nahor, accused Jacob of stealing his “gods” i.e. he was a polytheist.

Yet Laban knew of the true God because he tells Jacob that he was warned by “the God of your father (Isaac)” in a dream. The fact that he heeded the warning indicates he had a healthy respect for Yahweh, despite being a polytheist. Furthermore, on greeting Abraham’s servant earlier, he had said “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD (Yahweh).” (Gen 24:31)

Laban, the polytheist, covers all his bases, invoking all the relevant “gods” to be a judge between them, should they break covenant - your God and my God and the God of their father before him.

This is where Jacob now shines. He seemingly picked up on the ambiguity of Laban’s remark, which is why he swore by “the Fear of his father Isaac” – who had only ever served the true God.

While Laban swore by a plethora of gods including Yahweh, Jacob swore by the one true God of his father.

Remember that “when God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself.” (Heb 6:13, NIV)

But the covenant fulfilled its purpose. It was designed to establish security in what was a very distrustful relationship between Jacob and Laban. The oath showed their commitment to the covenant.

We too were enemies with God but have been given a greater covenant ending hostility. It is offered with a far better spirit than the hostile one that existed between Jacob and Laban.

The oath gives us confidence and assurance in the covenant promises.

When Laban wanted to protect himself from the hateful aggression of Jacob, which didn’t exist, he sought a covenant, a promise and an oath. 1

When God wanted to assure your doubting hearts, that He would fulfil everything that He had promised, He gave you a covenant, and He swore an oath by Himself because there was no one greater by whom He could swear so that you could be assured that He was absolutely unchanging in his purpose, not only to redeem you, but to give you every last single blessing that He has ever promised in His word. 1

1 https:// www.fpcjackson.org/ resource-library/ sermons/ the-covenant-at-mizpah

THE MEAL

We also find the characteristic covenant meal.

Gen 31:54 (NIV) So Jacob … offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

The meal itself indicates the cessation of enmity. You don’t want to sit down and eat with somebody that you don’t like. You sit down and you eat generally with those that you do like, with whom you want to have fellowship, a friendship relationship. 1

At our New Covenant meal, Jesus says, “I no longer call you servants … I have called you friends…” (John 15:15, NIV) Like Jacob, we have a ceremonial meal (remembered in Communion) confirming a covenant of friendship.

1 Ibid.

LABAN

Gen 31:55 (NIV) Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

Laban then disappears from the biblical record.

Regarding Laban, G. Campbell Morgan observes that “the last sight we have of him is the interesting spectacle of a man kissing his sons and daughters, after having wronged them through all the long years”. 1

Laban represents the world.

He’s the kind of guy who gives you a friendly slap on the back and takes your wallet at the same time. 2

He tosses around spiritual language as if he believes in the Lord, but obviously he’s a polytheist who will use whatever god suits his current advantage. 2

He’s a religious hypocrite who pretends he’s a loving father, when all he really cares about is his wallet.

1 The Analyzed Bible [Baker], p. 196 2 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place-genesis-3117-55

What a picture of craftiness! But that’s the world, isn’t it? The god of this world is a master of deceit and treachery. 1

Those who serve the god of this world are like Laban: self‑ seeking, out to do whatever they have to do to get what they want, and sounding both threatening and pious in the process. 1

The world accuses those in the church of hypocrisy, but they are no better and usually much worse. 1

Because the world is such a cunning enemy, we could not survive without God’s gracious protection. 1

JACOB AND RACHEL

Jacob and Rachel represent God’s children. Yet both were acting just like the world.

Rachel “was about to be separated from Laban, the embodiment of the world; and yet she was trying to take the world’s security blanket along on the trip, in case God didn’t come through.” 1

Whether she stole them for spiritual or financial reasons it reveals a lack of trust in God. But be careful not to judge her too harshly - we often do the same. Because this setting is placed in a different and ancient culture, with things unfamiliar to us, we forget that we too don’t always trust God and use the world as a backup.

For his part, Jacob wasn’t honourable in the way he left Laban. He should have politely, but firmly, stated his intentions and followed through, trusting God to protect him. 1

In spite of all this, God protected both Rachel and Jacob.

Steven J. Cole writes, “When our kids were younger, they enjoyed playing in the waves at the beach. They didn’t realize how powerful some of those waves can be. They were so excited with the fun they were having that they were oblivious to the danger. But what they didn’t know was that Marla and I never took our eyes off of them. We were always watching to protect them from the waves. God watches each of His children that way. I think that when we get to heaven, God is going to replay some scenes from our lives so that we will see how, time and time again, He graciously protected us from situations where we could have destroyed ourselves because, like Rachel stealing Laban’s idols, we were so much like the world.” 1

1 Ibid.

Despite Jacob fearfully sneaking away without a goodbye and Rachel’s theft and deception - God graciously protects them. He prevents Laban from harming Jacob and doesn’t allow Laban to find his stolen idols. (Jacob had foolishly said, “if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live” - he could have lost his favourite wife.)

You may be thinking, “Why?” Donald Grey Barnhouse notes:

If we are perplexed by the blessing of God in the midst of the most sinful environment, we must remember that there would be no blessing whatsoever if human merit were the prerequisite to God’s display of power and bestowal of blessing. Here we see the grace of God manifest in utmost splendour. In spite of thievery and deception, God protected His own. 1

1 Genesis [Zondervan], 2:109

The fact that God protected Rachel and Jacob despite their failings shouldn’t lead us to tempt the Lord.

J. Vernon McGee once told of a man who had become so caught up with the idea of God’s sovereign protection of the believer under every circumstance that he said, “You know, Dr. McGee, I am so convinced that God is keeping me no matter what I do, that I think I could step out into the midst of the busiest rush hour traffic and if my time had not come, I would be perfectly safe.” Dr. McGee replied, “If you step out into traffic at rush hour, brother, your time has come!” God protects us, but we can’t presume on His grace. 1

1 https:// bible.org/ seriespage/ lesson-57-between-rock-and-hard-place-genesis-3117-55

CONCLUSION

Which of the three main characters are you most like?

Are you like Laban?

You use God as long as he seems to be helping you prosper, but if it doesn’t appear to be working, you’ll try something else (similar to Saul going to a medium when God doesn’t answer him).

Self is really your God, and you need to turn from your idolatry and submit to Jesus as Lord.

Are you like Rachel?

You may know the true God, but you’re carrying your idols from the old life with you. It’s kind of hard to tell whether you’re in Christ or in the world. 1

You need to make a decisive break with the world and trash the things in your life that you know are not pleasing to God. 1

Are you like Jacob? You’re wanting to obey God and distance yourself from the ways of the world (Laban).

You need to keep growing in the direction of reverencing God as your only Lord, and not go back to the things that formerly enslaved you. 1

At times you’ll feel like you’re between a rock and a hard place in seeking to live separately from the world. But you’ll have the joy of knowing that the God of Jacob is protecting you as you do. 1

1 Ibid.

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations are taken from the NIV: THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission. (http://www.Lockman.org)

Scripture quotations are taken from the ESV: Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




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