God is Mighty to Save
Continuing our journey through Genesis we have arrived at chapter 30 verse 25.
25 And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you.”
- Genesis 30:25-26 NKJV
Jacob had paid his debt, now he longed to build his life since up to know he had been working as a slave. Laban, however, does not want Jacob to go. He recognizes that God has blessed him because of Jacob, so Laban asks Jacob to name his wages.
So he said, “What shall I give you?”
And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this thing for me, I will again feed and keep your flocks: 32 Let me pass through all your flock today, removing from there all the speckled and spotted sheep, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and these shall be my wages. 33 So my righteousness will answer for me in time to come, when the subject of my wages comes before you: every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats, and brown among the lambs, will be considered stolen, if it is with me.”
- Genesis 30:31-33 NKJV (bold mine)
When Jacob says to his uncle “you shall not give me anything” it reminds the reader of Genesis 14:21-24 when Abraham refused to keep any of the spoils he recovered from the battle he won (there’s a whole blog post on this When Trouble Comes) lest anyone should claim “I have made Abraham rich.” Jacob’s wealth will come from God’s blessings and not as a gift from Laban. Laban will not give Jacob anything, Jacob will tend the sheep and goats and only keep the ones that were born a certain way.
According to both Matthews and Doukhan, Jacob’s request was odd because, in the Middle East, goats are typically completely dark (Song 4:1), whereas sheep are typically completely white (Song 4:2). (Doukhan, Jacques. Genesis. Nampa, ID, Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2016. p356)
According to Mathews the typical appearance of sheep and goats was the opposite of what Jacob requested as his wages, namely, white sheep and dark-hued (black or brown) goats. (Mathews, K. A. Genesis 11:27-50:26. Vol. 1B, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005. p498)
Laban eagerly agrees to Jacob’s conditions but he has a plan of his own.
34 And Laban said, “Oh, that it were according to your word!” 35 So he removed that day the male goats that were speckled and spotted, all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had some white in it, and all the brown ones among the lambs, and gave them into the hand of his sons. 36 Then he put three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.
- Genesis 30:33-36 NKJV
Laban takes the initiative to separate all the animals that could have born offspring that would belong to Jacob and place them under the care of his sons and moved them three days’ journey away. Laban is already acting deceitfully doing all that he can to keep Jacob working for him essentially for free.
Ultimately, God is the One who provides for Jacob, and all of Laban’s efforts otherwise only serve to highlight God’s miraculous providence. The fact that God is able to cause Jacob to prosper materially in such oppressive circumstances should give us hope. God is not limited or bound by the circumstances we find ourselves in. God can provide for His children regardless of what those who have power over them intend to do. Laban did all that he could to keep Jacob from prospering, but ultimately he found himself fighting a losing battle against God.
Speaking of Jacob Genesis chapter 30 ends with the following words
Thus the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.
Genesis 30:43 NKJV
Time to go
Laban’s sons and Laban himself was not as friendly towards Jacob as before. They felt that Jacob had become wealthy at their cost, by taking away all that was their father’s. So Jacob must have been glad to have God call him back to his father’s land. Jacob calls Rachel and Leah and tells them about how God called him to go back to home and his wives agree, adding that their father had completely consumed their money and that what God had given to Jacob was really theirs and they were in agreement to do what God called them to do.
Laban had gone to shear his sheep and not invited either Jacob or his daughters. Jacob took this opportunity to steal away, unknown to Laban. It took three days for Laban to find out what had happened and seven days later he had caught up to Jacob. Laban was coming with men and likely intending to do harm to Jacob.
But God had come to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said to him, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.”
Genesis 31:24 NKJV (bold mine)
Jacob would have been in danger, but God stepped in and intervened. I believe this to be the main theme in Jacob’s life. He keeps making a mess of things, of finding himself in dangerous situations, but God steps in at just the right time and saves Jacob. In this way, I believe all of us can relate to Jacob. We may find ourselves in precarious situations and we would likely be destroyed, but God gets involved and we live to see another day. I believe that only when we get to heaven we will become aware of how often God stepped in to spare our lives, to save and bless us throughout our existence in this sinful world.
Laban and Jacob meet and argue a bit and finally agree to part ways peaceably.
This story portrays how God provided for Jacob even in an environment where those who had power over Jacob were determined to do him harm and keep him from prospering. Jacob worked hard and God provided for him, blessed him and punished the man who had taken advantage of him. As God had promised to Abraham, and here we see the blessing carried on to Jacob, God blessed those who bless Jacob and curses those who curse him. (Genesis 12:3)
It is vital for us today to know we serve the same God and He is mighty to save despite the situation we may find ourselves in.
(For a fuller presentation on this I strongly encourage you to listen to the audio recording of this message available above.)