The Condemnation of Laban (Genesis 31:22-55)

So when we last saw Jacob, he had escaped from his uncle, he had crossed the Euphrates River, he had left the lands of the east, and was driving westward and southward as fast as he can go. If he can make it to the Jordan River, and cross it, then he will be back in the lands of his father and grandfather and he will be safe from his uncle.

But will he be safe from his brother?

We don’t know!

Neither does Jacob.

But, Jacob does know that a real danger behind you is worse than a potential danger in front of you. Besides, God did appear to Jacob directly and tell him it is time to go home. God did not promise that it is safe to go home, but he did remind Jacob, “I am with you, no matter what happens.”

Still, Jacob did not simply throw caution to the winds: he made sure to leave during sheep-shearing season, when Laban and most of the men of the community were very busy and distracted. Jacob’s hope had been to leave suddenly, leave quietly, and give his uncle no reason to chase him down.

Unfortunately, one of Jacob’s wives — Rachel — has stolen her father’s collection of gold and silver idols. And, to add insult to injury, Jacob has stolen Laban’s reputation by running away like this, because it makes Laban look like a brute that must be escaped from, instead of an uncle and a father and a grandfather.

These two things, together, give Laban a reason to chase after Jacob.

And, sure enough, Laban does: [22] on the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. [23] Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead.

By the way, it is important for us to realize that these numbers are rounded off. Throughout the Old Testament, when people take journeys, they are almost always described as three days long, seven days long, ten days long, or forty days long. In other words: a short journey, a slightly longer journey, an even longer journey, and a super-long journey. In those days they did not keep track of time and distance the way we do today.

And this is important because, when we look at a map, the hill country of Gilead is more than 600 kilometers away from Laban’s hometown. It definitely takes more than 10 days to drive flocks of sheep that far.

So what Moses is telling us is that it did not take weeks and weeks for Laban to catch up to Jacob — but it was not just a few days either. After all, it does take time to assemble a group of fighting men and supply them properly.

And as we read on here, we find that Laban has caught Jacob camped in the land between the rivers: he is no longer in the lands of the east, but he has not yet crossed the border into Abraham’s country. And this leaves Jacob exposed.

And, no doubt, surprised. Jacob clearly thought he had travelled beyond Laban’s reach, he thought for sure Laban would not have any reason to chase him so far. This is why, after that long race from east to west, he has decided to camp for a while in the hills: so that the animals can eat and drink and recover their strength before attempting to cross the Jordan River into the land.

Clearly, Jacob underestimated the strength of Laban’s greed.

And so, here, suddenly, is his uncle, with a large number of male relatives — armed male relatives. And they set up camp within sight of Jacob’s camp.

But [24] then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”

Basically, God is telling Laban, “Watch your mouth when you talk to Jacob in the morning! You do not have the authority here to make promises or take them away.”

And so, in the morning, Laban gets his delegation together and they go out to meet with Jacob.

And right away we find out that Laban is still the same oily, self-serving politician he was way back when he first sold his sister Rebekah to Abraham’s servant in exchange for a couple of gold bracelets: he makes this long speech that is actually designed for the ears of his relatives. Laban wants his reputation back! So he starts by accusing Jacob of stealing his daughters. Then he tries to pretend that he is just a jolly grandpa with hurt feelings. Then he tries to save face by saying, “I could squash you, right now! — except that, apparently, your father’s God does not want you squashed. So I’ve decided to cut you a break.” Then he tries to be Mr. Nice Guy again, “Look, I understand why you left: you were suddenly overwhelmed with homesickeness, you weren’t trying to make me look bad or anything…”

And then, right at the end, he finally comes to why he is really here: “But why did you steal my gods?”

Basically, this is a courtroom scene. Laban’s relatives are the judges. And Laban has just made a formal accusation against Jacob: “He has stolen my daughters and my gods, and I want them back.”

And so now Jacob has to prove his innocence. If he does not, the council of elders might find him guilty, and give everything he owns back to Laban.

So Jacob starts by saying, “No, I did not steal your daughters from you. But I did think that you might try to steal your daughters from me! And now here you are threatening me with an army, so: tell me again about how you’re just a warm cuddly grandpa and I have nothing to fear?”

But this response does not prove that Jacob did not steal Laban’s daughters. “Nuh uh!” is not actually a very strong legal argument.

However, Jacob can prove that he did not steal Laban’s gods. And he says so:

“Listen, go ahead and search. [32] If you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, be my guest: take it.”

Jacob knows that, once Laban fails to find his gods, he will lose a lot of credibility with the court and will mostly likely lose the entire case. So he speaks strongly — and somewhat foolishly:

Because Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods. Jacob does not realize he has actually just condemned his favourite wife to death. [33] So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.

[34] Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. And Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing

— actually, Moses says that Laban “felt” through everything in the tent. And this is the same word he used to describe how blind old Isaac “felt” Jacob’s arms and neck on the day Jacob deceived him. So Moses is wanting us, his readers, to see Laban as a blind old man fumbling around in the dark, impotent, trying to reach out and take what he needs to prove his case — but missing the mark.

And Rachel sits there quietly watching her father rummage through all her stuff, and when she can see that he is coming to search the saddle she is sitting on she says, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So, of course, Laban backs away, because at that time many religions taught that touching a woman during her period would defile a man.

So Laban searches everywhere except for the one place he really needed to look.

And Moses’ original audience — the ancient people of Israel — would have thought this whole thing was hilarious.

After all, gods are supposed to rescue you, right? So how pathetic is it, then, that Laban has to rescue his!

And gods are supposed to be holy. So how pathetic is it, then, that a supposedly unclean woman is sitting on them while they are underneath the saddle of an unclean animal!

So what Moses is showing us, his readers, is that there is simply no contest between Laban’s gods and Jacob’s God. The gods of the eastern lands look powerful and impressive, with huge man-made mountains for their temples — but the truth is they are just dolls, easy to steal, easy to defile. Laban looks clever and powerful, with his trickery and his army of relatives — but now we get to see Laban as God sees him: an old man fumbling in the dark trying to find his missing gods.

But at any rate: Laban has now failed to prove Jacob’s guilt. There is no way the court will find in Laban’s favour, even though they are his cronies.

So now it is time for Jacob to file his counter-suit: [36] Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? [37] Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

[38] “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I secretly eaten rams from your flocks and pretended they just went missing. [39] Then, when animals did go missing I did not file an insurance claim and lower your NCD, I bore the loss myself. But still you never cut me a break: you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. [40] This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. [41] It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. [42] If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you

“I rest my case.”

And so now the tables are turned: if Laban wants his reputation back, now he has to prove his innocence.

But how can he? How can a man prove that he is not abusive? It is almost impossible to prove a negative.

So [43] Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. Everything here is mine, but I have no way to prove it. So I guess you win. But it’s not fair!”

To the very end, Laban refuses to acknowledge that he is at fault for alienating his own family. He refuses to admit that his greed, his dishonesty, his abuse, have resulted in these very obvious consequences.

And here’s the thing about this kind of behaviour: when a man consistently refuses to take responsibility for his own sins even after God has appeared to him and told him that he is wrong…well, now this man is not just calling Jacob a liar, he is calling Jacob’s God a liar.

Which is a mistake.

Especially when your own gods — that are supposed to protect you from other gods — have gone missing!

But this is where Laban’s gift as a politician really shows itself: he knows his gods are missing, he knows he cannot prove his innocence — so now he is going to claim that Jacob’s God is actually also his god, and he is going to claim that Jacob’s God knows the truth and will make sure justice is done.

Laban is going to try to make it look as if he is the helpless victim in all of this.

So in verse 44 he say, “Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.”

Laban starts by proposing a cease-fire, a peace treaty, an end to their conflict.

[45] So Jacob says, “…oookay!” He took a stone and set it up as a pillar, a monument, a symbol of the treaty they are about to write up. And [46] He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and each person’s stone was probably a way of symbolizing each person’s signature on the treaty, and they ate there by the heap.

Now, [47] Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed.

And both of these names mean the same thing: they both mean “Heap of Witness”. It’s just that Laban is speaking Aramaic, and Jacob is speaking Hebrew.

And this fact that they are now speaking two different languages is supposed to remind us of the Tower of Babel, when arrogant men like Laban tried to bring God down to their level and force him to do what they wanted.

God did indeed come down, but he arrived in judgement, and broke their empire apart by confusing their languages, redeeming only one man and his family from those lands in the east.

Well, the same thing is happening again, just on a much smaller scale: one of these men is going to be redeemed. The other one is choosing to return to the lands of Babel in the east. And the division in their languages is symbolic of this.

So [48] Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed.

Okay so far. No big deal.

But [49] it was also called Mizpah — which means “Watchtower”. Why? Because he said, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. [50] If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.”

Mmmmm. We begin to see what Laban is up to here.

He cannot prove that he has not abused his daughters and his nephew all these years. But he can publically imply that Jacob is the real abuser, and that for all these years Laban has worked to protect his poor, powerless girls from that monster — but now that the court has been fooled by Jacob’s cleverness and has decided to let him go…well, from now on Laban is just going to have to trust God to take care of his daughters.

So this whole covenant thing, this whole treaty, is actually just a publicity stunt. Laban, the politician, knows that appearances are everything. He is not going to win, the court is not going to give him Jacob’s wealth, but at least he can try to ruin Jacob’s reputation as he goes out the door.

[51] Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me

— he wants everyone to know that the whole covenant idea was really his idea —

[52] This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me!”

And this would be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic. Laban is the one who has been in power for the last 20 years; Laban is the one who has gone out of his way to harm Jacob, rob Jacob, enslave Jacob — but now he wants Jacob to swear that he will not come over and hurt Laban, as if Jacob is some kind of monstrous threat.

And this reminds us of the covenant King Abimelek made with Isaac back in Chapter 26: after years of chasing Isaac around, and years of Isaac refusing to fight back, suddenly Abimelek showed up in Isaac’s camp saying, “Please don’t hurt me!” as if Isaac was the real aggressor.

Laban is making himself out to be the victim in all this. He knows it is not true. He knows that Jacob’s God is against him. But he does not care what God thinks, he does not care what might happen to him in the next life, he only cares about his fortunes in this life. And his fortunes in this life really depend upon his reputation with his cronies. And so, as a result, he really only cares about what his relatives think, what his society thinks.

He knows he cannot win the legal war, but he can win the war in social media.

And toward that end, Laban finishes with a final blasphemous touch: [53] “May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.”

Laban’s gods have gone missing. It’s a bit awkward. So now he is trying to claim that the God his grandfather Nahor worshiped is the same God that Jacob’s grandfather Abraham worshiped. And he is asking this Almighty God to judge between them…

Again: it is most likely a mistake to invite God to judge you.

But, you know: if Laban wants to cut his own throat, Jacob is not going to stand in his way! So, in verse 53, Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac.

This is a very unique name for God: the Fear of Isaac. It is only ever used twice in the whole bible, and both times are in this chapter.

And the point Moses is making is pretty clear: Laban may have won the social media war, but God — this God, the God whose name is The Fear of Isaac — this God cannot be mocked. Laban has just used God’s name to support his lies. Laban has misused God’s name. And as we read in the 10 Commandments today, the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.

But still Jacob signs the treaty.

He knows it’s all nonsense designed to make him look bad, but he also knows that God knows the truth. He doesn’t care what Laban’s relatives think; what matters to him is what God thinks. So [54] he offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

And [55] early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.

Okay! That was today’s episode.

And so now we have to ask the question we like to ask every week: what are we supposed to learn from this?

Well, as we began to notice last week, Moses has carefully structured the story of Jacob so that the first half is a steady, step-by-step descent into the valley of darkness and slavery, and the second half a steady, step-by-step climb back up into light and freedom.

And each episode on the climb back up is designed to mirror its corresponding episode on the descending side of the valley. Each episode on the climb back up is designed to resolve a problem that was set up on the way down.

So, for instance, last week we saw how Jacob’s redemption was actually God’s answer to the conflict between the sisters during the week before.

And so now, when we look at today’s episode, we realize that this story — in which Jacob finally breaks away completely from his uncle’s house — must be God’s answer to what happened three episodes ago, when Jacob first became a slave in his uncle’s house.

Three episodes ago, when Jacob first arrived, Laban hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and said, “You are my own flesh and blood.” And then he proceeded to manipulate his nephew and trick him into working for 14 years without a real salary.

And if you remember, back when we were discussing that episode, we had a bit of a problem with it: because, on the one hand, we could see that Jacob was reaping what he had sown, he deserved what was happening to him — but on the other hand we could see that it was also wrong for Laban to deceive and enslave his nephew.

It created a cognitive dissonance for us, because it seemed to send the message that it is actually good to do bad things if the person deserves it…

Well, here, with this episode, God solves that problem: what Laban did to Jacob really was wrong. Yes, God used Laban’s sin to make Jacob into a better man — but that does not justify what Laban did. And God has confirmed this now by making sure that Laban has completely reimbursed everything he stole from Jacob.

In fact, Laban’s defeat here is so complete that, in the end, he kisses everyone goodbye…except Jacob. Effectively saying, “You are no longer my flesh and blood!”

The break is complete.

And Laban’s decision here turns out to be truly unfortunate for Laban’s remaining relatives. Laban’s decision here has actually brought God’s curse upon them all.

See, for three generations now, Abraham’s family has maintained a connection with their family in the east, sending the sons back there in order to find wives. And every time Abraham’s family renewed that connection, the family in the east got to experience fresh blessings from God — they got another chance to recognize the goodness of the God of Abraham, repent of their idolatry, and join Abraham’s family in the land of Canaan.

Well: no more. That era is over. From now on, all connection with the eastern branch of the family is broken. They are on completely different tracks now, they are even speaking different languages. The eastern branch of the family is now cut off from the blessings of God.

And, ironically, it was Laban who did the cutting. He knew that the Lord had blessed him because of Jacob. And we know he knew this because he actually said so to Jacob! But in the end, his pride could not handle it. He did not want to receive his blessings as a gift from God through his snot-nosed nephew, he wanted to be able to boast that he had made himself a success!

And even when it became obvious that he was destroying himself with his ambition — still he refused to take responsibility for his sins, he refused to repent and submit his family to Jacob’s. Instead he took refuge in further deception and manipulation, and ended by signing a contract that basically said, “You stay in Canaan, I will stay in Babel: I never want to see you or the blessings of your God ever again.”

Basically, if Laban had been around during the time of Noah, he would have been outside the ark, helping God push the door shut. If he had been around during the time of Abraham, he would have been inside the city of Sodom, pushing Lot out through the gate.

Laban has just set up a boundary between himself and God’s blessings. And by doing so he has just condemned himself and all his relatives to death and judgement.

On the positive side, however, Jacob is now safe from attack from the east: there is a pillar and a pile of stones there, monuments to the covenant he made with his uncle — monuments to a covenant that God is going to enforce.

So, back to our question: what are God’s people supposed to learn from this?

Moses wants his people to know that God cannot be mocked. Way back at the beginning of Abraham’s story, God told Abraham, “I will bless those who bless you, but whoever curses you I will curse” — and he meant it! God was not kidding around: anyone who curses or enslaves or abuses God’s children will one day have to pay them back to the very last cent.

And Moses wants us to know that this is true even of those who seem to exercise absolute control over the world: men like Laban, who seem so powerful, so clever, so unbeatable for so long — the truth is they are nothing more than foolish old men fumbling around in the dark, totally blind to the fact that the power they seek is actually worthless.

And so, what Moses wants us to see is that, ultimately, these men end by destroying themselves. We do not need to fight back against them, we do not need to set up some kind of protective boundary between us, because in the end they build that wall for themselves. They build it thinking they are condemning us, that they are shutting us up in prison, when the truth is they are shutting themselves out of the garden of God’s salvation.

And Moses clearly meant this to be a source of encouragement for his people, the ancient people of Israel. In the years to come they are going to be cursed and enslaved multiple times by multiple nations and empires. And so Moses wants his people to know in advance that no matter what happens, the God of Abraham is with them, and that he will always, always, provide a messiah for them at just the right time —

And Moses wants them to know that, in the end, everyone who ever cursed and enslaved them will be forced to pay it all back, with interest.

So that is a great encouragement for the ancient people of Israel. Is it also an encouragement for us?

Well: yes!

In fact, we are in a much better situation than the ancient people of Israel ever were, because they were looking forward to the true and final Messiah who would save them once and for all. They were looking forward to the Messiah; we get to look back at him: the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Just like Noah, Jesus was commissioned to build an ark where God could gather his people in and save them from the judgement outside. Just like Abraham, just like Jacob, Jesus was called to lead God’s people out of slavery in the lands of confusion and lead them into a land of their own, a land like the garden of Eden.

This new ark that Jesus built, this new garden that Jesus has led his people to, is called his Church. And the word “Church” simply means “God’s gathered people”.

So the encouragement we get from this episode ought to be even stronger than what ancient Israel experienced, because God’s promise to provide a Messiah has already been fulfilled.

To put this another way: if you have heard the story of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, if you have decided to go ahead and accept him as your Messiah, if you have been baptized in the name of Christ, if you are a living part of a local church, then you have already crossed the river with Christ, you are already safe in the land, in Christ’s Church. We have been truly delivered from slavery to Satan, we have been truly delivered from every tyrant that thinks he rules this world — and from the tyrant that lives within us.

When it comes to our lives, our souls, Christ’s work is complete: we have already reached our destination.

And yet it is obvious that in some ways we have not yet reached our destination. Even though in one sense we have already crossed the river into God’s country, in another sense here we are caught between the rivers: we have escaped from the corrupted and collapsing empires of Babel, we are free! — but there is really nowhere for us to go yet. Christ has completed his work of redeeming the human heart, but he has not yet completed his work of redeeming the earth itself.

And so, as Christians, we live out our lives in the no-man’s-land between this world and the next. Christ’s churches are like a million little caravans, we are like a million little companies of pilgrims, all travelling together toward the New Heavens and the New Earth: camping when we need to rest, moving forward again when we are recovered…the bible teaches us that we Christians are a refugee nation.

And living our lives as refugees between the worlds is difficult enough all by itself — but our situation is actually even more difficult than that: because — just like Jacob as he left his uncle’s house, just like Israel as they left Egypt — we are being chased by the powers of this world.

And really we are being chased for the same reasons:

See, when Christ called his people out of the corruption of Babel, he was actually plundering Babel of its most valuable resource: its slaves. And the plundering continues! because as each one of us is called, we also reach out and grab two or three or four others who are close to us, and they also grab three or four others, and so — as the years have gone by — more and more people from every nation are hearing the Gospel, escaping from the Babels of this world, and joining Christ’s nation.

And Satan, like every other tyrant, hates to see his slaves getting away: that is power and money lost!

But, even worse: when Christ called his people out of Babel — and when they actually agreed to go! — that was actually an insult to Babel’s reputation. The fact that we would rather live on the road between the rivers, rather than staying back and submitting to their corrupted systems — well, that is like a vote of No Confidence in the administration. Our existence as a separate kingdom exposes the corruption at the core of Babel’s government, and increases the chances that even more slaves will want to leave.

And the rulers of Babel do not appreciate that.

And so the powers of this world chase after Christ’s Church and try to grind her down into submission: because they want their people back, they want their wealth and power back, they want their reputation back.

And one of the ways they try to get their reputation back is by telling lies about Christ and his people, just as Laban lied about Jacob.

See, just like Laban, the tyrants of our world know the truth: they know that their empires are corrupted and collapsing, they know they really can’t do anything to fix that. But, if they can win the media war, if they can make it look like they are not corrupted — or if they can make the other side look even more corrupted — then they will be able to fool enough slaves into staying back and shoring up their power base for another few years.

That’s all they care about: this life, this moment. They don’t care if everything falls apart after they are gone, as long as they hold on to power now.

So they lie.

And they actually started this tactic with Christ himself: during his trial, we are told, the judges were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.

A few years later, they did it again to a man named Stephen, who was a leader of the church in Jerusalem: they produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.”

Then, a few years after that, when Christianity was really starting to spread across the Roman Empire, social media began sharing that Christians actually worship a donkey’s head, they poison wells and fountains, they murder infants so they can consume their flesh and blood in a strange ritual they call “The Lord’s Supper”, they are enemies of the human race, they encourage Roman citizens to rebel against the emperor…

Now, today we look back and we think, “Wow, that is stupid. Why would Roman citizens fall for that kind of fake news?” But really we should not be surprised, because Christians today are accused of equally stupid things. Many people in the Muslim world are taught that Christians worship a trinity called the Father, the Son, and the Holy Mother, that we go around defiling qurans every chance we get. In the west it is common knowledge now that Christians are all homophobic bigots and racists, even though our faith is the most diverse organization in the history of the world, and has been for the last 2000 years.

And so now we come to what is perhaps the most difficult thing for us to learn from this episode — and from the whole bible really: the powers of this world are going to win the media war.

Laban succeeded in making Jacob look like the abuser. The leaders of Jerusalem succeeded in executing Jesus and Stephen. The Emperor Nero succeeded in executing hundreds of thousands of Christians in just a few months, including the apostles Peter and Paul — if ancient tradition is correct. And today, all over the world, Christians are being very cleverly discredited in a thousand different ridiculous ways online and offline: losing their reputations and — in some cases — their lives. And the Book of Revelation confims that this is going to continue with increasing intensity right up to the end.

And this is where we all say, “But why? Why does it have to be that way?”

And there are really two answers to that, both found in this episode of Jacob’s life:

First: in a public-relations war, facts don’t matter. Evidence doesn’t matter. All that matters is who can make the next person look worse. But we are the children of God! Like Jacob, Christ’s Church is not going to play that game of lies and innuendo. Because it is wrong! and because we don’t care: we know that it’s all nonsense, we know that it doesn’t matter what they say about us! All that matters is what our Father says about us.

In other words: the game is rigged, friends, so that only cheaters and liars can win. Because we refuse to cheat and refuse to lie, they are always going to win the media war.


But the second answer is perhaps even more important, and it is certainly more encouraging: the reason God allows the powers of this world to rig the game and win, is because — by doing so — they condemn themselves. The reason Christ allows the powers of this world to chase after his Church and catch up to her is because he wants them to call down curse after curse upon their own heads, he wants them to actively cut themselves off from the source of all blessings. He wants them there, outside the ark, helping to push the door shut as the Day of Judgement begins. And so, like Jacob, if the tyrants of this world want to cut their own throats, Christ’s Church is not going to resist. We are not going to stand in their way!

In other words: the game is rigged so that only cheaters and liars can win. And that way, when they win, they have essentially self-identified as liars and cheaters. These are the people who stand up, like Laban, and say, “May the God of Abraham judge between us!”

What they don’t count on — what they never count on! —  is that the God of Abraham might answer and say, “Oh, thank you for the invitation. I don’t mind if I do…!”

So, in closing here: what really practical application can we draw from this episode?

Well, our nation is between the rivers right now, isn’t it? Like Jacob, we feel exposed. We feel like we are at the mercy of men that have proven themselves to be untrustworthy, deceptive, abusive over the last 20 years and much longer.

But this episode teaches us to see these men as God sees them: just a bunch of foolish old men fumbling around in the dark, fighting with each other over find their missing gods of wealth and power. It’s really quite pathetic. Actually, it would be hilarious! — if it wasn’t so scary, if the potential for damage was not so great.

So what are we going to do, as Christians, as a church, here in Kuala Lumpur during this time?

We are going to keep praying for our government, as our Lord has commanded us.

We are going to keep working.

We are going to continue to be the best citizens we know how to be. Until those in power move to absolutely cut themselves off from the Church and from blessings of God, we are going to continue to extend our Father’s blessings to our neighbors, to our nation — and especially to the poor, because we know it is the poor who especially suffer in times like this: when the currency falls, when power structures get shaky…

Brothers and sisters, we have nothing to fear. God knows what is going on. And one day, in this world and the next, there will be a reckoning.

But until that day, in the closing words of the Book of Revelation: “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”


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