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Grace Bible Church

Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries


The TREE OF LIFE is a weekly teaching summary.

The Tree of Life for week ending 08/18/02.
Your Own Place, Your Personal Sense of Destiny, 
and Your Own Country. Part 3.
Returning to a situation may not be what we want to do, but it is sometimes what we should do.

After making a deal with Jacob concerning Jacob's wages and what portion of the flocks he would receive, Laban now shows his selfish, crafty nature and his distrust of his nephew Jacob, GEN 30:34-36, "And Laban said, 'Good, let it be according to your word [Laban has no intention of keeping his word].' So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep [all those that were rightfully Jacob's], and gave them into the care of his sons. And he put a distance of three days' journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban's flocks."

Here is where Jacob fails; when Laban's actions of mistrust come to light, Jacob resorts to trickery in order to be assured of success, GEN 30:37-38, "Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white which was in the rods. And he set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the gutters, even in the watering troughs, where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink." Jacob felt that Laban's previous actions of deception justified this scheme; however, Jacob is wrong.

GEN 30:39-40 The flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. And Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock.

Jacob knew that sheep are very susceptible to what they are seeing during copulation and during the period of gestation, and that the effects of their sight are passed on to the offspring. This is a good illustration of the Biblical principle that strong impressions are made through the eyes.

GEN 31:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'" And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'" And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings."

Job realized the danger of following his eyes, JOB 31:7, "'If my step has turned from the way, or my heart followed my eyes...,'" as did John in 1JO 2:15-16, "Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world." Very often we see something, and our heart wants to go after it. Some great advice is given in PRO 4:25, "Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you."

Do not let your eyes wander after anything that appeals to your weakness, temptations that are likely to entice or attract you. The eyes represent what holds our attention or our desire. Our Lord dealt with this in MAT 6:19-23,"'Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The lamp of the body is the eye; if therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!'"

The anthropomorphism of the pupil of God's eye is used to describe God's love and protection for His people, especially Israel. (An anthropomorphism ascribes to God physical human forms that God does not actually possess, to explain God's policy, and manner of operation in terms of a human frame of reference.) The pupil of the eye is analogous to the "wall of fire" around Israel, ZEC 2:5. Only God has the right to punish Israel when necessary, therefore all anti-Semitism is anti-God. When God refers to the Jews as "the pupil of His eye," He is emphasizing the principle that anti-Semitism will be punished, and kindness to the Jew will be blessed, DEU 32:9-10, "'For the Lord's portion is His people; Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.'" Similar passages include PSA 17:8, "Keep me as the apple of the eye; Hide me in the shadow of Thy wings," and ZEC 2:8, "For thus says the Lord of the Armies, after the glory [the Second Advent] He [God the Father] has Me [God the Son] against the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the pupil of My eye."

GEN 30:40-42 And Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban's flock. Moreover, it came about whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, that Jacob would place the [striped] rods in the sight of the flock in the gutters, so that they might mate by the rods; but when the flock was feeble, he did not put them in; so the feebler were Laban's and the stronger Jacob's.

Jacob let the weak ones mate with no rods in front of them, so that the best offspring went to his flock and the weakest to Laban's. However, as seen in a later passage, all his tricks were unnecessary, GEN 31:4-8, "So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field, and said to them, 'I see your father's attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me. And you know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me. if he spoke thus, 'The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth striped." Whenever the flock produced what belonged to Jacob, Laban would change his mind and alter the agreement ("From now on, the striped belong to me," and later on, "Now all the speckled belong to me").

Laban could never win, and it was not because of Jacob's scheming; it was because of the protection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the promise made to Jacob's father Isaac in GEN 26:24, "I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you, and multiply your descendants, for the sake of My servant Abraham."

GEN 31:9-12 "Thus God has taken away your father's livestock and given them to me. [He recognizes it was God at work.] And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.' And he said, 'Lift up, now, your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.'"

Laban had mistreated Jacob long enough, and God intervened, just as He will intervene for us. God did not need Jacob's help, just as He does not need our help. God did not need Jacob's little plots and plans, just as He does not need our little plots and plans. God never gives us the right to get even. What Laban had done to Jacob in cheating him had not escaped God's notice, and no one who has wronged you will escape God's notice, 1Co 6:7, "Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?" We must never repay evil, PRO 20:22, 1TH 5:15.

Now in GEN 30:43, "So the man [Jacob] became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks and female and male servants and camels and donkeys."

All this took place during a six-year period (GEN 31:41). God was fulfilling His promise, even in this story of two unprincipled men, each trying to outwit the other. The Bible does not hesitate to tell us the very worst about its heroes so that we may better magnify the grace of God, out of which "trophies of mercy" are created. Undoubtedly someone will take unfair advantage of you, but that is not justification to do the same to them. Many times these are tests to prove whether you believe the Word of God or the ways of the world. People can be cruel and evil, but you will live to see them trapped in their own pits and pierced by their own swords, if you are faithful to doctrine, Psa 7:14-16, "Behold, he travails with wickedness, and he conceives mischief, and brings forth falsehood. He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, and has fallen into the hole which he made. His mischief will return upon his own head, and his violence will descend upon his own pate." The whole scenario has turned around on Laban, GEN 31:1, "Now Jacob heard the words of Laban's sons, saying, 'Jacob has taken away all that was our father's, and from what belonged to our father he has made all this wealth.'" Laban lost everything, and finally reaped what he sowed. The natural laws provided by God take care of all the injustices in life in God's timing. For those who refuse to rebound and recover, their actions catch up with them.

To summarize Gen 31, we should first note that Jacob's increasing prosperity stirred up jealousy in Laban's sons, who realized that Jacob had cheated their father, Gen 31:1-2. They recog-nized that all Jacob's wealth came from what had been their father's. Laban's behavior also changed, revealed by dirty looks instead of smiles (he doesn't like to lose). He had been willing to use Jacob as long as it was to his advantage, but he was not happy to see Jacob's prosperity above his own. In GEN 31:3, the Lord confirmed that Jacob should leave and told him to go back to the land of his fathers, reminding him of the promise of the land given to Abraham. For Jacob, however, going back to his relatives would not be easy, because Esau had threatened to kill him. God promises, "I will be with you," meaning Jacob need not fear. Sometimes going back to a situation is not something any of us like to do, but sometimes something we should do.

In GEN 31:17-19, Laban had gone to shear his sheep when Jacob loaded up everything he had acquired and slipped out of town: "Then Jacob arose and put his children and his wives upon camels; and he drove away all his livestock and all his property which he had gathered, his acquired livestock which he had gathered in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. When Laban had gone to shear his flock, then Rachel stole the household idols that were her father's. In GEN 31:22-23, as soon as Laban heard the news he gathered his relatives and pursued Jacob: "When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, then he took his kinsmen with him, and pursued him a distance of seven days' journey; and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead." By that time, Jacob was in the hill country of Gilead, and he had traveled about 30 miles a day, which was unusual for such a company of people and flocks. He was running away very quickly. However, in GEN 31:24, before Laban actually caught up with Jacob, God warned him in a dream to be careful not to say anything good or bad to Jacob (not to make any deals, entice him to return, or make threats). In GEN 31:26-28, Laban rebuked Jacob for running off secretly: "Then Laban said to Jacob, 'What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword?'" [Laban could not believe his daughters wanted to go of their own accord, so he accused Jacob of carrying them off like prisoners of war.] Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre [he claims that Jacob missed a joyous going-away celebration with tambourines and "lyres"-but of course there were only "liars"]; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly.'" Laban acted as if he were totally innocent of any wrongdoing that would cause Jacob to leave.

In GEN 31:29, Laban told Jacob he outnumbered him and could harm him if God had not warned him in the dream. Then in GEN 31:45-47, Jacob set up a stone as a memorial pillar, which would mark the boundaries between Laban on the north and Jacob on the south, GEN 31:45-47, "Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. And Jacob said to his kinsmen, 'Gather stones.' So they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. Now Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. The two con-artists made a deal never to see each other again. They both had wounds and scars from their conflicts with each other.

The story continues in Gen 32:1: "Now as Jacob went on his way, the angels of God met him." God sent these angels to make Jacob conscious of His heavenly presence and assure him of divine protection, knowing Jacob would need confidence and courage. A similar instance occurs with Elisha and his servant in 2Ki 6. By sight, the odds looked overwhelming with the army coming against Elisha, but he prayed that his servant would be enabled to see the angelic army around him, and his prayer was answered. Guardian angels are assigned to us, Heb 1:14, and their power is revealed in passages such as 2Th- 1:7 and PSA 103:20. In GEN 32:2, "And Jacob said when he saw them [God's angels], 'This is God's camp [or army].' So he named that place Mahanaim [meaning "two camps," God and his]." Jacob will have to face the 400-man army of Esau. He is now on the path of obedience, and when we are on the right path, we will encounter obstacles that test our faith. Jacob is returning from his long exile (in the wrong location) to the land given him by God. When he returns, he brings many wounds and scars with him, including four wives and eleven children, but God sends His angels in advance to welcome His servant home.

In GEN 32:3-6, "Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He also commanded them saying, 'Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: "Thus says your servant Jacob, I have sojourned with Laban, and stayed until now; and I have oxen and donkeys and flocks and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight."' And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, 'We came to your brother Esau, and furthermore he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.'" Jacob's two great enemies were Laban and Esau, one outside the promised land, one within, typifying the believer's struggles with the world and the flesh. As far as Jacob knew, Esau still threatened vengeance, but seeing the angels, reminded him he was being guarded by God's infinitely numerous and powerful host. Unfortunately, he will still rely on human wisdom, power, and ingenuity. Though his anger had long since abated, Esau did not know what Jacob's intentions were. For all he knew, Jacob might be coming with his own army to claim his promised boundaries and possessions and to subjugate him. The real problem here, however, is not that Esau is coming with 400 men, but that Jacob's mind is racing in many different directions, and he is filled with fear, GEN 32:7, "Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed." Fear is a mental attitude sin, characterized by panic in a dangerous situation. For the believer, fear is the result of failure to learn and utilize the problem-solving devices. This is Jacob's problem-he has not been learning and applying doctrine for a long time.

For a more detailed study, order last week's tapes, IA11-194 to IA11-197.

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