The Sovereign Word of the Lord
Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament, Jesus repeated the words: “Oh you of little faith.” He spoke these words after the example of the patriarchs who lived by faith, and repeated them after His sermon on the mount. At these times, Jesus did not say “Oh you of little faith” to unbelievers, but to His disciples – to Peter and to John. To Jewish believers who walked with Him, talked with Him, ate and travelled with Him; to the very disciples, who with their own eyes had seen the things that Jesus did and took note of the things that He said. Yet Christ made room for their faith to grow.
Jesus Calms the Storm
When Jesus got into a boat with His disciples, a great tempest arose so that the waves covered the boat. While Jesus slept, His disciples came to Him saying, “Lord, save us! We are perishing!” (Matthew 8:25). But Jesus said to them, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26). Then Jesus arose and rebuked the wind and the sea and there was a great calm. His disciples marvelled, saying, “Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” (Matthew 8:27). When Jesus came walking on the water to His disciples in the boat, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Jesus replied, “Come” (Matthew 14:29). So, Peter came down out of the boat and began to walk on the water to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).
The value in these words was that they looked to the one who could save them!
Jesus, immediately stretched out His hand and caught him and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
After Jesus’ disciples had seen Him miraculously feed a multitude for the second time, they travelled to the region of Magdala where Jesus confronted the Pharisees. Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16: 6). Mistakenly, the disciples thought that Jesus had said this because they had brought no bread. But Jesus said to them, “O you of little faith, why do you reason among yourselves because you have brought no bread? Do you not yet understand, or remember the five loaves of the five thousand and how many baskets you took up? Nor the seven loaves of the four thousand and how many large baskets you took up? How is it you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?” (Matthew 16:8-11).
Jesus asked His disciples three questions: Why are you fearful? Why did you doubt? How is it you do not yet understand? All the disciples understood was that they were perishing and they needed to be saved. Jesus helped them to see where their faith needed to grow – not to fear; not to doubt; and to understand the words He spoke.
The Story of Jacob
In the book of Genesis in the Bible is the true story of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Isaac; the son of Abraham. When Isaac was old, he sent Jacob to Padan Aram, instructing him to take a wife from the daughters of Laban, his mother’s brother. On hearing of his arrival, Laban ran to meet him, embraced him, kissed him and said, “Surely you are my bone and my flesh” (Genesis 29:14). So, Jacob stayed with his uncle a month.
“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my relative, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what should your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel” (Genesis 29:15 & 16). “Now Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter’. And Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to another man. Stay with me’. So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed only a few days to him because of the love he had for her”.(Genesis 29:18-20)
When Jacob’s days of service had been fulfilled, Laban gave him his daughter as wife. But Jacob, believing he’d been given one wife, found out through deceit he’d been given another. “Now it came to pass in the evening, that he (Laban) took Leah his daughter and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her” (Genesis 29:23). “So it came to pass in the morning, that behold, it was Leah. And he said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Was it not for Rachel that I served you? Why then have you deceived me?’” (Genesis 29:25).
Having deceived Jacob, Laban answered him, “It must not be done so in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn. Fulfil her week, and we will give you this one also for the service which you will serve with me still another seven years” (Genesis 29:26 & 27).
Because of his love for Rachel, Jacob did as Laban said and served another seven years.
Time Catches Up With Laban
Laban was the priest of the home. He was there to protect and provide for his family and to seek God for their good, but at times Laban spoiled. At times his own desire to do well became greater in his own eyes than the needs of those he had an obligation to serve and protect. When his time of service finished and Jacob was about to leave, Laban had learned by experience that he was being blessed for Jacob’s sake, so he sought favourable terms so that Jacob would remain.
“And it came to pass, when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, ‘Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you know my service which I have done for you’. And Laban said to him, ‘Please stay, if I have found favour in your eyes, for I have learned by experience that the Lord has blessed me for your sake’. Then he said, ‘Name me your wages, and I will give it’”.(Genesis 30:25-28)
So, Jacob made agreeable terms with Laban to remain, and though Laban sought to cheat him by changing his wages many times, the Lord’s eye continued to be upon Jacob and He saw all that Laban did. Jacob continued to build his own life with the wisdom that came from God. He became exceedingly prosperous, having many large flocks, female and male servants, camels and donkeys. But when Jacob saw that Laban’s countenance toward him was not favourable as it was before, the Lord said to him, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your family, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3).
Because Jacob feared that Laban would take his daughters from him by force, he left in secret, with all that he had. When Laban found out that Jacob and his family had gone, he pursued them for many days.
Laban Became an Example of Praise
But God came to Laban in a dream, saying, “Be careful that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad” (Genesis 31:24). Laban knew then, that Jacob’s leaving was of the Lord, and that He was to release him and let him go. Many years earlier, Laban had seen God orchestrate events for his sister Rebekah to become Isaac’s wife and had spoken almost exactly those same words, “The thing comes from the Lord; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the Lord has spoken” (Genesis 24:50 & 51).
Laban’s response of faith stood the test of time. To Laban, it became as clear now as it was then, that this was the work of the Lord. Though Laban was being given no real choice by God and his right of refusal was delay tactics at best, when the final test came, by faith, he relinquished his will to the Lord’s by releasing Jacob and letting his family go.
This moment of obedience from Laban became an act of praise to the lord.
We Must Trust in The Word of the Lord
As a game, when I was a little girl, my dad used to hide an object in one of his hands and I would try to prise open his fingers to see what he held inside. But because of the difference in the strength of our hands, there was no way I could open them to see what lay inside. In the same way, God keeps some things tightly sealed in His hands. This is a work of His grace. And like Laban, in faith, we must be able to let these things go. This means we obey the Word of the Lord, even when we do not understand. Our faith is always a prerequisite for pleasing the Lord. We came to God in faith, and we must continue our journey in faith, the same way that it began. The writer of Hebrews said,
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him”.(Hebrews 11:6)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”.(Hebrews 11:1)
These two Scriptures tell us, that we must not only have faith, but there must be evidence of our faith as well. Though Laban was at first a rascal, by faith he brought about a redeeming result. By acknowledging the word of the Lord, he released not only Jacob but the next generation as well. The redeeming quality of Laban’s faith, was the fruit of his obedience that passed down to the next generation.
With every new generation, God brings a chance to begin again – this is the significant choice of the Lord.
A Covenant of Peace was Made
Because the Lord had warned Laban to speak to Jacob neither good nor bad, they made a covenant of peace before the Lord. Jacob and his brethren took stones and made a pillar and placed them in a heap.
“Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Here is this heap and here is this pillar, which I have placed between you and me. This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not pass beyond this heap to you, and you will not pass beyond this heap and this pillar to me, for harm. The God of Abraham, the God of Nahor, and the God of their father judge between us.’ And Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac”.(Genesis 31:51-53)
“And early in the morning Laban arose, and kissed his sons and daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned to his place”.(Genesis 31:55)
So, Laban blessed Jacob and his family and a covenant of peace was made. Laban would no longer pursue Jacob, and Jacob would not return to cause Laban harm. And the Lord would judge between them because of the covenant that they had made. It is clear from Scripture that the Lord does not see things the same way we do (See God’s promise in Proverbs 3:5-8). It is so easy to remember Laban for the mistakes that He made – But I believe the Lord remembers him for this redeeming act of faith. This was a work of God’s grace.
A Change at the Breaking of Day
When Jacob departed from Laban, the Lord met with him.
“And he arose that night and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven sons, and crossed over the ford of Jabbok. He took them, sent them over the brook, and sent over what he had. Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, ‘Let Me go, for the day breaks’. But he said, ‘I will not let You go unless You bless me!’ So He said to him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Jacob’. And He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed’” (Genesis 32:22-28). “So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30).
When the Lord changed Jacob’s name, He gave him a new identity.
That which is past is past and shall be no more.
Our hope is in the resurrection power of Jesus Christ our lord.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”.(2 Corinthians 5:17)