A Place of Belonging
Lord, “in [You] and through faith in [You] we may approach [You] with freedom and confidence” (Eph. 3:12) and find belonging.
Read GENESIS 29:1–14a
Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well.
4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”
“We’re from Harran,” they replied.
5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”
“Yes, we know him,” they answered.
6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”
“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”
7 “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”
8 “We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.”
9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father.
13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
We need to be aware of those special moments when God is moving and speaking to us. We must grasp them for the glory of God, before the opportunity is lost.
This “chance” encounter with shepherds from Haran and their three flocks of sheep demonstrate God’s hand at work when it is revealed that they belong to his uncle Laban. When Jacob then saw Rachel (a shepherdess and Laban’s daughter) arrive with more sheep, he performed a feat of unusual strength. There is evidence that watering the flock was sometimes done by girls and younger women, so Jacob may have particularly sought both to help her and to impress her. He demonstrated considerable strength in so doing and obviously was someone useful to have around, as Laban quickly grasped. The strength of emotion Jacob shows about the family link indicated something of how alone this young man may have been feeling as he wandered far from home.
Wells were central to everyday life and several times in the Bible are recorded as places of significant encounter that change the course of people’s lives (Gen. 24:11–31; Exod. 2:15–17; John 4:4–42). While on this occasion there was no direct revelation of God involved, it was nonetheless another instance of heaven touching earth, of the divine strategy of using the stuff of ordinary life for heavenly purposes. It’s an invitation to us to be attentive to God’s Spirit at work, not just at special times or in church settings but rather when we’re involved in the routine of daily life and relationships.
Laban’s hurried arrival in response to his daughter’s urgency sealed Jacob’s welcome. In true middle-Eastern fashion he offered Jacob generous hospitality, strongly affirming his kinship. Later we see that his motivation might not be all that it first appears! However, Jacob had found a place of belonging. In this, he’s like us: to belong, to be welcomed and to be wanted by others is a core human need, one that is met primarily by God himself.
How can you make others feel that they are welcome and wanted and that they belong with a Christian community? What role might hospitality play in this?
Lord, show me ways I might become a more welcoming and inviting person. I need to deal with the fear of rejection that holds me back.
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