Running for Your Life
Merciful Lord, I thank You for the gift of breath. At the beginning of this day, I breathe in Your peace and breathe out stress and worry.
Read GENESIS 31:22–42
22 On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. 23 Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. 24 Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.”
25 Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too. 26 Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. 27 Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of timbrels and harps? 28 You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. 29 I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”
31 Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. 32 But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods.
33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing.
35 Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.
36 Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “How have I wronged you that you hunt me down? 37 Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.
38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. 41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Christ entered our broken world to give us life in all its fullness. Not just in pinnacle experiences, but in every situation, every relationship, and every activity” (John Ortberg). We need to remember this and invite Christ in to all our life situations.
Jacob couldn’t bring himself to rely completely on God’s faithfulness to fulfill the dream telling him to return to Canaan. Instead, he chose the cowardly route of avoiding confrontation with his uncle. He fled with all he had, but it was three days before a furious Laban heard about it and a further seven before he caught up with him. Take a few moments to imagine that you are on that journey with them. There are the logistics of moving all of the family, possessions, camels and livestock through rough terrain at a sufficient pace to put distance between you and your pursuers. Then imagine the dismay when they catch up! Consider the tension and anxiety about what could happen next (31). Then, as the scene unfolds, imagine the panic and fear that must have gripped Rachel in particular.
Laban’s initial anger was cooled when God spoke to him in a dream (29), demonstrating his active protection of Jacob as promised (Gen. 28:15). This is despite the theme of deception emerging again (26,27) and this time extending to Rachel too (34,35). Neither Jacob nor Laban deserve God’s intervention. Both “paid lip-service to the God of their fathers when to appeal to God was to their personal advantage but in practice both depended on their wits” (Joyce
Baldwin). However, this incident is another example of God’s merciful dealing with Jacob and of the importance of his life in the bigger context of the story of God and his people.
Jacob had fled with all he had. We are witnessing today unprecedented numbers of people fleeing for their lives for different reasons—from war-torn homelands, oppressive regimes or persecution. Consider how the God we’ve been seeing in action here would want us to respond.
What is your first response to stressful relationships—to run away, emotionally distance yourself or confront them head-on? How can you change your approach to a more healthy solution?
Gracious Lord, I pray that You will be honored in all of my relationships. Bring reconciliation to divided families and churches, that You may be glorified in every situation.