Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Jacob Tells His Wives What God Told Him -- Genesis 31:4-13

So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to his flock in the field,
and said to them, "I see your father's attitude, that it is not friendly toward me as formerly, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength. Yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times; however, God did not allow him to hurt me. If he spoke thus, 'The speckled shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth speckled; and if he spoke thus, 'The striped shall be your wages,' then all the flock brought forth striped. Thus God has taken away your father's livestock and given them to me. And it came about at the time when the flock were mating that I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream, and behold, the male goats which were mating were striped, speckled, and mottled. Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, 'Jacob,' and I said, 'Here I am.' He said, 'Lift up now your eyes and see that all the male goats which are mating are striped, speckled, and mottled; for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar, where you made a vow to Me; now arise, leave this land, and return to the land of your birth.' "

Jacob hears the murmuring of his cousins against him, sees the change in his uncle’s attitude towards him, hears God telling him to return to his homeland, and now he has to act. How many times have we been in that kind of situation? We know what’s happening in our own little world and it’s not good, we know what God wants us to do about it, and now what’s left is for us to act. Of course that’s not always easy. For starters there’s other members of the family to consider. What will they say? How will they feel and react? What about my work? My friends? My comfort? My routine? Can I really change my environment as much as God wants me to at my age? And so on.

Lately, many of us have started using the name ‘Christ-follower’ where we otherwise would have used ‘Christian’ in the past. Many use it interchangeably but to those who prefer the term ‘Christ-follower’ there are more and more distinctions being identified between the two nomenclatures. I believe a true mark of a Christ-follower is the desire to act, once we have clearly and unambiguously heard the direction God wants us to take, in a way that exhibits total acceptance of, and obedience to, that instruction, no matter what the cost or the inconvenience to ourselves or to those that we have accountability for.

So how does Jacob act? He calls (likely through others) Rachel and Leah to come and join him in the fields. That makes sense as they are sisters and this is very much about their father and brothers. And besides why have to go through the whole story twice. The fields are a good place to meet since we have no idea when the two sisters likely last saw each other. The most likely alternative location would have been either Rachel’s or Leah’s house; probably not a good move as the two sisters have really been competitors for Jacob’s love and attention for years.

And Jacob begins to tell his story to his wives. He relates not only how he perceives Laban’s attitude is no longer friendly towards him, but also that God, who has kept His own eye on the situation, is with him. That’s the privilege of a Christian – to know that no matter how we see and feel about what is happening to us, we realize that God is aware and is with us, we need not fear life, or death.

Jacob tells Leah and Rachel what they already likely know – that he has served their father well but that Laban has cheated him many times. These are harsh words for daughters to hear, especially when it comes from someone they love. In so doing, we learn his wages had been changed many times, not just the times we read about as recorded in the earlier text. (Recognizing this helps us understand how Scripture’s truth and verification is sometimes explained or proven by what is missing in the manuscript or story, rather than always looking for what is included only. What is included is something we know with one hundred per cent certainty. What sometimes seems to be missing in order to make an account believable to many may in fact have occurred and we need to allow for that possibility. Perhaps another way of getting this across is that in either case, the Bible’s authenticity may not always be proven to man’s satisfaction, but it can never be disproved. The person of faith then can and does accept it as God wrote it.)

Jacob also sees that God did not allow Laban to hurt him in any way, either physically or economically, as ultimately Jacob became very successful while working for Laban. God also worked around whatever decisions Laban made to assist Jacob. In fact, God used Laban’s trickery against him and arranged it so that Laban’s livestock were taken from him and given to Jacob. And then Jacob tells his wives, Rachel and Leah, about the dream that he had.

God spoke to him in that dream and called him by his name, “Jacob”. And Jacob answered God saying, “Here I am.” Then God told Jacob that He was fully aware of what was going on, how Laban had treated him all this while, and his current attitude towards Jacob. Then God says, “Listen to Who I am Jacob. I’m the same God that you met at Bethel where you anointed a pillar before you made a promise to Me.” You will remember in Genesis 28:18 we read how Jacob had slept under the stars with a stone as his pillow and the next morning he poured oil over that stone, named the place Bethel, and gave thanks to God. Now God reminds him again of that experience, telling him that He is indeed the same God.

Sometimes God has to remind us of experiences in our past when we knew or felt beyond any doubt not only God’s existence, but also His presence with us. It is as if He is saying, “If I was real then and I was with you, and you believed in me then, you can trust me now and do whatever I tell you to do.” And Jacob did trust God now.

Jacob tells his wives he has no choice but to get up, leave this land (of their father’s), and return to the land of his birth. Now, imagine for a moment how these two daughters felt when they heard that.

How would you react? Had the man already made up his mind? Was he asking for their input or concurrence? There’s no evidence in support of either. What if you didn’t want to leave you father’s land? The fact of the matter was that in those days a woman had very little choice but to do what her husband wanted to do.

Today in the twenty-first century, Christians still hold on to New Testament teaching that says “Wives, obey your husbands.” But neither the New Testament nor full followers of Jesus Christ stop there. The passage they refer to goes on to say, “Husbands, love your wives” or as some translations have it, “Husbands, consider your wives.” Husbands can have the final say in a decision, but not until after they have considered the impact of the decision on their wives. They do this by evaluating the various options available against the welfare of their wives. And each husband knows what his wife wants by asking for her input, listening to what she has to say, and then exercising his love towards her in all that he decides.

Recently, I had the sad experience, as President of a Mission, to hear that one of our missionary couples had separated. While no such circumstance is ever simple to explain, nor can we assign blame to one party over the other, there was something in that situation that is relevant to our discussion here. In my talking with both of the individuals involved, it came to light that one of the main reasons for the wife leaving the husband was that he made all the decisions in their almost three decades of married life. He saw a problem, or an opportunity, and he simply announced to the family what they were going to do about it starting immediately. No discussion, no input, no consideration. The wife could no longer live like that. The husband admits to this and wishes he had acted otherwise, but unfortunately it seems to be too late.

Wives do indeed obey your husbands. But husbands give full consideration to your wife and children as you make decisions. This is how your love for them will show.

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