Summary: In this continuation of our Genesis sermon series, we look at Jacob finally deciding to leave his uncle Laban and return home.
Jacob Longs for Home
Text: Genesis 31:1 – 21
By: Ken McKinley
Ok; before we get into our text this morning, let’s review what we saw last week. Now last time, in chapter 30, verses 25 – 26 we saw that Jacob came to Laban and asked to be freed from his obligations and allowed to return home. But Laban urged him to stay on, because he had come to realize that Jacob had made him a rich man, with lots of flocks and possessions. And he was even willing to pay Jacob to keep him on. But if you remember; Jacob didn’t want any payment from Laban, however; he was willing to work out an arrangement that could provide for himself and his family. It’s sort of like Abraham not accepting payment from the kings of Sodom after he rescued them and his nephew Lot. We also saw last week, how God prospered Jacob, and blessed him with a large flock of sheep, and many other possessions.
And that brings us up to our text this morning… and today, what we’re going to see is that God is finally starting to get through to Jacob… Jacob is being transformed by God, slowly but surely. In-fact; in verse 9, Jacob gives full credit to God for the blessings he has received. That’s a big change from where we first saw Jacob. Prior to this, we didn’t hardly ever hear Jacob even talk about God, let alone give Him the glory for the things he had. But over the years, Jacob has learned more and more about God, and has grown in his faith and understanding somewhat.
So in the first three verses we see that the relationship between Jacob and his uncle has deteriorated to the point where, even if Laban wanted to offer him more things, Jacob has had enough, and he’s ready to get out of there. And it’s not only that; Jacob’s cousins are looking at him with envy and jealousy. He’s been with his uncle a total of 20 years now, and that’s 20 years of being used by his uncle. That’s 20 years of working his rump off so that his uncle could become prosperous. He’s ready to go… he was ready six years ago, but look at what’s different this time. Before, Jacob was ready to leave, but this time, verse 3 tells us that it was the LORD who is now telling him to go. So yes, all the factors are there, but now the difference maker is that God is telling him to leave that place and return home.
And this is showing us a few things. First of all; it’s showing us that Jacob has matured in his faith somewhat. He’s still got a long way to go, but this is a change in what we’ve seen before. Also it shows us the importance of waiting on the Lord, and being directed and guided by His Word. It’s no different for us today. God’s Word should be the starting point for all of our decisions. Thirdly; I think it shows us that sometimes we need God to move us along from a position that we might have grown comfortable in. Matthew Henry in his commentaries says this, “Jacob, even when he had this hopeful prospect of growing rich with Laban, must think of returning. When the world begins to smile upon us we must remember it is not our home.” So six years ago, when Jacob had nothing other than his family, he was ready to leave, but through providence, he wasn’t allowed to go. Now that he’s rich, and prosperous, maybe… just maybe he had grown comfortable being in Haran, but God has turned the hearts of his uncle and his cousins, and has made Jacob very uncomfortable.
Basically; Jacob isn’t where God wants him to be, and so these people he has been with for the past 20 years, suddenly start to turn against him, and tensions start to mount, and even though Laban doesn’t actually come out and say anything, he doesn’t rebuke his sons for what they’ve said, and… his countenance was not favorable towards Jacob.
So… in verses 4 – 16 he calls his wives and starts to make the case for leaving, and he actually, systematically lays out three arguments as to why they should leave.
Its family meeting time in Jacob’s household.
Look at verses 5 – 9 (Read). Now this is giving us some insight into what’s been going on these last six years. We find out that Laban hasn’t exactly been on the up and up in this agreement that he and Jacob had made concerning the sheep and goats. He’s changed the deal 10 times. Apparently; once Jacob started having some success, and all the sheep and goats were being born with streaks, Laban said, “Well I didn’t mean all the streaked ones, I only meant the speckled ones will be yours,” so all the sheep and goats suddenly were being born with speckles. Then Laban saw this and said, “You must’ve misunderstood me Jacob, I said all the streaked goats and sheep will be yours, not the speckled ones.” And all of a sudden the sheep and goats were born with streaks. What this is showing us is that God was involved in this. It was God’s plan and purpose to prosper Jacob, and He was going to use pagan Laban to do it. And no matter what Laban changed the deal to, God made sure that Jacob was the one who was getting blessed. So in verses 5 – 9, Jacob has given his wives three reasons why they should leave. First of all, Laban’s not looking upon him with a favorable countenance, and secondly, he’s tried to cheat them for the past six years. The third argument isn’t as obvious, but it’s there. If you look at verse 5, when Jacob says that Laban isn’t looking upon him favorably anymore, you notice what he says after that... He says, “Your dad’s not with me anymore, but God is.” Then in verse 9 he says, “God is the one who has prospered me.” And so Jacob’s third argument, or reason for leaving is that the very same God who is blessing me, and who is with me, is telling me it’s time to go. And this is also a reassurance to his wives. He’s basically saying, “Look, I know that it seems like we’ve done well for ourselves here, but without God we wouldn’t have done well at all. Without God, all of this stuff, the sheep and goats, and camels and servants… all of it could be gone in an instant. But God is with us, and we’ll be just fine. It’s not being in Padan Aran that blesses us. It’s God!” Jacob goes on to tell his wives that it’s none other than God who is telling him to go, and he tells them about the vow he had made to God at Beth-el.