Genesis 31:1-9: The frowns of providence.

“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.”And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestockand has given them to me.” NIV


Tom Hale, in the ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.176, admits that the verses we looked at last Friday (30:37-43) are confusing: ‘Jacob resorted to a superstitious belief that if animals mated in front of striped branches, their offspring would be striped or mixed in colour. True enough, when Jacob mated Laban’s single-coloured animals in this way, mixed coloured offspring resulted. (This is genetically possible, though unlikely) Furthermore, he had the stronger animals mate near the striped branches, but not the weaker animals…Did Jacob’s striped branches have any effect? No; God produced the effect by using the recessive genes already present in the animals. God, using natural means, caused Jacob’s flocks to grow and Laban’s to decline. Jacob himself later admitted that the credit belonged to God (Genesis 31:9). This entire episode was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacob back at Bethel that He would be with him wherever he went (Genesis 28:15).’  It was now God’s time for Jacob to return home (3). The Lord not only spoke to him about this, but also worked in his circumstances to give him a big nudge in the right direction (2, 5). He experienced something of the frowns of providence. It wasn’t a happy thing for Jacob to endure, but it emphasised that time was up. Here is something we can all identify with: someone (or certain people) have been friendly towards us; then (sometimes inexplicably) the ‘weather’ changes. The sunshine goes behind dark cloud. We can feel the temperature drop, and we know we have to take appropriate action: reach for a macintosh or an umbrella. In jacob’s case we can understand the change, but we can’t always pinpoint reasons why friends have cooled off. It can be exceedingly hurtful.

But remember this: although people maybe mercurial, God is always with us and He remains the same.  Rejoice in the Lord.