In today’s world of streaming movies and television, we don’t see as many commercials any more. Do you remember when we would watch a show on cable tv and had to wait until commercials were over before the show came back on? We saw the “As Seen on TV” commercials selling us some sort of product that always said but wait there’s more, we saw all the cereal commercials and loved them because they “were great,” then came the insurance commercials from State Farm with Jake and Flo with Progressive. I love the newer ads from Progressive that have to do with young new home owners whom they can’t help from turning into their parents but they can help with bundling home and auto insurance. I love these commercials when I see these young adults who are turning into their parents because they don’t know where the silent button is on their cell phone when going to the movies or when the young man hires the plumber but attempts to assist him even though the plumber is the expert, and my favorite, have the phone on speaker as you are walking through the store. A few years ago, I saw these commercials as funny but now that I am getting older, I am noticing that some of the little quirks my parents did, I am now doing too. Besides the obvious of genetics, we carry a lot of habits from our parents that are good and bad. Since Genesis 12, we have been following the family of Abraham and there have certainly been ups and downs for the family and as we dive into chapter 31, we are going to see how Jacob’s family tree has affected him in this story.
In Genesis chapter 30, we saw that Jacob’s father in-law had attempted to trick Jacob by separating goats with specks or spots from Jacob’s flocks to lower his wages but God supernaturally intervened and caused Jacob to grow in wealth. Genesis chapter 31 opens with discontent between Jacob and his in-law’s. In verse two, God tells Jacob “Return to the land of your father and your grandfather and to your relatives there and I will be with you.” This meant that the time had come for Jacob to go home to claim the birthright and blessing that had been passed down from Abraham but also the time for reconciliation between him and his brother. In verses 4- 13, Jacob calls his wives Rachel and Leah to discuss how their father has cheated him but also how God has blessed him supernaturally. Their response was one of support since their father had reduced their rights and wasted their inheritance and they agreed to follow him back to the land of promise. Jacob packed up his family and their belongings for the long journey without telling his father in-law. And while Laban was shearing his sheep, his daughter Rachel stole his household Idols or teraphim and took them with her.
Once again, we see that Jacob is on the run again without telling Laban and allowing him to say goodbye to his daughters and grandchildren. Once Laban learned that Jacob had fled, he chased after him but God appeared to him in a dream and told him to leave Jacob alone. Laban then catches up to Jacob and calls him out for leaving and for the stolen gods. Jacob explains his reason for leaving was out of fear that he would take away his wives from him but he is unaware of the stolen gods which Rachel had kept to herself. Jacob ensures Laban that whoever stole the idols will die but as Laban searches through Jacob’s things, Rachel has hidden them on her saddle and sat on them. She tells her father that she is on her woman’s monthly cycle to lie so that she can keep the idols hidden under her. Finally, Jacob stood up to confront his father in-law about his behavior since he had first come to him.
I want to pause for a moment to discuss the significance of what has happened thus far and how it will impact the rest of Jacob’s life. Ever since Jacob was born, he has been a cheater, Jacob’s literal name means deceiver or cheater. He had stolen Esau’s birthright in a dishonest way and then attempted to run away from his problems. When he arrives at his uncle Laban’s home, he has been given a taste of his own medicine. Still God was faithful to Jacob because of the promise made to Abraham. Still, I think Jacob gets a bad wrap as his name is deceiver but what can he expect. His grandfather Abraham wasn’t the most honest person and we see this in his dishonesty with pharaoh and Abimelech about his wife Sarah, he and his wife attempted to help God or dare I say cheat their own way to having a son through Hagar. His father Isaac lied to Abimelech about Rebekah being his wife (oh Abimelech). His mother Rebekah was told by God that her children would be two nations and that the older would serve the younger. So, what does she do, she and Jacob decide to give God’s promise a hand by tricking Isaac to give Jacob the birthright blessing. Oh goodness!! I hope you are catching these parallels. This family has issues with cheating and lying and it is now on Jacob. I just want to take a second to say that we can sometimes feel like our families are not perfect but remember that if God can use this family, he can certainly use yours. But on a more serious note, this lying and cheating has been passed down from generation to generation in this family. It is like the commercials where we become like our family. Sin or generational curses have a nasty way of spreading through our families and down into the next generation. Jacob cheated and ran from his problems but God met him where he was at and called him home. The jealousy between Rachel and Leah over producing children was like Sarah and Hagar. Then Rachel steals her father's gods as insurance policy, just in case the promise of God didn’t work out. These household gods often were for fertility in family and in wealth which the one true God had already promised her family. Mom’s and Dad’s remember that your children are watching you and will follow in your footsteps, so like it says in Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Going back to the story we see that Jacob has told Laban about how he has been cheated by him and has even taken some of the debt that would have been on Laban as his own. Jacob reminds Laban that without God’s hand of blessing he would have left empty handed and this is why God rebuked Laban. At the end of the chapter, we see a moment of reconciliation between Laban’s family and Jacob’s as they make a covenant of peace between each other and God. Finally parting ways on good terms as Jacob heads home. Despite the sins of Jacob’s family God has blessed him and given him the courage to stand up for what is right and for his family. As we will see in the next chapter, Jacob is given a new name that means to Strive with God and in our context strive meaning to try. He will overcome the sins of his family and be made new as he goes to reconcile the relationship with his brother. He is no longer the cheater or liar but one who tries to do right with God. Church, remember that God has made you a new creation and you are not the sins of your past or your family. Yes, there may be deep sin in your family's history but God is so much greater than that and he wants to give you restoration. All you must do is give him your sins and burdens and be made new. So, as you go about your day, walk in the confidence that you are blessed by God and he will give you the strength to stand up for what is right and be his light that spreads to your friends and family.