In Genesis 30 we left Jacob in a state of prosperity. In spite of his mistreatment at the hand of Laban, Jacob refused to focus on the negative, and instead focused on using his knowledge of selective breeding to increase his flocks in dramatic fashion. He’s become a wealthy man. (See previous post on Genesis 30:25-43)
Since Jacob’s come into his new found prosperity, he’s beginning to hear rumors, reports, and rumblings about Laban’s sons.
Jacob’s raking it in! They said. And at the expense of our father! He’s taking over everything our father owned and has gained his wealth from what belonged to our dad.
Beside the change in Laban’s sons, Jacob also noticed that Laban himself no longer had the same attitude toward him.
A couple of thoughts: One, it’s interesting to note that while Jacob was struggling under Laban, while he was laboring for Laban’s daughters and receiving no material compensation, Jacob was looked upon with great favor. But after Jacob began to prosper, the attitude of those around him changed. Everyone asks the Lord for prosperity. But people seem to see the Lord in us, during those times of trial. Peter Marshall, the former U.S. Senate Chaplain once said, “It is a fact of Christian experience that life is a series of troughs and peaks. In His efforts to get permanent possession of the soul, God relies on the troughs more than the peaks. And some of His special favorites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.” God uses the troughs. It’s when we’re in the trough that people are attracted to Christ.
A second thought is that Laban’s sons are overvaluing material gain, as most of us do. You’re probably reminded, as I am, of what Paul said regarding money, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. (1 Timothy 6:10) Here we see Laban’s sons’ hearts, pierced with many griefs. Had they kept the material in perspective, and maintained their good relationship with Jacob, perhaps they could have continued to enjoy Jacob’s company and the associated prosperity.
Shortly after the changes in attitude of those around him, Jacob hears from the LORD, Head for home Jake. Go back to your father and your family, and I’ll be with you.
So Jacob, while tending the flocks, sends word to Rachel and Leah to meet him out in the pasture.
Hey look, Jacob says. Your father has had a change in attitude toward me. Things aren’t the way they were before. But take heart because God’s been with me. You know how I worked my fingers to the bone for your dad, but your father continues to cheat me by changing my wages — he’s done it at least ten times! (Interesting that the same type of sin that Jacob was prone to be involved in, deceit and trickery, was the same sin that seemed to bother Jacob the most when he saw it in someone else. I wonder if he realized that in many ways, Laban was a mirror of Jacob himself) Nevertheless, Jacob continues. God’s watching over me and hasn’t allowed him to hurt me. If Laban said, The speckled ones will be your wages, then all the flocks had speckled offspring. And if he said, The streaked ones will be yours, then all the flocks gave birth to streaked offspring. So over time, God’s taken away your father’s livestock and given them to me.
One time during the breeding season, Jacob continues, I had a dream in which I looked up and saw streaked, speckled, and spotted male goats mating with the flock. The angel of God said to me in the dream, Jacob. I answered him, Here I am. And the angel said, Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled, or spotted, for I’ve seen everything that Laban’s been doing to you. (Here we see that Jacob’s attempts to alter the outcomes of breeding with striped sticks, and even with his selective breeding process, weren’t the reasons for his success. It was God’s hand on his life all along.) I am the God of Bethel, the place where you made the pillar, and anointed it with oil, and made a vow to me. Now leave at once and head back to your home town.
Rachel and Leah look at each other and say, We don’t have any share in our father’s inheritance anyway. Dad treats us like strangers. Not only has he sold us to you Jacob, but most of what he accumulated while you were working for him he’s used up. Everything, all the wealth that God took away from our dad now belongs to us and our kids. So, do whatever God has told you.
So Jacob puts his kids and his wives on camels, and he puts his flocks and herds ahead of him, along with all the material blessings he had accumulated, and he heads off to Canaan where his father Isaac still resides.
Two things I like about the way Jacob handled this situation. One is that even though he had received clear direction from the LORD, he made sure he had clear communication with his wives. Whether wife or husband, coach or teacher, father or mother, boss or leader, you’ll find that things will go much better, much smoother, much more peacefully, if you communicate clearly what you’re going to do, before you do it. Jacob even allowed his wives to give input. Would he have changed his course had his wives given feedback that he should go in a direction that was different from that which he received from the LORD? I don’t think so. But by allowing his wives to offer input, Jacob allowed his wives to feel listened to, to feel like they were a part of the decision to move to Canaan. This communication piece was a very wise move on the part of Jacob.
The second thing I like about how Jacob handled this situation is that he didn’t hesitate to obey God’s word. After he receives God’s instructions to relocate to a place that’s 450 miles away, he immediately calls for a family meeting. He allows his wives to offer their input as discussed above. Then, without further ado, he heads for Canaan. That’s a great example for you and for me. So often we wait to do what we know God wants us to do. I’ll get to it tomorrow, you might say. I’ll go to church next Sunday, you might think. Then tomorrow turns into next week, which turns into next month, which turns into next year. Next Sunday turns into next month, which turns into next Easter, which turns into next Christmas. There’s power in responding to God’s direction immediately. Without hesitation. Try it. You’ll be blessed.
Sometime during the process of gathering things for the move, Laban had gone out to shear his sheep. And while he was gone Rachel got into her dad’s stuff and stole his household gods. A good addition to the communication discussed earlier might have been for Jacob to meet with Laban and let him know that he was leaving. But Jacob, operating out of fear as we’ll see later, forgoes that communication and flees with everything he has. He crosses the Euphrates River and heads for the hills, literally. He heads for the hill country of Gilead.
Four keys to confirming direction:
Maybe you’re in a situation right now where you’re trying to make a decision, where you’re trying to figure out whether or not you should take the left fork or the right, where you’re trying to decide if you should stay or go. If that’s you then keep reading, because in our story we see four keys to recognizing God’s direction for your life.
1) Your responsibility
Your responsibility, is it fulfilled? In Jacob’s case, Jacob honored everything he ever said to Laban. He dutifully served his seven years for Leah, even though he was tricked into service for that period. Then he faithfully served another seven years for Rachel. Then, even though Laban changed the terms of their agreement ten times, Jacob acted honorably on his end and fulfilled all that was required of him according to the terms of their deal during his final six years with Laban. If you’ve made a commitment to stay in your job for at least one year, or if you’ve committed to coaching that youth sports team for at least one season, or if you’ve committed to your marriage until death do you part, then your direction is set. Like Jacob did, honor your commitment.
2) Your reception
Keep in mind that this key only applies if you’ve accomplished two things: a) You’ve fulfilled your responsibility, your commitment as described in point number one above. And b) You’ve genuinely loved those around you as the Lord would have you love, according to His word and His example. If, like Jacob, you’ve fulfilled your responsibility, and honored and blessed those around you, then this key applies. If, in spite of your best efforts, the people around you no longer receive you as they once did. If they have soured toward you, then it’s time to take a look at a change in direction. After everything that Jacob did for Laban, in spite of Laban’s deceitful ways, Laban’s attitude toward him soured. When you’ve fallen far enough out of favor, it’s time to take a look at a change in course.
3) God’s response
Jacob heard from God in a dream what his course of action would be. You may hear from God in a dream, or while reading His scriptures, or while praying, or at church, or while catching a teaching on the radio. You’ll find the same scriptures coming up again and again. The same topic coming up repeatedly. The same message popping up in a way that makes you say to yourself, Hey, this is more than just coincidence. Of course to hear the LORD speak to you in these ways, you’ll need to develop the regular habit of reading His scriptures, and praying, and going to church, etc. These are ways in which we can tap into the direction and wisdom of God. Having those activities in place provides access to the One who created the universe. Making these things a habit connects you up with He who knows far beyond anyone else what’s best for you and the people you love and care about. Who wouldn’t want to tap into that? So spend time in the places and activities where God speaks. If you’re not in prayer, not in church, not reading His word, then you’ll hear from Him much less. To hear what He has to say, you have to be paying attention.
4) Others’ recommendations
In Jacob’s situation he receives a recommendation from his wives to move forward with what he believes the LORD would have him do. Enlisting the wisdom of your spouse is a great move when seeking God’s direction. It’s also important, I believe, to seek out those who are older, wiser, and more godly than yourself. Particularly those who have already walked the path you’re considering walking down yourself. (Proverbs 15:22)
If these four keys line up: Your responsibility has been honored; your reception has soured, in spite of your best efforts; God’s response to your situation is to put the same or similar message in front of you, from His word; and finally, others’ recommendations confirm your decision, recommendations from those who are wiser and more Godly than yourself, and who have already walked the path you’re considering; when all these line up, God is saying, it’s time to change course.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.