Thursday, November 11, 2010

Genesis 31:1-3, Evil in This Life Drives Our Hearts to the Blessedness of Eternity

"Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, 'Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.' And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, 'Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.'"

Perhaps you recall the context of these events: Isaac had sent Jacob back to Padan-Aram, to Laban, Rebekah's brother, to find a wife among her kindred, as was the custom of that time. Falling in love with Rachel, Laban's daughter, Jacob agrees to work for Laban for seven years as bride-price for her hand in marriage. However, Laban treacherously slipped Rachel's older sister Leah under the wedding veil. Jacob then agrees to work an additional seven years to gain Rachel. He thus works a total of fourteen years for his two wives (joined later by their two hand-maidens).

In the passage quoted here, Rachel's brothers are jealous of the prosperity that Jacob had received from Jehovah his God, while their own father diminished, thus dissipating their inheritance. They turn their resentment against Jacob, and he is inspired to return home.

As I read that this morning, in spite of having read it many times before, I was struck both by the presence of God's electing hand, and the pattern it represents for the life of most, if not all, believers. God had a covenantal plan for Jacob, the heir of the promise, to return to the Promised Land and invest himself there. While He certainly could have simply ordered the move, He instead creates circumstances under which Jacob and his family are happy to do as He intends.

We often hear the question of how a good God can allow evil in the world. While this passage doesn't cover that exhaustively, I think it certainly gives a partial answer. Our citizenship is not in this world (Philippians 3:20); it is in the spiritual kingdom of God. For most of us, the experiential aspect of that is in the world to come. So God makes this world bitter and contemptible, so that we long to be with Jesus. For some people, minor difficulties are sufficient; for others, it may take a larger nudge, such as a horrible disease.

Remember Jacob, and do not allow yourself to focus on the bitterness of this world. Rather, turn your eyes to Jesus, and the time to come when we will no longer know suffering, but only joy (Revelation 21:4).

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