Please turn to Genesis 31:1-21. In Genesis 30, we saw a Jacob who was tempted to trust in his own skill and his own schemes to bring about his own prosperity. In Genesis 31, Jacob does not mention his own skills, but he entirely credits the Lord with what has happened to him. In the very responsibility of teaching his wives about the Lord's providence, Jacob is realizing himself that it is God who has prospered him. The realization of God's kind providence is dramatic in its impact upon Jacob and his spiritual growth. This passage can be divided into three sections. First, we see the background to Jacob's departure in verses 1-3. Next, we see Jacob's words of explanation to his wives in verses 4-16 as he attempts to persuade them that it is wise for them to leave their homeland and to go back to Canaan. Finally, we see a description of Jacob's flight back to his homeland in verses 17-21.      



I. Jacob prepares to depart. 

In Genesis 31:1-3, we see the divine and human background to Jacob's departure from Laban. Jacob's desires and his circumstances converged now with God's calling to lead him back home to Canaan. Jacob had previously wanted to leave to go back to his homeland. However, he had entered into an agreement to stay with Laban for another six years which subsequently enriched him. At this point in the passage, we are told that Jacob was stirred to reconsider his return to Canaan by a convergence of several factors. First, Jacob tells us that his brothers-in-law and his father-in-law were now clearly antagonistic towards him, and that he had fallen out of Laban's favor. Furthermore, we are told in verse 3 that God had come to Jacob and promised him safe passage back to Canaan and that God had called him to return to the promised land. Later, in Genesis 32, Jacob tells us that his conscience had been convicted and that he needed to reconcile himself with Esau. It is interesting to note that the outward factors, the accusations of his brothers, the antagonism of his father-in-law, his own desires which had been expressed some years ago to go back to the land of Canaan, were not definitive in leading Jacob to leave. It was only when God's call came to him that he decided to go. This truth shows us the importance of God's revelation and guidance. Jacob does not merely depend on outward providences to determine the right course of action. He depends upon the word of God. It also shows us that God is giving him a divine shove to return to the land of Canaan because his brothers-in-law and father-in-law have turned against him. When you get comfortable and you are not where God wants you to be, you can expect Him to make you uncomfortable so that you will restart the journey towards where He wants you ultimately to be. 



II. Jacob learns the lesson of God's kind providence. 

In Genesis 31:4-16, we see Jacob beginning to learn the lesson of God's kind providence as he also has the responsibility of teaching it to his wives. Jacob has to go to his wives and make the case for leaving their father, family, and network of friends and going to his home where they know no one. You can tell that Jacob has been thinking about this because, if you look at verses 5-13, he makes six distinct arguments to them about why it is a good thing for them to pack up everything and leave to go to his homeland. First, Jacob says that Laban has turned unfavorable toward him. Secondly, Jacob contends that he has worked hard and faithfully for his father-in-law despite the fact that Laban continued to change the arrangements of their agreement. Thirdly, Jacob says that Laban has been unfair to him, and that he has changed the wages several times. But, then he stresses again that God has not allowed Laban to hurt him. For the second time, Jacob explicitly emphasizes what is God's providence. Fourth, he credits God Himself as the One who is due all the glory for his prosperity. Fifth, Jacob says that God's providential prospering of himself was confirmed to him in a divine revelation. Specifically, Jacob explains that God came to him in a dream during the livestock mating season and reminded him explicitly that all his prosperity came from Him. As Jacob has become aware of God's providence, he is making that clear to his wives. As he is forced to teach his wives, Jacob is having reinforced in his own mind and heart the reality of God's providence. Finally, Jacob explains that he was reminded in a dream of a vow that he had made at Bethel. Specifically in verse 13, God says to Jacob,  "I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to Me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred." 

After hearing these arguments, Jacob’s wives respond favorably to him. Specifically, they respond with four comments. First, in verse 14, Jacob’s wives say that they feel like they have been totally excluded from their father's plans for future blessing and inheritance. Next, they express two concerns in verse 15. They say that they feel as if their father treats them like foreigners. In other words, they no longer feel a family relation to him. Then, they say that they feel as if they have been sold or used by their father for his own benefit, but that he is not concerned for their welfare. Finally, they admit that they see God's hand of providence. Ultimately, they agree to depart from their father's household and land. They see that Jacob's plan is not only wise, but that it is just. This seems to be another indication of God's blessing upon Jacob. Where you might expect a tremendous conflict to arise from his wives, you see them immediately agree that Jacob’s plan is a good one. This is another clear example of God's hand of providence.

 

III. Jacob departs to his homeland. 

In Genesis 31:17-21, Jacob begins his departure back to his homeland. He tried to get away six years before and Laban had stopped him. Therefore, he probably anticipated the kind of trouble that he was going to receive from Laban if he requested permission to leave again. Although Jacob deceived Laban in his flight, it is stressed in verse 18 that Jacob took only what he had earned in accordance with the agreement with Laban. Even if we disagree with Jacob's methods in his leaving, it is important to remember that he is ultimately responding to the call of God. That is something for all of us to remember in our own responsibility to the Lord. May God also help us to obey our responsibilities and to keep our covenant vows to Him and to our families.