Genesis 30 Jacob and Laban
Genesis 30 Observations 1. When Rachel had born Joseph…while no specific link is found between Rachel’s bearing and Jacob’s desire to return to Canaan, it appears that the end of the crafting of the patriarch’s family is the occasion Moses mentions for the end of Jacob’s sojourn. The impetus of God to draw the chosen man back to his homeland was the completion of Jacob’s servitude. 2. Send me away, that I may go unto mine own place, and to my country…by these words Jacob’s disposition is revealed, as it was his desire since leaving home to return. The long passage of time made the desire great. Surely he hoped time’s passage would have tempered the anger of his brother; this, combined with the abundance he had acquired, surely encouraged his return. Yet, most of all, the promise of God that affixed his return upon his arrival. Even though he was with relatives, along with his own dear household, the Lord’s covenant had placed an unyielding desire and inextricable bond between the place of God’s grant and the children of Abraham; yet, let us recall that they by faith were always look beyond that land to a place of God’s making. Also, remember that his long sojourn was only due to Laban’s deceptive bargain that bound Jacob to this foreign place for so long a sojourn. Yet, clearly it was the Lord’s sovereign design to keep the man so long in that place, until the proper time came for his return. 3. Give me my wives and my children…the compact between Laban and his son in law complete appears to be complete. The time of his indenture was passed. Jacob, who clearly never intended to stay so long, was kept by the design of God and by the means of the deception of Laban until the barrier God placed between him and home was removed. Jacob now asks for that which Laban had enslaved him. 4. I have learned by experience that the LORD hath blessed me for thy sake…Laban’s design in his subterfuge is revealed, as God’s covenant favor for Jacob made his presence beneficial to Laban. Just as Abraham’s presence was beneficial to kings, nephews, and strangers around and in his household, the covenant promise I will bless those that bless you is proven by these words of Laban. 5. Appoint me thy wages…Jacob’s growth in maturity and wisdom is found in his words; the supplanter, who had been deceived for the sake of 14 years, was learning patience, hopefully faith and trust in the sovereign hand of God’s providence, and equity. Yet, as we shall see, that lesson is always incomplete and needed through the man’s life. We see then the intricacies of Gods providence, how he employs earthly means for good to those loved in Christ. 6. The LORD hath blessed thee since my coming…see the covenant knowledge and wisdom Jacob had known and experienced. Faith had taken him from Canaan, God’s re-affirmed covenant promise upon his departure carried him forth, and he assessed his sojourn in light of that covenant and its blessings. Surely he knew the tales of his father and his father and how wherever they sojourned, despite threats, obstacles, failures, and dangers, God had bestowed abundance upon His own and those around them flourished. “The use of this doctrine is twofold. First, whatever I attempt, or to whatever work I apply my hands, it is my duty to desire God to bless my labor, that it may not be vain and fruitless. Then, if I have obtained anything, my second duty is to ascribe the praise to God; without whose blessing, men in vain rise up early, fatigue themselves the whole day, late take rest, eat the bread of carefulness, and taste even a little water with sorrow (Calvin).” Jacob has learned what he surely knew, to give all acknowledgement and thanks to God for every blessing. It was from Him alone that increase came; he came with nothing, but left full, as did all those blessed indirectly by the Lord’s favor. 7. Shall I provide for mine own house also…Jacob understands the responsibility placed upon him and endeavors to establish his household separate from Laban. Despite the sinfulness of such a household comprised of four wives, still his duties are certain. Still, Jacob uses this reason much as Laban used the argument of the necessity of marrying the first daughter in his subterfuge; one wonders how much progress the supplanter truly has made. 8. Thou shalt not give me anything…there is certain tension between the two households. Laban had deceived Jacob often, as Jacob says your father hath deceived me, and changed my wages ten times. Jacob though knows that God has been his protector from Laban’s schemes, for he says in Gen. 31: 5, but the God of my father hath been with me, and in 31: 7, God suffered him (Laban) not to hurt me. Jacob appears to be directed here of the LORD in this act, the angel of God spake unto me in a dream (31: 11). Jacob understood this was God’s doing, God hath taken away the cattle of your father, and given them to me (31: 9). It was God that designed this supernatural occurrence and used it not only to bestow much on Jacob, but to also recompense to Laban for his deception. 9. Of such shall be my hire…as we see in the next chapter, Jacob had clear insight throughout this process. God had appeared to him in a dream to once more confirm His covenant mercy and direct Jacob in the means of his deliverance. 10. So shall my righteousness answer for me…Undoubtedly the man had grown up in the providence and sovereign care of God in accordance with His covenant blessings. Jacob, who once before was stolen away in subterfuge from his brother, now sounds much as his father and his father’s father, who are ambassadors of the Sovereign of all creation. Jacob, who was instructed in this industry, did not recompense his perceived offense. Calvin clarifies, “But in this narrative there is a hysteron proteron, (a putting of the last first,) for Moses first relates the fact, and then subjoins that Jacob had attempted nothing but by the command of God. Wherefore, it is not for those persons to claim him as their advocate, who oppose malignant and fraudulent men with fallacies like their own; because Jacob did not, of his own will, take license craftily to circumvent his father-in-law, by whom he had been unworthily deceived; but, pursuing the course prescribed to him by the Lord, kept himself within due bounds (Calvin).” 11. And he set three days' journey betwixt himself and Jacob…evidently the households of both men were quite large. Jacob come with nothing and would leave with abundance. 12. Jacob took him rods of green poplar…a remarkable irony of God in supernaturally directing providence against the incorrigible and intractable greed of Laban. God uses this irony to laugh in derision at Satan’s design to keep Jacob afar off and to prove God a liar, which could never be so done. 13. Whensoever the stronger cattle did conceive, that Jacob laid the rods…see the upside down, contrariety of the actions and the outcomes of this laughable event. God brings all things to a good end, while those men that seek to defraud heaven’s King are shown to be foolish. Once more, the schemes of men are to their own derision and to the glory of God. 14. The man increased exceedingly…a passage of six years appears to have passed as evidenced by Gen. 31: 38, This twenty years have I been with thee, which would entail another six long years of prying himself free from Laban’s avaricious grasp; as many years as Joseph would be stolen away to Egypt Jacob served Laban until God extricated him and returned him as He had promised. God always fulfills His promises; while all men fail us, and never a man can surely do as he says, what God says, He does complete. Doctrines 1. Our Earthly Pilgrimage Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout…as strangers and pilgrims. 1 Pt. 1:1ff For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Phil. 1: 21ff 2. The Lord’s Overriding Providence Nothing could prevent Jacob’s return and success; Esau, Laban, the journey of an impoverished man into an unknown place; no matter where the man went, the Lord blessed him, guided him, protected him, gave abundantly to him, and delivered him as decreed and promised. “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, according to his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will, to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy, Although, in relation to the foreknowledge, and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly, yet, by the same providence, he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently (WCF).” 3. The Sovereignty of God in All Things So then neither is he that plants any thing, neither he that waters; but God that gives the increase.1 Cor. 3: 7 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Mt. 6: 31ff John Murray and Calvin on God’s Sovereignty God is sovereign in His decrees That Calvin regards everything that occurs as embraced in the eternal decree of God lies on the face of his teaching at every point where he finds occasion to reflect on this subject. While repudiating the Stoic doctrine of necessity, arising from a perpetual intertwining and confused series of causes contained in nature, he is insistent that God is the arbiter and governor of all things “who, of his own wisdom, from the remotest eternity, decreed what he would do, and now by his own power executes what he has decreed. Whence we assert, that, not only the heaven and the earth and inanimate creatures, but also the deliberations and volitions of men are so governed by his providence that they are directed exactly to their destined end”3 and thus nothing happens fortuitously or contingently. “The will of God is the supreme and first cause of all things, because nothing happens but by his command or permission.” God is sovereign in His providence The providence of God embraces all events, past, present, and future, and applies to the evil as much as to the good, to sinful acts as much as to the holy acts of men and angels. Unsanctified sense is liable to conceive of providence as consisting simply in the unfolding of potencies and virtues implanted in the world at its creation and so the utmost of its adoration is to perceive the wisdom, power, and goodness of God in the work of creation. It conceives of God as a mere spectator. For the believer the presence of God appears no less in the perpetual government of the world than in its origin. Perhaps the most distinctive emphasis in this connection is Calvin’s insistence that providence does not consist in a general motion or superintendence but that all events whatsoever are governed by the secret counsel and directed by the present hand of God (occulto Dei consilio gubernari ... praesenti Dei manu diriguntur). Calvin does not deny but rather asserts that created things are endowed with properties and laws which operate according to their nature. Yet they are only instruments into which God infuses as much efficacy as he wills and according to his own will turns to this or that action. 4. The World is Blessed and Benefits by God’s Blessing to His Church Much like we saw in Isaiah 32, the world benefits from the church; her presence brings bounty upon those around her when she prospers. 5. Christ’s Glory and Work are the Ridicule of the Futility of His Enemies As inane as the speckled story is and how contrary to the certain outcome expected, so is the true work of God in His sovereign providence, as He delivers His own and scolds the reprobate. The cross is as much an incongruous tale as this story, since in the end the seeming success of Laban, or Haman, or Satan, is but to their own ridicule. As it is written, Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion (Ps. 2: 1ff). Inquiry What is the use of a sermon or study of God’s word? It is the experimental design of true religion in the use of doctrine. Application is the skill by which the doctrine which has been properly drawn from Scripture is handled in ways which are appropriate to the circumstances of the place and time and to the people in the congregation. This is the biblical approach to exposition: "'I will feed My flock, and I will make them lie down," says the Lord God. "I will seek what was lost and bring back what was driven away, bind up the broken and strengthen what was sick"' (Ezek. 34:15, 16). 'And on some have compassion, making a distinction, but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire' (Jude 22, 23). (William Perkins) The older Reformed writers used the word to indicate that we not only read and confess what Scripture teaches, but also are enabled by the Holy Spirit in our own experience to prove and enter into those truths. The propositions of Scripture are true regardless of our experience of them. But in those who belong to Christ, there is a work of the Holy Spirit to persuade them of those truths, so that they taste and feel the power of them in their own souls. To tremble when we discern our guilt before God, and to be driven to seek covering in the blood of Christ, is to gain an experimental knowledge of realities revealed in Scripture. Such experiences are not like the groping of the heathen, who reflect on the mystery of their own hearts, trying to understand themselves, and pondering what God might be like and how he might relate to the world. Experimental religion in the Reformed tradition entails an experience which arises from being confronted with the testimony of Scripture, and in which the prime mover is God the Holy Spirit, driving home to heart and conscience the truths of the Word of God. John Elias, preaching in Wales in the early nineteenth century, describes such experiences of biblical truth: “To have an experimental knowledge of something means to try it, to possess it, and to enjoy it ourselves. You must not merely read or hear about it. . . . You may read many a sweet chapter about Christ, and no doubt you have heard many a faithful sermon about Him, and yet, you may be without a saving knowledge of Christ. But an experimental knowledge of Him is to prove, see, and feel what you have read and heard about Him.” Uses 1. For our direction let us determine to live upright in this dark world. 2. For our instruction let us learn the oversight of all things. 3. For our confidence let us sojourn wherever the Lord leads in whatever circumstance. 4. For our incitement let us long to return home. 5. For our censure let us blush at how often we believe our senses rather than our God.