Scripture: When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” Genesis 31:22-24 ESV
Observation: As mentioned in yesterday’s Daily Focus, Laban repeatedly schemed to take advantage of Jacob’s God-blessed animal husbandry. Resultantly, Jacob, having reached the end of his patience with Laban, proposes to his wives that they leave the land of Haran and pursue a better life in the land that God had promised his forefathers. Both Leah and Rachel agree, citing that their father had devoured their inheritance and no longer showed them respect as his daughters. So Jacob’s clan absconds with their servants, personal belongings, and herds.
When Laban receives word that they had fled, he gathers his kinsmen and hastily pursues Jacob. Thus, the Lord cautions him in a dream to say nothing to Jacob, whether ingratiating or threatening (above verses). Unencumbered by women, children, and herds, Laban overtakes Jacob in Gilead and questions why Jacob tricked him and did not even let him say goodbye to his daughters (ignoring Yahweh’s warning). Adding that he possessed the power to harm Jacob, Laban then wisely deescalates the conflict by telling Jacob that the God of Jacob’s father spoke to him in a dream, cautioning him not to say anything good or bad to Jacob.
After a quarrel over Laban’s missing pagan idols that, unbeknownst to all, Rachel secreted away, Jacob takes the role of the aggressor. He confronts Laban for ongoing trickery with the wedding and herds. Laban then contends that his daughters, grandchildren, and flocks are his possession but will relinquish his rights if Jacob ratifies a covenant not to oppress his daughters or take additional wives. Jacob agrees, and they part company—never to see each other again.
Takeaway: A man who has repeatedly demonstrated a lack of restraint, Laban fails to heed God’s warning. While he discloses Jacob’s dream, he speaks out of turn. So how should Laban have approached Jacob’s family? By solely showing non-verbal deference to Jacob and offering loving, parting words to his daughters and grandchildren. Still, God accomplished his purposes through Laban’s disobedience by reminding Jacob that he is a covenant-keeper who protects Jacob from his enemies.
What does this mean for you and me? Partial obedience is still disobedience. It is easy to rationalize why we might choose to obey God partly, but we settle for second best when we do. Thankfully, though, we serve a sovereign God who redeems our self-righteous decisions and affirms his commitment to us: to deliver us from the power of sin and make us a holy people protected under his Covenant of Grace. And as we mature through his Word and Spirit, our minds are transformed to know and do his good and pleasing will.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for sending us your Son, who has rescued us from the penalty of sin, and your Holy Spirit, who is extricating us from the power of sin. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit when he reveals our rationalizations that lead to partial obedience, that we might more and more wholeheartedly obey you? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling