Making the Best of a Bad Situation

KEY VERSE: “The LORD said unto Jacob, return unto the land of thy fathers, and to thy kindred, and I will be with thee.” —Genesis 31:3

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Genesis 30:25-28; 31:1-7, 17-21

WHEN God reveals his will to his people he shapes the circumstances of their lives to coincide therewith. As a result of the divine blessing in connection with the tremendous increase of his flocks and herds, Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him began to change, that he was no longer as friendly as he previously had been. From the natural standpoint, this was quite understandable. We could hardly expect Laban to rejoice over the providence of God which, as he viewed it, had robbed him of much of his wealth. Nevertheless, his attitude must have given Jacob cause for concern.

In this, Jacob doubtless saw a problem developing which easily could become serious, yet the Lord’s hand was in it, for it helped to prepare the patriarch to receive the Lord’s instructions to return to the land of his fathers. Laban’s changed attitude toward his son-in-law prepared Jacob to receive and act upon the Lord’s instructions, and in obeying them he found a way of escape from a trial which might have been too difficult to bear.

When it was definitely decided to start back to Canaan, Jacob lost no time. He began at once to prepare for the journey, timing his movements so as to get away while Laban was busily engaged shearing his sheep. Jacob was a man of God, but many circumstances of his life indicated that he was a timid character. He loved the God of his fathers, and had great faith in his promises. He was quick to purchase the birthright from Esau when he had an opportunity; and was glad to get the blessing of the birthright from Isaac, but he fled from home, fearing the wrath of his brother.—Gen. 31:17-24

So now, although God’s providences had overshadowed him during all the time he was in Padan-aram, and the Lord had made it clear to him that the time had come to leave, yet through fear he slipped away quietly without telling Laban of his plans. However, in God’s dealings with Jacob we have wonderful examples of how he can overrule the weaknesses and mistakes of his people and care for them despite their fears. In this case, after Laban learned of Jacob’s flight—which he was sure to do sooner or later—God spoke to him in a dream and warned him not to harm the patriarch.

Leaving Padan-aram, Jacob crossed the Euphrates River, and pitched his tents in Mount Gilead. Laban pursued him there, and after a great deal of angry discussion they separated on outwardly peaceful terms.

Jacob took occasion to remind his father-in-law that he had not brought anything with him that was not properly his; that he had worked hard for it all, and frequently under very trying circumstances. However, even in this outburst of righteous anger, Jacob gave credit to God for caring for him, and in an eloquent testimony to Laban, told him that if it had not been for the Lord he would have been leaving Padan-aram empty-handed. From this, Laban would know that it would be futile for him to oppose Jacob. Thus the way was prepared for a reconciliation between the two.

A pillar of stones was erected as a token of their covenant, and as a marker for the boundary line between them. Three names are given to this pillar: Jegar-sahadutha, Galeed, and Mizpah. Mizpah means ‘watchtower’, hence Laban’s statement in connection with it, “The Lord watch between me and thee, when we are absent one from another.” (vs. 49) While this is frequently thought of as a symbol of unity, it is actually that of separation. The pillar was to mark the separation between Jacob and Laban. They were to go different ways; and the suggestion that the Lord watch between them evidently was intended not only to act as a safeguard over Laban’s children, but also would stand between them to keep them separated, that they would not come near to each other, especially to do injury.—vss. 51-53

Jacob expressed his appreciation to the Lord for this happy conclusion to a situation which could have been disastrous, by offering a sacrifice—a thank offering. The next morning Laban bade farewell to all concerned and returned to his home, leaving Jacob free to go on his way to Canaan.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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