Genesis 31: God, Not gods
January 13, 2024
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
If things could not get any stranger in Jacob’s wandering dealings with his family and relatives, they are nonetheless getting to the point where Jacob is finding his way back to Canaan (31:3). Jacob notices (“quelle surprise,” what a surprise!) that Laban no longer regards him in the way he once did (31:1-2). It would not take a rocket scientist to figure out why; after all, Jacob, through his selective breeding techniques, has basically taken from Laban’s hand much of his wealth.
So Jacob—preemptive strike—calls a meeting with his wives, out in the fields away from listening ears (31:4). He tells them the situation and gets their support for leaving their father and taking with them much of their father’s wealth (31:5-16). Rachel and Leah agree (was this the only time they agreed on anything?) and flee secretly with Jacob and their family and all their possessions (31:17-21).
Rachel takes with her Laban’s “household gods”—some idols, statues, perhaps precious (31:19). How easy it is for the family of God to begin to hide other “idols” of worship in idolatry, even treasure them as honored family heirlooms. Laban pursues Jacob (31:22-23), and he is warned by God in a dream not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad (31:24, 29). After some lengthy discussion between the two men, where they each accuse the other of cheating them (31:25-43), they come to an agreement and set up stones as a witness to their covenant (31:44-54). Meantime, Laban has searched for the household gods (31:33-35), and Rachel has hidden them beneath her, pretending “the way of women” was upon her (31:35) so she could not move. Not only are these household gods precious, they are jealously guarded by Rachel.
Eventually, once the agreement has been appropriately ratified according to the customs of the time (31:44-54), Laban gets ready to leave and blesses his children and grandchildren with words of counsel and love (31:55). Jacob has managed to make peace with one of the people he has deceived.
Let our families not harbor jealous idols of monetary riches, fame, or honor, but find our total fulfillment only in the God of the Bible as the one true and right object of worship. Any other “household god” will lead to friction; only as we return to Canaan, to God’s ways, can we begin to find peace between those who are also disciples of the Lord.
Once again, we learn from this text that the patriarchs were not blessed for their righteousness, but for their faithfulness, which encourages us to reach out to God for forgiveness and to trust in Christ and his righteousness. Their failures also warn us against not following God fully: how much unnecessary pain and disaster in Christian families and for Christian individuals could be avoided if our “household gods” were removed from the little corners of our hearts, and our loyalty was to God and him alone.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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