How can one discern when a relationship has gotten toxic and when it is God’s will to leave? (We must proceed cautiously because there is a unique relationship—marriage—that is not to be quickly or easily broken. This sermon is not discussing marriage but other relationships we have.) We all have many relationships and some, we discover, are not healthy or godly. In this sermon we will discuss this topic in learning about Jacob preparing to leave his uncle Laban. Let’s turn to Genesis 30.
- A Desire to Leave (30:25-26, 30). After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob is ready to leave. He has worked for Laban for the past 14 years and now says to him, “when shall I provide for my own household?” Jacob discerns that it is time to go and desires to depart in peace.
- A Reason to Stay (30:27-34). Laban knew that his blessings have been the result of God’s blessing upon Jacob. He is reluctant to let Jacob leave so he tried to motivate him to stay. Jacob said he is willing to stay if he was able to “pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages.” Laban agreed and Jacob stayed 6 more years.
- A Jealous and Dishonest Man (30:35-36). After the plan was agreed upon, Laban, unbeknown to Jacob, took out all the lambs and goats that were to be Jacob’s. He took them and gave them to his sons and set them “a distance of three days’ journey away from Jacob.”
- A Smart Yet Superstitious Plan (30:37-43). Jacob, unaware of Laban’s deception, devised a plan of his own. In a mixture of brilliance and superstition, Jacob made stripes on sticks and placed them in view of the stronger of the flocks when they mated. The result was that the stronger produced striped, speckled, and spotted lambs and goats. These were, according to the agreement, Jacob’s. Jacob did not place the sticks in front of the feebler of the flocks and they were not striped, speckled, or spotted. These were, according to the agreement, Laban’s. Graciously, God allowed Jacob’s superstitious plan to succeed. The result was that Jacob “increased greatly and had large flocks…servants…and camels and donkeys.”
- A Wise and Gracious God (31:1-16). During these 6 years, Laban’s sons are growing jealous and Laban does not regard him with favor anymore because of his growing prosperity. The Lord spoke to Jacob, telling him to “return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” In obedience, he prepared to leave by consulting with his wives. Jacob told them that even though Laban has cheated him, God has protected him. Jacob told them that God told him “I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.”
- A Time to Leave (31:17). Clearly discerning God’s will in the matter, seeing the foolishness of remaining in the company of a foolish person, and getting unanimity with those closest to him; “Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels…to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac.”
There are times when you must make the necessary if not painful decision to break off a friendship or relationship with someone. This should be done in faith with clear discernment from God. This should be done with confirmation from those who love you. This should be done with love not hatred. This should be done with a desire for reconciliation and peace.