Life-Study of Genesisby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) and the whole Bible is a book of life. Do you truly believe that Genesis 31, the chapter which we shall consider in this message, is the breath of God? When I was young, I thought that surely every word and phrase in Ephesians was inspired by God, but I did not appreciate Genesis 31 as much as I did Ephesians. Do you believe that the record in this chapter is the word of life? There is no mention of life in this chapter. Rather, there is the mention of the stealing of household images and of diplomatic talk. Is this the word of life? If we would see how Genesis 31 is the word of life, we need to consider it along with the whole Bible.
In Genesis 28, as Jacob was on his way to Laban's home, he had a dream. The significance of that dream was that it revealed how God was desirous to have a house on earth and that His intention was to make His called one a stone, the material for His building. Is the Jacob revealed in Genesis 31 the proper material for the building of God's house? No, he was not a gentleman but a subtle man when he saw the dream. Do you believe that a subtle man like Jacob could become the precious material for the building of God's house on earth? If you answer, "Yes," it is because you know that you are the same as Jacob. We all are Jacobs. But the subtle Jacob is intended to be the material for the building of God's house. This chapter reveals that through God's dealings, such a subtle one can become the material for God's dwelling place. This chapter continues the record of God's dealings with His chosen one. Because this chapter gives us a view of God's dealings with Jacob, it is surely the word of life.
Jacob stayed with Laban for twenty years. In 31:7 Jacob said that Laban had changed his wages ten times. The number ten signifies the completion of a certain dealing. Jacob seemed to be saying, "Laban has not changed my wages nine times but ten times. He has dealt with me in a complete way." The number twenty, which is double the number of completion, is composed of two times ten. God put Jacob under Laban's hand for twenty years that Jacob might have a thorough dealing. But after those twenty years were over, we see in Genesis 31 that Jacob was still not a fully transformed person. We may find this disappointing, saying, "If the process of transformation cannot be completed in twenty years, then how long will it take? The Lord may come back before it has been accomplished." However, if you compare the Jacob in this chapter with the Jacob in some of the earlier chapters, you will see that he certainly has experienced an amount of transformation. A great change has taken place in Jacob after spending twenty years with Laban. At the beginning of these twenty years, he was truly a supplanter, but at the end of that time, he was at least somewhat transformed. As we read chapter thirty-one, we see that the subtle Jacob has undergone a significant change. But although he has been somewhat transformed, in this chapter he is still quite natural.
Perhaps you are wondering how this chapter reveals Jacob's naturalness. Jacob was afraid of Laban, probably realizing that he could not defeat him. Jacob admitted that he was unable to do this. This is the reason that he fled from Laban, stealing away from him. If he had been bold, being assured that he could have defeated Laban, he would not have fled. Rather, he would have said, "Laban, you have treated me very badly. Now I am leaving you. Good-by!" But Jacob did not dare to do this. Instead, he stole away. As Laban was pursuing the departed Jacob, God spoke to him in a dream the night before he overtook Jacob, saying, "Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob from good to bad" (v. 24, Heb.). Laban was more subtle than Jacob, but this time God forced him to be honest. Laban even told Jacob of what God had spoken to him, saying, "It is in the power of my hand to do you hurt; but the God of your fathers spake unto me yesternight, saying, Take thou heed that thou speak not to Jacob from good to bad" (v. 29, Heb.). If I had been Laban, I would have never told Jacob of this. Nevertheless, Laban was foolish enough to speak of it. Then after upbraiding Laban for searching through his possessions, Jacob said, "God hath seen mine affliction and the labor of mine hands, and rebuked thee yesternight" (v. 42). Jacob seemed to be saying, "Laban, you have power in your hand, but I have God with me. Your power cannot defeat my God." Because of what Laban had told him, Jacob became quite strong with him. This was a reaction of Jacob's natural man. If Jacob had been truly spiritual, when Laban related his dream, he would simply have said, "Praise the Lord. O Lord, thank You." Jacob could have said, "Laban, since the God of my father has spoken to you, there is no need for me to say anything. Praise Him!" But even if Jacob had said this much, he would have exposed the tail of his natural man. If not even the tail of the natural man remained, he would have said nothing except, "Praise the Lord, Uncle Laban." And then he would have turned to the Lord, saying, "O Lord, I praise You. How I thank You that I am in Your hands." After hearing how God had spoken to Laban, charging him not to do anything to Jacob, Jacob was emboldened to rebuke Laban to his face, pointing out how he had searched his stuff, had forced him to bear the loss of what was stolen, and had changed his wages ten times (vv. 36-41). Jacob seemed to be saying, "See what you have done! I served you twenty years and you have changed my wages ten times. Now you have searched through all my things and have found nothing. What is the meaning of this?" Although this may appear to be frankness, it is the frankness of the natural man. Here Jacob is revealed not as a bad man or as a subtle man but as a natural man. This indicates that Jacob had not yet been fully transformed.
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