Posts Tagged ‘Laban’

Genesis 31: 36 – 55 – AN EXIT INTERVIEW WITH STYLE

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Exit Interview. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

He could have said so much more. I wanted him to say something like “You’re a backstabbing, condescending, conniving, manipulative bully! You’re a pushy, controlling, judgmental, nit-picking, fault-finding, blame-shifting, double-crossing, hypocritical, egotistical, self-centred, self-righteous, irrational, unreasonable … employer!” but Jacob is not into name-calling.

  1. AVOID NAME CALLING

Name-calling is the last resort of insecure people trying to acquire a psychological advantage. Jacob, however, is assertive without being offensive. Quite an art.

Normally an exit interview tries to get to the bottom of why you are leaving your job, your concerns, your suggestions, how you feel, your frustrations about how you were managed, your expectations, and addresses examples of discrimination or harassment. But how do you confront a bully like Laban at an exit interview if name-calling isn’t an option? I am amazed at Jacob’s control.

  1. BE HONEST AND ASSERTIVE

Although Jacob becomes very angry, he keeps it under control and he challenges Laban. He wants all those with Laban to see this bully for who he is. “What’s my crime?” he demands. “What have I done wrong to make you chase after me as though I were a criminal?” (Genesis 31:36 NLT). Jacob lays it on the line. Laban has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and stealing his household gods with absolutely no proof. He has attacked his integrity and Jacob refuses to be walked over.

No-one can make you feel inferior without your approval. An Exit Interview is an opportunity to be assertive. Assertive people express their thoughts and feelings and questions. They keep their anger under control and express honestly how they feel. Ephesians 4:26-27 (NLT, NIV and MSG) says “In your anger, do not sin … don’t sin by letting anger control you … don’t use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don’t stay angry … Don’t give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.”

  1. HAVE WITNESSES

“You have rummaged through everything I own. Now show me what you found that belongs to you! Set it out here in front of us, BEFORE OUR RELATIVES, FOR ALL TO SEE. Let them judge between us!” (Genesis 31:37 NLT)

That’s the beauty of an Exit Interview. Before witnesses you can express objectively what has influenced your decision to leave. When we remain silent, we forego the chance for the organisation to evaluate their position and bear witness to what has happened.

  1. STICK TO THE FACTS

He states his case and says in effect. “I’ve been a virtual slave for you for 20 years. You demanded obedience in return for advancement and success but you only kept your promises if it was to your advantage, changing my wages 10 times.” Laban’s self-serving manipulative tactics are out in the open. No more white lies, sneaky moves for Jacob. Finally he is learning the power of honesty. As he relates the facts he lays a foundation for the possibility of change in Laban’s business dealings.

The facts become like a declaration to the devil and in effect Jacob is saying, “You have interfered in my life for long enough! The long meaningless hours of meticulous labour without any recognition are over! You can no longer dictate your unrealistic terms! You can no longer decide my future because your tyranny is now a part of my past! I have sacrificed enough! My ambitions to fulfil God’s purposes for my life will no longer be squashed! I am no longer a part of your empire building efforts!” (Genesis 31:39-41).

  1. CUT YOUR TIES

Making a particular choice means rejecting other possible choices. The truth for Jacob was that a choice towards God meant a choice to escape from Laban.

“In fact, if the God of my father had not been on my side—the God of Abraham and the fearsome God of Isaac—you would have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen your abuse and my hard work. That is why He appeared to you last night and rebuked you!” (Genesis 31:42 NLT). He blurts it all out. I have a new boss! Good on you Jacob! He cuts his ties with Laban and declares his allegiance to God. Cutting Laban out of his life is not so much showing disrespect to Laban but it is an expression of respect for God. He’s made a good choice.

Hebrews 13:5-6 (NLT) says “… For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?””   

Being honest and assertive, having witnesses, sticking to the facts, and cutting your ties helps greatly. But wrapping up the interview is perhaps the most delicate conversation of all. 

  1. SEEK TO MAKE AN AGREEMENT

Jacob and his family are leaving and Laban knows that God will not allow him to harm them. He replies to Jacob with a true and false test, “These women are my daughters, (True) these children are my grandchildren (True), and these flocks are my flocks (False!) — in fact, everything you see is mine (False!). But what can I do now about my daughters and their children? (True!).

The arrogance of his nature defines him. He has felt superior to Jacob all these years and now he barely saves face as he stumbles over his words with a frantic attempt to maintain his power.

Laban still doesn’t admit that Jacob has a right to anything. He believes his own lies and refuses to admit that he is wrong. He remains territorial, seeking to protect what he still considers to be his. If God had not spoken to him, he would probably have harmed them and taken Jacob’s flocks from him. He admits he can do nothing. His hands are tied (Genesis 31:43). He says “So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment” (Genesis 31:44 NLT). 

Be careful Jacob; before you shake hands with this charlatan, make sure you know what you are doing. Before you sit down and share the covenant meal, make sure it won’t be your last one. Before you set up a monument and collect boundary markers, make sure your livestock are on your side. In fact start counting your livestock to see if they are still there! There’s a sacrifice in making any kind of agreement with someone like Laban.

You can’t make a deal with the devil, but in this case, since God has already bound Laban’s ability to bring harm to Jacob, the covenant is a declaration of grace to Laban. Psalms 34:14 (NLT) says “Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.”  

Laban wants to protect himself. He doesn’t want Jacob returning to Haran with an army to levy revenge. “See this pile of stones,” Laban continues, “and see this monument I have set between us. They stand between us as witnesses of our vows. I will never pass this pile of stones to harm you, and you must never pass these stones or this monument to harm me” (Genesis 31:51-52). 

  1. REFUSE TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY

Laban can’t help himself. Laban adds a clause to the Exit Agreement that insinuates that Jacob is the reason that such a covenant must be made, not him. He says

“If you mistreat my daughters or if you marry other wives, God will see it even if no one else does. He is a witness to this covenant between us … I call on the God of our ancestors—the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of my grandfather Nahor—to serve as a judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath before the fearsome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line” (Genesis 31:50-53 NLT).

Subtly, Laban implies that Jacob cannot be trusted to keep the peace between them and that he cannot be trusted to treat his wives well; that he could abandon them for other wives. As if Jacob needed boundaries on the way he treated his wives! It was Laban who sold them like slaves to Jacob without any dowry! Jacob initially only wanted to marry Rachel!

But it’s not worth getting defensive over these subtle slurs on Jacob’s character. In the end they are inconsequential details which will have no effect on the future. Don Miguel Ruis says “There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you refuse to take things personally.”

Laban doesn’t have his household gods anymore so this forces him to call on the God of Abraham. Hedging his bets, Laban says, “May the Lord keep watch between us to make sure that we keep this covenant when we are out of each other’s sight” (Genesis 31:49 NLT).

Laban implies that Jacob needs to be watched. The “Mizpah Benediction” is Laban at his hypocritical best and not a form of blessing so much as a standoff designed to protect him. But he is right; God is the lookout from the watchtower, guarding the dividing line, the boundary, with a border protection policy that guarantees Jacob’s destiny.

In generosity and faith Jacob offers a sacrifice and they have a covenant feast. Talk about preparing a table in the presence of his enemies (Genesis 31:54). 

The next morning, Laban gets up early and he kisses his grandchildren and his daughters and blesses them. Then he leaves and returns home (Genesis 31:55) and Laban finally becomes a figure in Jacob’s past.

This Exit Interview goes well; no name calling or defensive pettiness on Jacob’s part, just assertive, honest disclosure for all to see.

Jesus invites us to make a covenant with Him after the Exit Interview from Satan’s kingdom. He offers forgiveness and peace with God by believing in Him. Our destiny is found in the promises of God in the Gospel of Peace. 

Hebrews 9:12-22 (NLT) says “… Christ offered Himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. That is why He is the one who mediates a new covenant between God and people, so that all who are called can receive the eternal inheritance God has promised them. For Christ died to set them free from the penalty of the sins they had committed … Then He said, “This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you” … For without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.”  

Hebrews 13:20-21 (NLT) says “Now may the God of peace— who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, … ratified an eternal covenant with His blood — may He equip you with all you need for doing His will …” 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:19, 30-37 – CLEARING AWAY THE OLD COBWEBS

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

A spider weaves it’s web, silk extruded from its spinnerets. For weeks I watch it sitting in the middle of it’s lair just outside our window and then suddenly it is gone. I often wonder what happened to that spider. Now over the weeks only the tangled architecture of an abandoned snare remains. The magnificent lines of aerial craftsmanship are now sagging, sticky filaments flailing in the wind. The tensile strength of mellifluous spider silk stretched in etched lines in space has become a confusion of snarls.

RECOGNISE MY OLD COBWEBS

  1. AM I TRUSTING IN FALSE SECURITY?

What was Rachel thinking? Was she trying to hedge her bets? Was she rejecting a relationship with God, trying to enrage her father, or does she see these idols as valuable items to sell as a forfeited dowry? (Genesis 31:19). Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and family blessing. Now Rachel steals to get what she wants. Theft and lying still plagues this family. In a world full of spiders, it seems stupid to risk getting caught in your own web.

You locate trust where you find your security. You know the common ones; health, wealth, intelligence. (All such are temporal. Believe me; I work in aged care. I see how temporal it can be, everyday). Trusting in an eternal God clears away the cobwebs of false security.

  1. AM I PLAYING THE BLAME GAME?

Laban’s sons and relatives already view Jacob with suspicion, and now once again Laban tries to discredit him – “Why have you stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30 NLT). Implying that this is another motive for leaving, Laban attacks Jacob’s integrity. Watch out for the fangs, Jacob. The web is a problem but how will you avoid the cruel venom of the spider?

But is the secret to success really found in knowing who to blame for your failures? Deny all, admit nothing, and blame someone else? Politicians, parents, wives, God? Blame is a cobweb in Laban’s window that blocks his ability to see his own reflection. When you blame others you give up the power to change.

  1. AM I ALLOWING FEAR TO RULE MY DECISIONS?

Jacob has no interest in idols. He explains honestly that fear was the basis of his deception in rushing away, not theft. “I was afraid … I thought you would take your daughters from me by force” (Genesis 31:31 NLT). 

The kind of fear that disturbs our trust in God. Fear that frantically seeks for methods to help God protect us rather than cooperate with His plans was the fear that justified Jacob’s decision to leave secretly. He was obeying God, but fear chooses the way of deception once again to escape harm. Arachnophobia. The vibration of panic pulling at the web has only attracted the malice of the spider. Trust uses the broom of faith to sweep away fear.

  1. AM I GIVING NEGATIVE WORDS POWER?

Jacob has nothing that belongs to Laban. Even his wives were sold to him for 14 years of labour. It all legally belongs to Jacob, except of course for the idols. Not aware that Rachel has stolen the household gods Jacob makes a rash statement of bravado. He says “But as for your gods, see if you can find them, and let the person who has taken them die! And if you find anything else that belongs to you, identify it before all these relatives of ours, and I will give it back!” (Genesis 31:32 NLT).

Negativity misuses our words; and turns words of life to words of death. It makes rash statements without thinking of the consequences. Jacob gives negative words power and says things he doesn’t really mean.

James 3:8-10 (NLT) says that “no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” 

  1. AM I RELYING ON LIES AND SECRETS?

Laban doesn’t take Jacob’s word. He is looking for any excuse to discredit and humiliate Jacob. He searches the web. Rachel is not about to let her sin find her out. She has hidden the gods in the camel’s saddle and she sits on the saddle. I love what Sherry Car writes about this. She talks about “Sitting on false security! … What kind of false securities do we have beneath us?” https://www.bible.com/

Will the spider find his prey? Laban doesn’t think of asking her to rise because she says she is having her menstrual period. There was an uncleanness associated with this and no-one comes near her. Laban doesn’t find the gods (Genesis 31:35).

Lies and secrets are cobwebs on the soul, hindering our ability to see the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

  1. AM I RULED BY SELF DECEPTION?

Rachel is no less guilty of the crime. She escapes facing up to what she has done but perhaps this opens the door to the curse of idolatry into the life of her family and to future Israel? “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23 NLT).

God changed Laban’s capacity for harming Jacob by warning him in a dream (Genesis 31:24), but that doesn’t change his heart. Even after having a direct encounter with God he is still looking for his household idols!

The scene is pathetic. Laban is more concerned to prove that Jacob is a thief and liar than admitting his own need to repent and give his heart to God. Rachel is more concerned with sitting on false security in idols than in trusting in God. Jacob just wants to get out from under Laban’s bullying influence and finds deceptive means to to try to help God. The angelic host must be killing themselves with laughter at the standoff but horrified by the human capacity for deceiving themselves. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

GETTING RID OF THE OLD COBWEBS

Robert Zoellick says “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” The Bible says that the wages of sin always leads to a spiritual death sentence without God’s grace (Romans 3:23,24).

Genesis 31 speaks of the tangled web of self-deceit. The invitation God gives us is to admit our ridiculous pretence. Jacob, Rachel and Laban all have the opportunity to trust in God. 

The nature of trust compels us to confront our self-deceit. It does not sneak away from problems, lay blame on others or trust in false security but declares God’s purposes, inviting us to come freely and choose to refuse being entrapped by our circumstances. It is being open and honest with God, allowing Him to clear away the cobwebs (Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13). 

Security, responsibility, trust, words of life, and truth in life are found in a loving relationship with Christ (John 14:6). He died for my sin so that I could be clean and forgiven and live life to my full potential (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:22-29 – THE MATADOR OF HEAVEN

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The spectacle of Spain has been transported to the hill country of Gilead. There may be many historic bullfighting venues in Mexico but on this day all eyes are on this arena in Jordan (Genesis 31:21 NLT). 

The Matador, Jacob, has tried to evade the horns of Laban, but today he has no choice as he turns to face his opponent, eyes wide with fear. Jacob has always sidestepped fighting but this time his escape from the ring has only attracted the attention of this bull of a man. Laban has been taunted to charge. “So he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with Jacob … in the hill country of Gilead” (Genesis 31:23 NLT).

The trumpets sound. Jacob would prefer to be at the stairway chapel, where God offered him a promise of protection, but now although he has no particular style, technique or courage, he has been thrust into the arena.

Jacob the matador is unaware that he is distinguished by the gold of his traje de luces (“suit of lights”), clothed in the assurance of God’s covenant. He can see Laban’s picador sons and servants entering the ring on horseback armed with the vara (lances), and he perceives they are not for the bull. Laban the bull is cruel, and Jacob suffers severe stress as he begins this encounter.

Over the years Jacob has observed the behaviour and quirks of Laban the bull. More reason to be afraid. Trembling, the red cape of his integrity (muleta) seems hardly defence enough as the bull snorts and kicks up the dust with his feet, preparing to make his run. Laban is enraged and restless as Jacob now stands alone to confront him.

The horns of Laban’s power glint in the sun. His authority has been challenged and he is committed to charge in and win back his control by force. Motivated by malice he moves with all his muscle in unrelenting haste, pounding the earth with his very presence toward Jacob. He is determined that Jacob’s devious actions will be met with his malevolence. Jacob has already reaped some lessons from his deceptiveness but now he can expect punishing instruction from Laban’s spite.

Jacob is a reluctant matador. Will he lose his resolve? Will he face his fears with dignity and respect? Will he stand up to Laban? He has had 10 days of looking over his shoulder before his worst dream is realized.

Laban the bull is released into the arena where Jacob stands unarmed and totally unprepared for the corrida, or fight. If not for the Bullfighter of heaven, Jacob would be at some risk of being gored or trampled but, in reality, Laban, for all his rhetoric, has been greatly weakened already.

Because of his bungling attempts at trying to help God out with His promises, Jacob has already received a succession of serious interventions to stay the hand of harm. Jacob’s family seems to have a history of bullfighting mediations (Genesis 12:17; 20:3-7). During Laban’s intense pursuit of Jacob, God once again intervenes by interrupting Laban’s sleep with a dream filled with dread, “I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” (Genesis 31:24 NLT).

Laban resigns himself against harming Jacob but not to be dissuaded, he proceeds with a verbal goring. He is outraged that Jacob would even think of challenging him. “What do you mean by stealing away like this?” 

Intent on destroying Jacob’s character Laban launches his tactical retaliatory strike, the hot stinking breath snorting directly in Jacob’s face at his first tanda (pass). Laban demands “How dare you drag my daughters away like prisoners of war? Laban has treated his daughters as saleable commodities and so to accuse Jacob of treating them as prisoners of war is a bit hollow.

It is Laban who is the unworthy adversary, yet he parades himself bullfaced amidst pomp and pageantry, with his supporters at hand. It is unusual for the bull to have his own cuadrilla (“entourage”). The picador sons have prepared him with their discontent and stand by for the charge. A series of tandas, or “series” of passes are made, each frighteningly close.

“Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you steal away? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly!” (Genesis 31:27-28 NLT).  

All valid questions. His aggressive cross-examination of Jacob is designed to bring shame and keep Jacob off balance. His indignation runs deep with jealous rage and he is determined to shake Jacob’s confidence by challenging his integrity with each tanda. 

This is not a father simply wanting to say goodbye to his daughters but an enraged, aggressive and belligerent adversary seeking to get revenge, to ruin Jacob’s reputation, to manipulate, slander and assault Jacob.

A master of character assassination by interrogation, Laban, leaves out the vital facts that would explain Jacob’s action. Jacob is a monster who has robbed his daughters and grandchildren of a farewell celebration. How selfish! How thoughtless! He claims to have integrity and virtuous intentions. He is the noble and good father and grandfather whose only concern is for his family. Not!

It is all Jacob’s fault. Laban plays the part of the innocent victim of a terrible subterfuge. He plays the martyr like a bull parading as a ballerina. This family tyrant subtly maligns Jacob’s character while trying to parade as a saint. Laban is a self-righteous bully trying to give the impression that he loves his family despite his neglect and cruel games over the last 20 years.

Do you feel guilty yet, Jacob? Jacob, you have broken up the family! You are a coward matador with no cuadrilla for support. Now comes the clincher, “I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!’” (Genesis 31:29 NLT). Despite his vehemence and false offendedness, Laban is helpless to do anything to Jacob except berate him. There will be no goring from Laban’s horns this time.

Who or what is the bully in your life standing between you and the promises of God? What charges does the devil use against you as you make your stand in the ring? What are you holding onto that attracts a spiritual battle like a red rag to a bull? Listen to the promises of the Matador of Heaven not the snorting passes of the bull. Christ invites you to trust Him in the midst of the fray. He has faced the bullying taunts of the enemy before. Enter the ring as once again His whispers from the chapel shout to you in the ring “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. … I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-21 – EXODUS, GODS AND KINGS

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

When my wife, Julie, mentioned to a lady that we have been married for 40 years, she was so amazed and happy for us. She was horrified, however, when she discovered that we had seen “The Exodus” on our Anniversary. She said “Didn’t you find it a bit dark?” It took Julie a while to realise that she was thinking of “the Exorcist”, a very different genre.

I’m old enough to remember the version with Charles Heston as Moses and Yul Brunner as Rameses, so Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton came as quite a surprise when we saw “Exodus, gods and kings.”

Great movie and I liked the twist when God turns up as a child, although as the story progressed it was clear that this was not the God of the Exodus. God is central to the story of the Exodus in the Bible, but this thundercloud child only turns up at odd times throughout Ridley’s story, and like many slighted children he wants to hit back. The difference is that he has unfettered power to back up his cruel outbursts. Is this the Exodus or the Exorcist?

Since no-one but Moses can see him, there is speculation that the boy is probably the result of an hallucination. Did Moses sustain a brain injury when a rock hit him during a landslide on God’s mountain? We are left wondering. Is this really the way Ridley Scott sees followers of Christ?

A shadow of Exodus turns up in Jacob’s flight from Laban.

“I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, the place where you anointed the pillar of stone and made your vow to me. Now get ready and leave this country and return to the land of your birth’” (Genesis 31:13 NLT).

Jacob has signed the contract, agreed to the value statement, not at the burning bush but at the pillar of stone where he saw a stairway to heaven. He had slept on a stone but just in case you were wondering, was not hit by one coming down the steps (Genesis 28:10-22).

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he has acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives … they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving … heading for the hill country of Gilead.” (Genesis 31:16-21 NLT). Laban had no idea. Once again Jacob employs trickery to get out of town. God had told him to go but what was Jacob thinking by not telling Laban?

Jacob gives precedent to his descendant Moses. This journey proves to be the beginning of the great escape, a mini Exodus. He’s on trend, but Jacob, unlike Moses, refuses to go face to face with his Pharaoh. The Exodus will take place big time down the track with millions of people, but here is a model of it, a preview, a taste, the rough sketches of it in the life of Jacob. He is to escape into the Promised Land with a mini Pharaoh hot on his tail (Genesis 15:13-16).

In Jacob’s exodus God doesn’t appear as a precocious child dictating his anger in ugly ways. Instead it is Laban who plays the part of a childish brat who wants revenge for being tricked. In Jacob’s exodus, a loving God bids Jacob to appropriate His promises and come under his protection (Genesis 28:15).

Of course, 1,300 years after the Exodus with Moses, God does become a boy, born in a manger, sent as an initiative of God’s love (Matthew 2:1). Ridley Scott’s boy god is far from the image of Christ and filled with spiteful vengeance. 

In His love God sends a Saviour, who invites us throughout the Bible to respond to Him. The same God who saves a baby in a boat basket of papyrus reeds (Exodus 2:3), sends a baby born in a remote manger to bring salvation to His people (John 3:16). He offers escape from the slavery of a sin ravaged world to find freedom in the promise of forgiveness to those who believe and trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:6-16 – HOW TO MAINTAIN A VICTIM MENTALITY

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

I AM A VICTIM

For over 20 years he has agreed to play the part of the victim. He is now trapped, his wheels condemned to running in the ruts of Laban’s tracks, with only limited influence over the direction of his life, especially his work situation.

I DESERVE SYMPATHY

For many years he has experienced the loss of vision believing that he has been harmed, the object of an injustice which initially violated his rights to marry the person he desired and then to make a living for his family. In his eyes he deserves sympathy. He has worked hard and has been cheated and lied to in return.

I BLAME OTHERS

In Genesis 31:6-7 (NLT) Jacob complains to his wives “You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times…” He blames Laban but Jacob has also acquiesced, passively accepting the demands of a bully.

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE

Until now he fails to take responsibility for his own actions. His paranoia that Laban is the source of all his failure is a form of negativity that has kept him focused on the problems. In the end he has been a victim by choice, behaving as if it was his destiny that dealt him a disservice.

Laban had wronged him in all kinds of ways and of course Jacob can recall them all in detail to his wives (Genesis 31:5-6). This tape has been running in his head for years. It has been part of the soundtrack of being a victim. It is always someone else’s fault; Esau, his father, Laban, Laban’s sons, his wives. Everywhere he turns something goes wrong and there’s always someone else to blame. Laban deceived him. Laban changed his wages 10 times.

JOIN ME IN MY MISERY

As he talks with his wives they also begin to focus on the problems. He plays the martyr. Misery loves company and his wives start to play the game. They can also see the blameworthiness of their father and they are indignant. Laban is out to get them also.

In Genesis 31:15-16 (NLT) Jacob’s wives say “He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us. All the wealth God has given you from our father legally belongs to us and our children….”

Will Jacob continue to engineer opportunities and attitudes in his own life to ensure that he will remain a victim? He has been stuck for so long that he is not sure what it will look like to fly. An intelligent innovator, nothing is really holding Jacob back except his fear of Laban and his victim mentality.

I SET MYSELF UP TO BE A VICTIM

I wonder if Jacob was secretly hoping Laban would come after him and validate that he was a victim (Genesis 31:22-28). Perhaps then he can retaliate and give Laban some of his own medicine or become locked again into being bullied by Laban. “Life is so unfair! Why does it always keep happening to me?” What would he do without Laban to dictate what happens in his life? 

By not telling Laban of his plans to leave, he is inviting trouble and provoking punitive action. Rachel helps by taking one of the household gods just to make sure there’s a possibility of failure and subconsciously sabotage their success. She can always blame Jacob for wanting to leave and she knows it’s a way of hurting her father.

Are they really ready to break free from their self-destructive cycle? Are you? If Jacob decides to act on what God has said what would it look like in their lives? What will it look like in yours?

Genesis 31:1-18 – HOW TO OVERCOME A VICTIM MENTALITY 

“Focusing is about saying No” (Steve Jobs).

I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

In Genesis 31:3,5 (NLT) the Lord says to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.” Jacob says to his wives “God of my father has been with me.” His speech is now peppered with hope. His wives agree “So go ahead and do whatever God has told you.”

Laban is a bully but in the end it is Jacob who has been responsible for his own disappointment. In Genesis 31:7-9 (NLT) Jacob admits that “God has not allowed him to do me any harm.” He says to his wives “God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.” He’s not talking about stealing them but about the success of building up his own livestock in the deals he has made with Laban.

It’s no longer Laban’s fault. Nor is it the fault of Laban’s sons who are criticising him and lying about him (Genesis 31:1,2). He doesn’t have to be a victim anymore. There are no excuses left. No deceptive defences, nowhere to go but towards God’s promise. He has been blessed whether he likes it or not.

20 years have passed and he is getting old. There is no more room for self-pity. He will take responsibility for his life and family or continue to drown in his sorrows.

I BELIEVE IN GOD’S PROMISE

God gives us a choice to really live, and invites us all to take responsibility and move toward our destiny. God will not be Jacob’s rescuer in the sense of doing it all for him, but will give him the perspective of eternity so that he can make some decisions and not stagnate in his own misery. He is spiritually dysfunctional until he takes action to leave.

I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM

Taking responsibility will mean he loses the fringe benefits credit card that comes free for everyone applying to be a victim. He has to hand in his licence to feel sorry for himself and he won’t be able to cash in on sympathy and offers of help from others anymore. “I am a victim of a bully! Can’t you feel sorry for me?” won’t cut it in the promised land. Will he continue making deals with Laban the Abuser instead of taking the opportunities God presents to him?

There will be no excuse left for not pursuing God’s promises. Nowhere to hide anymore. No-one to blame, no avoidance from taking a risk. This time instead of his mother it is up to him to be the hero who rescues himself and his family. They will have to abandon victimhood.

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives (Genesis 31:17-18).

I INVITE YOU ON MY JOURNEY

The invitation Jacob gives us is to throw off martyrhood and uncover the mystery of our identity, to throw off the yoke of slavery and find our independence. God has given us His promises but He is not going to simply hand it to us on a plate. We will have to take responsibility and be proactive to appropriate His promises by faith. There may be a few anxious moments along the way. 

Being honest with myself doesn’t come easy. It wasn’t easy for Jacob. But God has empowered him with a promise which demands he gives up being a victim. 

When he faces Laban there must come a sense of letting go of the resentment, any feelings of revenge, and consider forgiveness. They will need to come to some kind of agreement to make it work (Genesis 31:44-55). 

He is now on an adventure and who knows where it will lead. Will Laban come after him? Will victimhood pursue him? Will it pursue you? How can I give up being a victim? The death and resurrection of Christ is the supreme example of how to appropriate victory over victimhood. I choose to die to Victimhood and live to the Creative journey of life and purpose by embracing Christ as my Lord and Saviour. His victory becomes mine. I am a Victor not a Victim.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:35-43 – RICH DAD RICH KIDS

Speckled Bark. Image by Ross Cochrane.

Speckled Bark. Image by Ross Cochrane.

It’s almost as if Robert Kiyosaki, author of the best-selling book Rich Dad Poor Dad, has been reading God’s business plan for Jacob. I can almost hear him saying to Jacob, “Sooner or later you will have to learn that the moral lesson of your rat-race work-life demands that you become more an entrepreneur than simply an employee. Putting wealth into Laban’s hands with little or nothing to show isn’t what is intended for you. You are intended for blessing, and to be a blessing. You were not destined for exploitation by a greedy and corrupt uncle.”

God invites Jacob, and me, to take the risk of faith rather than be pushed around by life. He always has! We stay where we are unless we make opportunities by taking a risk. But not just any risk. A blatant opportunist who has taken careless risks all his life, Jacob is about to develop a faith literacy and be schooled in honesty rather than take the path that comes so easily to him – deceit and taking advantage of others.

Jacob is working for his uncle to pay off a 14-year-old debt, accumulated by the acquisition of his wives through a shonky business deal. He has no asset base for financial security. Jacob’s assets are not to be found the vague promises from a deceitful man who won’t pay him a wage.

How do you build your asset base? Kiyosaki would say “Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, income producing real estate, notes, and royalties from intellectual property.” Jacob chooses stock because it’s all he understands and he’s been in bonds to his uncle for far too long. He’s still taking notes on royalty and intellect as God invites him to come under His authority and wisdom. God will awaken the financial intelligence inside him, although His method is a little unorthodox.

In order for him to secure all that God plans for him he has to have new ideas. He is still teachable, so he takes a course on faith – buys the latest videos and books, attends the seminars on what God is saying – well OK, maybe not videos, books and seminars, but he knows that he will have to own God’s promises rather than simply wait for Laban to pay him.

His assets are his faith and his family, so he starts to develop a plan for investing in the secure promises of God, minimal risk to Laban, but maximum opportunity for Jacob and his menagerie of wives and children. Honest accounting and investing; he hasn’t tried that before. So he makes a new deal with his uncle – “I’ll look after your flock of plain coloured animals but keep any new-born speckled animals to build my own flock.” His uncle agrees. Plain coloured animals normally produce plain coloured animals. How can Laban lose?

But then Jacob gets weird… Although this seems such an odd thing to do I can only suppose that God is in it… Jacob strips away some of the bark of tree branches and exposes the inner wood in stripes and places them in the drinking troughs as if this will make a difference in producing striped and speckled animals? (Genesis 30:37-39). Now I’m tempted to say Jacob has reverted to superstition, but I know, God does some weird things with branches and rods and staffs (Exodus). A branch makes an axe head float in 2 Kings 6. Moses’ staff becomes a snake in Exodus 4:14 and was used in other miraculous events. Aaron’s rod budded and was included in the ark of the Covenant as a reminder for faith (Hebrews 9:4). God used a bronze snake on a pole in the wilderness as a symbol for expressing healing faith (Numbers 21:6-9).

Does God use the chemicals from the stripped branches in the troughs to change the DNA of Jacob’s breeders? I doubt it. If nothing else, these branches serve as a symbol of faith for Jacob and a witness to Laban, even if it doesn’t do anything for the sheep. Could it be whenever Jacob sees them he prays for speckled sheep? When the sheep look at them they ignore them, drink the water and mate and do what sheep do. There’s no magic or superstition here, just an opportunity for the outworking of a miracle.

So Jacob becomes very wealthy, with large flocks of sheep and goats, male and female servants, and many camels and donkeys, even if they are a motley bunch. You won’t find “Stripping bark from branches” in a chapter of any of Robert Kiyosaki latest get rich books. In Genesis 31:5 (NLT) Jacob says “… the God of my father has been with me.” (see also Genesis 31:10-13). 

Philippians 4:19 NLT invites us to understand that “… this same God … will supply all your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Rich Dad Rich Kids.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:25–35 -PLEASE RELEASE ME, LET ME GO! 

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

I hear the old long-playing (LP) record droning on even today, and my Dad’s voice singing above it, “Please release me, let me go…To waste our lives would be a sin…” I watched my Dad waste his life in work that promised him a management position but kept him waiting on meagre wages until he was too old to care.

Jacob wants out. He says to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country.” Home to my own country. I have a promise to pursue. Let me explore it’s implications before I am too old to care.

Laban is a wealthy business person but spiritually bankrupt. God and Jacob are his good luck charms. As God unfolds His truth and reveals His character even to Laban, Laban understands it only through the eyes of potential fortune. “Please listen to me,” Laban replies. “I have become wealthy, for the Lord has blessed me because of you. Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it” (Genesis 30:27-28 NLT). 

So you finally admit it. All of a sudden you want to get generous and give me what is owed. No, old man. It won’t work. Not this time. You don’t want me to stay because I am your much-loved Son-in-law, husband to your daughters. All you want is to accumulate more wealth. Watch it uncle, your greed is showing.

Jacob is willing to leave with nothing. The promises of God are more reliable than yours, uncle. All my life I have heard my mother, my father, you and your daughters persuading me to be involved in your plans for my life. I have played the part of a deceiver and been deceived. I have always felt like a sheep in a pack of wolves, but this old lost wether is not willing to be taken by you this time. I have already worked for you for fourteen years, Laban. But I have heard the voice of the Shepherd calling me home, words of destiny in the silence of my heart. If I stay it will be at the request of His voice alone.

“Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care.” This is business language and he still speaks of his wives as the commodity that he has earned by his work for Laban. Not a romantic bone in his body. You’ve had a good deal. I’ve got Rachel even though you tricked me. We are even. Now feel a little pain yourself. Maybe even enough pain to agree to a deal before I go.

“You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT).

“What wages do you want?” Laban asks again. (Genesis 30:31 NLT).Finally, old man. I knew you would get to a deal, but this time you’ll have to do things my way even though one day you may wish you had let me go. “Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. Here’s the deal, uncle. Take it or leave it. “Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. …” (Genesis 30:32 NLT) Let them be a part of a different flock and take them away to be looked after by your men.

Let’s start with a clean slate; with a flock that consists of only single coloured animals. Let me look after that flock. Most of the sheep are pure white and most of the goats a dark chocolate-brown. You’ll get a good deal, uncle. You can keep all your existing flocks. But this time there’ll be no room for deception. No cheating! So uncle, here’s the deal. I get all those born from your pure, plain coloured flocks that are spotted and speckled as well as any black sheep that are born from your flock (Genesis 30:32). “Give these to me as my wages. In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.” Take the deal! I’ll trust God and you trust in your greed. 

“All right,” Laban replies. “It will be as you say.” Jacob, you’re a fool. What are you trying to do? You know that plain sheep produce far more plain coloured animals than speckled ones. You’ll only end up with a few animals, if any. You really will need some divine intervention. So Jacob and God go into partnership.

“Please release me, let me go … to waste our lives would be a sin” (Engelbert Humperdink). The story of Jacob invites me to be released from my own deception and the sin that so easily entraps me and to make a fresh start. We are to be released from wasting our lives and from allowing others to govern our lives instead of God. We are to take the risk of faith with nothing but hard work in our hands, and live in the expectation that God “is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT). “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all Your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:2-20 – LOVE STORY OR DYSFUNCTIONAL SOAP OPERA?

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Love Story or Dysfunctional Soap Opera. Image created by Ross Cochrane

A beautiful shepherd woman runs to tell her father of the stranger, a distant relative, who has arrived in Haran. He has greeted her with a customary kiss at the well. It is an event that will alter the course of her life.

The covering stone on the well is too heavy to be moved by only one or two children, so when all the flocks have arrived, a number of shepherd boys, helping each other, will be able to move the stone on the well. It seems that Rachel is the young adult who guides proceedings here on her father’s behalf. Laban is an influential businessman in the district and her flocks are always watered first.

Because of his age, and especially because he knows Laban, the young shepherd boys treat Jacob with respect, and Jacob is able to help them by moving the stone himself just as Rachel’s flock arrives. He’s doing alright for a 75 year old who has just walked for over 700 km! (Genesis 29:2-11).

Is this the well where Rebekah’s life had been changed forever? Rachel and her sister Leah have heard the story of how Rebekah married a man she had never seen, a relative from far away. Laban has told them of the riches a servant had brought from Isaac for the hand of his sister (Genesis 24 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-aR ). Is it happening again?

Laban is more than happy to entertain his sister’s son, Jacob. And happier still to hear Jacob’s story because Jacob is also here to find a wife and will one day inherit Isaac’s fortune (Genesis 27-28 – http://wp.me/pLiNz-mi ). A lucrative plan of deceit is already forming in Laban’s mind. For now he will embrace Jacob as his own son (Genesis 29:13).

If he is to stay, Jacob knows he must broker a deal. Custom gives him the option of working as a slave would for 7 years, knowing that he will not leave empty handed when his service is completed (Deuteronomy 15:12-13), so after a month, when Laban offers Jacob to name his own wage, Jacob proposes to work for Rachel’s hand in marriage (Genesis 29:15).

There is no mention of Jacob asking the Lord about whom he should marry or for that matter of him asking Rachel. How does she feel about marrying a man who will be in his 80’s by that time (Yes, I know they lived longer in those days, but still..!). It seems Rachel is much younger than Leah. Leah is obviously more Jacob’s age, but all he sees is that “There is no sparkle in Leah’s eyes, but Rachel has a beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17). Isn’t there more to choosing a wife than this? I wonder what Rachel thinks of him?

Without even asking Rachel, Laban agrees to paying Jacob’s “wages”, and two dysfunctional men broker a deal more akin to the trafficking of women than to marriage. They are treating Rachel like a commodity. It seems Jacob is still trying to manipulate God’s will for his life.

(Leah and Rachel know that they are being bought like slaves. Later, when they are considering running away from Laban, they say “Are we not considered by him as foreigners? For he has SOLD us,…” Genesis 31:15 NASB). 

Jacob is determined to get what he wants by trading his work for her. “So Jacob worked seven years to pay for Rachel. But his love for her was so strong that it seemed to him but a few days” (Genesis 29:20 NLT). I wonder how long it seemed for Rachel and whether his “love” was reciprocated or whether her love for him was as strong? Is this a love story or dysfunctional soap opera? I can hear the Beatles song playing in the distance; “Money can’t buy me love” but Jacob is not listening. 

Jesus, the descendant of Jacob also paid a price for a bride with His work on the Cross, but unlike Jacob He paid the price for our sin. Dying for us was His ultimate expression of love for us, but rather than entrapping us or forcing us to respond, He opens the door to freedom by removing the barrier that separates us from Him. You are free to choose whether or not to respond to His love. 

Pastor Ross

PS I see this story through Western eyes and the customs of the East are a puzzle to me, especially this kind of arranged marriage, yet the story here which is so often presented as the great love story seems flawed to me. I love how the Bible makes no judgment but presents the story as it is and leaves us to find what God is saying to us. Much of the details are not given and as this is a devotional blog, I have added my own thoughts (conjecture) about the details of the story in an effort to understand it more clearly and would encourage the reader to explore Genesis 29 themselves.