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Year 1, Week 6, Day 2

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Genesis 31-32.

Today’s reading records Jacob’s resolve to leave Laban and return home. Jacob’s decision to return home started in our previous reading in the form of a request to Laban: “As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country.” (Genesis 30:25). But what began as a desire from within Jacob, became a command from the LORD: "Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3). Jacob had served for fourteen years in exchange for his wives, plus an additional six years. It was now time for Jacob to go home. So, today’s reading describes two difficulties that Jacob experienced in heading home. First, Jacob had to sort out how to escape from Laban, his father-in-law. Second, Jacob has to figure out how to face Esau, his brother.

What struck me from today’s reading is what it describes about the way the LORD works in the lives of His people to strengthen them: “May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!” (Psalm 29:11). Neither running from Laban nor reuniting with Esau would be an easy task. But the LORD gives strength to His people to do what He asks us to do: “My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word!” (Psalm 119:28). The very Words from the LORD that instruct us, strengthen us: “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’” (Genesis 31:13). The Apostle Paul speaks of the strengthening work of the LORD for his own life: “For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me” (Colossians 1:29); but also in our lives: "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13).

The LORD is at work in Jacob’s life. This work is not new, even as the LORD revealed Himself as the “God of Bethel” (a reference to the LORD appearing to Jacob at Bethel as recorded in Genesis 28) to remind Jacob that He was at work in his life before he ever arrived at Laban’s house. But now we begin noticing that the work of the LORD is beginning to shape Jacob’s outlook: "I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me…your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me.” (Genesis 31:5-7). Jacob is still far from perfect, but he is now moving less and less in the direction of a deceiver, even as he is moving more and more out of the posture of someone relying upon the LORD.

This new confidence from the LORD that operates in Jacob’s heart, will be tested. The God who promised Jacob that He was with him is a God who protects. As Laban realized that Jacob had left with his wives, children, and possessions, he set out to catch him, but the LORD warned, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:24). And in the LORD’s kindness, when Laban did catch up with Jacob, he conveyed what the LORD had said: “It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’” (Genesis 31:29). Thus, further strengthening Jacob as the LORD sends His Word to Jacob via his father-in-law. Jacob watched Laban kiss his daughters and grandchildren and quietly return home.

But Jacob is brought to see that God not only had his back from the dangers he was leaving, but He also went before him to address the new threat that he faced. With one threat resolved and a new threat forming, the LORD reappeared: "Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God's camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.” (Genesis 31:1-2). The kind reassurance of the LORD’s presence with him. Still, when word got to Jacob that Esau was on his way, Jacob was “greatly afraid and distressed” (Genesis 32:7). But this time, Jacob turned to the LORD in his fears: “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” (Genesis 32:9-12). This prayer beautifully reflects an honest admission of fear, an accurate recollection of God’s promises, a praise oriented acknowledgment of God’s faithful love, and a proper confession of personal unworthiness. This prayer wonderfully reflects the heart of someone learning to seek the LORD through faith.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe