GENESIS 31:1 – 33:20 and MATTHEW 9:1–38
In the first 3 verses we see that Laban’s other sons hear of Jacob’s departure. They inform their father that he took all of his goods and glory. Naturally, Laban was not happy and determined to deal with Jacob accordingly. Once again we see the intervention of God on behalf of one of the patriarchs. He tells Jacob to return to the land of his kindred and that he will be with him. God later intervenes by warning Laban in verse 24 not to do Jacob harm. This tempered Laban’s response once he became reacquainted with Jacob. In verses 4-16 Jacob reviews the dealing he has had with their (Rachel and Leah’s) father.
Please note verses 7 and 41. Jacob makes mention of Laban changing his wages 10 times. The number 10 has interesting meanings. It speaks of the Law (10 Commandments) but it also can refer to trials. The children of Israel were tested 10 times in the wilderness where they failed every test.
“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice” (Num 14:22).
Since they failed the previous 9 trials in the wilderness they were inclined to fail the 10th and biggest test of all. Speaking of Egypt there were 10 plagues that God brought upon Pharaoh yet he still did not hearken to God via Moses. How about Daniel and his three friends?
“Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink” (Dan 1:12).
In this case they passed the test by separating themselves from the kings table while seeking the face of the Lord in prayer and fasting. The result was wisdom, knowledge and understanding that far exceeded the so called wise men of their day. There was a ten day (testing) period from the time Jesus ascended into heaven till the Holy Spirit appeared at Pentecost. In those 10 days many who bore witness to the Lord’s resurrection were not part of the 120 in the upper room. There is one more example I would like to cite which helps affirm this truth. In the days of Jeremiah there was a man named Johanan who was seeking the Word of the Lord from the prophet. Like today, so many want to hear a prophetic word. Jeremiah, a true prophet made clear that he would seek God on their behalf. Here was their response:
“Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God” (Jer 42:6).
In verse 7 we find that after 10 days the Word came to Jeremiah. We find later that they did not heed the Word which essentially stated that they were to submit to Babylon and not seek refuge in Egypt. This was not what they wanted to hear so they disobeyed. Here is the eventual judgement that resulted.
“Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die” (Jer 42:16).
I have seen this happen in so many different ways through the years with tragic results. Jacob was deceived in many areas while serving under his Uncle Laban. This environment allowed the deceitful nature within him to be fleshed out and purged. That is the fruit of Babylon. This is why God allows for such experiences in the lives of his people. This is why the Lord can say that His thoughts are towards us for good (Jer 29:11). Jacob learned to submit under his Uncle’s wiles resulting in him growing in spiritual stature. This is why God intervened on his behalf and why God allowed Jacob’s ways to prosper in the end.
In verse 19 we find Rachel stealing one of her father’s idols. Why would she do such a thing? Both Leah and Rachel had unfavorable opinions regarding their father. They too were victimized by his deceit. (Verses 14-16) Perhaps Rachel felt justified in stealing some of her father’s idols since her father left them no real inheritance. The idol was missed and was soon sought after when Laban made his pursuit of Jacob. In fact, Laban more than likely felt justified in approaching Jacob in an aggressive manner because of the perceived theft. In any case Laban was not able to find the missing idol while undergoing the search. Jacob was outraged in being accused in theft. He made a strong declaration of what would be done if any such theft occurred. (Verse 32) I believe God allowed Jacob to be a covering here for Rachel.
The question could be asked as to why then would God judge Israel when Achan took from the camp in Joshua 7? Why was Ananias and Saphira judged so harshly in holding back part of the purchase price? (Acts 5:3) In the above examples it was at the forefront of a fresh and significant move of God. In the latter case it was a lie to the Holy Spirit, especially since Satan was the one who put it into their heart. I feel God intervened on behalf of Jacob here and allowed for the idol to go undiscovered. Whether it is related or not we later find that Rachel died tragically at the birth of Benjamin. Laban did eventually overtake Jacob and threw some verbal jabs his way. (vs 36-42) In the end an altar was established and Laban and Jacob departed from each other amicably. (vs 44-55)
Another intervention of God is seen here as we see angels being sent to protect and look after Jacob. You see God’s providential ability to keep His own in Psa 91, Zeph 2:3 and other places throughout scripture. God intervenes in our lives far more than we realize. In some cases it may seem obvious while at others times more subtle. When Rebekah initially conspired to have Jacob deceive Isaac she felt that there would be a mere period of weeks (at the most) that Jacob would need to be separated from Esau. It is now 20 years later. In verses 1-23 we see the apprehensions and fear that Jacob had as he is now about to see his brother after so long a period of time. Jacob had just finished an uncertain encounter with Laban (Gen 31) and now was preparing for another with Esau. The angels were there to encourage and assure him. Another key verse is seen in Gen 32:10. Mercy and Truth are again seen as Jacob is now about to pass through the land of his brother Esau.
Before Jacob sees Esau he has an encounter with God Himself. (Verses 24-32) Jacob was sojourning in the pathway that God had ordained. He is now separated from Laban which served as his personal Babylon after serving him faithfully for 20 years. He is now about to see his brother Esau after obtaining his birthright and being part of the deception that denied him the blessing from his father Isaac. What will happen here? Does Esau still maintain a grudge after 20 years?
Before Jacob reunites with Esau he first meets God in a unique way. The meeting place is called Peniel. Peniel means “face of God” so it’s clear that it’s God whom Jacob is encountering. In verses 24-26 both Jacob and God are wrestling with one another. Who could win a wrestling match with God? Yet, we see that “the man” could not prevail against Jacob. In fact, (this man) expresses his desire for Jacob to let him go as the day breaks. To me this is a profound truth that is playing out. God could not prevail against the will of Jacob. I feel Jacob recognized an opportunity, a defining moment that he was not about to let go of. He experienced favor in his separation from Laban. He was desperate to not let this moment pass without being blessed by God. Perhaps he had an understanding what was happening around him. Perhaps he recognized that Mercy and Truth was indeed going before him.
What is amazing is that God does not prevail against the will of Jacob. Who is greater than God? Absolutely no one, but we see him limiting Himself in this encounter with Jacob. God does not supersede or go against our will, or the choices that we make. He can help us to make right choices by paving our respective paths with mercy and truth. The objective is that we flow in harmony with God’s will and pleasure. At the same time we can never presume upon God’s mercy. Our lives must be pleasing to God.
Rom 9:15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
The first Revelation that Moses had of God while upon Mt. Sinal was that of The Lord God Merciful (Exo 34:6). This was the result of a deep cry in the heart of Moses where he stated his desire to be shown God’s ways and glory (Exo 33:13, 18). God touched the strength, a stronghold in the life of Jacob during this encounter. And since Jacob was not going to let go of God until he received a blessing; the Lord initiates an interesting and profound question. “What is your name?” (vs 27) In the same verse Jacob responds by saying “I am Jacob”. He was not responding with a mere name but responding regarding a nature. He was confessing that he was a deceiver and supplanter. There it is! God is now getting to the root of the stronghold that plagued Jacob and that plagued the household of Laban and Rebekah which was the root that was utilized in obtaining the promise via manipulation. In this encounter God was bringing to the surface who Jacob really was. He did not hide from it but rather acknowledged who he was. At such times many would seek to cover up, hide or make excuse when God seeks to put the spotlight upon us. God touched this stronghold within him as evidenced by touching the “hollow of his thigh”. (vs 25) This is how God is able to get to the root areas of strongholds in our life. If God were to bring us to a certain place and ask us our name, would we be able to acknowledge the truth?
The thought of the paths of Mercy and Truth (Psa 25:10) again comes into play here. (Gen 32:10) It also can be seen in another verse.
Pro 16:6 By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
Jacob was in this path and while in it experiences a purging and deliverance from this stronghold of deceit. He is now given a new name; the name of Israel now signifies a new authority with both God and man. (vs 28). This encounter now prepares him for the reunion he is about to have with Esau. This chapter began with Esau making preparations in again seeing his brother. The angels of God surrounded him as he is led to Peniel where he sees God in the face of the man he wrestled with. Jacob has clearly experienced God’s favor in so many ways that he cannot help but be encouraged as he heads towards Esau. By the way, perhaps I should have included the next verse from Proverbs as seen above.
Pro 16:7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
God is so good! Now it is onwards to see Esau.
This chapter portrays the reunion between Jacob and Esau. We see many protocols implemented as Jacob draws near to his brother where he seeks to find favor. God graciously paved the way for an amicable time between both families. God honored the path that Jacob took through the twenty plus years since he last saw his brother. True, there were heartaches, disappointments and all kinds of frustration but there is no denying the mercies of which Jacob was a beneficiary of during that period.
Captivities are never easy but they do have an end, an expected end (Jer 29:11) provided we walk circumspectly before God. What an expected end for Jacob. He was able to depart peaceably from his Uncle Laban, enriched in having his wives, families and livestock. He then had an encounter with God whereby his name was changed from Jacob to Israel thus signifying a new authority and favour with both God and man. Now he is prepared to meet his brother and when he does all is well.
A latter day anointing that we need to strive for is found as a quality in Jacob. (“…for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”) You find a similar anointing upon Samuel as was growing up.
1Sa 2:26 “And the child Samuel grew on, and was in favour both with the LORD, and also with men”.
The same was said concerning the Lord Himself.
Luk 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man”.
When our lives are pleasing to the Lord we have that ability to be in favor with both men and God. This does not suggest compromise with man but rather being brought before people of influence who can be utilized to accommodate God’s purpose and plan. You see this with Ezra (Ezr 7:6, 21). You also see this with Nehemiah (Neh 2:4). Let’s close with a verse that seems to keep repeating in our study.
Psa 25:10 All the paths of the LORD are mercy and truth unto such as keep his covenant and his testimonies.
The key is in the keeping of the Lord’s covenant and testimonies. We will look at the Law in more detail a bit later.
The Lord continues His ministry of healing through the first 8 verses. There is a bit of a twist now as he couples the healing with the message of being able to forgive sins (vs 2). He knew this would provoke a response among some of the group that was gathered, specifically the religious minded ones. There is an added development that may have become a concern to Jesus. He was becoming more popular than ever. This was also seen in the previous chapter. The question needs to be asked. Why was Jesus popular? The signs, wonders and miracles certainly would explain much of this. We need to honestly ask the same question to ourselves. Why do we serve the Lord? What is our true motive for following him?
In verses 9-13 we see Jesus calling out a certain publican (Matthew) to let go of what he was doing and come follow Him (vs 9). There are 18 accounts of those two words “Follow Me” that you find in the gospels. Each one warrants a study in of itself. It is a life changing moment; a time where a deliberate and costly decision is made to follow the Lord at a higher level. We saw this earlier with Peter, Andrew and John in Math 4. In this account the Lord is calling out Mathew, a non-religious figure. Secondly, he spends time amongst the publicans and sinners (vs 11). The gospel must penetrate the many woven fabrics of society. This helps ensure we do not get caught up in a comfort zone. If we follow the Lord for signs and wonders, serving him out of convenience only we will miss the mark and fall short of our life’s call. Jesus taught with authority as seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Mat 5-7). He then moved in a season of healings and miracles (Math 8-9). Now He is gaining in popularity and has multitudes around him. He shakes up the boat by calling out a publican to be a disciple while spending time amongst the sinners, ministering to their spiritual ill health. Jesus is becoming a bit more unpredictable in His approach to ministry. No doubt it is helping people to be shaken out of any potential comfort zones in their relating to the Lord. This all sets up well for what is about to come.
In verses 14-17 Jesus now addresses the need in becoming new wineskins. If there is any preconceived form of religion existent in his disciples it is about to be shattered by the remarks that Jesus makes. Here we see the disciples of John the Baptist coming to Jesus and asking as to why His disciples do not fast in the manner that they have been doing (vs 14). This is an enlightening moment. John the Baptist had a vibrant ministry during his brief time upon the earth. His ministry was prophesied of in the Old Testament and he was the one who had the message of preparing the way of the Lord. Jesus Himself stated that there was no other like John born among women (Math 11:11). We can assume that these men were faithful to John and very much a part of his work and ministry. The problem for them was being able to let go of an experience. John did not have this problem because he recognized the Lamb of God who was to take away the sin of the world when Jesus came before him at the river Jordan. “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
This can be a problem for many of us. There can be a tendency to hold on to bonafide experiences of the past without an ability to let go and partake of the new thing that God is about to do. One of the most quoted verses in the Old Testament is
Isa 43:19 . “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.”
We all love hearing about God doing something new and fresh. Shall ye not know it? Will we recognize the new wine when it is available? Will we be able to adapt to that new thing, to become a new wineskin so as to contain that precious work that the Lord is doing. An Old wineskin mentality will short-circuit God’s ability to accomplish His pleasure, especially in the days of which we live. John the Baptist was the man for that particular season and hour. The spotlight of heaven was upon him as he faithfully proclaimed the coming of the Lord.
Once the Lord came on the scene it opened up a whole new chapter of God’s plan. It required a letting go of that wonderful wineskin that represented John and his ministry and the ability to adapt to that new thing that God was doing through His Son Jesus Christ. John could let go and adapt (John 3:30) but apparently many of his disciples for whatever reason could not. It is worthy to look at the preceding verse of Isa 43:19.
Isa 43:18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
To embrace the new we have to let go of the old, to let go of things that may have worked previously but now is seen as an old wineskin, a wineskin incapable of being used for the new work God is about to do. We acknowledge the faithfulness of what God did in the past but we must not live in the past, living upon previous experiences. Living in past experiences or holding onto old wineskins is not the same as asking for the Old Paths, the truths and standards that anchor Christianity. There are absolutes that never change however there does need to be an ability to adapt and flow without compromising values. There is a danger in taking “new wine” to lengths that go beyond acceptable boundaries. Jer 6:16 Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein. We must know and understand the balance here.
After Jesus rocks their boat so to speak in challenging mind-sets and paradigms he again goes about the work of performing 5 extraordinary miracles. I feel the Lord needed to change their way of thinking by speaking on the subject of becoming new wineskins before going forth in demonstrations of powerful ministry. He was preparing them to be able to do the same thing. A good teacher will first be an example to his students before expecting them to go forth likewise. In verses 18-36 the Lord goes forth in the performing of 5 notable miracles. They are as follows:
1) Ruler’s daughter being raised from the dead (vs 18, 23-26)
2) Woman with issue of blood (vs 20-22)
3) Two blind men healed (vs 27-31)
4) Casting out of devils (deliverance) (vs 32-34)
5) All manner of sicknesses healed (vs 35)
Notice that the Lord was motivated by compassion as he saw the multitudes. This was covered when we looked at Math 8. When our hearts are full of compassion for people our effectiveness in ministry will speak for itself. In fact it is a fulfilment of the two greatest commandments.
Mat 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
Mat 22:38 This is the first and great commandment.
Mat 22:39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Mat 22:40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
If we fulfil the first great commandment the second one should flow naturally. Notice also the last two verses of Math 9. This is the declaration of the last day harvest that is now before us. We see the keys and means in how this can be achieved. Math 9 is a call to be taken out of our comfort zones and complacency; to become new wineskins so that we can be vessels that can demonstrate the power of the kingdom thus positioning us to be among those who can be effective labourers for this end time harvest.