Genesis 31:1-3 UK (NIVUK)
31 Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, ‘Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.’ 2 And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude towards him was not what it had been. 3 Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.’
Jacob must have felt that he was between the proverbial rock and a hard place. On the journey to Paddan Aram God had met him and announced he was with him and that indeed had been the case. He had acquired wives and a family and many flocks despite his father in law’s attempts to swindle him. He had become rich but he was increasingly unwelcome in Laban’s home, and his brothers in law were evidently jealous at the wealth he had accumulated under God’s favour. Two circumstances though must have kept him in place, one natural and the other spiritual. Jacob was a man without a home he was an unwelcome guest with his uncle but an enemy as far as his brother was concerned. There was now no place where he was welcome.
God however, had directed him there and the question must have bothered him should he leave Paddan Aram of his own choice, would it represent disobedience to God and more to the point, would God still be with him as he had so clearly been. Well, this issue at least was resolved when the Lord again spoke to Jacob and told him it was time to go home, and again he answered Jacob’s fears, unspoken as least as far as we are concerned with the words, “and I will be with you.”
I think there are a couple of important lessons for us in this. Despite his growing discomfort Jacob would not leave his adopted home until the Lord indicated he should. You may say but it was fear that caused him to remain and yes, that may have been a factor, fear of losing God’s blessing and fear of his brother. The fact remains though that he did not make plans to leave until God said go and I will be with you. At least one problem was resolved this time by Jacob’s obedience, and he went this time despite of his fears of a confrontation with Esau. He did not have the answer to that dilemma but he trusted God who sent him on his way and that was enough.
Leaving what is familiar, be it a job, a home or a country in which we have become comfortable and known the blessing of God is never easy, and it is not always a straightforward matter to discern if it is God’s will or our whim to leave. Those decisions must be considered in prayer and faith, but when a conviction is formed by the Holy Spirit we must follow it in obedience regardless of the potential cost or difficulties. The future may be unknown to us, as it was for Jacob on that homeward journey, but that can be exciting as well as troubling and the future is always known to God. The one who trusts in Jesus today has his promise I am with you always. That includes in taking the hard decisions, and stepping out in faith. He is with us because he dwells within to instruct, to guide, to strengthen and to bless whatever the challenges living as an obedient disciple might bring. He is faithful.