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Running Away Again

Genesis 30:25-43; 31; Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 190-194


The Message

Loving service is done well, even without a reward.

Memory Verse

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart” (Colossians 3:23).

Have you ever eaten in a restaurant with your family? If the service was good, did your family leave a reward for the person who waited on you? Did that person expect a reward? When you help someone, do you think about getting a reward?


Twenty years had gone by since Jacob had left his home and family. Twenty years he had worked for his uncle Laban. By this time Jacob had 10 sons and at least one daughter.

After Joseph had been born, Jacob had asked Laban to let him return to Canaan. But Laban had begged him to stay. “Please stay,” Laban had pleaded. “I know that the Lord has blessed me because of you.”

So Jacob had agreed to stay. And Laban had agreed to pay Jacob for his work. All the spotted, speckled, and dark-colored sheep or goats would belong to Jacob. Since that time, many animals had been added to Jacob’s flocks. Jacob was now a wealthy man!

Laban’s sons were not happy about this. Jacob knew that they believed his flocks should belong to them. And Jacob also knew that “Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been” (Genesis 31:2).

So when the Lord told Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers,” Jacob knew it was time to leave. Without a word to Laban, he gathered his wives, his children, and his flocks and started for Canaan.

After three days Laban learned that Jacob was gone. Laban started after him. Seven days later, Laban caught up with Jacob. That night, God spoke to Laban: “Be careful! Do not say anything to Jacob, good or bad.”

The next day Jacob watched Laban and his men. He wrinkled his forehead with concern as they drew nearer. He knew that Laban would not be happy with him.

“Why did you run away without telling me?” shouted Laban. “You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You know, it is in my power to harm you! But last night God told me not to say anything to you, good or bad.”

Jacob answered, “I left without telling you because I thought you might try to take my wives and children away.”

“Uncle Laban,” Jacob continued, “I have been a faithful worker for you for 20 years. During that time, I was careful to take good care of your animals. I didn’t complain about my work whether it was blistering hot or freezing cold. I worked 14 years to pay my debt to you for your daughters. And these past six years, I have worked to earn my animals. During that time, you changed my pay 10 times! But God was with me. You would have sent me away empty-handed. But God knows how hard I’ve worked for you. That is why He talked to you last night.”

“Jacob, in a way, everything you have is from me,” Laban spoke sharply. “These are my daughters and my grandchildren. The animals you have came from my flocks. But it wouldn’t be right for me to keep my daughters and their children.” Laban’s voice was kinder now. “Let’s make a peaceful agreement,” he offered. Jacob agreed.

So both families gathered some stones into a big heap. “These stones are a witness between us,” said Laban. “I will not go past this pile of stones to harm you. And you will not pass it to harm me.”

Jacob repeated the promise. “I will not harm you, and you will not harm me.” Then the two men and their families shared a meal together.

Early the next morning Laban kissed his daughters and his grandchildren. Then Laban returned home. And Jacob and his family traveled on toward Canaan. For years people called that place Mizpah, a place of blessing.

For it was there that Laban said to Jacob, “May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other” (Genesis 31:49).