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Genesis 31:1-55 - Being Led by God - Part 3
Last week we talked about the “desires” the Lord puts within us and the circumstances in our lives. We now conclude chapter 31.
Vs. 17-24 - “ 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.
When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods. Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. 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. Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
There in vs. 19 Rachel’s making off with gods (idols, images, not the goods but the gods, and it’s never a good thing when someone is stealing your gods!) What this tells us, and we’ll discover in just a bit, is how attached to these idols Labon was. He was a full blown idolater, really the first in the Scriptures.
Notice that Jacob sneaks off, he takes off without telling the guy, and vs. 31 in a bit, will tell us the reason he did that was because he was afraid. So Jacob still has a real lack of faith here Again, God had told him in vs. 3 & 13 “It’s time to move, son, and I’m gonna be with you and I’m gonna bless you.” Yet Jacob is operating out of fear rather than operating out of faith.
So you and I are able to see here that fear really kept him from experiencing the full blessing of God in his life. No doubt that can be said, in some degree, concerning a number of us! There is within our lives some degree of fear that is keeping you and I from experiencing the fullness of what God has for us as well.
John tells us in 1 John 4:18 that the perfect love of Christ outta cast out that fear in our lives. That, if we’re trusting in the love and the protection and the provision of Christ, then the result of that should be a real absence of fear in our lives.
So Labon goes after Jacob and we’re gonna see this guy just put up this bogus front when he catches up with him. All this playing the role of the offended dad and so forth, but this man is chasing Jacob down for one reason and one reason only - his god’s have been stolen! He cannot live without his gods. This guy is jonsin’ after his gods! And he will stop at nothing to get them back. Full blown idolatry!
Today, of course, there are multiple forms of idolatry! If you're a person whose god is liquor or drugs, and that person runs out of drugs, they are going to do what? Just about anything to get the next high!! That’s sort of a picture of desperation we’re going to see painted here in this chapter concerning Labon.
By the way, it’s not going to take an experienced tracker to track Jacob down! This is a huge caravan of flocks of animals.. All they gotta do is follow the poo! Not gonna be hard to catch up with these guys, but in vs. 24, Jacob’s protector, God, shows up on the scene and comes to this man Labon and essentially says - “Back off, the kid is mine, so don’t mess with him!”
Vs. 25-29 - “ 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. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? 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. 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.’
One who has as severe an idolatry problem as Labon does, and we see this behavior in all addicts, is that he will do everything he can in misdirection to take his focus off the real reason he’s there.
In the following verses, Labon literally goes on a rampage through Jacob’s camp. Tearing everything up, turning everything upside down, trying to find these gods. But here, in what we just read, upon catching up with our patriarch, he just rolls out the cloak, playing the part of the offended dad. Jacob’s no one’s fool, he know’s a con job when he sees it, so he ain’t buying any of it.
So Labon does in vs. 29 what all bullies do - “Now I could whoop you, you know that right? I can take you out, and if it weren’t for your God showing up, that’s exactly what I’d be doing!”
Finally, in vs. 30, now the real reason why Labon chased him down comes forth.
Vs. 30 - “Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”
He presents this as sort of an “Oh, by the way” deal. He kinda slips that in there as a kind of secondary motive. “This ain’t why I’m here, but why did you take my gods?”
But ACTIONS speak louder than words and he’s going to proceed to rummage through this camp, go through everyone’s tent, turn everything over trying to find his precious gods, not unlike a drug addict would be looking for some secret stash that they might of forgotten about. So this dude goes nuts looking for his gods.
These next verses are a great study on the lengths a person will go to in order to hang on to something other that THE TRUE GOD!
In Jacob we see, yeah the guys a stumbling slow work of grace, but he is pursuing God, even back when he was scheming - he wanted the birthright, he’s pursuing the things of God... And, by contrast, you’ve got this other guy that just wants nothing to do with the true God.
Read through this and you’ll see the lengths that somebody who is pursuing something other than the True God - what that produces in such a person. All the grief and hassle and so forth. We were created, we were designed to pursue the heart of our creator and that is why we only find that true peace and meaning and depth and purpose when we are engaged in that! I urge you to read the remainder of the chapter on your own or as a family, but there are a couple highlights I want to touch on.
vs. 34-35 - “So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.”
Rachel here essentially fakes a period and she tells her dad - “Forgive me dad for not getting up, but it’s kinda that time of the month for me.” But she’s sitting on the gods!” Labon never finds them! Why Rachel stole the god’s we’re not told and Jacob doesn’t know she even took these idols at this point.
So through the rest of this chapter you got Labon blowing up, going nuts, turning over everything trying to find his “stash!” Then you got Jacob who blows a gasket and finally unleashes 20 years of repressed anger on Labon because he thinks he’s unjustly searching, and he tells the guy everything he’s probably ever wanted to say to him the past 20 years!
So why Rachel took the god’s we’re not told, but we do know, in that culture, whoever possessed the idols had the legal right to the family inheritance. There’s no indication in this text or in the forthcoming that Rachel per-se struggled with idolatry, so we can only speculate that maybe Rachel, because she’s ticked at dad for burning through the dowry, selling her like property, maybe, in seeking revenge, one day she will go home after dad passes, show up with the idols and say: I’m claiming the family inheritance?”
But here is what I want us to see here. Here is what is beginning to develop as we head into ch. 32, and here’s where God is really leading Jacob. God is going to paint Jacob into a corner.
So at the end of ch. 31 here, Labon is ticked off because he knows someone ripped him off and he doesn’t know who it is. So what he and Jacob end up doing is they make an agreement, they put a line in the sand, cut an agreement, build a pillar and Labon makes it very clear to Jacob: “You stay on the east side of this pillar dude, and I’ll leave you alone. But if you go onto the west side of this pillar I’m not going to be held responsible for what I may do to you.”
So what is developing here is that the bridges are burned, the die is cast and this man Jacob can only move in one direction, and in that direction his angry brother Esau is bearing down upon him with 400 guys!
So Jacob can’t go back for fear of Labon and he’s fearful that if he moves forward that he’s going to have to deal with his brother, who, you remember, was out to kill him back in ch. 27.
God has this man in a corner, he has him right where He wants him, and this sets the stage for an incredible work in ch. 32.
Does the Lord have you cornered??