Genesis 31:22–55: The Dispute of Jacob
This world is not friendly to God’s people. Because this world hates God, the world also hates us. The world has raged in war against God and God’s anointed since the beginning: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his anointed…” (Ps. 2:1–2). As Jesus prepared to endure the rage of the world at the cross, he warned his disciples that they would suffer the same kind of treatment from the world: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). In the midst of the world’s rage, what can God’s people do? Furthermore, why does God seem to allow our enemies so many opportunities to rage against us? How far will the hatred of the world go against us?
God does not overlook even the smallest detail in his providential care for us. Even when our enemies rage against us, and even when God allows our pursuing enemies to overtake us, God has a plan for our good. This does not mean that what we suffer at the hands of our enemies is good in itself. Instead, this means that God will not permit us to suffer beyond the limitations he has appointed. Furthermore, this means that even through great evil, God will be working together that evil for the ultimate good of his people. It is when our circumstances seem utterly hopeless that God intervenes most gloriously. In Jacob’s flight from Laban in Genesis 31:22–55, we see an encouraging reminder that God conquers the enemies of his people at the darkest hour.
1. Why does the world persistently rage against God (Ps. 2)? Why does the world rage against Jesus, and against those who believe in Jesus (John 15:18–16:4)? Why does Laban rage against Jacob? Where do you see the world raging against you? Why does this happen? Why does God so frequently remind us of the world’s rage throughout the Scriptures?
2. Why does God allow Laban to overtake Jacob on his way into the Promised Land (Gen. 31:25)? Why does God allow Pharaoh to overtake the Israelites on their way to the Promised Land (Ex. 14:9)? Where have your enemies overtaken you on your way to the Promised Land? Why can we not ever arrive in safety in this life? What do we do until we enter our rest?
3. Does the rage of Laban against Jacob catch God off-guard? Does the rage of Pharaoh against the Israelites catch God off-guard? Does the rage of your enemies catch God off-guard? Is it true that God sees the affliction of his people (Gen. 31:42; cf. Ex. 3:7)? Does he see your affliction? How might you live differently if you were confident that God saw your affliction?
4. What is Laban’s driving concern in establishing a covenant with Jacob (Gen. 31:44, 48–53)? What is Jacob’s concern as he makes a covenant with Laban (Gen. 31:45–46, 53–54; cf. Gen. 28:18–22)? Where do we find our true security? Should we still take wise, prudent measures? How do we live in the world, while refusing to seek confidence from the world?