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Presentation 47. What picture does the word 'protection' bring to mind? Might it be a menacing gangster exhorting money from a businessman, or a political.

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Presentation on theme: "Presentation 47. What picture does the word 'protection' bring to mind? Might it be a menacing gangster exhorting money from a businessman, or a political."— Presentation transcript:

1 Presentation 47

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3 What picture does the word 'protection' bring to mind? Might it be a menacing gangster exhorting money from a businessman, or a political defector, who is being kept in a safe house? Or a couple of boys fighting in the street, one of them shouting, ‘Don’t dare touch my wee brother again!' God too, is in the protection business. He doesn't run a protection racket or offer protection only to those with something of value to give. Rather he protects those on whom he has set his love from anything that he cannot constructively use in the development of their character and the advancement of his kingdom. This is the picture we need to keep in mind as we approach the passage before us. Introduction Presentation 47

4 After 20 years Laban's prize asset and the source of his material blessing had escaped his clutches. News of Jacob's escape sent Laban and his men in hot pursuit. Laban was burning with rage. The fact that he committed so many men to the pursuit during the busy sheep shearing season indicates just how seriously he took Jacob’s flight. Why is he so angry? Cf v27ff... The real reason for his anger was his avarice. He could not bear to part with all that Jacob possessed. Of course he couldn’t say that, so he looked for a more righteous reason to justify his hostility. Its easier to get sympathy for a righteous campaign than one driven by self-indulgence. ‘Jacob I just wanted to give you a big farewell party!' But Laban’s words made no impression upon Jacob and his family. Laban The Protagonist Presentation 47

5 Laban's reasons do not stand up to the light of examination. But they do provide us with a valuable insight into human nature. Men will often disguise the true reason for their hostility, anger and opposition. They attempt to deceive their own hearts and to gain the sympathy of others for their cause. Laban's anger is also fuelled by misunderstanding. Laban had discovered that his household god's were missing. We know from v19 that Rachel had removed them. She may have done so for a number of reasons. It may have been to prevent her father from consulting them in order to discover, which way they had travelled - we know that Laban claimed to be able to discover certain facts by divination cf This view is strengthened, when we see that that Laban having mustered a party of men to pursue Jacob only then discovered that his idols were missing. What made him look for them? Surely he wanted to find out, by divination the likely outcome of his expedition? Laban The Protagonist Presentation 47

6 Secondly, Rachel may have taken the idols in the belief that their possession would have given her some future claim upon her father's estate after his death. Thirdly, their removal may reflect Rachael’s idolatrous past - they were taken in the hope that they might give her protection on her journey. In any event Laban jumped to the wrong conclusion and was convinced that Jacob had taken them. Indeed, it suited his purpose to believe this. It is always dangerous to form opinions of others without having all the facts or as the result of misinterpreting the facts. Resentment of others can be built on very shaky foundations. Are we reluctant to examine those foundations because it serves our purposes to believe the worst? Laban The Protagonist Presentation 47

7 The devil is an expert at sowing the seeds of misunderstanding which are designed to bring disruption into the lives of God's people. C. S. Lewis describes Satan operating in our lives. In ‘Screwtape Letters’ - a junior devil is being given some advice on how to disrupt the tranquillity of the believer. “Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother's eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think how much he dislikes it. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy- if you know your job he will not notice the immense improbability of the assumption. And of course never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her”. Laban The Protagonist Presentation 47

8 Without realising it Jacob was in a life-threatening situation and unknown to him God, his protector, was at work. In Gen God had covenanted himself to be Jacob's protector. These were not idle words of God but a solemn promise, which God faithfully discharged. With good reason scripture reveals God to be the Good Shepherd of his people. He provides for and protects them. Someone asks, “Does God always protect his people? What about those who have died as martyrs? What of those who have suffered tremendous hardship? Where has the protecting hand of God been in those situations?” God The Protector Presentation 47

9 In the Psalm23 David talks of the providing and protecting role of the Lord his Shepherd. David himself had experienced great hardships! His life was far from easy in the early years. An old Scottish divine preaching on the 23rd Psalm, pointed to David’s confident affirmation in the last verse, 'Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.' And he said, goodness and mercy were like two sheepdogs protecting the rear of the flock and, “only those ills are allowed to touch the flock, which first get past the sheepdog of God’s goodness and mercy.” The protection which God provides allows only those ills and difficulties to get through, which he can press into his service. God The Protector Presentation 47

10 God prevented Laban from pressing through to the place, where he could harm Jacob. Jacob’s return to Canaan was necessary for God’s plan of salvation. And no grasping, irate, meat producer was allowed to upset God’s plan v24. Down the ages God has protected his people and his work. Think of the Hebrew oppression in Egypt and God’s deliverance via the Red Sea despite the stubborn resolve of Pharaoh who was prepared to destroy them rather than lose his workforce. Or think of wicked Haman, who during Israel's exile was poised to exterminate every Jew alive. God infiltrated, not only the Medo-Persian court but also the heart of King Ahasuerus, whose love for Queen Esther ensured that her race was saved from destruction. God The Protector Presentation 47

11 Leap forward in time to the birth of the infant N.T. church. Saul of Tarsus was all set to obliterate the church from the face of the earth when God stopped him in his tracks and transformed him into one of the church’s foremost advocates. Three hundred years later the Roman Emperor Julian attempted to undo all that his predecessor Constantine had done in the empire. Julian's aim was to return the Empire to paganism and totally eradicate Christianity. Julian died on the battlefield during his Persian campaign. His last reported words, as he threw his blood heavenward were, 'you have won Galilean!’ God knows how best to protect his church. God The Protector Presentation 47

12 This historical evidence s and biblical witness have stirred others to great boldness. In the C18th Britain and America were experiencing a tremendous spiritual decline. God raised up men like John Wesley and George Whitfield who were involved in the Great Spiritual Awakening. Thousands were swept into the kingdom. But there was much opposition! On numerous occasions these evangelists lives were in danger from menacing crowds. A number of their would-be assassins were converted and others restrained in such an amazing fashion that Wesley wrote in his diary, "I am immortal until my work is done". He was conscious of the protecting hand of God. God The Protector Presentation 47

13 Jacob too, was conscious of God’s protection. At the end of his life he called his sons to his side in order to bless them. He describes God as his Shepherd Gen.50v24. This is the first time God is described in this way in the Bible. Whenever a scriptural term is used for the first time, the context governing its use often fills out our understanding of its meaning. Jacob was blessing Joseph, who despite a catalogue of hardships, had experienced the protection and blessing of God. Joseph had been in the Shepherd's care. And it was this Shepherd God who had preserved Jacob's life, - despite the scheming complications he introduced - when he too had been in danger. God The Protector Presentation 47

14 Jacob had been convinced that Laban would not let him go. He was unable to trust God to deal with Laban and so devised the scheme to enable him to sneak out of camp and get a head start in the race for Canaan. During the sheep shearing season everyone was occupied and Laban's household would have been scattered 31v19. Jacob made a run for it. And it was Jacob's failure to trust God that led both to Laban's pursuit and the need of God's supernatural intervention. If Jacob had openly and firmly told Laban that he intended to leave, God would have opened the door. Instead, his manner of his leaving, slinking away without a word cast him in the roll of a fugitive breaking out of prison rather than of a prince travelling to his inheritance. Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

15 It is easy to criticise Jacob. We can so easily be like him. Rather than face a situation in which we anticipate confrontation and argument, and trust God to equip us clearly to state our position and to give us the courage to stick to our convictions, we collapse. Fear often has us scurrying around for an escape tunnel, some means of obeying God, which will not prove too costly, some easy route something, which will reduce the risk of unsettling our composure. But the bottom line is that we are saying to God as Jacob did, 'We cannot trust you to keep and protect us if we behave openly and honestly.' Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

16 We might be tempted to ask, 'Why did God not simply prevent Laban from leaving Haran?’ Or, 'Why did God not tell Laban in the dream that he was simply to return home?' If God had done either of these things, Jacob would have missed learning a valuable lesson. He would not have known that God had acted on his behalf as his Protector. He might indeed have further congratulated himself on the success of his stratagem. This is why, time and again, God brings our schemes for self-preservation crashing around our heads. He opens our eyes to see his hand of deliverance despite all of the complications, which our fear and weakness introduce. Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

17 Imagine Jacob’s shock when Laban rode into camp. His deception had failed! Laban was a sight to behold when his anger was roused! Laban's opening words must have sounded ominous, 'I have the power to harm you’. Then Jacob learned of God's intervention - the dream, where God set boundaries for Laban’s behaviour. Laban was now prepared to cut his losses, retrieve his household gods and return home. What did Jacob do when he discovered he was the object of God's protection and when Laban failed to find his idols? He took advantage of the situation to cut his adversary down to size. He would humiliate him before his followers and enjoy seeing him squirm cf v36ff, 42. Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

18 By behaving in this way Jacob is abusing God's protection. Like the small boy who takes advantage of the presence of his big brother by putting his tongue out at a classmate. Jacob’s reaction of is of great practical importance. When we find that we have been vindicated and are enjoying the protection of heaven, we can do one of two things. We can either rub salt in the wound of our adversary, or we can die to the selfish desire to see them squirm. God wants us to be gracious and merciful in victory. That is always safe. As it happened, in future days, when Laban's idols were found in Rachel's possession, Jacob was greatly embarrassed. Perhaps the memory of his tirade against Laban had a humbling effect ! Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

19 Jacob also embarks upon a policy of self-justification by resurrecting a series of past injustices, which he had suffered at Laban's hand v38ff. God had protected him. God had vindicated him but be did not consider God had gone far enough! He wanted more than to be allowed to continue on his journey unhampered. He wanted to leave with his reputation enhanced. He wanted to press home his claim in order to be well thought of by Laban's family. When we begin to justify ourselves we can often fuel the bitterness and anger in our hearts. The meekness produced by God's Spirit can liberate us from the reactions of bitterness and anger produced by unjust treatment. Sadly, Jacob’s reaction betrays a lack of this quality. Jacob The Protected Presentation 47

20 As Jacob continued on his journey it was with a heightened awareness of the protecting hand of God upon his life. He was discovering what a wonderful refuge God is to his people. And it is, as we increasingly make this discovery, that our panicking is replaced by poise and our anxious scheming, driven by self-preservation, is replaced by a confident resting in the God of our salvation. This is the rest of faith of which the scriptures speak [Heb.4.11]. Jacob is not quite there yet but he is heading in the right direction! Is this the direction in which we are travelling? Conclusion Presentation 47


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