Good morning!
Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
“Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”  (Genesis 31:3b)
God called Abraham, and Abraham answered to God.  Then Abraham followed God, and left his country without knowing where he went.  Whenever he went, he built an alter to God and worshipped God by calling upon His Name.  He lived a God-Centric life, and God pleased with Abraham.  God richly blessed Abraham.  God opened the womb of Sarah, his barren wife, and gave Isaac at his old age of one hundred.    God continued blessed Abraham, and he saw his two grandsons, Esau and Isaac.   Abraham was able to see the beginning of God’s promise that his descendants would be great nations. 
The God’s promise given to Abraham was passed down to Isaac, and then to Jacob, the younger son instead of Esau, the older son.  Jacob was always jealous of the birthright of Esau, his older brother since his birth.   Jacob was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel.   This was the reason why the younger brother was named “Jacob”, which meant seizing by the heel.   Jacob bought out the birthright from Esau with one bowl of lentil stew.  Later Jacob stole his father’s blessing reserved for Esau by disguising himself as Esau before his old father with a poor eye sight due to his old age.   The co-plotter of the deceptive plan was, in fact, Rebecca, his mother.  What a broken family!   Soon Jacob’s deception was exposed to Esau, and Esau decided to kill Jacob.   Jacob had to run for his life. 
Jacob was sent to Laban, his uncle, who lived about 1,000 km away.   He had to travel through wildernesses, foreign cities, valleys and dangerous places.  Jacob looked back his home where he had all good things while lonely walking away from home.   It was not long after his departure that the first night fell.   Jacob was alone in wilderness.   He found a stone to lay his head, and lied down while looking up the dark chilly night sky lonely.  He begged sleep, but it was really difficult.   He was able to see what really happened to him and what he did to his father and brother.   For the first time, he experienced the taste of his wrong doing, although the pain from his sins was long overdue.   Then, he fell into a deep sleep, which was God’s blessing.  Although Jacob did not know, God was always with him all the way to the lonely place.   God, who was merciful to Jacob, showed up in his dream.   God comforted Jacob by showing a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven and angels going up and down the stairway.   At the top of the stairway stood God, and He said,
 “I am the LORD, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants.  What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”   (Genesis 28:13b-15)
It was the same blessings given to Abraham.   Jacob woke up and he realized that he was not alone.   The God, who appeared to Abraham, his grandfather, was with him in the middle of the wilderness at night under the dark chilly night sky.   As soon as dawning, he built an alter to God and worshipped God as his grandfather Abraham did, which Jacob used to see.  However, Jacob was not fully ready to receive the God’s blessing.   It was the moment that God started to mold Jacob so that Jacob be transformed from the earthly cunning man of Jacob to a new Jacob who could truly be the bearer of the glorious promise of God — the father of the twelve tribes of Israelites.  At the dawn, Jacob made a transactional vow to God that he would build a memorial pillar for God when returning safely.  God gladly heard Jacob’s vow, and God continued leading him to the Laban’s house.  Indeed, God’s merciful lesson had just started to mold Jacob by grinding off the worldly, cunning and self-centered edge of Jacob.    At the same time, God  cared for Jacob, and God protected him throughout the journey of 1,000 Km.  
Jacob safely arrived at Paddan-Aram, where his uncle Laban lived.   Laban gladly received Jacob, and Jacob stayed in the Laban’s house.   Laban had two daughters, Leah and Rachael.  Jacob loved Rachael at first sight, and agreed to work seven years to get married to Rachel.   Laban was also a cunning man like Jacob.  He tricked Jacob and made him get married to Leah instead of Rachel.   For the first time, Jacob was deceived by another person.   Jacob, then, had to seven more years to get Rachel as his wife.  Jacob essentially worked for Laban seven more years for free.   Indeed, it was God who gave the lesson to Jacob, but the greedy and deceptive Jacob was hardly changed. 
God did not stop His lesson for Jacob.   Although Jacob loved Rachel, she could not have a baby.    Leah bore six sons, but Rachel had no baby.   It led to a constant domestic dispute, which made Jacob crazy.    One day, when Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She pleaded with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”   Then Jacob became furious with Rachel. “Am I God?” he asked. “He’s the one who has kept you from having children!”    Jacob slowly understood that behind the scene there was God, the master of everything in his life including having a baby from his beloved wife.   Jacob started thinking more about God, and tried to understand God while looking back his past life, and the current life with his uncle Laban.
Yes, Jacob and Rachel suffered long.   The Merciful God could not continue their suffering of not having a baby as parents could not watch their children’s sufferings long.   God opened the womb of Rachel, and Rachel gave birth to Joseph.   Jacob really loved Joseph more than any other sons.   Yes, God’s mercy always trumps over our sins.  Not because Jacob was upright before God, but because God was merciful, Jacob and Rachel received Joseph. 
God provides many good things in our lives and grants our prayers not because we are upright before God, but because God is merciful.   Again, His Mercy is higher and wider than our sins.   If not, we all have already died because the wages of sin is death, not just a physical death, but an eternal death.   However, through Christ Jesus, Our Merciful God gives an eternal life as a free gift.   Whoever receives this free gift of God will have an eternal life in God.   Only is one thing that is needed to receive the free gift of God, and believe Jesus Christ as our savior.
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)
Jacob was still a work in progress of God’s master piece, because Jacob was still of the world.   His cunning and deceiving character was still dominating in him.  He did not and could not fully understand the size, depth and height of God’s mercy because it was given by God not by Jacob’s merit (i.e., Jacob’s goodness) but by God’s love and grace.  Jacob, as he was, was a cunning and deceptive man.  As described above, Jacob made a plot against his uncle Laban as if he paid back to his uncle Laban.   Jacob offered an irresistible offer to Laban when Laban asked, “What wages do you want?”
Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks.  Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. Give these to me as my wages.  In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.”   (Genesis 30:31b-33)
Of course, it was a trick to fool Laban and to increase his own wealth instead.  As a result, Jacob’s wealth was increased while the Laban’s wealth was decreased.    What a revenge of Jacob to Laban!   Yes, Jacob was of the world.    Soon it was known to Laban’s sons, and they grumbling about Jacob, “Jacob has robbed our father of everything!” they said. “He has gained all his wealth at our father’s expense.”
And Jacob began to notice a change in Laban’s attitude toward him.   Then Jacob knew that he could not stay his uncle’s house anymore.   But he had no place to go.   Why had he left his home tens years ago?   He deceived his father to steal his brother’s blessing by disguising himself as his brother Esau.  Isaac, who had a poor eye sight, was deceived and blessed Jacob without knowing.  Then what happened to Jacob?   He had to leave his home.   The sad history was repeated again in his uncle’s house.   Surely, Jacob gained a lot, but he had to leave his uncle’s house.  However, for this time, Jacob realized that he was trapped.   Indeed, he could not go back to his home because his brother Esau was waiting for him to kill him.   The situation was much worse than Jacob initially thought, and Jacob did not what to do next.   In fact, this treacherous situation was brought by God for Jacob.  Why?  Jacob was very little changed, and God loved Jacob.   Jacob was in deep trouble, but God’s mercy was even greater.  For Jacob, the merciful God showed up and told,
“Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.”  (Genesis 31:3b)
Why did God say for Jacob to return to his home although Jacob could not return to his own land again?   Didn’t God know Jacob’s fear of Esau who tried to kill him when returning home?    God knew.  Yes, God exactly knew how much Jacob feared of Esau.   Most of all, it was a part of God’s plan to fulfill His Holy Promise given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.    Jacob, who was himself, was not ready to receive the promise, but God was continuously working on Jacob according to His good will toward Jacob.   Indeed, God had a plan to change Jacob permanently so that he be fully qualified as the true heir of the promise of God.  Jacob did not know about this.  Out of his ignorance, Jacob continued performing and responding all matter getting into his life with his own cunning earthly wisdom instead of leaning on God’s wisdom and on His promise in hope.    How sad God’s heart was!   Even so, God could not stop what He had to do – molding Jacob to fit into His infinitely good plan, but not forcefully, but lovingly.
Jacob hurriedly left the Laban’s house with all of his family and by collecting all of the wealth gained by tricking his uncle Laban.  He also badmouthed on Laban to his family members including Leah and Rachel in order to protect himself against Laban and make them to his side.   Jacob was a truly master of manipulating peoples’ hearts.    Both Leah and Rachel took on Jacob’s side.  Then they immediately made a huge distance to their own father Laban, and their father became their enemy.   Rachel even stole her father’s household idols and took them with her.  What can we expect from Rachel, the wife of the deceptive husband Jacob?  Jacob stole her father’s sheep and goats.  Rachel stole her the father’s idols.
Three days later, Laban realized that Jacob had fled.   So he gathered a group of his sons and relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with Jacob seven days later in the hill country of Gilead.  But at night God had appeared to Laban the Aramean in a dream and told him,
I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!”   (Genesis 31:24b)
Jacob was on run from Laban, and Laban was pursuing Jacob.  But it was a part of God’s plan for Jacob whom God dearly loved.    Jacob was chosen by God’s good will for God’s plan, but Jacob was a rough diamond to be cut and polished.   God did not allow Laban to get in the way of His plan.   God intervened Laban not to harm Jacob.   God made and was executing His plan specially designed for Jacob.   However, Jacob did not know this fact.   Jacob was little changed and still behaved earthly using his earthly cunning and deceptive mind.
How about us?   Are we still behaving like other people who are earthly bounded instead of being Godly and holy like Him?   Sometimes God let us do what we like to do although it is not Godly.   Please note that such a worldly pleasure out of our earthly desire and greed will last long because God loves us.   It will soon end in two ways.    Either we stop pursuing the earthly path and change our direction to God while fixing our eyes on Jesus Christ and walking with Jesus to God instead of flowing with the world.   Or God uses His own hand, which is the most powerful, but intensively loving.     
Laban met God the prior night, and Laban could not do anything with Jacob.  Soon Laban caught up with Jacob as he was camped in the hill country of Gilead, and he set up his camp not far from Jacob’s.  But Laban could not argue with Jacob because God did not allow.   This tells who our God is, and what our God is doing for us in every step of our lives.  Nothing.  Nothing can harm us unless God allows.   
Laban stopped at the Jacob’s camp.    Stepping down from his camel, Laban said to Jacob, “These women are my daughters, these children are my grandchildren, and these flocks are my flocks—in fact, everything you see is mine. But what can I do now about my daughters and their children?  So come, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and it will be a witness to our commitment.”
It was completely opposite from what Laban originally intended.   Laban was furious of Jacob when he heard Jacob’s secret departure, but when Laban actually saw Jacob, Laban could not make even a single harsh word.     Why?  God was Jacob.    Jacob could not understand what’s going on.   Of course, he was in great fear of Laban and his sons, who chased after his secret departure.   However, the Laban’s attitude toward him was totally unexpected.    Surely, Jacob saw a glimpse of God’s mighty hand, which acted upon Laban and his sons.
Soon they talked about peace between them.   Then Jacob and Laban took stones and setup them up as a monument together.   The two called the monument made out of piles of stones “witness pile” in Aramaic (Jegar-sahadutha) by Laban and in Hebrew (Gilead) by Jacob.   Who did make the peace?   Yes, God did.   Thus, we have 100% confidence in Him, who dearly loves us.
Then Jacob took an oath before the fearsome God of his father, Isaac, to respect the boundary line.   Jacob saw the God’s awesome power that was happening before his eyes.   Jacob was slowly and steadily learning about God while experiencing Him.   Then Jacob offered a sacrifice to God there on the mountain and invited everyone to a covenant feast. After they had eaten, they spent the night on the mountain.
Laban got up early the next morning, and he kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.    The first fear of Jacob had just passed.   The first fear of Laban was not materialized not because of Jacob’s cunning mind nor his strength, but because of God of all mighty having special love and mercy on Jacob.  
God chose Jacob according to His Own Infinitely Good Will.   Then God loved Jacob, God protected Jacob, and most importantly God led Jacob through the path of righteousness although Jacob continuously exercised his own worldly cunning and deceptive mind for his own earthly gain.   Jacob had to completely take off his own earthly mind and habit, before becoming the true heir of the God’s promise given to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob himself also.   Jacob went through a long journey after leaving his home.  He lived with his uncle Laban who outwitted Jacob.   However, Jacob was little changed.  It did not deter God, but God was patient and dearly loved Jacob.    And God protected Jacob to guide him through the paths of righteousness of His Holy Plan.    This is our God’s character.  God is long suffering for us.   God is always on our side although we are not.   This is our God’s mercy being completely soaked in His infinitely unfathomable love.  Then what shall we do who hears God’s message today?   Continue running our hell-bound race while ignoring our Father’s voice?   Of course not.   instead, we should remind who God is and God’s mercy toward all of His children everyday and every moment.   God has an infinitely good plan for each of us, and God carefully leads us through the paths of righteousness while instructing us as gently and lovingly with His long-suffering heart toward us.   Let’s hear His voice even at this moment, which is the most loving and caring voice.
Lead, Kindly Light
1. Lead, kindly Light, amid th’encircling gloom;
Lead thou me on!
The night is dark, and I am far from home;
Lead thou me on!
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
The distant scene–one step enough for me.
2. I was not ever thus, nor pray’d that thou
Shouldst lead me on.
I loved to choose and see my path; but now,
Lead thou me on!
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
Pride ruled my will. Remember not past years.
3. So long thy pow’r hath blest me, sure it still
Will lead me on
O’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
The night is gone.
And with the morn those angel faces smile,
Which I have loved long since, and lost awhile!
The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.  (2 Peter 3:9)

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