Community Group Study “Genesis: The Long Way Home”
Read Genesis 30:25-31:55
One of the most intriguing parts of our text today is how we see Jacob start out desiring to leave and go back home, but in just a few verses he commits to working for Laban again. What happened?! At the beginning point of this conversation, Jacob has completed his 14th year of service and he has not enjoyed his time! Look at Genesis 30:25-28; Jacob uses words to describe his time with Laban that are similar to when a slave is freed from service. Why would he go back to a boss he could not trust, one who at times outright lied and cheated him; and to an environment that wanted to squeeze every ounce of strength from him possible?
The answer is complicated, just like Jacob. First, on a positive note, Jacob had God’s promise from Genesis 28:15 in his mind during his time with Laban. God promised “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Jacob shows a growing trust in God’s faithfulness to him. In Genesis 31:10-13, Jacob recounted this promised blessing to his wives as they’re about to depart from Laban’s household, likewise he looked back on this extra time in Laban’s employment and saw that God had blessed him financially even though Laban was trying to cheat him. However, the second reason Jacob stayed is that part of his core sin is ungodly ambition. We have learned in our time studying Jacob that he was a man who’d trick and cheat you to get his way and he put forth consistent and planned effort to achieve his dreams. When Jacob tricked his own blind father in Genesis 27 we saw that Jacob was chasing after “blessing” and lived in the shadow of his older brother whom his father loved more than him (Genesis 25:28). The text shows us Jacob wanting to leave, but getting lured in by the promise of great wealth. God will use this desire in Jacob to bless Jacob and his family for generations to come, but we see this wrestling in Jacob of trusting God and yet striving with human effort. This human effort comes out when Jacob approaches building his wealth with superstitious practices and as he uses scientific means for the purpose of robbing Laban of his flock to leave him with just the weakest sheep and goats (Genesis 30:37-43).
Laban had done his part to try and harm Jacob and use him for his advantage. He started out by not fulfilling his end of the deal; he had promised to give Jacob the speckled and spotted goats and the black sheep. Instead, Laban sinned against Jacob and removed them from the flock and sent hem on a 3 day journey away (Genesis 30:35-36). Additionally, Jacob tells Leah and Rachel that Laban has changed his wages 10 times (Genesis 31:7). When looking at Jacob’s time working for Laban as a whole we see how God blesses his people but also takes them through hardship and frustration to humble them. As Americans we can often desire blessing without brokenness but for the follower of Jesus they’re a package deal. God wants us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and humbly walk with him.
Jacob’s time with Laban does not end well. We see him leave secretly and unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel steals the household idols from her father, likely to get back at him. These two actions burn the bridge and remove any hope they’d have of returning. This may seem like a great thing, because who’d want to be with Laban? But, let’s remember Esau is still out there looking for revenge and this will be on the forefront of Jacob’s mind as we hit chapter 32.
This passage intersects with modern life well when we consider the scope of Jacob’s walk with the Lord. We’ve seen God be faithful and gracious to him by providing for him, but more importantly in humbling Jacob. As modern people most of us have an average aversion to difficulty. However, God is in it to bring Jacob close to him in trust and dependence. Likewise, we see a model in Jacob for how to work for an untrustworthy boss. Jacob has plenty of ambition, but look at Genesis 31:38-42. We get a lot of detail about how Jacob worked secretly and diligently to bless his boss, do well at his job and he shows us someone who trusts in God more than his employer for his hope.
Main idea: God’s desire is to bless Jacob and be with him, but the great hope followers of Jesus have is that God moves to bring his people to a place of humility.
At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.
How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week?
Read Genesis 30:25-43
Why would Jacob commit more time to Laban than the 14 years he had given for the hand of Rachel and Leah? Answer based on your reading, the sermon and this study guide.
How does Laban cheat Jacob and show himself to be untrustworthy? How has Jacob demonstrated a growing faith in God’s providence and goodness? Look to Genesis 31:3-13.
What are God’s goals in how he blesses Jacob? Think about the benefit of the material blessing, but also how God intermingles hardship into the way he prospers Jacob.
How should followers of Jesus live in difficult work environments? Think about the office, the shop and the home. All of which provide different challenges. Look at Genesis 31:38-42 and Colossians 3:22-25 to help you answer.
The main idea here in the study guide is that blessing comes with brokenness. How does the gospel (what Christ has done to free us from sin and restore people to relationship with God) demonstrate this idea of blessing and brokenness, as well as God’s commitment to humble his people?