“Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you’” (Gen. 31:3).
Jacob may have started out his life as a deceiver, willing to lie and cheat in order to gain the place of promise (Gen. 25:29–34; 27), but he has proven himself to be teachable and emerges from his stay in Paddan-aram a better man (28:2). Humbled by his father-in-law’s trick, an example of talionic (eye-for-an-eye) justice (29:1–30), Jacob has labored long and hard for Laban, who has exploited his son-in-law’s godly desire to provide for his family (30:25–43). Though Laban has done all he could to keep Jacob and his services around indefinitely, God has thwarted him by prospering the patriarch’s efforts. Jacob’s hard work benefited his father-in-law (v. 27), but Laban’s family does not celebrate their wealth. Today’s passage tells us Jacob’s success angers Laban’s sons because it dwarfs their father’s profit (31:1). Laban earlier appreciated the great prosperity Jacob brought to him, but he begins to take the grumbling of his sons to heart now that his son-in-law has surpassed him (v. 2). This alarms Jacob who has seen a marked shift in how his father-in-law regards him. As we will see in the next week, this situation makes Jacob unable to stay safely with Laban and his family for much longer. However, Genesis 31:3 reveals Jacob’s flight back to Canaan is not prompted solely by the danger he now faces. The Lord Himself comes to Jacob and calls him to return to the land of his fathers. Again God promises to be with Jacob, reiterating His steadfast love for him and confirming him as the heir to Abraham’s covenant. He repeats His promise to remain faithful to His family — the greatest covenant blessing (17:7). Recent events have pushed Jacob in the direction he should go. In like manner, today we often find God ordering our own circumstances to show us a path we should take. But Jacob does not move until the Lord speaks to him clearly. Neither should we make decisions without seeking guidance in God’s Word. John Calvin comments: “Although the Lord may incite us to duty by adversity, yet we shall thereby profit little, unless the stimulus of the word be added.… Wherefore, that the instruction conveyed by outward things may profit us, we must ask the Lord to shine upon us in his own word.”
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Sometimes we sense divine Providence indicating a move for us to make. A new job offer might present itself. Maybe a relationship is pointing toward marriage. Investment prospects may be “golden opportunities” for growing our resources. God will often direct us by opening doors, but we must be sure we have spent time in His Word before we determine which choices to make. Many times an available option is not heaven-sent.