Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
I’ve just come back from a holiday with Claire, my wife. We were lucky enough to be able to visit both Venice and Rome, two very beautiful cities that neither of us had had the opportunity to visit before. Rather unusually for us, we didn’t get lost. Not once. This is very unusual for us, since we have a tendency to head off in the exact opposite direction to the one we should be heading in. We’ve managed to get ourselves lost in cities all around the world! I blame our poor sense of direction.
I’m sure many of us struggle with our sense of direction. That can also apply to our lives too, of course. With so many jobs on offer, so many places to live, so many people we could marry, how on earth are we supposed to know the correct route to pursue in our lives?
Today’s Daily Reading is about exactly that. Jacob has been in Paddan Aram, with his mother’s family, for twenty years. He knew from the outset that this wouldn’t be his permanent home; God had made that clear to him in a dream on his way to Paddan Aram (Genesis 28:15). Jacob had himself started to desire to return to his family, saying to Laban, his uncle/father-in-law (twice over!), “send me on my way so I can go back to my homeland” (Genesis 30:25). Then later, he overheard his cousins/brothers-in-law saying, “‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father’” (Genesis 31:1). They were clearly getting a little irritated with him. Jacob even noticed that “Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been” (Genesis 31:2). Even his wives seem to be getting a little fed up with their present circumstances, saying, “‘do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children’” (Genesis 31:15-16). All indications are that Jacob’s life will take a change in direction. The final sign comes when God himself spoke to Jacob, telling him to go back to the land of his fathers, as we see in today’s key verse. What we also see in this verse in God’s promise that he will be with Jacob as he takes this new direction.
There’s much for us to note in this verse as we seek to find God’s direction for our own lives. God had clearly been preparing Jacob for the return to his homeland for some time. It looks like God had been at work in Laban, his sons, in Jacob himself, and his wives, all preparing them for their return to Jacob’s home. Finally, Jacob received a clear direction from God that he should return. I have no doubt that God works in us and and in those around us in a similar way today. I also take great comfort from the fact that when Jacob follows God’s direction, God will be with him. This must be a good incentive for us to seek out God’s path for our own lives!