Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Ever notice how sometimes God gives only enough direction to provide a general sense of which way He wants us to go? Jacob has noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him has changed and that Laban’s sons, Jacob’s brothers-in-law, are grumbling about God’s blessing on Jacob. Things are going south in a big way. In the midst of all this, God drops in and says, “Hit the road, Jake.”
I think this was an opportunity for Jacob. God didn’t say how or when to leave; He just said leave. Jacob was given the opportunity to be up front about things. He could have gone to Laban and said, “I’ve noticed that relations are strained and thought it might be a good time for me to head back home. I mean, my folks haven’t met the grand kids yet and your sons seem to be really unhappy with the way things are. So, I think I’ll be heading out tomorrow.” Jacob could have given Laban the chance to do something sneaky and have God pop in and tell Laban not to mess with Jacob like that. So many things could have been and might have been, but they weren’t. And I think that means Jacob missed this opportunity.
Sometimes, God does the same thing with me. He tells me that He wants to do something, but only gives enough information for me to take an opportunity or miss it. Years ago, I was approached and asked to pray about serving in the junior high youth ministry at the church I was attending at the time. I thought I was being asked to pick up teaching duties and prayed generally about whether or not God wanted me to step into that service. I got a “Yes” back and passed the answer along to the pastor who had talked with me. He prayed over me and the prayer was for a ministry overseer. What? I proceeded to serve and stumble and bumble my way through a year or two of overseeing that ministry and eventually stepped down when I probably should have stayed. God gave only as much information as I needed to make the decision. I asked if He wanted me in that role and He said yes. I didn’t ask Him what the role was or He might have answered. Had Jacob asked God when He wanted Jacob to leave, I suspect that God would have given a very specific answer.
There it is. I think that this morning’s verse is about opportunities. I think God will sometimes give just enough information to know what His will is without giving us the how He wants it done. Maybe He gives us these general instructions to bring us back to Him. I mean, Jacob hadn’t really been talking with God very much that The Bible records — and we’re talking about a period of twenty years. Maybe Gd gives us these generalized instructions to take the pulse of our understanding. Will we do things His way or our way; will we rely on Him or fall back on habits that have managed to eke us through? God’s not interested in us eking through, He came that we might have life and that more abundantly. So He wants us to do things His way so we can enjoy the blessings thereof. I could spend all morning theorizing about why God might do this and any of the theories could be right in a given situation and they could all be wrong because God’s thoughts are so much higher than mine.
God is going to give general direction and opportunities. How will I respond?
Father God, do not let me do things as Jacob did: in my own strength and reasoning and abilities. Please cause me, instead, to turn to You for further guidance and for strength to do Your work in Your way. Thank You that You care enough to direct at all and that You are just as interested in how and why I do things as You are in what I do.