When my kids were young, there was a large extended family living in several houses nearby. They were not the easiest of neighbours, and successive generations had taken it upon themselves to ‘rule’ the streets. And there were a lot of them. My kids generally did their best to play out and keep out of their way, but tensions had started to mount, and they started to get uneasy about going out to play. Then my sister brought her three girls over for the day. Two of them were considerably bigger than my three, and anyway, there’s strength in numbers! Out they went. With a plan. The young thugs saw my kids and started to pick a fight; then the cousins appeared on the scene, outnumbering them now, and considerably bigger. Recognizing their disadvantage, they hot-footed down the street. The cousins gave chase to reinforce the lesson, and saw them well and truly out of the vicinity. Good job done! But better still, from then on, whenever one of my kids spotted one of these minor yobs, my kids would start to run at them, so they’d turn and run away. Months of intimidation came to a rapid end, and my kids were free to play out again. Had anything changed? Only my kids’ confidence! Now they knew they didn’t have to put up with intimidation.
As I read the passage of Jacob and Laban in Genesis 31:22-44 it brought this old story to mind. Jacob had put up with Laban’s shenanigans for twenty solid years. He had exploited and intimidated him. Jacob had had to sneak out with his family and goods for fear that Laban would once again get the better of the situation. Granted Jacob had benefitted as well over those years – but only because God had honoured and blessed him.
There are many situations in life where we can be intimidated. (I’m not particularly talking about real bullying, which might need stronger intervention.) At work, with relations, even in church, we can find ourselves being put down by others, who don’t really have any power or authority, yet seem to hold sway. When Jacob finally stood up to Laban, and let him have the length of his tongue (v36-42), there were no mighty explosions, the world didn’t dissolve, and Jacob didn’t get struck by lightening. No, Laban just backed off!
As Christians we can be too ‘nice’. There comes a time we do have to take the authority God has given us, to fulfil our destiny. Laban’s selfishness would have prevented Jacob from obeying God and going back to Canaan. With God’s help we don’t need to be rude or unpleasant, but simply determined not be deflected by other over-dominant people from achieving all he has set out for us to do. If God has given you a job to do, then you are the one he has chosen, and he will give you all that you need to do it.