Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 25 2019 - Genesis 31:1-7, 17-24, 43-55 – Jacob and his family leave Laban

Jacob proves a match for tricky uncle Laban. Laban had wanted to ensure that the best of the flock always belonged to him and that Jacob would only have the defective sheep and goats as his wages after the 14 years he had laboured for his two wives. But Jacob had managed the breeding programme so that the number of sheep and goats with black patches and stripes increased. His herd had grown at the expense of Laban's.

Laban had initially been pleased to have Jacob staying with him; his free labour would surely make Laban rich. But now the tables have been turned and Laban's sons begin to grumble about Jacob. It is time for Jacob to leave and so God tells him to "Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you" (Genesis 31:3). When Jacob had fled Paddan Aram God had promised to watch over him and be with him; that promise is now echoed as Jacob gets ready to return.

Jacob, along with his wives, children, servants and livestock leaves Paddan Aram while Laban and his family are away shearing their sheep. Once again, "Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean." But as soon as Laban hears they have gone he comes racing after them – it’s a bit like a scene from a Western movie!

Laban might well have taken his daughters and their children back by force, but God appeared to him at night in a dream and warned him to do Jacob no harm. On leaving Canaan, God had promised Jacob, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you" (Genesis 28:13-15). God is faithful and will ensure that his promise does not fail. Not only will he ensure Jacob's safe return, he will also ensure that Jacob returns with the large family which is the firstfruits of his descendants which will be like the dust of the earth.

So when Laban meets up with Jacob, instead of starting a fight they make a covenant with one another. Together they set up a large rock as a pillar, surrounded and supported by a heap of stones. There they eat together as a sign of peace between them. And they call on God as a witness to the covenant promises they make to each other; Jacob will not again come past this pillar to enter Laban's territory and do him harm and Laban will not pass this pillar to enter Jacob's territory and do him harm. Having offered a sacrifice to God, Jacob and his family part from Laban never to see him again.

The contrast between this covenant and that which God has made with us in the Lord Jesus Christ could hardly be greater. Jacob and Laban make a covenant together promising to do no harm to each other. God has made a covenant with us in the Lord Jesus promising to bless us beyond our imagination despite our unworthiness. The covenant that Laban makes with Jacob ensures their separation. God's covenant with us in Christ brings us into fellowship with him and promises that he will live with us and we with him – nothing shall ever separate us from the love of God in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father God, we thank you for the covenant promises that you have made to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. You promise to be with us, watch over us and to bring us safe to glory. You will not leave us or be satisfied until you have done all that you have promised. We rest in you faithful care and praise you for your goodness and grace.

Peter Misselbrook