God Talks to Sinners

When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, then he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him a distance of seven days’ journey, and he overtook him in the hill country of Gilead. God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream of the night and said to him, “Be careful that you do not speak to Jacob either good or bad.”

Laban caught up with Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen camped in the hill country of Gilead. Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done by deceiving me and carrying away my daughters like captives of the sword?

“Why did you flee secretly and deceive me, and did not tell me so that I might have sent you away with joy and with songs, with timbrel and with lyre; and did not allow me to kiss my sons and my daughters? Now you have done foolishly.

“It is in my power to do you harm, but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to speak either good or bad to Jacob.’

“Now you have indeed gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?” (Genesis 31:22-30)

God talks to sinners. Otherwise, he’d only be talking to himself. Laban was Jacob’s uncle and he was an idolater. He was also a scoundrel who had taken advantage of Jacob, cheating him repeatedly. His daughters knew what he was capable of, so his daughter Rachael, Jacob’s wife, had stolen the household idols when they ran away. How come? Because whoever held those idols was guaranteed to receive the inheritance. It was the equivalent of running off with Laban’s safe deposit box and his debit card. But of course it also meant that Laban, his daughters and even Jacob, being part of a polytheistic culture, still thought in terms of multiple gods, even as Jacob worshiped the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

The night before Laban caught up with the fleeing Jacob, God issued a warning: Laban could say nothing “good or bad” to him. That is, God prevented Laban from being able to pronounce either a curse or a blessing on his son-in-law. Such blessings and cursings were taken quite seriously by all involved. God protected Jacob by preventing anything bad from happening to him. God also prevented Jacob from thinking that the good that would follow in his life came from his idolatrous uncle—rather than from its true source: the God of Abraham and Isaac.

It is God who takes care of us. Nobody else.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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