A friend of ours from way back when, used to always be out of her mind with worry about her son – he was into every type of trouble going, with a significant police record; he’d even stolen from her to feed his drug habit. I heard from her again recently, and that boy has so changed! He has given his life over to God, grown in his faith, and is now a real blessing. She’s so proud of him!
What made the difference? A powerful encounter with the living God. When you meet him, you are never the same again.
Jacob heard from God that it was time to return to the land of his fathers (Genesis 31:3-13). There was going to be something of a surprise for those who remembered him from the old times, because he had changed. The ‘twister’ who had cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing had become a ‘truster’ of God. The change started when he too had a power encounter with God, at Bethel, on his way to Paddan Aram. But that wasn’t the end of it – God had worked with this man, and shown him in countless ways just how much he loved him. Time and time again Laban had tried to cheat him, but time and time again, God had turned the tables on him, and protected Jacob’s rights.
There was a delicate task for Jacob to perform – how to extract his family from Laban’s domain, when his wives were, after all, his precious daughters, and his children were Laban’s grandchildren. It took a lot of wisdom and careful handling to ensure that his wives would not complicate matters by refusing to go with him, and Jacob handled it well.
And I wonder – if Laban had been fair to Jacob, would Leah and Rachel been willing to move so far away from their loving family? And perhaps too, seeing their father as the villain of the piece, helped them to unite and bond, after all the strife they had stirred up in their child-producing days of chapter 30. And that would have been so important as they made their perilous journey back, so vulnerable with their little ones, and so slowed down by their numerous herds. Important too, as they had to make their mark on a new territory. With all the challenges that lay ahead, harmony in the camp was essential.
So when we look around and see youngsters going astray, let us be in no doubt that God can and does change lives. A real encounter with God is all it takes to change direction. And a real power encounter with God is all that it would take to change our community; our nations; our world. Let’s pray for God to touch and heal our young, our neighbours, ourselves. Our world so needs it!