He was running for his life, but moving only as fast as his children would allow the family to travel. Had he been alone, he could have managed 20 miles a day or more.
As it was, he was lucky to make five.
And a mile never passed without a dozen glances over his shoulder. That’s the way it works when you’re running for your life.
They had covered more than 150 miles, but sooner or later, Jacob knew a band of very angry men was going to catch him.
Perhaps you’ve read the story in the Bible’s book of Genesis. Jacob is the man who worked seven years for the wrong wife and another seven years for the right one. He had spent his entire life dealing with deception. Sometimes he was the deceiver. Sometimes he had been deceived.
Jacob was tired of looking over his shoulder.
After years of planning, the opportunity for a fresh start had finally come. Jacob had packed up everything he owned, convinced his wives to leave their father for good, and herded his family toward a new home. The flock included a literal flock. There were hundreds of animals traveling with the family, and dozens of workers tending to their needs.
He’d had a good head start, but Jacob knew that his father-in-law, his brothers-in-law and a band of armed men would eventually discover that a significant portion of the family business had made a break for freedom.
Jacob also knew it wouldn’t take long before the pursuers caught the escapees, and frankly, he wasn’t sure how he was going to talk his way out of the jam. Of all the problems that faced him, this was the one thing he simply could not control. He was doing his very best to return home, but his best was going to be far short of what he needed to accomplish. Disaster was looming. As soon as he spotted the cloud of dust on the horizon, Jacob knew he had only a few hours before he would meet his fate.
This is where the story connects to us, I think. This is where anyone facing a financial crisis can relate. This is where anyone trying to leave or repair a destructive relationship can walk in Jacob’s sandals. If you’ve ever had a situation that simply had no known solution, this is where you should pay attention. If you’ve ever been in a tight spot where your very best efforts were never going to be good enough, Jacob’s story is incredibly relevant.
Because this is where God gets involved.
In Jacob’s case, it was a dream. Jacob knew nothing about the dream. The dream was given to Jacob’s enemy. It was Laban who tossed and turned the night before he finally caught up with his escaping son-in-law. It was Laban who suddenly thought twice about hurting or killing the man he’d chased across the desert.
On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” (Genesis 31:22-24)
Jacob could not have known about the dream. All he knew was stress. All of his dreams involved the nightmares of his wives and children, who rightly feared for their lives. Until Laban held back his sword, Jacob could not have known that God had already been working on his behalf.
This is what I like to call “The God Factor.”
We work. We plan. We stress. We pray. We do what we can. We try to figure it out.
And then we find out that somehow, someway, things worked out.
A check arrives in the mail. A job offer appears out of the blue. A family argument ends abruptly with an apology. Something happens over which we had no control … and suddenly, everything seems under control.
All because of that small part of our stressful lives that included a plea for God to get involved.
For all of his faults – and Jacob had far too many to list here – he was a man who prayed. He was a man who had made promises to God and who was, at that moment, trying to keep a promise he’d made to God.
God seems to take notice when people pray. God seems to appreciate the efforts any of us make in fulfilling our vows we make to Him.
On the outside? It might just seem like we’re running in slow-motion. But in places we can’t see, God moves another person to get involved. In moments we’ll never know about, circumstances are changed on our behalf.
And just like that, Laban goes home. The journey goes forward. The problem disappears.
More than likely, you know about stress.
There’s an excellent chance that you are facing at least one or two challenges right now that seem insurmountable.
If not today, then give it time. These moments of desperation seem to come on a regular basis.
So don’t miss Jacob’s lesson.
Make sure you leave the God Factor as a viable option. Ask Him for help. Do your best to please Him. And as you wait on your miracle, keep doing whatever it is you sense that He has commanded you to do. Keep the faith, right up until the moment when the crisis reaches its climax.
When it’s time, God will act, and we will know the faith of our fathers.
We shall know … The God Factor.