Jacob – The Laban Process
Jacob 2 – The Laban Process
A Study in Genesis 29
I’d like to continue with the story of Jacob.
You will remember last week we looked at Jacob’s ladder – the main point I wanted to leave with you was that God loves you not because you are good, God loves you because he is good. He makes a covenant with Jacob based on the character of God, not on the character of Jacob.
I want to take up from that place because it is not saying that our characters do not matter. Today’s talk I have labelled the Laban Process, and I am speaking into the way in which God fulfils his promise to us, not by disregarding our character, but by lovingly shaping it. Let me quote the work of God directly: Ephesians 2:10 :
“For we are God’s workmanship (ESV) (or handiwork, or even “masterpiece” in other translations) , created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
We make choices. We journey with God on a life of blessings and challenges. If we allow God to shape us, we grow. As we resist that truth, in pride and defensiveness, we shrink. We can become better, or we can become bitter. The Laban Process is a name I give to that journey of choices.
Why me ?
Why do things happen to us? We all ask that question and the answer will be shaped by our picture of God, as well as shaping that picture. What do you think God is like?
You may think:
• God punishing me – the picture here is a “vengeful” or angry God ad a strict rule book
• There is no reason at all – this is the absent God who is not concerned with what happens
• It’s the Devil – a somewhat powerless God who doesn’t care or can’t combat evil
There are may such explanations but what about the loving Father? This is the picture of God where He does not shield you from experience but redeems what we go through to form our character into the person He really made. This is us as God’s workmanship, and Him as the potter, shaping us like clay.
Jacob falls in love with Rachel. He can’t just have her so he works for her (ignore the cultural stuff here) and then he is cheated by Laban. So he works seven more years – 14 in all – for something he might have had straightaway.
What most needs to change in Jacob is his reliance on himself and his intelligence and scheming – his very name means “supplanter” or trickster. He also needs to learn that he can’t just have what he wants – there are rules, customs ad traditions, and there is God.
So, in addressing the thing in Jacob that most needs to change, God allows Jacob to experience a dose of his own medicine – he is tricked, deceived, ad made to work. As he does so he is exposed to character forming forces :
• His is exposed to patience – waiting for what he wants
• He is exposed to labour – working for what he desires means he appreciates it more
• He is exposed to disappointment – it doesn’t always work out the way we want and we need to deal with that.
• He is exposed to the shortcomings of other human beings so that he recognises that which is wrong in himself – Laban tricks him as he has tricked his father and brother.
• He is exposed to love – not just wanting something, but loving something.
This “Laban Process” has at its heart not our sinfulness, that is a given. That process has at its heart God’s character. This is a loving parent shaping the life of a cherished child by allowing them to experience things. As such, the 14 year shaping is not punishment by an angry God. It is the cradling control of a living Father who has promised Jacob he will be the Father of a nation.
Jacob still had to accept the consequences of his own actions, and the process would take a long time.But God redeems these things for those he loves. Romans 8:28 says that all things work together for good – but the process is what counts, not just the outcome.
Time to Wait
One of the aspects of the Laban Process is TIME. We do not like being shaped by waiting any more. We live in the instant coffee age, the debt finance age, the microwave life……have now, pay later.
The biblical pattern is waiting and allowing God to work Abraham was a man of promise but had to wait. Moses was the saviour of the nation but had to wait. The great prophesy of Jeremiah 29:11 (“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future), took a full 70 years to come to pass. Jacob too had to wait. The Laban Process has time at its heart.
This sanctification is always and ongoing, you never arrive. You can’t suddenly do those things overnight, nor can you continue doing them without God’s grace every day. We are God’s workmanship ad he works as fast as he wants to work. The Laban Process is a lead balloon – it is not a popular message. But it is the discipline of our very souls.
Jacobs life is still full of mistakes – from taking concubines to fulfil the cultural expectation of offspring, scheming – cheating Laban out of sheep and goats, running terrified from his vengeful brother, favouritism to his children. BUT From this moment (this 14 years moment!) God’s plan begins to come into fruition. Eventually from the process comes a man who wrestles with God, gets a permanent limp – Chapter 32 and finally exclaims when he is at the end of himself – “I will not let you go until you bless me.”
Life is full of circumstances which are not remotely fair. Do not assume that they are – this is not happening to you to punish you – it is happening because we live in an imperfect fallen world of choices and conflicting needs and because we are mortal. But trust in the God who redeems everything, who makes all things new, and who works all things for good for those that live him.
Thank God not for the circumstances, but the fact that he holds you through the circumstances, and builds and forms you, redeeming the circumstances. All things work for the good of those who love him.