Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Genesis 31:33-55

I’m going to try to finish off this chapter today - a tall order! Laban has caught up with Jacob and has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and grandchildren and of stealing his house hold “gods.” Jacob manages to keep it together as he invites Laban to search the premises (not knowing that Rachel has the “gods” stashed in her tent).

So Laban tears everything apart looking for the “gods,” but finds nothing. Finally he comes to Rachel’s tent. Rachel, her father’s daughter, hides the “gods” by sitting on them. Then she excuses herself from getting up, saying she’s on her period! Isn’t the Bible hysterical sometimes? We all know that men don’t want to talk about or deal with a woman’s period, so Rachel guesses correctly that her father will back off - and he does! As Beth Moore points out, this is surely not the first time a woman has used her period as an excuse for something to gain an advantage, eh? My father, who had four daughters, used to say he was a lone man sinking in a sea of Kotex! Poor man! Between that and leg shavings, he was pretty disgusted with us! :)

Now that Laban has had a fruitless search, Jacob explodes and unloads twenty years of suppress anger on him:

Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “What sin have I committed that you hunt me down? Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

“I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.” (Gen 31:36-42)

The Bible doesn’t make a judgment on this outburst, but it seems they should have had this discussion before now, doesn’t it? Laban, who doesn’t get it at all, and who is certain Jacob has pulled a fast one, disputes Jacob’s version:

Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.” (vs.43-44)

So, not having his idols, Laban decides they should set up a makeshift heap of rocks to be a “witness” between them. In these verses we find the often-quoted and misapplied Mizpah, which means watchtower:

Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.” (vs. 48-50)

Don’t you find it interesting that Laban calls on God as a witness here? People who don’t truly believe, love to throw His name around when it suits. . . but we do that, too, sometimes, don’t we? You can see that the Mizpah was not originally intended to be a blessing, but a warning. Jon Courson paraphrases verse 49 this way: “You scoundrel. I don’t trust you as far as I can spit. But even though I can’t keep my eye on you, God will be watching you!”

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.
Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. (vs. 53-55)

No kisses for Jacob! And a twenty-year chapter in Jacob’s life is finally over. What had Jacob, the deceiver, learned from all of this? Surely the LORD was developing patience in Jacob, and proving HIS faithfulness to Him. Difficult people in our lives have a way of showing us so much about the LORD and about ourselves! If we’ve truly been receivers of God’s grace, we can learn to extend it to these people. But I love that there came a time to part! Sometimes that is God’s solution, as it was here. God is just beginning with Jacob. He is on his way home and about to reunite with his other difficult person, his brother, Esau, who had vowed to kill him 20 years earlier. Before he meets up with Esau, though, Jacob is going to have a life-changing encounter with his God!

I’m off to a conference in Chicago, so it may be a week before I’m back to our study! If you did not join us at the beginning of Genesis, take this time to go through the archives and start at the beginning! Thank you to all of you who have written to say you are praying for us. We already had one answer: Molly and Kevin were able to postpone their vacation for another week, which should allow her to be in a better place to enjoy it! God is amazing! I’m feeling the peace that passes all understanding!  Now, pray I'll be a strong witness for Christ in the midst of a very liberal, unbelieving crowd at the convention!


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