Introduction: After 14 years living outside the Promised Land, God called Jacob home. Yet, Laban enticed Jacob to stay in Haran with the prospect of building up his family wealth. Jacob labored six more years, and God blessed Jacob’s labors as He promised. Yet, it was not God’s plan for Jacob to remain outside the Promised Land waiting for the right time to return. Jacob’s actions delayed his return home. His actions also caused Laban’s sons to become jealous of him. From this account, God reveals seven lessons regarding your journey home to heaven.
First, Jacob delayed his trip home because he felt that he needed to build his wealth before he served God. His actions failed to lead to his happiness. Instead, it turned Laban and his sons against him. From this, God reveals that you also should not conform to the promise of riches in this world. Just as Jacob experienced, wealth does not bring happiness. Don’t allow the accumulation of wealth to delay your response to God’s calling. Second, after learning that their father had repeatedly cheated Jacob and consumed their inheritance, Rachel and Leah felt like foreigners in their own land. The father of lies and deceit, the devil, will also deceive you in this world. Thus, like Rachel and Leah, consider yourself a foreigner or sojourner in this world. Your true home is in heaven. Third, Rachel and Leah were forced to flee early in the morning to escape to the Promised Land. From this, God reveals that you must be ready at all times for His return to take you home. Fourth, Jacob fled without allowing Laban to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren because Jacob believed that Laban would not allow his family to leave. He failed to trust God to protect him. From this, God reveals that you are to trust Him on your journey home to heaven. When you trust Him, you do not need to fear your enemies. Fifth, Rachel stole her father’s idols and then deceived her father when he came to look for them. From this, God reveals that you must leave the idols of the world behind on your journey to heaven. Sixth, after Laban failed to find his idols, Jacob rebuked Laban for mistreating him as a servant for 20 years. From this, God reveals that He also calls you to live as a servant in this world. Yet, He calls upon you to forgive your enemies and allow Him to avenge any wrongs that they may inflict against you. Finally, Laban pleaded for peace with Jacob, and Jacob agreed. From this, God reveals that you should also live in peace with others on your journey to heaven.
Laban’s family’s jealousy over Jacob’s blessings, and God’s call for Jacob to return home. As God blessed Jacob, Laban’s sons grew jealous. God, however, used this evil for His glory by using it to close Jacob’s door in Haran and by calling him home: “1 Now Jacob heard the words of Laban’s sons, saying, ‘Jacob has taken away all that was our father’s, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.’ 2 Jacob saw the attitude of Laban, and behold, it was not friendly toward him as formerly. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’” (Gen. 31:1-3). Jacob did not steal Laban’s livestock. Instead, God blessed Jacob’s flocks with fertility while He withheld His blessings from Laban’s flocks. Thus, Jacob’s flocks grew while Laban’s declined. This caused Laban’s sons to become filled with jealousy.
God’s fulfilment of His promise to bless Jacob and bring him home. God previously promised to bless Jacob and bring him back to the Promised Land. “13 And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac; . . and in you and in your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’” (Gen. 28:13-15). Even Laban’s deceit could not prevent God from blessing Jacob: “So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys.” (Gen. 30:43). Like Jacob, God also gave Isaac great wealth by increasing the return on his labor a hundredfold. Like Jacob, this also caused Isaac’s enemies to envy him: “12 Now Isaac sowed in that land and reaped in the same year a hundredfold. And the Lord blessed him, 13 and the man became rich, and continued to grow richer until he became very wealthy; 14 for he had possessions of flocks and herds and a great household, so that the Philistines envied him.” (Gen. 26:12-14). God also blessed Abraham with riches. Influenced by the Holy Spirit, Pharaoh gave Abraham riches (Gen. 12:16; 13:1-2). Even in his old age, God blessed Abraham: “Now Abraham was old, advanced in age; and the LORD had blessed Abraham in every way.” (Gen. 24:1). God does not bless every believer in the same. Yet, a person who walks in faith will receive His blessings.
Do not conform to the promise of riches in this world. Jacob felt that he needed to accumulate wealth to provide for his family. Yet, God had already provided an inheritance for Jacob in the Promised Land. This included the double inheritance that he would receive from Isaac. Jacob was guilty of following the wisdom of the world instead of trusting God. Believers should avoid letting their thinking conform to the thinking of the world: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Ro. 12:2). The perception that a person must first accumulate wealth before following after God is one of the most common traps of the devil that people fall into: “And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:22; Mk. 4:19). You must follow Jesus before you do anything else, even if that seems foolish to those around you: “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you thinks that he is wise in this age, he must become foolish, so that he may become wise.” (1 Cor. 3:18). Like Jacob, the wealth of this world should not delay your response to God’s calling: “But [Jesus] said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’” (Lk. 9:60). Does your job take priority over your faith? Have you waited to serve God until you have first accumulated enough worldly wealth?
Don’t let the promise of worldly wealth become your snare. After he completed his period of 14 years of servitude to pay the dowry debt for his two wives, God put on Jacob’s heart the desire to go home: “Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country.”’ (Gen. 30:25). Yet, Jacob then became entrapped by Laban’s flattery and his promise of wealth to support his family (Gen. 30:27-43). Wealth is not by itself a sin. It is only a sin when the love of money leads to coveting (1 Tim. 6:10). Solomon only asked God for wisdom. Because he sought God’s wisdom first, God gave him riches that he did not ask for: “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days.” (1 Kgs. 3:13). “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel.” (1 Chr. 29:25). If money alone were sinful, God would not have rewarded Job, Abraham, and Solomon with great wealth. God, however, may not bless you with great wealth if it could cause you to covet wealth. Yet, if it is part of His plan for you, He may also bless you financially: “It is the blessing of the LORD that makes rich, and He adds no sorrow to it.” (Prov. 10:20). “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, . . .” (Dt. 8:18). If He has blessed you with wealth, are you using that wealth to build His kingdom on Earth or your own?
When God blesses you, give cheerfully for His kingdom. God did not bless Jacob with wealth to make him comfortable. Instead, Jacob vowed to tithe 10 percent of his wealth back to God: “and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” (Gen. 28:22(b)). Under the New Testament, God will not condemn you when you fail to tithe. He only wants cheerful givers. “Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor. 9:7). Do you give with joy?
God will always provide for you. If you seek first God’s kingdom (which includes tithing and giving to the poor), He promises to provide for you (Matt. 6:33). He will also give back more than what you tithe: “Honor the Lord from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine.” (Prov. 3:9-10). Are you willing to trust God and give to Him when times are tough?
God can also provide spiritual blessings. If you are not wealthy, you should not feel that you have missed out on His blessings. As Jacob learned, money does not bring happiness. When you believe in faith in Jesus, you receive the “free” gift of eternal life (Ro. 5:15). When you walk in faith, the fruit of the Spirit available to you includes: “ . . . love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23). Have you given thanks for the blessings of the Spirit? If you are missing any of the fruit of the Spirit, are you seeking a closer walk with Jesus to find them?
God sometimes uses conflict to open and close doors. Laban and his sons acted with an evil jealousy toward Jacob. “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (Ja. 3:16). Yet, God used their evil for His glory. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” (Ro. 8:28). Without their jealousy, Jacob, Rachel, and Leah might not have wanted to leave their life in Haran for the Promised Land. If Jacob became comfortable, he might have felt that it was too risky to return and confront Esau. God can also use conflict in your life to open or close doors. If you are experiencing conflict, God might be telling you that it is time to move on from a project or job. Yet, God only needs to use these tools when you fail to read the Word and pray for the Spirit to guide you. Are you regularly reading the Word and praying so that the Holy Spirit can guide you?
Rachel and Leah’s discovery of their father’s deceit, and their agreement to leave their home. Laban previously gave a false offer for Jacob to “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” (Gen. 30:28). Upon learning of their father’s duplicity with Jacob in changing his wages 10 times, both Rachel and Leah agreed to leave their world behind and follow Jacob to the Promised Land: “4 So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, 5 and said to them, ‘I see your father’s attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me. 6 You know that I have served your father with all my strength. 7 Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me. 8 If he spoke thus, ‘The speckled shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock brought forth striped. 9 Thus God has taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me. 10 And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 He said, ‘Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.’’ 14 Rachel and Leah said to him, ‘Do we still have any portion or inheritance in our father’s house? 15 Are we not reckoned by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and has also entirely consumed our purchase price. 16 Surely all the wealth which God has taken away from our father belongs to us and our children; now then, do whatever God has said to you.’” (Gen. 31:4-16). The number 10 in the Bible is associated with the Ten Commandments and God’s judgment. He judged Laban for his deceit by withholding fertility from his sheep while He increased the fertility of Jacob’s sheep. When Laban treated Jacob well, God blessed him. Yet, now that Laban was deceiving Jacob, he placed himself under God’s curse: “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.” (Gen. 12:3(a)). Jacob was also a deceiver. He did not deserve God’s blessings. He used superstitious breeding practices to try to deceive Laban (Gen. 30:37-42). Here, he finally acknowledged that it was God who allowed Jacob to prosper (Gen. 31:7-9). Yet, Jacob never repented of any of many acts of deceit. God, however, is forgiving. Here, He identified Himself to Jacob as the “God of Bethel” (Gen. 31:13). In Hebrew, Bethel means the “house of God.” At Bethel, Jacob built an altar to praise God for His covenant of mercy and grace (Gen. 28:16-18). The God of mercy and grace was calling Jacob home to His house in the Promised Land. The God of mercy and grace is also calling you home to live in His eternal house in heaven.
Don’t repay evil with evil. Even though Laban had sinned by deceiving Jacob, Jacob also sinned by gossiping about his father-in-law to his wives. Laban’s sin of jealousy was no worse than Jacob’s sins of gossip and stirring up disputes within the family: “For I am afraid that perhaps when I come I may find you to be not what I wish and may be found by you to be not what you wish; that perhaps there will be strife, jealousy, angry tempers, disputes, slanders, gossip, arrogance, disturbances;” (2 Cor. 12:20; Ro. 1:29). “He who goes about as a slanderer reveals secrets, therefore do not associate with a gossip.” (Prov. 20:19). His actions merely drove Laban’s daughter’s to resent their father. His actions may also have contributed to Rachel’s decision to steal Laban’s idols. Thus, believers should never repay evil with evil: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men.” (Ro. 12:17). If Jacob felt cheated by Laban’s ever changing wages, his remedy was to approach Laban in love. “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matt. 18:15). When others wrong you, do you approach them in a loving heart? Or, do you gossip about them to others?
Be responsive to God’s calling in your life. Although God was calling Jacob home, this was the first time in 20 years that God spoke directly to him. Jacob responded to God’s call with the words “Here, I am.” (Gen. 31:11). Abraham used the exact same words when he responded in obedience to God’s call not to sacrifice Isaac: “But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, ‘Abraham, Abraham!’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” (Gen. 22:11). Jacob was finally learning to walk in obedience. He would later use the exact same terms when God later called to Jacob by his new name “Israel” in a dream: “God spoke to Israel in visions of the night and said, ‘Jacob, Jacob.’ And he said, ‘Here I am.’” (Gen. 46:2). Have you promptly responded to God’s calling in your life to serve Him?
Live as a “sojourner” while you wait for God’s blessings of the eternal Promised Land. Leah and Rachel recognized that they became “foreigners” once they became part of God’s family (Gen. 31:15). God previously told Isaac to “Sojourn in this land and I will be with you and bless you, . . .” (Gen. 26:3(a)). In Isaac’s prior blessings to Jacob, he also prayed that Jacob’s descendants would possess the land where he lived as a “sojourner” (Gen. 28:4). God later restated that the patriarchs were mere “sojourners” when He formed His covenant with them: “I also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they sojourned.” (Ex. 6:4). David later saw that his real kingdom was in heaven. Thus, he cried out that he was also a mere “sojourner” in his kingdom on Earth: “Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; do not be silent at my tears; for I am a stranger with You, a sojourner like all my fathers.” (Ps. 39:12). “All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb. 11:13). When it comes to the sins offered through the world, Peter exhorts believers to also live as “aliens and strangers” by abstaining from those evil things: “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” (1 Pet. 2:11). Within Christ’s household, you will be blessed and no longer live as an alien or sojourner: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household,” (Eph. 2:19). Your home is in heaven. Do you live as a foreigner to the evil things that surround you and the temptations of this world?
Jacob’s hurried escape for the Promised Land. Early in the morning, Jacob arose in secret and fled with his family. Yet, Rachel was not ready to leave her old life behind. Before leaving, she stole her father’s idols: “17 Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; 18 and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. 19 When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father’s. 20 And Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him that he was fleeing. 21 So he fled with all that he had; and he arose and crossed the Euphrates River, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead.” (Gen. 31:17-21). Rachel took her father’s family idols because her heart was divided. One theory holds that having the family gods was at that time like having the grant deed to the family’s inheritance (Derek Kidner, Genesis (Chicago: Inter-Varsity Press, 1967), p. 165). One view is that Rachel may have sought to lay claim to an inheritance in Laban’s future estate after feeling cheated. Alternatively, she might have sought to ensure a superior inheritance for Joseph amongst Jacob’s other sons. Yet, the grant deed theory is now disputed amongst scholars. Alternatively, she might have felt that the family idols would bring her good fortune. Under either scenario, her heart was still in her homeland, not the Promised Land. Lot’s wife also was unwilling to let go of her idols. Just as God destroyed Sodom, she looked back longingly on her home. As a result, God judged her by turning her into a salt pillar (Gen. 19:23-26). God provides these examples as a warning to believers.
Be ready for God at a moment’s notice. As an example to believers, Abraham showed that he had become strong in his faith by promptly responding to God’s calling. For example, he circumcised all the men in his household on “very same day, as God had said to him.” (Gen. 17:23). As another example, he rose “3early in the morning” the day after God commanded him to take Isaac to the sacrifice (Gen. 22:3). Hundreds of years later, the Jews fled from their old lives in Egypt in such a rush that they did not have time to prepare leavened bread (Ex. 12:31-34). Likewise, when a seeker asked Jesus if he could bury his father before following Him (a metaphor for closing down his father’s business), Jesus responded that he could not delay in his commitment to serve God (Lk. 9:60; Matt. 8:21-23). Your life could end at any moment. Jesus also warns that He could return at any moment (Lk. 12:40). Thus, you cannot assume that you will have decades or even years to decide whether to either accept or follow after Christ (Jam. 4:13-14; Heb. 3:12-13, 15). Jesus gave us the parable of the ten virgins to illustrate that some will foolishly wait until it is too late to accept Him (Matt. 25:1-13). When He returns, He will come like a “thief in the night.” (1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). Are you living your life ready to flee on a moment’s notice for heaven?
Jacob’s failure to trust God to protect him in his return journey to the Promised Land. Although Laban pursued after Jacob, God prevented him from harming Jacob. Jacob, however, reveals that he escaped in secret because he did not fully trust God to protect him: “22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, ‘Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.’ 25 Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; 28 and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’ “30 Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?’ 31 Then Jacob replied to Laban, ‘Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force.” (Gen. 31:22-31). From Haran to the mountains of Gilead, Jacob fled nearly 300 miles or 482 kilometers. Based upon his dream, Laban meant to hurt Jacob. Yet, God would not allow him to harm Jacob. Like Laban, God also warned Abimelech in a dream not to touch Sarah (Gen. 20:3). He is faithful to keep His promises, even when believers fail in their faith (2 Tim. 2:13).
Place your trust in God and never fear evil people. Jacob fled because he failed to trust God to protect him from Laban. Like Jacob, believers will do foolish things when they let their fear of other people control their actions: “The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me?” (Ps. 118:6). “I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” (Lk. 12:4). The only person that you are to fear is God (Prov. 1:7). And the fear of the Lord is hating evil (Prov. 8:12). “The fear of man brings a snare. But he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.” (Prov. 29:25). “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). “Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” (Is. 41:10). “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.” (1 Pet. 5:7). The next time you feel fear, cast all your concerns on Jesus.
When you walk with God, your enemy will flee. The Abrahamic covenant includes God’s promise of protection: “Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great.” (Gen. 15:1(b)). When you walk in faith and obedience, God promises to install fear into your enemy and cause them to flee: “One of your men puts to flight a thousand, for the LORD your God is He who fights for you, just as He promised you.” (Josh. 23:10). “The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you; they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.” (Dt. 28:7). ‘“But you will chase your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword; five of you will chase a hundred, and a hundred of you will chase ten thousand, and your enemies will fall before you by the sword.’” (Lev. 26:7-8). When you take refuge in God, He promises to be a shield to the evil attacks of the enemy: “Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.” (Prov. 30:5; 2 Sam. 22:31). With His help, Jonathon also killed many Philistines (1 Sam. 14:12). His power also allowed David to kill Goliath (1 Sam. 17:50-58). He does not want you to fear any enemy (Ro. 8:15). Are you walking in full submission to Jesus to receive His complete protection?
Rachel’s refusal to part with her worldly idols during her trip to the Promised Land. After Laban confronted Jacob about his stolen idols, Jacob pronounced a death sentence upon the thief. Rachel, however, still would not part with her worldly idols: “32 The one with whom you find your gods shall not live; in the presence of our kinsmen point out what is yours among my belongings and take it for yourself.’ For Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. 33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two maids, 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 and put them in the camel’s saddle, and she sat on them. And Laban felt through all the tent but did not find them. 35 She said to her father, ‘Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the manner of women is upon me.’ So he searched but did not find the household idols.” (Gen. 31:32-35). Laban, like Abraham’s father Terah, was an idol worshiper (Josh. 24:2). Through his actions, Laban showed that he cared more about his missing family idols than his daughters or grandchildren. He most likely suspected Jacob of seeking to lay claim to his future estate. He did not suspect his daughter. She used the same type of deceit that she had learned from Laban to deceive him by pretending to be unable to move during her period. After feeling deceived, she felt entitled to steal her father’s idols. Like Lot’s wife, Rachel failed to leave the idols of her old life behind when God called her: “Remember Lot’s wife. Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” (Lk. 17:32-33; Matt. 10:39; Mk. 8:35; Jo. 12:25). Are you still clinging to the idols of the world?
Don’t be double minded between the world and God. Jesus also warns not to be double minded between this world and Him. A person like Rachel who longs for the things of the world over what He offers is not fit for His Kingdom: “But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’” (Lk. 9:62). “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,” (Phil. 3:13). “You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (Jam. 4:4). A double minded person is also unstable, filled with doubt and will not have his or her prayers heard: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (Ja. 1:6-8). Is your allegiance torn between the things of God and things of the world in any area?
The Jews’ later mistakes in failing to leave their idols behind. Like Rachel, the Jews were also reluctant to leave the idols in their lives when they fled Egypt. Thus, they built the golden calf to worship God (Ex. 32:4). During the time of the Judges, Micah’s mother took 1,100 pieces of silver to create a graven image of Yahweh for her family and servants to worship (Jdgs. 17:3-4). Like Rachel, the misguided leaders of the tribe of Dan later stole these idols for the tribe of Dan to use in worship (Jdgs. 18:7-17). An idol is anything that comes between you and God. Are there any idols in your life that you need to part with?
Rachel’s judgment under the law. Jacob prophetically pronounced Rachel’s judgment under the law when he said that the person who stole the idols would die (Gen. 31:32). Rachel violated God’s Second Commandment against worshiping idols: “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.” (Ex. 20:4-6, 23; 34:17; Dt. 5:8; Lev. 19:4; 26:1). She also violated the Eighth Commandment against theft (Ex. 20:15; Dt. 5:19; Eph. 4:28). She further violated the Tenth Commandment by coveting idols (Ex. 20:17; Dt. 5:21). Because she would not let go of her idols, she was also cursed under the law: ‘“Cursed is the man who makes an idol or a molten image, an abomination to the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and sets it up in secret.’ And all the people shall answer and say, ‘Amen.’” (Dt. 27:15). As part of her curse, Rachel later died giving birth to Benjamin (Gen. 35:18-19). The Jews’ later act of building the golden calf also resulted in 3,000 deaths (Ex. 32:27). Hundreds of years later, King Jeroboam was also cursed when he created graven images for the people to worship (1 Kgs. 14:9). Jesus, however, paid the price for your acts of idolatry, theft, coveting, and lies. How are you thanking Him for the price He paid for you? (Ro. 12:1-2). If you are returning to the idols of the flesh, how grateful can you claim to be?
Remove the idols in your life. God wants you to leave the idols of your life behind. Hundreds of years later, Josiah purged the idols that had become part of the Jews’ system of worship: “Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD.” (2 Kgs. 23:24). If something is causing you to stumble, you must cut it out of your life: “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matt. 5:30; Mk. 9:43). Have you purged the idols in your life?
God is slow to judge and quick to forgive. Rachel deserved to be struck down for her idolatry. Instead, God allowed her to live long enough to give birth to Benjamin. He delayed her punishment to give her time to repent (Ps. 103:8). If God has withheld punishment for your sins, have you used that as an opportunity to repent? (1 Jo. 1:9).
Jacob’s 20 years of service to Laban. In his rebuke, Jacob revealed that he faithfully labored in Laban’s household for 20 years, even though Laban repeatedly deceived him: “36 Then Jacob became angry and contended with Laban; and Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Though you have felt through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years I have been with you; your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 That which was torn of beasts I did not bring to you; I bore the loss of it myself. You required it of my hand whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 Thus I was: by day the heat consumed me and the frost by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house; I served you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flock, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had not been for me, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God has seen my affliction and the toil of my hands, so He rendered judgment last night.’” (Gen. 31:36-42). Jacob had been a good and faithful servant by bearing the cost of lost or killed livestock when he had no obligation to do so. Yet, he also had unjustified pride in his own conduct. God blessed and protected Jacob despite his conduct. Jacob seemed to believe that he was blessed because of his righteousness. Without God’s mercy and grace, Jacob was also worthy of being cursed for his life of deceit. Jacob, however, showed faith by trusting in God to avenge the wrongs that Laban perpetrated against him. He never challenged Laban’s deceit previously.
Use kindness to win over your enemies. Unlike what Jacob did here, you should win over your enemies with kindness: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.” (Prov. 25:21-22; Ro. 12:20). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Ro. 12:21). “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5:44). Do you pray for and show kindness to your enemies?
Jacob’s covenant of peace with Laban. Even though Laban was filled with his own pride, he recognized God’s power in protecting Jacob. Thus, he pleaded for and received a covenant of peace with Jacob: “43 Then Laban replied to Jacob, ‘The daughters are my daughters, and the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks, and 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 So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.’ 45 Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 Jacob said to his kinsmen, ‘Gather stones.’ So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, ‘This heap is a witness between you and me this day.’ Therefore it was named Galeed, 49 and Mizpah, for he said, ‘May the Lord watch between you and me when we are absent one from the other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no man is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.’ 51 Laban said to Jacob, ‘Behold this heap and behold the pillar which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass by this heap to you for harm, and you will not pass by this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.’ So Jacob swore by the fear of his father Isaac. 54 Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain, and called his kinsmen to the meal; and they ate the meal and spent the night on the mountain. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place.” (Gen. 31:43-55). Like Jacob, both Abraham and Isaac made similar covenants of peace with their enemies. This included two different Philistine kings with the same title of Abimelech (Gen. 21:27-32; 26:26-33).
Be at peace with others. Like Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, you are commanded to be at peace with others. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Ro. 12:18). “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Mark 9:50). If you stay at peace with others around you, Jesus promises to bless you: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matt. 5:9). Are you a peacemaker to those in conflict? If you quarrel, fight, or cause conflict, what kind of witness for Christ are you?
Forgive those who persecute you. Jacob had many reasons not to enter into a covenant with Laban. Laban’s covenant with Jacob contained one-sided and slanderous implications that Jacob stole his children by carrying them away by the sword (Gen. 31:26) and that Jacob’s flocks still belonged to Laban (Gen. 31:43). Jacob had worked for all that he had. Laban also threatened that he could have hurt Jacob if Jacob’s God had not stopped him (Gen. 31:29). He further threatened Jacob without reason regarding the mistreatment of his wives (Gen. 31:50). He also showed no conviction in his beliefs by basing his covenant on both the “God of Abraham and the God of Nahor.” (Gen. 31:53). Abimelech’s covenant with Isaac also contained a false allegation that they had allegedly “29 . . . not touched you and have done to you nothing but good and have sent you away in peace.” (Gen. 26:29). Jacob’s complaints against Laban show that he had not forgiven him. He still felt bitter after being cheated for 20 years. Yet, Jacob (like Isaac) chose peace over conflict: “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.” (Prov. 19:11). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32). “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” (Matt. 6:14). “bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Col. 3:13). Have you forgiven those who have harmed you? Or, like Jacob, do you lash out at those who oppress you and speak poorly about them to others?