READ: Genesis 31 and 32
BACKGROUND: 31:1 – Jacob continued to stay in Haran, possibly because of his great success. Laban’s sons are increasingly jealous and conclude Jacob’s wealth actually belongs to their Daddy. A totally false conclusion since Laban undermined Jacob at every opportunity and Jacob prospered anyway.
13 – GOD again comes to Jacob’s rescue reminding Jacob, “I am the GOD of Bethel” – the place Jacob first placed his trust and faith in GOD – promising protection on Jacob’s journey back home.
14 – A journey of 600 miles, by camel, to Canaan means Leah and Rachel will never see their father or family again. Both women assure Jacob that they know GOD is with him – and, given a choice, they willingly leave their home, country, and family.
19 – Jacob stole a birthright and a blessing; now his wife steals her father’s household gods. Apparently possession of these gods indicated some sort of legal claim to her father’s estate. Here we go again – lying and scheming to get what GOD has already promised to give – prosperity.
54 – The pillar Jacob and Laban build at Mizpah represents a final separation between the two families. Jacob, through God’s blessing, will build a nation in Canaan.
32:24 – If there is one thing Jacob understands, it is the importance of blessings! Here Jacob encounters the living God. He has anticipated another conflict with Esau and even fears a violent confrontation. But God proves he is the one who must be “wrestled” with.
28 – A new name means a new beginning in Jacob’s walk of faith and Jacob will carry a reminder of this event the rest of his life – a visible limp.
THINK:Does Jacob remind you at all of yourself? How about Rachel or Leah? Maybe even Laban? The details provided in the book of Genesis give us an opportunity to really get to know the characters of these ancient stories. While everyday life today is completely different than life in the Ancient Near-East, the human heart – our dreams and desires, our fears and our failures – haven’t changed at all. Who knows how sincere Laban is when he begs to kiss his grandchildren good-bye? Perhaps he has another scheme up his sleeve, but this about breaks my heart. I’d hop on a camel and travel 600 miles just to get to my beloved grandbabies!
But the real story in today’s reading isn’t about grandbabies and tearful good-byes. It’s about Jacob who gets a lot of things wrong, but one thing right: He VALUES the blessing and the things of GOD over everything else. Jacob has lied about many things, but when GOD (appearing as a man) asks “What is your name?” he tells the truth. “I am Jacob – a deceiver, a liar.” GOD in his great mercy and grace accepts his confession, and begins Jacob’s conversion. “You are now ISRAEL! You belong to me. You are a Prince of GOD!”
ASK: What if you were named for your greatest character flaw? We cannot change until we admit to ourselves and to GOD what we really are. GOD loves us enough to change us! If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive. GOD will give us a new name and a fresh start – anytime we want.
By: Deb Howard