In my dealings with God it is very easy to forget that He is, in fact, ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’. That He is the same today as He ever will be and as He always was. In this Post-Modern Age we can lose sight of the fact that we are still crying out to the very same God that the three aforementioned patriarchs did also.
And that the record of their own dealings with Him that has been left behind serves to provide some valuable insights into not only how we should approach Him, but also what He is really like. It is clear that God yearns for a deeper relationship with all of us; that He desires for us to rely upon Him for everything; and, most importantly, that He loves us just as He did the likes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
So, when we accept that He is the same as He ever was, then it becomes easier to accept that when it comes to hearing His call upon our lives it is likely to be delivered in much the same way as it has always been. And that said, it follows that the on-going guidance towards the fulfilment of His will will also be the same.
For those of you reading this (not many of you I am sure but hi anyway) who have had the call of God on their lives and responded to it will perhaps understand my methodology more. Sometimes, the call of God can be a ‘burning bush’ or ‘road to Damascus’ experience. For most, however, it starts with a gentle nudge; an idea that came from seemingly nowhere. Sometimes it is something on your heart and at others it couldn’t be further from it. But it comes nevertheless. Relentless. Stirring. Calling.
As with all things from God it is our response that is vital. In September 2013 I became aware of such a calling. Being the type of guy I am, I jumped. Here I am. But as the process of the journey started to reveal itself I found myself growing cautious. Not wanting to get it wrong (for that has happened before), I adopted a patient approach to it all. And you get used to this patience. It becomes part of the journey very quickly. So much so, that at times when it feels like the whole project is on pause, you can easily say that it is because God wants to teach me something or other. But I am beginning to learn that not every pause is of God. That brings me to the story of Jacob.
I like Jacob. I always have. I suspect that my empathy towards him comes because of wrestling with God. We all wrestle with God but I have always taken that the inclusion of Jacob’s bout and the outcome as an open invitation to reason things out with God in this same manner. But really Jacob was a bit of a fool like me and it wasn’t until yesterday that I realised, just how bigger fools we both are.
Jacob had to live in the shadow of his older twin, Esau. In those days it was all about the eldest. And twice Jacob had managed to rob Esau of something. On the second occasion Jacob was forced to flee the family home and head for Haran in search of his uncle Laban. Of course, he now has the blessing rightly due to Esau and the words of his father, Isaac, ringing in his ears. The Blessing. The continuance of the Abrahamic Covenant through him. The inheritance of the land to which he is now to become a stranger. Because of the effort that he went to in deceiving his own father and robbing his brother, I imagine that he felt better equipped to carry forward the family business of being the bloodline for God’s people. I have to assume that that was the very thing on his mind when he made it to his uncle’s land for when his cousin Rachel appeared he fell in love with her straight away and decided to try and buy her from his uncle Laban.
Now Laban wasn’t overtly evil but he knew a fool when he saw one and that was only confirmed when Jacob offered to work for seven years in exchange for Rachel’s hand in marriage. You try telling that to your average guy nowadays that they will have to work for seven years before any sex! Laban agreed…naturally.
And so, over the next twenty years we see Jacob being taken advantage of by Laban. Firstly the old classic ‘bait and switch’ with Rachel and her older sister Leah and then another seven years for Rachel. All the while Laban is benefitting from the favour of God that is on Jacob:
“So Jacob said to him, ‘You know how I have served you and how your livestock has been with me. For what you had before I came was little, and it has increased to a great amount; the LORD has blessed you since my coming.” [Genesis 30:29-30 NKJV]
And Laban takes advantage of Jacob’s foolishness with persuasive gestures for a fortune of his own. Jacob is of course deceived. But God sees all of this. He sees everything. Just as He did back then, so as He does today.
I have had reason to study chapter 31 of Genesis on many occasions but until yesterday I had failed to see something so glaringly obvious that when I read it now I am made foolish. In my own life, with the Cornerstone itself, we have been faced with a huge pause. That pause I thought was of God. But, in His mercy, He has shown me otherwise through the story of Jacob and Laban.
You see, Jacob had a calling on his life. The last thing his father Isaac had said to him before he had to flee from Esau was that he was the one through whom the promise made to Abraham would be reckoned. But Jacob allowed himself to be side-tracked on his journey by being persuaded by Laban to stay. Of course, Jacob’s calling is no small issue; tied to the outcome of his quest is the fate of the entire nation of Israel. Satan knew this. He used Laban to delay Jacob as long as he could. For Satan knew that as long as Jacob remained in Haran then he could never inherit the land promised to Abraham. But it was so subtle that Jacob failed to recognise it. And so sometimes, distractions like the accumulation of sheep or wives can be of God. But, as I am now learning, if God has called you to do something it is best to keep to His timetable instead of your own.
It was inevitable that Jacob would leave Laban. It was inevitable that he would wrestle with God for his blessing and it was inevitable that his own sons would sell Joseph into slavery in Egypt. Why? Because God had ordained it. You cannot stop that which God has ordered. Once He has spoken something, it is impossible to prevent it happening because His word never returns to Him empty. But, we ourselves, and other parties who interests are best served by not seeing God’s will fulfilled, can delay the inevitable. Genesis 31 shows us that even when we get delayed and distracted God stands there and waits for us to learn. Once we figure it out (Jacob did – Laban’s attitude towards him had changed) then God is ready (and eager) to get us back to His path. If you are facing a delay on something that God has called you to do, it may be that God has pressed ‘pause’ for His own reasons. But equally so, it may be that you are experiencing a ‘Laban Factor’ and someone is trying to delay the inevitable.
Because God has called you, you will succeed.