A person's lack of understanding of who God is can put a person in some difficult circumstances. The Bible is clear to explain that God is the God Most High and that there is no other. His Word is candid to explain that He alone is in charge of all things, that all things are His, but that He is also kind, gracious, merciful and loving. Though God is almighty, He is also fair, just, and righteous. Nevertheless, there are often circumstances in the Bible that show people forgetting these truths, and such forgetfulness ends up being problematic.
In Genesis 31:35-55 the Bible completes its summary of the events that took place between Jacob and Laban. In the process of doing so, the Bible shows what happens when two people forget who God is, and how difficult things can be as a result. In Genesis 31:35-55 the Bible explains that Jacob responded to Laban's criticisms and other statements. Laban sought to play a guilt trip on Jacob in order to fulfill the desires that stemmed from his jealousy. Genesis 31:35-55 explains that Jacob took great offense to this. As Laban searched the things of Jacob to try and find his household idols that Rachel had hid, Jacob (who didn't know that Rachel had stolen the idols) became extremely frustrated. The Bible explains that Jacob was angry with Laban. He responded at Laban harshly, asking why Laban was treating him with even more disrespect. Jacob reminded Laban of all the disrespect that he had been treated with thus far in their relationship. Jacob reminded Laban that he worked 14 years for the wives that he had when he originally agreed to work 7 years for a wife he didn't get at first. Jacob reminded Laban that he worked 6 years with Laban's flock, tending it so that it grew and multiplied to be a flourishing flock. However, Jacob also stated that in those 20 years, Laban changed Jacob's wages 10 times!
The Bible illustrates that Laban was never really upfront or honest with Jacob. The Bible explains that Laban had always treated Jacob with the motives of selfishness. The Bible explains that Laban simply sought to maximize his own opportunities by taking advantage of Jacob. The Bible explains that Jacob realized that Laban only treated Jacob well because the Lord treated Jacob well. Jacob understood that if God had not shown favor to Laban, that he would have been removed from Laban's house with nothing to show for long before the time documented in Genesis chapter 31. The truth of the matter was that Jacob felt entitled to a certain quality of treatment because of the blessings that Laban had received through Jacob. Yet Jacob admitted that the blessings Laban received from him were ultimately from the Lord.
Laban's response to Jacob's criticism is interesting. Laban does not acknowledge the truth. Laban does not apologize. Instead, Laban states that Jacob's possessions are still his. Laban states that Jacob's family is his own family. Laban states that Jacob's flock is his own flock. The scriptures explain that Laban still considered all the things that God had given him to be his own. Though God was responsible for all the increase that Laban experienced, Laban was still being possessive considering all of those things his own. Though the Lord had clearly blessed Laban through Jacob, Laban still sought to consider all of the blessings from Jacob to be his own. Nevertheless, the scriptures reveal that Laban ultimately conceded and formed a treaty with Jacob.
Genesis 31:35-55 explains that Laban and Jacob finally came to an agreement. They built up a pillar of stones and used it as a landmark. The two men agreed that neither would cross the pillar with bad intentions for the others. The pillar served to be a landmark that would divide Laban and Jacob in order that they would be peaceful with one another. Laban agreed to let Jacob take his wives, his children, and his flocks, and so long as they didn't cross over the landmark, all would remain peaceful. The Bible explains that the pillar served as a witness. The Bible explains that Laban swore by the God of Abraham and Nahor to keep this oath. The Bible explains that Jacob swore by the Fear (God) of his father Isaac.
Though Jacob offered a sacrifice later that day, and Laban departed from Jacob early the next morning, neither man really understood the work of God that had been taking place. It is important to recognize that, though these men swore to each other, they did not consider God to be their own God as the basis of their oath. They each swore upon the God of other men. Laban swore upon the God of Abraham, never considering Yahweh to be his own God even though God had blessed him through Jacob. On the other hand, Jacob swore by the God of his father Isaac, never considering Yahweh to be his own God even though God had blessed him. Both men quarreled with each other over things that God had given. Both men fought over possessions that were ultimately God's. Though each man considered God to be involved in the circumstances of their lives, neither was willing to confess the full extent of God's power and neither man was willing to submit to God's sovereignty. Though the two men made an oath, the oath was based on a flawed relationship with God.
God desires to be personal with His people. God is not a fan of extended relationships through 3rd parties. God sent His Son to die in order that sin would be forgiven, thereby allowing personal connection between God and His people. Jacob had been blessed by God. The reason God did these things was to show that He desired to fulfill the promises made to Abraham and Isaac. God's promises of grace were personal. Yet Jacob did not understand these dynamics and so was disconnected from a God that desired to be connected. To Jacob, God was still his father's God - not his own. Thus, this disconnect prohibited Jacob from realizing the truth. The blessings that Jacob had received were not his own. He was merely a beneficiary and steward of the things that God had ultimately given him. If God is the one that gave, then God is the source of blessing. Yet, since Jacob did nothing to warrant these gifts and blessings, his attitude should have reflected a greater sense of humility and meekness in response to God's work. Since Jacob struggled with understanding these truths, his life became difficult. Jacob felt entitled to certain benefits. Jacob felt God's things to be his own. Hence, God would have to deal with these things in Jacob and Jacob's life circumstances would be more difficult than necessary. This is an important lesson for all to learn!