Monday, 20 May 2013

Reading the Bible 23 Gen 31: 22-55 The Grace of God That Passes All Understanding

Families are the places where all is revealed and all manner of things are not well at least some of the time.  However, some times the differences can be resolved and harmony can reign and peace can be restored.  I believe that this is what God desires but it sometimes feels like  the exception rather than the rule.  This is of course because people see things differently and one person’s goose is another’s gander.

In today’s reading we have the final confrontation between Jacob and his (two-fold) father-in-law Laban.  Jacob is trying to make a fast get away from Laban.   He doesn’t trust Laban to let him leave for his homeland with what Jacob feels is his due – the wages he has earned for twenty years of labour.  This includes Laban’s two daughters and their children as well as the flocks that he won by some dubious means.  Laban catches up with the fleeing Jacob – it is rather hard to make a hasty get away with hundreds if not thousands of sheep and goats after all.  In any case we have the two men expressing their indignation and astonishment at the other’s actions. 
Laban at first expresses his hurt feelings and anger at Jacob’s actions, “26 Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You have deceived me, and carried away my daughters like captives of the sword. 27 Why did you flee secretly and deceive me and not tell me? I would have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre.28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? What you have done is foolish.”   Right after this he answers his own question, “29 It is in my power to do you harm; but the God of your father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Take heed that you speak to Jacob neither good nor bad.’”  He is unable to see that this is exactly why Jacob did what he did – Laban had the power to do Jacob harm and apparently would have if he hadn’t received the message from God which apparently came in a dream.

Now it is Jacob’s turn to show his indignation.  He angrily states his position and tries to justify his actions claiming innocence, “36 Then Jacob became angry, and upbraided Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 Although you have felt about through all my goods, what have you found of all your household goods?”  Thrown into the mix is Rachael’s dubious actions –stealing Laban’s household gods and concealing them successfully from the search.  Rachael is certainly suited to be Laban’s daughter and Jacob’s wife.  It turns out she can be just as much of a trickster as her father and husband. 
What we have in all this is the tangled web woven over twenty years of deceit and underhanded dealing within the family - trick upon trick and resentment upon resentment that has finally come to a head in a full- blown confrontation.  However, we also have a resolution once things are out in the open.  Laban makes the first move at reconciliation – perhaps due to the intervention of God in the matter, 43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about their children whom they have borne? 44 Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I; and let it be a witness between you and me.”   There is a reconciliation which leaves it in the hands of the God of each man,” 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor”—the God of their father—“judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the Fear[g] of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice on the height and called his kinsfolk to eat bread; and they ate bread and tarried all night in the hill country.” 

This passage is for me a wonderful example of the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about inspiration that leads to reconciliation of seemingly irreconcilable differences brought about by the desire for the Ego to be in charge.  It is truly an example of the grace of God which at bottom passes all understanding.