God’s Will Is Mysterious
Laban and Jacob had an odd relationship. They were uncle and nephew, father-in-law and sonin- law, as well as master and servant. The relationship was complicated by the fact that Laban had deceived and taken advantage of Jacob throughout their time together (see Genesis 29:15-30 and 31:4-7). After the birth of Joseph by Rachel, Jacob was ready to return to the land of Canaan, a land that was not just his because it was where he grew up, but was his because God had promised it would be given to him and his offspring (Genesis 28:13,15). Jacob’s planned departure was therefore twofold in purpose: (1) to get out from under Laban’s manipulative rule and (2) to receive his promised blessing from the LORD God.
Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow
In Genesis 28:14, God promised Jacob that in Him and his offspring all the families of the earth would be blessed. During his fourteen years of service to Laban, his uncle had experienced a portion of that blessing through material gain. Both Laban and Jacob acknowledged that God, through Jacob’s presence and industry, had increased Laban’s wealth (vv. 27,30). God’s promise to Jacob was not only that he would be a blessing to others, but that he and his offspring would prosper and be returned to the promised land, God being with him in all his days to see these promises completed. Jacob’s request to return home was a just claim on these promised blessings from God. He would go on in fact to acknowledge that his protection while under Laban’s manipulation and oppression, as well as his own material gain, was the result of God’s blessing (31:5-13).
A Channel or a Dead End?
While Laban verbally acknowledged the correlation between Jacob’s service, God’s blessing, and his own gain in wealth we would hardly call his actions faithful or just. Rather than acknowledging the blessing of God by dealing kindly and generously with Jacob, Laban treated Jacob as a commodity to be held to tightly. Jacob was used as a channel of material blessing that flowed from God to Laban, but, in his selfishness, Laban sought to hoard that blessing, looking to keep it all for himself, sapping it for all that he could. Is this how the Gospel calls us to use the blessings of God, whether material, relational, or spiritual? Are we to be dead ends hoarding God’s gracious provision for ourselves, or are we to be channels by which God’s blessings can be shared with others?
God’s Speckled and Spotted Flock
Upon first blush, Laban believed Jacob had made a foolish deal by claiming the speckled and spotted of the flocks and herds. But Jacob was not betting on superstition or his own skills at animal husbandry. Rather, Jacob was trusting the Lord to be his protector and provider, as God had promised He would. To Laban Jacob was weak and foolish, but Laban failed to see and understand that the LORD works in and through the seemingly foolish and weak things and people of this world in order to shame the strong and wise (1 Corinthians 1:18-31). He sent His Son Jesus Christ, not to claim His throne by amassing an army and casting down His enemies, but by freely giving His life on the cross in order to pay His enemies’ debt of sin. On the surface, the cross looked weak and foolish, but the resurrection vindicated it as the means by which God won for Himself a people, spotted and speckled in our sin and human frailty.
Discuss & Pray
1. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” In what ways do you live every moment with this doxological call in mind? In what ways can you improve in seeing this truth in the small and big things of life?
2. What are some ways that you have been used by God to be a blessing to others (materially, relationally, and spiritually)?
3. How is God calling you to be a blessing in new ways or to new people? Answer this question as an individual/family but also consider this question for our church.
4. What are some ways in which this call to be a blessing to others might require that we adopt a cross-like, worldly weakness or foolishness while trusting in the protection and provision of the Lord?
5. What instruction can we glean from this passage to help us deal with the Labans (those who treat us and others unjustly for their own gain) in our lives?