25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.” 29 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” 31 He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: 32 let me 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. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” 34 Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” 35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons. 36 And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock.
37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. 38 He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s. 43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys. 
Many of us are concerned about wages. When the annual budget comes up for discussion, employees want to know if they will be receiving raises to keep up with inflation or even contain a little more beyond that. Will there be holiday bonuses? What will your medical benefits be? If you work by contract, you can get concerned when your contract is up for negotiation. Anyone who has ever worried over a paycheck can relate to Jacob’s business relationship with his boss man/uncle/father-in-law, Laban. If we weren’t sure before now, this morning and next week we get to see what a lying, fore flushing, devious, greedy sack of barnyard droppings Laban is. Maybe that’s why Jacob’s conversation at the well when he entered Haran was so short. The shepherds had only briefly replied to Jacob, “We know him.” If Laban sold his own daughters like livestock and treated his family so dirty, we can imagine his reputation in the community was fairly low.
Fortunately, Jacob had an ally who was even more open-handed, upright, straightforward, powerful, generous, and compassionate than Laban was despicable. Jacob’s ally was YHWH. Despite Laban’s double-dealings as a slave master, Jacob has really been working for God, who protected him and prospered his efforts. Jacob worked, as the Apostle Paul commanded those in his day:
Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, 6 not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, 7 rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man….
God prospered Jacob. In his fourteen years of abject poverty and slavery, God gave him 11 sons and a daughter by two wives and two concubines. But Jacob’s “blessings” in his increase of seed were not without the terrible consequences of sin. The polygamous lifestyle forced upon him by his uncle and by Leah’s complicity in the hoax brought with it emotional abuse, family infighting, bitterness, poverty and loads of distrust and ill will. It was, from a human vantage point, a giant mess. Yet, God presided over all the sin and all sin’s consequences. God was faithful to his covenant even in the midst of so much human unfaithfulness. God was working even in all the sin and misery, as he does for you even now.
In our suffering through the consequence of our sins, we presume God is absent. At the very least we presume he’s present but not powerful enough or even willing to be in sovereign control. Why? Because circumstances are not going according to OUR plans of human wisdom. If things were running according to our plans, then things would be going just fine. In other words, we live according to the fundamental principle that WE are God and WE know what’s best for us. God is clueless and weak. We are our own little gods. Jacob’s story of life in the East is God’s assurance that he ordains our lives (however messy and unpleasant we see them as being) for our good and his glory. He is our God. We are his people. He is dwelling with us.
Now, despite Laban’s shifty ways, God is about to grant Jacob great wealth to make up for the years the locusts have eaten. When the pre-incarnate Promised Seed appeared and stood watch over Jacob at Bethel, he promised the patriarch a land, countless seed, and the blessing of his divine presence. Jacob’s response upon waking from his night vision was to bargain with God, vowing to earn blessing through his “if…, then…” promises. He heard the gospel and immediately turned the good news into a bargain instead of a gift.
Jacob, in his twenty years of servitude to Laban, always had the covenant promises of Bethel:
Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you (28:15).
But, like you and me, Jacob would spend the rest of his messy life coming to grips with God’s promises. Trust comes through suffering – and not all of it is righteous suffering and martyrdom. Most of it is suffering the consequences of our own sins like this messy, impoverished, family of eighteen. Eighteen mouths to be fed. Eighteen bodies to be clothed, kept warm and healthy and safe. Eighteen separate egos struggling against one another all for the glory of God and the accomplishment of his perfect purposes. Jacob would be refined by fire to become Israel. This pathetic family morass birthed the Twelves Tribes of Israel. From the rejected wife came the ancestors of the priesthood, and the royal families. Rebekah was the mother of Moses, of Aaron, of King David, and of Christ the Promised Seed.
God was instructing his people, Israel, that he comes to the lowly, the rejected, the despised. That principle runs throughout the gospel message from Eden to the consummation of all things. This axiom is displayed in the humble birth of Messiah, born to a poor couple in lowly circumstances. Messiah announced:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Jacob could now see in his family of seventeen the makings of a great people. But he had yet to see the beginnings of fulfillments of God’s land promise or any personal prosperity. In his mind, it is time for him to return to his land, his family, and his inheritance:
25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.
Jacob knew that if Laban would let him go, he would send him away penniless. As R. Kent Hughes writes, “in declaring his departure, Jacob minced no words with his father-in-law. Jacob employed no ‘please’ but just the unadorned imperative, ‘Send me away’— ‘let me go!’ All Jacob asked for was his wives and his children.”
LABAN’S “NEGOTIATGION” (27-34)
Jacob’s demand likely caught Laban off guard. He genuinely believed he owned Jacob, Jacob’s family, and all the Jacob Family’s property (as we’ll see next week). Laban’s response was superficial: “27 But Laban said to him, ‘If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.’” Laban’s response (“If I have found favor…”) is oily and obsequious. Flattery was second nature to the manipulative Laban — bless his heart. But the remainder of his response is classic Laban. Even the demon/gods of Mesopotamia must glorify their Creator, the One True God. They testify to Laban that his riches come from YHWH’s covenant loyalty to Jacob. And Laban (whose name means “white”) isn’t about to give up Jacob any more than he will ever give up the dark idol of self that he serves.
Laban is using God’s name in vain. He associates his good fortune not so much with YHWH but to his consultation with his demon-idol. “Divination” comes from the word “serpent” – an appropriate word to use in light of the origin of sin. Laban speaks with a forked tongue because he does not want to honor Jacob. To do so would suggest he owed Jacob money and gifts. Instead he credits his demons directly, God indirectly, and Jacob not at all. Laban had trafficked in demon-idolatry his entire life. But none of association with the forces of darkness had given him wealth. Only when Jacob came did God, in his common mercy, give increase to Laban’s flocks.
Yet, Laban has shared none of this gain with his daughters, son-in-law, or grandchildren. They are destitute, overworked, and overlooked. Recall the words of the Apostle Paul to young pastor Timothy (1 Tim. 5:8):
if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Jacob has asked simply to take his wives and children and go home with no lovely parting gifts. Laban ignores the request and instead focused on wages (v. 28). Classic Uncle Scrooge. He knew the price of everything and the value of nothing. But Jacob didn’t hesitate to state his value (and God’s):
29 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned.
“Jacob’s assertion that Laban’s little had ‘increased abundantly’ (literally, “teemed” as in teeming growth) is the same Hebrew used in the Bethel promise of Jacob’s being ‘spread [teemed] abroad’ (28:14a), and then later in the final verse of the present narrative it describes how Jacob ‘increased [teemed] greatly’ (v. 43). These three uses of the same word, first in the Bethel promise and twice in this story, serve to make the dominant point, which is this: God is the giver of prosperity. And more, what we are now going to see …will leave no doubt that it is God who brings prosperity.”
Jacob proposes an astounding deal to Laban:
You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: 32 let me 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. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.
Normally, shepherds contracted to care for flocks by receiving a percentage of the entire heard, and a portion of the wool or mohair and milk. “In the Mediterranean world the sheep are normally white and the goats black. Thus Jacob is requesting the irregular, abnormal parts of Laban’s flock.” Laban was only too happy to take this apparently-stupid offer. Mottled and striped goats were comparatively rare. This was a no-lose proposition for good old Uncle Scrooge. We can imagine him sneering at Jacob as Laban accepts the offer. Can you see the gospel sprinkling here? Jacob is placing value on the irregular, the abnormal, the less valued. God values the last, the least, the lost, the little, and the dead. Jacob is testifying to the character of his covenant God to his pagan family.
GOD GIVES THE INCREASE (35-43)
Laban immediately acted in his own best interest, culling out all the striped and mottled animals from his heard and sending them three days distance from his solid colored animals in Jacob’s care. Luther notes the Hebrew text suggest the greedy care Laban exercised in separating the animals:
When he had already separated the animals with spotted skins, he also took care to look carefully even at the hair on the feet or in the beard of every animal of one color, to see whether any were marked by a different color. He resorted to such an anxious and careful separation toward his daughters and his son-in-law to show that his completely sordid heart deserved the hatred of all mortals and of God. So much about the agreement.
Jacob has been scrupulous in all his dealings with Laban. He has come to learn that God gives the increase and he has come to trust YHWH for all his needs. Jacob’s counter to Laban’s removal of the multicolored animals seems to be a combination of superstition and common-sense genetics. Folklore said that vivid sights during breeding affected the outcome of the pregnancy. Striped sticks equaled striped babies. But Jacob also applied selective breeding:
41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.
Victor Hamilton explains in his commentary:
The flock tended by Jacob had only monochrome animals in respect of phenotype [visible properties]. As regards genotype [genetic properties], however, a third were pure monochromes (homozygotes) and two-thirds were heterozygotes (who contained the gene of spottedness). By crossing the heterozygotes among themselves, Jacob would produce, according to the laws of heredity, twenty-five percent spotted sheep. Thus he multiplies his flock. Jacob has displayed ingenuity; he has not practiced deception. …The stronger animals are the heterozygotes. The feebler animals are the homozygotes. Jacob crossbred only the former. How he could distinguish one from the other is made clear in 31:12—the heterozygotes are excessively potent and conceive earlier than the homozygotes. Jacob’s knowledge of zoology is far from primitive.
It may be that Jacob set out the striped sticks to fool his brothers-in-law and Laban into believing he was employing mere superstition. In that way, he further hid is valuable knowledge from his employer who would have been even less likely to ever let him leave. But, in the next chapter (31:10-13a), we learn that Jacob received his breeding instructions in a night vision directly from God. That indicates that Jacob placed little faith in the striped sticks folklore and great faith in God’s covenant promises. He agreed to work for multi-colored livestock because God told him to do so and God promised the increase.
There in the East, that direction Genesis pictures as place of foreboding, Jacob prospers in spite of pagan oppression. Jacob is held against his will in a foreign land, he prospers, and still his captor will not let him go. This is a foretaste of the nation of Jacob/Israel’s time in Egypt. Moses writes, “43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.” Over a period of only six more years of service to Laban, Jacob grows miraculously wealthy and Laban’s sickly flock begins to dwindle.
As Eliphaz said to Job:
[God] frustrates the devices of the crafty, so that their hands achieve no success. 13 He catches the wise in their own craftiness, and the schemes of the wily are brought to a quick end. 
David would sing:
Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies. 15 He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made. 16 His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. 
Like his grandfather Abraham before him, Jacob became a wealthy man. And he did not have to be dishonest to gain any of his wealth. He was truthful and fair in his dealings with Laban, agreeing to take only the animals of supposedly lesser value. His wealth came so quickly Laban’s sons accused him of stealing and trickery (31:1ff.). It was the sovereign work of Jacob’s covenant God working in such an obvious way that only the willfully blind could not give him the glory. “…this final verse again references the promises made to Jacob at Bethel in 28:14. Jacob had “increased greatly” (“teemed greatly,” 30:43)— just as God had promised at the ladder.”
Throughout all his poverty, all his dystopian family struggles with dueling wives and concubines and children, all his strife with his slave-master uncle and brothers-in-law, God was with Jacob. God prospered Jacob spiritually through all his slavery and sufferings. Then, to glorify himself in front of the pagans of Paddan-aram, God miraculously made Jacob amazingly wealthy seemingly overnight. Through all the messy bits of Jacob’s life, God grew the patriarch of the Promised Seed. The angels ascended and descended in Jacob’s humiliations and his triumphs as God was fulfilling his promise of land, seed, and the blessing of his special presence.
Jacob could see the beginnings of a great nation in his 12 children (with a thirteenth yet to come). His growing prosperity came solely from God’s hand. Jacob knew it. Laban grudgingly knew it. All Israel would know the free-will loyalty love of God for his covenant people. Soon Jacob will make his break for the Promised Land and God’s presence will be evident in that (as we’ll see next week).
This part of Jacob’s life is a snap-shot of redemptive history. Just as he is exiled and enslaved, so will his seed be exiled to and enslaved in Egypt. Just as God plunders Laban’s wealth and hands it to Jacob, so will the Israelites plunder Egypt’s wealth when God redeems them from their captors:
And the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have what they asked. Thus they plundered the Egyptians (Ex.12:36). 
Just as YHWH would act as Jacob’s rear guard in his flight from the dark and foreboding East, so he would also act to free Israel’s people from Pharaoh and open the way back into Canaan. But more than Jacob’s exodus from Mesopotamia and his nation’s exodus from Egypt, the Promised Seed, the New and True Israel, would flee to and be called out of Egypt (Hos. 11:1; Matt. 2:15). Just as Jacob was rejected and betrayed by those close to him, so would the Promised Seed be rejected by Israelites and pagans alike.
Just as Jacob and his people, Israel, endured the cross of suffering for the glory to come, so did Messiah Jesus. The most unjust suffering at the hands of pure evil came upon the Promised Seed, who had lived a life of utter perfection we could never live. In our place he unjustly received the wrath of God our sin deserves. In his resurrection and ascension, he received the glory and honor he alone deserves. Yet, in his mercy, he credits his perfection, his suffering, his blood, and his glory to us who will but trust into his person and work.
It is Christ who brings the full and final great exodus. He calls a people out from among the City of Man. He promises to be their God and to dwell with them in an eternally perfect relationship in an eternal and perfect Promised Land. Never forget that pattern of salvation began long ago and was fulfilled in Christ! John the Revelator showed us the great conclusion to God’s covenant promise to be our God, for us to be his people, and for us live with him:
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” 5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” 
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 30:25–43.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Eph 6:5–7.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ge 28:15.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 5:3–5.
 Hughes, 382. Kindle Edition.
 Luther, 5:366.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), 1 Ti 5:8.
 Hughes, 383. Kindle Edition.
 Hamilton, 2:282–283.
 Luther, 5:379.
 Id., 284.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Job 5:12–13.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ps 7:14–16.
 Hughes, 386. Kindle Edition.
 The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ex 12:36.
 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2015), Re 21:3–5.