What Jacob Taught Me

About a month ago, I finished preaching through the third of four planned sermon series through the book of Genesis. The series covered Genesis 25-36, which is primarily the life of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. Last summer, as I finished preaching through Abraham’s life, I wrote a post about what Abraham’s life taught me. I planned to do the same sort of the post with Jacob, but four weeks passed by without writing even a word of it.

Before I explain why I was so sluggish to write this post, allow me to first explain why I wanted to write it in the first place. Whenever we read about the lives of people in the Bible, we must understand that their strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, triumphs and sins, are all written down for our benefit. Their lives have been recorded as examples for us: either what to do or not to do. For instance, Paul calls Abraham the man of faith for good reason. The faith he placed in God throughout his life is astounding! Abraham’s faith is worthy of our imitation. We should strive to be like him.

And the same point can be made for David’s love of God. Or Moses’ obedience. The lives of former saints are recorded as both encouragements and warnings.

For me, Jacob’s life blends the encouragement and warning so much that it’s scary.

You see, I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write about what Jacob’s life taught me because in many ways, Jacob connected to me more deeply than Abraham did. And I think it’s because Abraham was such an example of faith. I certainly know that Abraham sinned. He was willing to sell his wife away to save his owe skin twice, and he committed adultery with his wife’s servant (even though it was his wife’s idea). But even with these sins of Abraham on display, he still feels larger-than-life. He feels like a superhero when it comes to following God. I simply don’t know if I could ever pass a test like Abraham’s having to sacrifice his own son.

In a lot of ways, Abraham’s life seems to point toward Christ’s absolute perfection more than it resembles my life.

But Jacob wasn’t like his grandfather.

Jacob’s life was essentially one massive struggle against sin and against God. Jacob was a coward and a deceiver by nature. Especially for the first few chapters of his life, it seems that Jacob lets himself be pushed around by everyone. His mom coerces him into deceiving his father. His father-in-law tricks him into marrying the sister of the woman he actually loved. His two wives toss him back and forth while they fight about who is loved most and who has more children. Often it feels like life simply happens around Jacob, like he’s a pawn in his own story.

Of course, when Jacob does take action, it’s rarely godly. Jacob’s cowardliness constantly shows as he tends to flee from conflict, instead of facing it directly. Jacob’s fear was merely the symptom of his little faith. He repeatedly took matters into his own hands rather than trusting God.

Unfortunately, this is the aspect of Jacob’s character that I relate to most. Like Jacob, I tend to be cowardly instead of bold. I’m often full of fear instead of faith. I consider too much what others might think of me instead of being concerned with doing the will of the Father.

I’m not Abraham.

I’m Jacob.

I’m not a man of faith.

I’m a man of struggle, wrestling against both God and sin.

By providence, I think that’s why God chose Jacob. I mean, even though Abraham was awesome, God named the nation of Israel after Jacob, not Abraham. And I think it’s because Israel was more like Jacob than the man of faith. The people of Israel continuously wrestled against God, following the pattern of Jacob.

But the great lesson of Jacob’s life, of Israel’s history, and of us today is that God is faithful even when we aren’t. God’s biggest grace to Jacob was not giving up on him. In many ways, God beat Jacob into maturity through struggle after struggle. But those struggles were grace.

It’s interesting that the brief descriptions we have of Esau (Jacob’s brother) seem to be the exact opposite of Jacob. Esau appeared to have great wealth (much greater, it seems, than Jacob), and there is no account of any great struggle in his long, prosperous life. Chapter 36, instead, simply lists the great men that came from Esau’s lineage.

Esau seemed to have it all.

Given the choice between Esau and Jacob, most people would rather be Esau. We’d rather have the easy life of prosperity. After all, material blessings are a sign of God’s favor, right?

Through the prophet Malachi, God declared His love for Jacob and His hatred for Esau. God’s relentless pursuit of Jacob was Jacob’s greatest blessing. Esau’s prosperity and ease, which led to self-reliance and self-sufficiency, were God’s curse upon him.

It’s a difficult truth, but it’s also full of hope. Jacob was a deeply flawed and sinful man of God, but he was still just that: a man of God. Jacob grew to follow God only because God never stopped wrestling him into maturity.

Like I said, I’m Jacob, not Abraham.

I’m often a man of struggle, not faith.

Thankfully, a wrestling match is often God’s means of grace.

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Jacob & Esau: Two Roads | Genesis 35-36

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:9-12)

OPENING THOUGHT

Our present study began with Isaac learning that his wife, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins after being barren. When the two boys began to battle in the womb, Isaac inquired of God, who declared that the younger child would usurp the older. Esau was born first, then Jacob. The two were destined for conflict. Over the span of two events, Jacob deceived his older brother out of the blessing and birthright of the firstborn. Esau was furious, so he plotted Jacob’s murder, which was sufficient reason for Jacob to flee to his mother’s homeland to look for a wife. In the land of Haran, Jacob found his wife, but he was tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into also marrying her older sister, leading to intense family drama.

After living with Laban for 20 years who repeatedly tried to cheat Jacob out of his work, Jacob fled back to the land of his father. Once there, Jacob was forced to confront Esau, who was coming to meet him with 400 men. In fear, Jacob sent large gifts to his brother, hoping to appease him. But a personal wrestling match with God finally gave Jacob the courage to meet Esau face to face. Shockingly, his brother met him with love and open arms. God softened Esau’s heart and finally gave Jacob the peace of reconciliation.

We now conclude this third section of Genesis with God appearing to Jacob once again, the deaths of Rachel and Isaac, and the prosperity of Esau. Though Jacob will continue to appear in Genesis, chapter 37 will begin to focus on the narratives of his children, particularly Joseph. As the narrative reflects upon the lives of Jacob and Esau, we find that they both lived prosperous lives; however, Jacob’s life was also molded by God’s grace and faithfulness.

Read chapter 35 and discuss the following.

  1. After God appeared to Jacob again, Jacob responded by ensuring that his household and servants put away their foreign gods in order to purify themselves before the LORD. What are some false gods that are common today?
  2. When Jacob arrives at Bethel, God once again declares that Jacob’s new name is Israel and pronounces the blessings of Abraham upon him. How, in particular, does God’s promise of nations and kings coming from Jacob apply to us today?

Read chapter 36 and discuss the following. 

  1. Though genealogies tend to be quite boring, all of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us. In general, what can we learn from the Bible’s genealogies?
  2. Verses 6-8 reinforce what we suspected in chapter 33, that Esau was in fact quite wealthy. How can wealth, prosperity, and ease of life actually become a curse for us?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Just as Jacob called for his household to forsake their idols before he built an altar to God in Bethel, take time to consider any false gods in your heart and how you can forsake them to follow God fully.
  • Pray. Consider the struggle-filled life of Jacob and the Esau’s life of prosperity. Give thanks to God for His grace of stripping us of our lesser gods, so that we might know Him as our eternal treasure.

Dinah & Shechem | Genesis 34

Week 10 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:30-31)

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

OPENING THOUGHT

After a life of wandering and conflict, Jacob has now settled down. Stealing the firstborn blessing and birthright from his brother created quite a tension within Jacob’s family, forcing him to flee for his life from Esau. But Jacob only ran into more conflict by marrying two sisters, blatantly loving one of them more, and having an incredibly selfish father-in-law. After twenty years, Jacob escaped back to his homeland, terrified of reuniting with Esau. But God was with Jacob. Esau’s anger at Jacob was gone, and since peace was made between the two of them, Jacob finally stopped wandering.

But given the events of this chapter, Jacob might have chosen a better town to settle within. While Jacob is camping beside the city of Shechem, his daughter, Dinah, begins to socialize with the women of the city. Soon we are told that Shechem, the prince of the land, rapes her and then goes to her father and brothers for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers in particular are furious, but they agree to allow Shechem to marry Dinah if every man in the city is circumcised. Three days after the men circumcise themselves, Levi and Simeon raid the city, slaughtering all the men and plundering the city.

This chapter ranks with the Flood and Sodom narratives as being one of the most uncomfortable displays of sin within Genesis. There is no innocent party here. Shechem is a rapist. Hamor only wants to make a profit. Jacob refuses to defend his daughter. Dinah placed herself in a foolish situation. And Simeon and Levi go well beyond a justifying retaliation. However, even in the midst of the darkest sins, God is still gracious and in sovereign control.

Read verses 1-7 and discuss the following.

  1. Dinah goes out to see the women of the land of Shechem. This seems to have a negative connotation that her interaction with them was foolish. In what ways do you live foolishly? How are we to live in wisdom?
  2. In these verses, Shechem is guided purely by his own desires. First, he sees Dinah, forcing her to lie with him. Next, he is captivated by, loves, and speaks tenderly to her. What are the dangers of allowing our want of pleasures to guide our lives? What must guide us instead?

Read verses 8-31 and discuss the following. 

  1. The intermarriage agreement between Jacob’s camp and the city of Shechem goes completely against God’s command throughout the Old Testament for Israel to refrain from marrying wives from other tribes and nations. Why did God prohibit Israelites from marrying non-Israelites?
  2. Since they convinced the men of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Simeon and Levi take advantage of their vulnerability by slaughtering all the men of the city, which is far too great of a retaliation against Shechem. Why did God command an eye for an eye in the Old Testament? What is the New Testament thought on vengeance and retaliation?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Learning from Dinah and Shechem, consider areas of your life where you are foolish or are guided by your own pleasures and desires. How does the Bible teach you to live differently?
  • Pray. In their zeal for justice, Simeon and Levi committed a grievous sin themselves by slaughtering all the men in the city of Shechem. Pray then that the Lord would give us a biblical view of evil, justice, and retaliation.

Jacob & Esau Reunite | Genesis 33

Week 9 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION 

Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. (Genesis 33:11)

And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Genesis 33:19-20)

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (Romans 12:1)

OPENING THOUGHT 

Jacob’s life is a continuous war being waged between fear and faith. Even after God prophesied that Jacob would usurp his older brother’s firstborn right, he still took matters into his own hands by deceiving his father into blessing him instead of Esau. Afterwards, Jacob fled from Esau to his mother’s homeland, where he found his wife, Rachel. Unfortunately, his father-in-law, Laban, deceived the Jacob into also marrying Rachel’s older sister. Chaos ensued in Jacob’s family, but eventually God commanded Jacob to return to his home. Jacob chose to flee in fear of Laban, rather than trusting God to care for him. Then upon arriving at his father’s land, Jacob prepared to meet his brother by giving him 550 animals in a series of waves, hoping to appease Esau’s wrath.

Though Genesis 32 built up the tension of the reunion between Jacob and Esau, the chapter ended with the twist of Jacob wrestling God throughout the night. Having now been given both a limp and a new name, Jacob goes forth to greet his brother. Twenty years had passed, and Jacob assumed that Esau still intended to kill him, which Esau’s four hundred men only helped to imply. Providentially, Esau is not angry with Jacob; instead, Esau warmly greets Jacob, embracing and kissing him. Jacob clearly understood this to be the work of God upon Esau’s heart.

But even though God had changed Esau’s heart, one of the biggest questions of this chapter is whether Jacob’s heart has changed as a result of his wrestling match with God. Some commentators are quick to jump to Jacob’s defense, believing that Jacob is an entirely new man now. Others present the opposite opinion, claiming that Jacob acts here in virtually the same manner as before. I will throw my lot in with others still who believe that Jacob is more complex than the other two opinions give him credit for. Jacob’s life has been a battle of fear and faith, and that fight continues here. Sometimes it appears that Jacob’s faith is winning, but at other moments, fear gets the upper hand. We know this to be true of ourselves as well. After encountering God in salvation, we do not miraculously cease sinning and act only in faith; rather, we still face temptations and doubt. But like Jacob, God’s grace keeps growing us in maturity, even if it is inch by inch.

Read verses 1-11 and discuss the following. 

  • The time has now come for Jacob to reunite with his brother, Esau, and Jacob goes through an elaborate display of submission before having Esau embrace and kiss him. Did Jacob act in fear or faith here? Why?
  • With his 400 men and his calm decline of Jacob’s sizable gifts, Esau seems to be quite wealthy himself. It does not, therefore, seem unreasonable that God may have softened Esau’s heart toward Jacob by giving him material blessings. How can material blessings distract us from worshipping God?

Read verses 12-20 and discuss the following.  

  • Now that Jacob has made peace with his brother, he builds booths for his livestock and settles down. Have you experienced a similar peace that comes from reconciliation?
  • Having settled matters with his brother, Jacob buys land and builds an altar to worship God. What was the twofold purpose of an altar? How do we worship God today?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER 

  • Obey. Having been rescued from Esau’s wrath, Jacob builds an altar to worship God. Similar to Jacob, we have been saved from the wrath of God by the sacrifice of Christ, and worship should be our response to that good news. Take time this week to evaluate your worship of God.
  • Pray. Jacob was far from perfect before he wrestled with God, and he was still sinful after that encounter. But by God’s grace, Jacob continued to grow in maturity and godliness little by little. Pray that the same would be true of you.

Like Jacob

And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’”

Genesis 32:9-12

Jacob was a coward. When his mother hatched the plot to help Jacob steal Esau’s blessing, Jacob did not oppose for moral reasons; he only expressed concern out of fear of being caught. He then ran away when his brother began to plot his murder after the deception. Next, when Jacob finds himself in a polygamous marriage, he is bounced around by his wives, instead of lovingly leading his family. And when he desires to return to his father’s land, Jacob sprints away from his father-in-law, fearing that Laban would kill him.

In Genesis 32, Jacob is maturing in his walk with God, but he is still fearful. Now that he escaped his father-in-law, Jacob would eventually need to reunite with Esau in order to re-enter his father’s homeland. As Jacob feared, Esau seemed to still be angry at Jacob as evidenced by the 400 men traveling with him to meet Jacob. In response, Jacob divides his family, servants, and cattle into two camps, so that if Esau attacks one, the other can escape. This was an sinful act of fear rather than faith, a predictable action from Jacob.

But then Jacob does something else. He prays. Perhaps Jacob prayed before this, but it is his first recorded time of coming to God for aid. It’s a sign of Jacob’s inching maturity, but it is also a great prayer from which to learn. It is an honest prayer of belief and doubt, where Jacob is desperately clinging to faith in the midst of great fear. The man with a demon-possessed child fought the same battle when he prayed to Jesus, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

We would do well to learn from the honesty of Jacob’s prayer. Take a moment then, if you will, to break down the prayer’s components with me, studying how we might continue to strive for Christ-like prayers.

1. Remember who God is.

Jacob opens his prayer by addressing its Recipient. Before we can ever pray effectively, we must first know to whom we are praying. Jacob lived in a time of vast polytheism, and praying to a god is quite different than praying to God. And he made this distinction by calling God by His holy name, the LORD. If we are not careful, we can easily fall into the trap of merely assuming that we are praying to the LORD, the God of Abraham and Jacob. Few people have carved out household gods today, so we think that the identity of God is presumed. Unfortunately, many pray to their own version of God instead of God Himself. They pray, but it is ultimately for their will to be done, not the will of the Father. In order to be certain that we are praying to the God (not our version of Him), we must submit our understanding of God to the Scriptures. Make a habit, therefore, of praying with the Bible open before you, allowing it to answer and guide your prayers to the Father.

2. Remember who you are and what God has done.

Next, in verse 10, we see Jacob acknowledging his dependence upon God and remembering God’s past provision. If remembering God’s identity is primarily important in prayer, remembering our identity is a close second. Jacob understood that he was the mirror opposite of God. The LORD is mighty in strength, but he was weak and frail. This is true for us as well. Until we recognize our utter dependence upon God, our prayers will never be effective, since we will continue to strive in our own strength.

It is also helpful to follow in the pattern of Jacob by remembering God’s previous provisions. Jacob left his father’s land with only his staff, and now he was able to divide his own household into two great camps. God had never left Jacob, but when preparing to meet his brother, Jacob needed to remember that truth all over again.

3. Ask for help.

Here is what we commonly think of as being prayer: asking God for help. As we have seen, prayer is more than making requests; however, bringing our supplications to God is certainly a crucial act of prayer. Unfortunately, it seems that on this matter we tend to fall into two errors, sometimes in the same prayer.

First, we treat God as our personal genie. This kind of prayer treats God as nothing more than a prayer answering machine. There is no real relationship. No true communication between God and us. We only talk to God in order to ask for what we need. Jesus answers this pitfall of prayer by giving us a model prayer to learn from. In that prayer, Jesus only spends one phrase asking for personal, physical needs. He gives the rest of the prayer to praying for God’s holiness, for God’s kingdom, for God’s will, for our forgiveness of sins, and for our deliverance from temptation. Bringing our daily requests before God is a crucial part of prayer, but it is still only a part of prayer.

Second, we can also trick ourselves into thinking that God does not want to hear our needs. As we consider God’s holiness and our sinfulness, it can be easy to wonder why the Almighty God would have time to listen to our miniscule needs, but that kind of thinking is entirely unbiblical. God desires for us to bring our needs to Him. Christ urges us to do so. And Paul gives a similar statement, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

God is not our genie, ready to grant our wishes at any moment; rather, He is our Father, who takes great care and delight in hearing and answering our needs.

4. Cling to God’s Word.

Jacob closes his prayer by clinging to God’s Word. The LORD promised to make Jacob’s descendants into a great multitude, so Jacob reminds God of His promise. This is important because it shows that Jacob’s faith in God was not unfounded. He was not merely wishing that God would protect him from Esau; instead, Jacob remembered God’s promise to him as the basis for his faith in God’s future protection.

Though today we may not encounter the audible voice of God nor His abundant financial provision as Jacob did, we have God’s promises laid before us on a daily basis in His Word. God may not promise us material riches, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) We may continually wrestle with our sin, but “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) We may often be weary, but Christ calls, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

The promises for us in God’s Word are multitude. Cling to them. In the long night of the soul, latch onto the Scriptures and cry out to the Father. For God is honored and glorified by such desperate and needy prayers.


Meditate on Jacob’s prayer of desperation to God. Do you pray only to ask God for help? Do you avoid requesting anything of God? Consider how to correct either pitfall.

Pray through Jacob’s prayer outline: remembering who God is, remembering who you are and what God has done, bringing your requests to God, and clinging to His Word.


 

Jacob Wrestles with God | Genesis 32

Week 8 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” (Genesis 32:28-30)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

OPENING THOUGHT

Jacob’s entire life was one big wrestling match. First, he wrestled with his brother for the firstborn birthright, and he overcame Esau by deceiving their father into thinking that Jacob was actually Esau. Jacob was then forced to flee from Esau’s murderous anger, so he traveled long way to his mother’s homeland. There he found his wife, Rachel, whom he loved greatly, but he was also tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into marrying Rachel’s less attractive older sister, Leah. Polygamous family drama ensued, but eventually, Jacob resigned to leave Laban and return to his father’s land. After much conflict with Laban, Jacob was finally free to return home.

But Jacob knew that his homecoming would not be pleasant. Even after twenty years, he still feared his brother’s wrath. As we will read today, Esau coming to meet Jacob with 400 men behind him did nothing to calm Jacob’s anxiety. Jacob prays for God’s deliverance, and then he sends more than 550 animals in five waves as gifts for Esau, hoping to appease his brother’s anger. Finally, after Jacob has sent his livestock, servants, children, and wives across the river, he is left alone for the night to prepare for meeting his brother in the morning. But Jacob gets no sleep because he spends all night wrestling an unknown assailant.

This wrestling match plot twist is the clear highlight of this chapter, especially when Jacob realizes that he wrestled with God. It marks the most dramatic moment of Jacob’s life. With Laban behind him and Esau before him, Jacob was surrounded by enemies. He could no longer simply run away from conflicts. He would need to confront them. And God tops it off by physically fighting Jacob throughout the night. Displaying incredible perseverance, Jacob demands that God bless him, but lest we think that Jacob “beat” God, the LORD with a touch knocks Jacob’s hip out of joint. And after realizing who his opponent was, Jacob concludes that he is alive only by God’s mercy. Having encountered God, Jacob leaves limping and weakened but with a new name and a deeper faith in the One whose power is made perfect in our weakness.

Read verses 1-21 and discuss the following.

  1. After learning that Esau is approaching with 400 men, Jacob’s responds by praying for God’s protection. What might we able to learn from Jacob’s fearful, but God-honoring, prayer in verses 9-12?
  2. In hopes of appeasing his brother, Jacob sends drove after drove of animals (550 in total) as gifts for Esau. Did Jacob do this out of fear or faith? Why is it important that we do everything from faith?

Read verses 22-32 and discuss the following.

  1. God appears and begins wrestling with Jacob only when Jacob is alone. Why are silence and solitude important? What most hinders you from taking time to be alone with God?
  2. Even though Jacob appears to prevail in the fight, the mysterious wrestler is able to dislocate Jacob’s hip with a mere touch. Jacob survived only because of the mercy of God, and he walked away with a limp and a new name. Like Jacob’s limp, why is it important for God to reveal the depth of our weakness? What is the significance of receiving a new name?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Just like God found Jacob when he was alone, schedule out time this week to spend in solitude with God, praying and reading the Scriptures.
  • Pray. Take cues from Jacob’s prayer in verses 9-12. Spend a few minutes acknowledging God and then a few moments confessing sin and weakness. Next, take your anxieties and requests to the Father in prayer, knowing that He is faithful and just to hear us.

Jacob & Laban | Genesis 30:25-31:55

Week 7 | Study Guide & Sermon

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION 

Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you. (Genesis 31:3)

If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night. (Genesis 31:42)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

OPENING THOUGHT 

Jacob’s life is one massive proof that the patriarchs of the Old Testament were just as dependent upon God’s grace as followers of Christ today. Left to his own devices, Jacob is far from being the epitome of a faithful servant of God. Thus far, at his mother’s prompting, he has deceived his father in order to steal his brother’s blessing. When his brother became murderous, he fled to his mother’s homeland. Jacob met his future wife there, but soon found himself deceived by his father-in-law into marrying both Rachel and her sister, Leah. His polygamous marriage quickly created a destructive family situation where Jacob was thrown back and forth between his two wives and their maid-servants.

But even in the midst of these conditions, God continues to bless Jacob. The family drama of Jacob’s multiple wives may have been both sinful and avoidable, but God used it to give Jacob eleven sons and a daughter through whom the covenantal blessing could continue. That God-given grace continues in our present text as Jacob parts ways with his father-in-law, Laban.

The relationship of Jacob and Laban was far from ideal, but these events only cause that divide to separate further. Laban attempts to rob Jacob out of his wages, and Jacob flees from Laban without allowing him a moment for saying goodbye to his daughters or grandchildren. Though we see both men act sinfully, it quickly becomes clear how much the LORD is growing Jacob. While Laban’s blatant idolatry is seen throughout the text, Jacob only continues to become emboldened because of his reliance upon God. From this text we can see that God’s followers will certainly encounter many hardships in life, but the LORD will faithfully see them through each one.

Read verses 25-43 and discuss the following. 

  • Laban relied upon divination to learn that his prosperity came because of God’s favor toward Jacob. Divination is any practice of attempting to gain special knowledge through supernatural means. Why is divination a sin? What are examples of divination today?

Read verses 1-21 and discuss the following. 

  • In appearing to Jacob, God claims responsibility for blessing Jacob’s flocks while he was shepherding for Laban. Since being blessed means to be favored by God, are all Christians blessed? Why?

Read verses 22-55 and discuss the following.

  • When Laban catches Jacob, he is furious that his son-in-law would leave without allowing him to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren. However, we soon realize that Laban is even more upset about his household gods being missing. What are a few examples of modern household gods?
  • Jacob and Laban share a meal together and make a covenant to do no harm to each other. Why were meals important to forming a covenant? How does this relate to the Lord’s Supper?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER 

  • Obey. Laban was angry at Jacob for leaving with his daughters and grandchildren, but he was even more furious about his gods being stolen. Like Laban, the idols of our life tends to be what would make us most upset if they were missing. Use this thought to consider what things might be idols in your life.
  • Pray. Even during this conflict with his father-in-law, Jacob was still blessed and provided for by God. Take a few moments each day this week to give thanks to God for His blessings and provision.