Genesis 31:22-29 – THE MATADOR OF HEAVEN

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The spectacle of Spain has been transported to the hill country of Gilead. There may be many historic bullfighting venues in Mexico but on this day all eyes are on this arena in Jordan (Genesis 31:21 NLT). 

The Matador, Jacob, has tried to avoid the horns of Laban, but today he has no choice as he turns to face his opponent, eyes wide with fear. Jacob has tried to avoid this fight by exiting the arena, but although he has always been against bull fighting his movement has only attracted the attention of this bull of a man, taunting him to charge. “So he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with Jacob … in the hill country of Gilead.” (Genesis 31:23 NLT)

The trumpets sound. Jacob would prefer to be in the chapel, where God gave him a promise, but now although he has no particular style, technique or courage, he has been thrust into the arena.

Jacob the matador is unwittingly distinguished by the gold of his traje de luces (“suit of lights”), clothed by God’s protection. He can see Laban’s picador sons and servants entering the ring on horseback armed with the vara (lances), and he notices they are not directed towards the bull. Laban the bull is cruel, and Jacob suffers severe stress as he begins this encounter.

Over the years Jacob has observed the behaviour and quirks of Laban the bull, and today he is afraid. Trembling, the red cape of his integrity (muleta) seems hardly enough defence as the bull snorts and kicks up the dust with his feet, about to make his run. Laban is angered and agitated and Jacob now stands alone to confront him.

The horns of his power glint in the sun. His authority has been challenged and Laban is committed to charge in and win back his control by force. Motivated by malice he moves with all his muscle in unrelenting haste, pounding the earth with his presence toward Jacob. He is determined that Jacob’s devious actions will be met with his malevolence. Jacob has already reaped some lessons from his deceptiveness but now he can expect punishing instruction from Laban’s might.

Jacob is in a battle as a relunctant matador. Will he lose his resolve? Will he face his fears with dignity and respect? Will he stand up to Laban? He has had 10 days of looking over his shoulder before his worst dream is realised.

Laban the bull is released into the arena where Jacob stands unarmed and totally unprepared for the corrida, or fight. If not for the Bullfighter of heaven, Jacob would be at some risk of being gored or trampled, but in reality Laban, for all his rhetoric, has been greatly weakened already.

Because of his bungling attempts in trying to help God out with His promises, Jacob has already received a succession of serious interventions to stay the hand of harm. Jacob’s family seems to have a history of bullfighting mediations (Genesis 12:17; 20:3-7). During Laban’s intense pursuit of Jacob, God once again intervenes by interrupting Laban’s sleep with a dream filled with dread, “I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” (Genesis 31:24 NLT).

Laban resigns himself against harming Jacob but not to be dissuaded, he proceeds with a verbal goring. He is outraged that Jacob would even think of challenging him. “What do you mean by stealing away like this?” 

Intent on destroying Jacob’s character Laban launches his tactical strike of retaliation the hot stinking breath snorting directly in Jacob’s face at his first tanda (pass). Laban demands. “How dare you drag my daughters away like prisoners of war? Laban has treated his daughters as saleable commodities and so to accuse Jacob of treating them as prisoners of war is a bit hollow.

Laban is an unworthy adversary, and although he deserves no respect, he parades himself as a bull amidst pomp and pageantry with his supporters at hand. It is unusual for the bull to have his own cuadrilla (“entourage”). The picador sons have prepared the bull and stand by for the charge. Next a series of tandas, or “series” of passes are made, each frighteningly close.

“Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you steal away? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly!” (Genesis 31:27-28 NLT).  

All valid questions. His aggressive cross-examination of Jacob is designed to bring shame and keep Jacob off balance. His indignation runs deep with jealous rage and he is hell bent on shaking Jacob’s confidence by challenging his integrity with each tanda. 

This is not a father simply wanting to say goodbye to his daughters but an enraged, aggressive and belligerent bull seeking to get revenge, to ruin Jacob’s reputation, to manipulate, control, deceive, slander and assault Jacob.

A master of character assassination by interrogation, Laban, leaves out the vital facts that would explain Jacob’s action. He’s not about to listen to anything Jacob may say in defence. Jacob is a monster who has robbed his daughters and grandchildren of a farewell celebration. How selfish! How thoughtless! He claims to have integrity and virtuous intentions. He is the noble and good father and grandfather whose only concern is for his family. Not!

Conveniently, Laban distorts what Jacob has done in order to paint the worst possible picture. It is all Jacob’s fault. He plays the part of the innocent victim of a terrible subterfuge. He plays the martyr like a bull parading as a ballerina. This family tyrant subtly maligns Jacob’s character while trying to parade as a saint. Laban is a self-righteous bully trying to give the impression that he loves his family despite his neglect and cruel games over the last 20 years.

Do you feel guilty yet, Jacob? Jacob, you have broken up the family! You are a coward matador with no cuadrilla for support. Now comes the clincher, “I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!’” (Genesis 31:29 NLT). Despite his vehemence and false offendedness, Laban is helpless to do anything to Jacob except berate him. There will be no goring from Labans horns this time.

Who or what is the bully in your life standing between you and the promises of God? What charges does the devil use against you as you make your stand in the ring? What are you holding onto that attracts a spiritual battle like a red rag to a bull? Listen to the promises of the Matador of Heaven not the snorting passes of the bull. Christ invites you to trust him in the midst of the fray. He has faced the bullying taunts of the enemy before. Enter the ring as once again His whispers from the chapel shout to you in the ring “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. … I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-21 – EXODUS, GODS AND KINGS

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

Exodus. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge and Powerpoint.

When my wife, Julie, mentioned to a lady that we have been married for 40 years, she was so amazed and happy for us. She was horrified, however, when she discovered that we had seen “The Exodus” on our Anniversary. She said “Didn’t you find it a bit dark?” It took Julie a while to realise that she was thinking of “the Exorcist”, a very different genre.

I’m old enough to remember the version with Charles Heston as Moses and Yul Brunner as Rameses, so Christian Bale and Joel Edgerton came as quite a surprise when we saw “Exodus, gods and kings.”

Great movie and I liked the twist when God turns up as a child, although as the story progressed it was clear that this was not the God of the Exodus. God is central to the story of the Exodus in the Bible, but this thundercloud child only turns up at odd times throughout Ridley’s story, and like many slighted children he wants to hit back. The difference is that he has unfettered power to back up his cruel outbursts. Is this the Exodus or the Exorcist?

Since no-one but Moses can see him, there is speculation that the boy is probably the result of an hallucination. Did Moses sustain a brain injury when a rock hit him during a landslide on God’s mountain? We are left wondering. Is this really the way Ridley Scott sees followers of Christ?

A shadow of Exodus turns up in Jacob’s flight from Laban.

“I am the God who appeared to you at Bethel, the place where you anointed the pillar of stone and made your vow to me. Now get ready and leave this country and return to the land of your birth’” (Genesis 31:13 NLT).

Jacob has signed the contract, agreed to the value statement, not at the burning bush but at the pillar of stone where he saw a stairway to heaven. He had slept on a stone but just in case you were wondering, was not hit by one coming down the steps (Genesis 28:10-22).

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he has acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives … they set out secretly and never told Laban they were leaving … heading for the hill country of Gilead.” (Genesis 31:16-21 NLT). Laban had no idea. Once again Jacob employs trickery to get out of town. God had told him to go but what was Jacob thinking by not telling Laban?

Jacob gives precedent to his descendant Moses. This journey proves to be the beginning of the great escape, a mini Exodus. He’s on trend, but Jacob, unlike Moses, refuses to go face to face with his Pharaoh. The Exodus will take place big time down the track with millions of people, but here is a model of it, a preview, a taste, the rough sketches of it in the life of Jacob. He is to escape into the Promised Land with a mini Pharaoh hot on his tail (Genesis 15:13-16).

In Jacob’s exodus God doesn’t appear as a precocious child dictating his anger in ugly ways. Instead it is Laban who plays the part of a childish brat who wants revenge for being tricked. In Jacob’s exodus, a loving God bids Jacob to appropriate His promises and come under his protection (Genesis 28:15).

Of course, 1,300 years after the Exodus with Moses, God does become a boy, born in a manger, sent as an initiative of God’s love (Matthew 2:1). Ridley Scott’s boy god is far from the image of Christ and filled with spiteful vengeance. 

In His love God sends a Saviour, who invites us throughout the Bible to respond to Him. The same God who saves a baby in a boat basket of papyrus reeds (Exodus 2:3), sends a baby born in a remote manger to bring salvation to His people (John 3:16). He offers escape from the slavery of a sin ravaged world to find freedom in the promise of forgiveness to those who believe and trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-21 – HOW TO QUIT YOUR NIGHTMARE JOB

This Way Out © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

This Way Out © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

The Lord says to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you” (Genesis 31:3 NLT).

  1. CERTAINTY

The message from heaven is clear. It’s communicating effectively to his present boss that bothers Jacob the most. Laban doesn’t exactly have strong interpersonal skills. He is a little afraid of what Laban will say about him leaving. Will he have to endure an explosive outburst? Some time ago Jacob said he was leaving and ended up staying on for 6 years longer after renegotiating his contract. This time he is sure it’s time to go.

  1. RESPECT

He doesn’t expect his boss is going to stand there and say “Let’s shake hands and be friends” but eventually that’s what he would like. His last employment led to his brother Esau wanting to kill him and he had to be placed in protective custody with his uncle. If only this time he could aim for mutual respect as he leaves his uncle’s employment (Genesis 31:43-55). It’s difficult to leave a job, even if it is a nightmare. How do I do leave with respect?

  1. QUESTIONS

What questions are you asking? Do I stay and face the workplace bully, get fired because of false accusations and innuendo about my work ethics, or quit? There will be consequences whatever I do. If I go home, I will still have some unfinished business to settle, not only with Laban but with my father and Esau. 

I can stay and take what comes – prosperity or poverty without the promise. Or I can go and perhaps stir up all kinds of trouble on the way. If my focus is on what I will lose then I won’t go. If my focus is on obeying God then it may be at the expense of friends, security and it will definitely involve a risk.

  1. CONSEQUENCES

Jacob decides to leave without notice and abandon his nightmare job. He’s overdue for long service leave and he thinks, “It’s not as if I am leaving on good terms. My boss isn’t going to give me a reference anyway.” Is leaving without saying a word doing the right thing? No handover, no farewell speeches, no watch for long and faithful service, no briefing other workers, no reasons given for leaving on record. Leaving a nightmare job is never easy. Abandonment of employment is rarely a good idea. Is it only going to create more problems in the future? Jacob, think of the consequences!

For those who know Christ, the promise to you remains unchanged from the time when God spoke to Jacob and assured him of His presence back in Genesis 28. “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. … I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 NLT). Sweet words in a time of turmoil. Perhaps God is saying to you, “Now get ready and leave…” (Genesis 31:13 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31 – HOW TO APPLY FOR THAT DREAM JOB

Promised Land Next Exit © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Promised Land Next Exit © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Recently I was offered a position in an organisation I love. My heart jumped in response to working in such a place. I love being able to sow into people’s lives with my gifts and calling. This opportunity was one that excited my Pastor’s heart with so many wonderful possibilities.

However, the more I prayed about it, the more I felt uneasy about accepting this position. I couldn’t move beyond the conviction that God had called me at present to work with the elderly and the dying, and their families. Perhaps not as exciting but no less significant. I have the opportunity to share my faith with those on the verge of eternity, as well as with families and staff, many of whom do not as yet express a faith in Christ.

I was grateful, honoured and affirmed for the confidence placed in me but I knew that I was already in the place of my calling. What about you?

What would you do if you knew you were not in the place of your calling? What would you do if you were in Jacob’s shoes? How do you apply for that dream job?

  1. HAVE A PLAN

Jacob focuses his job search. The search engine indicates only one job available and that’s a servant position, the same job that has been on offer for most of his life. Often God puts the dream in our hearts long before there is an opportunity to take action. Jacob completes the P.L.A.N. form (Promised Land Application Network) and fills out the online survey (Prayer).

  1. MAKE A LIST

He makes a list of what he desires in a job – A good boss (Genesis 31:5), fair pay scheme for financial security (Genesis 31:7), on the job training and room to grow and improve his qualifications (Genesis 31:5), good team player relationships (Genesis 31:1), innovative workplace (Genesis 31:8-9), life insurance scheme (Genesis 31:24), a place of his own (Genesis 31:3). He decides that the job is a perfect fit.

  1. TALK IT OVER

Talking over his resume with his family he prepares for the job interview. He has been able to handle responsibility, work hard, problem solve and produce effective results. He explains that he has already had a confidential informational interview with his prospective employer. He talked over examples of something particularly innovative that he has done which had made a difference in the workplace. It was his prospective employer who had given him the idea (Genesis 31:5-13).

  1. PREPARE

Prepared for behavioural questions, he was able to describe problems he’s encountered in the past and how he handled them. He knew if he had been asked questions looking for negative information, he had 20 years of experience to draw upon. Fortunately he wasn’t asked to “Describe a work situation where you had to work for someone you didn’t like”? His prospective employer was not only cognisant of his present situation but understood his gifts, abilities, personality, motivations and experience. Laban does not (Genesis 31:12).

  1. BE HONEST

To be honest, his social media profile online is not looking good and his resume of past jobs has a few question marks. His police check might not come back entirely clean. He defrauded his own brother and father (Genesis 27-28). The Promised Land is a great location, but he was expelled from the country at one stage (Genesis 27:41-43). Will he be able to get his visa renewed? Will this all come back to haunt him?

Some of his past actions would be in conflict with the mission of this new organisation but now he is ready to take on board the goals and values of his prospective employer. The workplace culture his prospective boss has created seems very inclusive (Genesis 31:3).

  1. ASK QUESTIONS

All kinds of questions are racing through Jacob’s mind. “What do I believe? How do I respond to my circumstances? How can I communicate my intentions? How much power will Laban exert? Will my leaving be a threat or a blessing? Am I fighting a losing battle? How will my family be impacted? What do I want to invest my time, gifts, motivation and abilities into? What will staying here achieve? Am I brave enough to move? Am I too old to change my circumstances? Am I willing to do nothing? What is God saying? Am I willing to trust in God? Whatever I do demands a step of faith.” 

  1. MAKE A DECISION 

I like the Chinese Proverb – “He who deliberates fully before taking a step will spend his entire life on one leg.” One day Jacob will walk with a limp but at least he won’t stand on one leg. 

God’s promise to us in Psalms 48:14 (NLT) is “He is our God forever and ever, and He will guide us until we die.” Jesus tells His disciples in Matthew 28:20 (NLT) “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”   

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:5 – “YOUR MOTHER SHOULD KNOW”

“Let’s all get up and dance to a song

That was a hit before your mother was born”

Though she was born a long, long time ago

Your mother should know (Your mother should…)

Your mother should know (…know) 

(The Beatles; Magical Mystery Tour; 1967)

Your mother should know, Jacob (Your mother should…). With the help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob deceived Esau out of his birthright and family blessing (Gen. 27:6-23). Rebekah was singing and dancing to the song of deceit a long, long time ago. Jacob knows the song well. The lyrics to the song haven’t changed either; “For the wages of sin is death, …” Romans 6:23 (NLT). Jacob escaped Esau’s murderous Macarena. Now he has to avoid Laban’s sons slanderous Sword Dance.

Sing it again.

When Jacob vocalised the lyrics of deceit a long, long time ago, he lied his way into this corner of the dance floor in Haran, which was a long, long way from home, but he didn’t escape from deception.

A master of choreographed trickery, Laban is an old time dance hall crooner. Deceit slides with silken tones from his mouth. He enters into agreements only to change tunes and do a soft shoe sham shuffle when it appears that Jacob is succeeding. Jacob’s wages have been changed 10 times. Jacob has danced to Rebekah’s song and now for 20 years it has been Laban’s song.

He married his wives on this dance floor of fraud. But this time he doesn’t want to sing it again. This time he doesn’t want to dance his way into another round of being deceived and tricked by a man much more at ease and skilled with the Tango Trick Step than even he is.

“You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times. But God has not allowed him to do me any harm” (Genesis 31:6-7).

Sing it again. Not this time!

Instead Jacob sings a desperate chorus to his wives. A chorus echoed throughout the Bible. Psalms 120:2 (NLT) says “Rescue me, O Lord, from liars and from all deceitful people.” 

Lift up your heart and sing me a different song that was a hit before your mother was born, way back in the days of Abraham. Deceit moves us away from harmony with God. But Jacob has now lived with integrity, listening to and prospering from the purposes of God and his integrity is dancing it’s way toward the promised land. God has been patiently at work in his life, teaching him the steps.

Deceit’s consequences leave us singing and dancing to the same old song over and over again. It was a hit in Adam’s day. It declares “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve” (Jeremiah 17:9-10 NLT).

The invitation Jacob gives is to sing and dance to a song older than time itself. It is the song sung in the corridors of heaven. 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NLT) declares “Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life.” 

It became the song of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and it’s still sung today. It’s lyrics declare that the past can be redeemed; I can overcome my sense of helplessness by trusting in God’s power, my sense of social isolation by acknowledging His presence, my feelings of inadequacy by knowing that He is able, my feelings of defeat and dread by realising that he works all things together for good. He has turned my mourning into dancing (Jeremiah 31:13).  

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT) says “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty Saviour. He will take delight in you with gladness. With His love, He will calm all your fears. HE WILL REJOICE OVER YOU WITH JOYFUL SONGS.” 

Psalms 40:3 (NLT) says “HE HAS GIVEN ME A NEW SONG TO SING, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what He has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Acts 16:31 (NLT) says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved…”  

Sing it again… 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:4-18 – CHOOSE YOUR ALLIES CAREFULLY

Choose your allies carefully, by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Morguefiles.org

Choose your allies carefully, by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Morguefiles.org

He is throwing away his victim club credit card. Now he has to convince those he loves that he is justified in moving in the direction of the promise.

“So Jacob called Rachel and Leah out to the field where he was watching his flock” (Genesis 31:4 NLT). 

There are no bugs in the field except insects, so this is a private conversation. He shares in detail what has transpired, hoping for allies. Will they agree to leave their father for a destination they know nothing about? It’s a little unnerving when your only allies are related to the opposition. Will they betray him? But then, if he can’t trust those he loves who can he trust?

Will they be willing to give up their present comfortable, predictable lifestyle to venture into the unknown? Am I? Am I willing to risk the sacrifice it takes to get on board with my destiny? Am I living the life God intends for me now? I have certainly had to ask myself that question lately.

All sorts of questions are pulsing through Jacob’s head. What if the family shows no sympathy for my situation? Will I still pursue what I know is right and make the flight?

Jacob is confused at work. He always keeps his guard up around Laban. He has had to modify his normal behaviour and choose his words carefully, avoiding conflict and confrontation. Is he afraid of Laban?

So many questions; Will Laban overreact by us leaving? Will he ridicule my plans or accuse me of betraying him? Will he make me feel guilty for taking his daughters away? Will he accuse me of hurting him by my actions? Will he humiliate me in front of others? Will staying fulfil my destiny? Have I invested too much to simply leave now?

He chooses not to confront Laban directly. He will slide away into the desert without letting him know they are going. Does he fear his anger?

As he gathers his family, was Jacob asking himself “Am I too old?” That must have crossed his mind. If he doesn’t move now he may never move. If I was young. If I was single. If I had an even greater degree of financial independence. If I have your support. If….?

“I have noticed that your father’s attitude toward me has changed. But the God of my father has been with me” (Genesis 31:5 NLT). He begins by saying in effect “Your father is not with me. The God of my father is with me.” A good place to start. Choose your allies carefully. He is firmly allied with God.

He cannot ignore the voice of God’s promptings. He cannot sacrifice himself on the altar of mediocrity for the rest of his life and wonder what if. He feels anxious, drained but somehow buoyed by the prospect of a better future.

No more if’s! “God is with me.” The question is “Lord, is this what You want for my life?” That’s when the invitation of God’s promise whispers once again and I will know if I am to go or stay. “Lord, I am listening.” 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-13 – FOCUS ON THE PROMISE NOT THE PROBLEM

FOCUS

Focus on the Promise not on the Problem. Created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefile and FilterForge

Focus on the Promise not on the Problem. Created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, Morguefile and FilterForge

“The sun’s rays do not burn until brought to a focus” (Alexander Graham Bell). 

The fleeting movement had caught my interest. It was only a leaf, red on one side and green on the other. As I focused on the outward edge I saw tiny green legs. Turning the leaf over, a small spider momentarily appeared and then retreated to the other side, away from the light and my attention.

I pivoted the lens perpendicularly to the sun and focused the resulting beam on the very central ridge of the leaf, narrowing the light until it was a small white spot of searing heat. The backbone of the leaf began to bend and sizzle with the intensity of the beam and as a thin trail of hazy smoke ascended, the spider appeared, scurrying to the front side of the leaf, green against the red, a cynosure of contrast. 

My lens was swivelled again so that I could observe the intricate nature of the creature but once again it disappeared to the green side of the leaf where it’s camouflage would keep it from prying predators.

Jacob is the cynosure for all eyes, accented by his wealth against a backdrop of anger. A focal point for the envy of Laban’s sons; the convergence point of searing blame. Jacob wants to hide but the lens of their concentrated criticism has brought him into focus. For 20 years he has been tolerated but of late his business ventures have made him the centre of attention.

ON THE PROMISE

And now, in the heat of the moment, just briefly but with clarity, his attention is deflected from their gaze to the brightness of the prevailing light of a promise made to him by God. The image of a promised land looms large in his vision and he is able to see clearly what must be adjusted in his life for it to become a reality.

As the lens of Laban’s sons zoom in, exposing their jealousy for his wealth, zeroing in with their false assumptions, pinpointing his position with their predatory avarice, their very focus becomes a starting point for Jacob, a journey of new discoveries, away from their gaze.

Filled with new assurance, Jacob was still tentative about declaring his plan openly. He had entered into covenant with God and God had guaranteed the outcome. In fact God would be with him, pledging to Jacob the land of his ancestors.

To undertake such a journey would involve courage, but he has seen a vision of a stairway to heaven and he became aware long ago that he was a bonded servant undertaking a dangerous but necessary adventure. How could he tell his wives? How could he tell Laban?

Once he had hinted to Laban that this journey back to the promised land was likely to occur but Laban was prospering by his work and so he had entered into an agreement with Laban which would financially benefit them both.

Now was the time. His destiny was only a possibility as long as he stayed. His talent for listening to God in his farming techniques had increased his fortune.

He meets with his wives in secret in the fields over a strategic coffee. He shares the compulsion he has for leaving secretly. He shares how God has engaged his attention and pledged to be with him. He wants desperately to believe in that promise.

Jacob is intimately acquainted with broken promises. He was pledged to marry Rachel and Laban had given him Leah. His wages have been changed 10 times. He has been cheated just as he has cheated others.

Somehow this pledge from God is different and gives him every indication to expect fulfilment. The portend of potential hope was drawing him to respond, heralding new opportunities for his family rather than the prospect of submitting to the shadowed presage of a rising hatred in Laban’s family that did not bode well.

NOT ON THE PROBLEMS

T.F. Hodge said “To conquer frustration, one must remain intensely focused on the outcome, not the obstacles” (From Within I Rise).

The problem in this case has to be faced and it will be complicated. How will he let Laban know he is leaving? How will he inform his wives without others overhearing that he intends to go?

It’s all going to get messy with emotions, and timing will be the most important difficulty to overcome. He knows he can expect trouble. It’s already been brewing. He doesn’t want any setbacks; snags in his plans. His plight for flight may well disturb a hornets nest. 

Someone said “The successful man is the average man, focused.” Jacob is focused. The invitation and challenge Jacob offers us is to remain focused on the promises of God not on the problems at hand. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:6-16 – HOW TO MAINTAIN A VICTIM MENTALITY

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

I AM A VICTIM

For over 20 years he has agreed to play the part of the victim. He is now trapped, his wheels condemned to running in the ruts of Laban’s tracks, with only limited influence over the direction of his life, especially his work situation.

I DESERVE SYMPATHY

For many years he has experienced the loss of vision believing that he has been harmed, the object of an injustice which initially violated his rights to marry the person he desired and then to make a living for his family. In his eyes he deserves sympathy. He has worked hard and has been cheated and lied to in return.

I BLAME OTHERS

In Genesis 31:6-7 (NLT) Jacob complains to his wives “You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times…” He blames Laban but Jacob has also acquiesced, passively accepting the demands of a bully.

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE

Until now he fails to take responsibility for his own actions. His paranoia that Laban is the source of all his failure is a form of negativity that has kept him focused on the problems. In the end he has been a victim by choice, behaving as if it was his destiny that dealt him a disservice.

Laban had wronged him in all kinds of ways and of course Jacob can recall them all in detail to his wives (Genesis 31:5-6). This tape has been running in his head for years. It has been part of the soundtrack of being a victim. It is always someone else’s fault; Esau, his father, Laban, Laban’s sons, his wives. Everywhere he turns something goes wrong and there’s always someone else to blame. Laban deceived him. Laban changed his wages 10 times.

JOIN ME IN MY MISERY

As he talks with his wives they also begin to focus on the problems. He plays the martyr. Misery loves company and his wives start to play the game. They can also see the blameworthiness of their father and they are indignant. Laban is out to get them also.

In Genesis 31:15-16 (NLT) Jacob’s wives say “He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us. All the wealth God has given you from our father legally belongs to us and our children….”

Will Jacob continue to engineer opportunities and attitudes in his own life to ensure that he will remain a victim? He has been stuck for so long that he is not sure what it will look like to fly. An intelligent innovator, nothing is really holding Jacob back except his fear of Laban and his victim mentality.

I SET MYSELF UP TO BE A VICTIM

I wonder if Jacob was secretly hoping Laban would come after him and validate that he was a victim (Genesis 31:22-28). Perhaps then he can retaliate and give Laban some of his own medicine or become locked again into being bullied by Laban. “Life is so unfair! Why does it always keep happening to me?” What would he do without Laban to dictate what happens in his life? 

By not telling Laban of his plans to leave, he is inviting trouble and provoking punitive action. Rachel helps by taking one of the household gods just to make sure there’s a possibility of failure and subconsciously sabotage their success. She can always blame Jacob for wanting to leave and she knows it’s a way of hurting her father.

Are they really ready to break free from their self-destructive cycle? Are you? If Jacob decides to act on what God has said what would it look like in their lives? What will it look like in yours?

Genesis 31:1-18 – HOW TO OVERCOME A VICTIM MENTALITY 

“Focusing is about saying No” (Steve Jobs).

I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

In Genesis 31:3,5 (NLT) the Lord says to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.” Jacob says to his wives “God of my father has been with me.” His speech is now peppered with hope. His wives agree “So go ahead and do whatever God has told you.”

Laban is a bully but in the end it is Jacob who has been responsible for his own disappointment. In Genesis 31:7-9 (NLT) Jacob admits that “God has not allowed him to do me any harm.” He says to his wives “God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.” He’s not talking about stealing them but about the success of building up his own livestock in the deals he has made with Laban.

It’s no longer Laban’s fault. Nor is it the fault of Laban’s sons who are criticising him and lying about him (Genesis 31:1,2). He doesn’t have to be a victim anymore. There are no excuses left. No deceptive defences, nowhere to go but towards God’s promise. He has been blessed whether he likes it or not.

20 years have passed and he is getting old. There is no more room for self-pity. He will take responsibility for his life and family or continue to drown in his sorrows.

I BELIEVE IN GOD’S PROMISE

God gives us a choice to really live, and invites us all to take responsibility and move toward our destiny. God will not be Jacob’s rescuer in the sense of doing it all for him, but will give him the perspective of eternity so that he can make some decisions and not stagnate in his own misery. He is spiritually dysfunctional until he takes action to leave.

I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM

Taking responsibility will mean he loses the fringe benefits credit card that comes free for everyone applying to be a victim. He has to hand in his licence to feel sorry for himself and he won’t be able to cash in on sympathy and offers of help from others anymore. “I am a victim of a bully! Can’t you feel sorry for me?” won’t cut it in the promised land. Will he continue making deals with Laban the Abuser instead of taking the opportunities God presents to him?

There will be no excuse left for not pursuing God’s promises. Nowhere to hide anymore. No-one to blame, no avoidance from taking a risk. This time instead of his mother it is up to him to be the hero who rescues himself and his family. They will have to abandon victimhood.

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives (Genesis 31:17-18).

I INVITE YOU ON MY JOURNEY

The invitation Jacob gives us is to throw off martyrhood and uncover the mystery of our identity, to throw off the yoke of slavery and find our independence. God has given us His promises but He is not going to simply hand it to us on a plate. We will have to take responsibility and be proactive to appropriate His promises by faith. There may be a few anxious moments along the way. 

Being honest with myself doesn’t come easy. It wasn’t easy for Jacob. But God has empowered him with a promise which demands he gives up being a victim. 

When he faces Laban there must come a sense of letting go of the resentment, any feelings of revenge, and consider forgiveness. They will need to come to some kind of agreement to make it work (Genesis 31:44-55). 

He is now on an adventure and who knows where it will lead. Will Laban come after him? Will victimhood pursue him? Will it pursue you? How can I give up being a victim? The death and resurrection of Christ is the supreme example of how to appropriate victory over victimhood. I choose to die to Victimhood and live to the Creative journey of life and purpose by embracing Christ as my Lord and Saviour. His victory becomes mine. I am a Victor not a Victim.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:1-13 – LEARNING FROM A TOXIC WORKPLACE 

Toxic Workplace by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Morguefiles.org

Toxic Workplace by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Morguefiles.org

He has been bullied into working for them for many years. Now he overhears his co-workers making derisive comments about him in a private conversation. Jealous of his success, the boss’ sons accuse him of prospering at their expense. They attack his character. Even though they don’t work directly with him it seems his reputation has been tarnished (Genesis 31:1,2).

Their loss is not the forfeiture of wealth but of relationship with Jacob. He is, afterall, a gifted businessman who has worked hard in the company for many years. They grumble about him, ostracize him and criticize him rather than embrace him and what he has to offer.

I can learn much from Laban’s sons and Jacob’s toxic workplace. If jealousy is allowed it’s way, it will fester and rule over my life. It will mislead my motives and prejudice my perspectives. The murmurings of malice will begin to spill venom into my speech.

The noxious taste of envy has already soured in Jacob’s mouth. Deceptive half-truths and distortions have shadowed his family history. Lies and malicious rumours now dog his own steps and bite at his heels, stripping away pieces of his reputation.

“Am I willing to be bullied by the limiting attitudes of others?”

Laban & Sons is a toxic workplace. If we reverse the curse of their poisonous bullying we can find some positive principles for a healthy workplace environment. If only Laban and his sons would…

  1. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY AND ENCOURAGE OTHERS (instead of play the Blame Game)

The company hasn’t made a profit this year and Jacob becomes an object of false blame, a scapegoat. Surely a healthy workplace culture depends on a boss who takes responsibility and encourages his workers to succeed in their endeavours.

  1. ENCOURAGE CREATIVITY AND INNOVATION (not Workplace Inflexibility and Oppression)

“Are the results of my changes welcomed or does the boss think that I am trying to take over?” A healthy workplace encourages creativity and innovation.

  1. BE INCLUSIVE AND BUILD HEALTHY WORK RELATIONSHIPS (instead of playing Power Politics and Bullying) 

“There are unwritten laws and expectations. Workplace politics! All you have to do is tow-the-line and not challenge the status quo; do things my way; make me look good; stop trying to get any credit; stay within the limits I set; submit to my demands no matter how unreasonable they may be.”

“Am I willing to challenge those who legislate rules in favour of their autocratic leadership style and bigotry?”

It is often the few, like Laban and his sons, who have the loudest voices and they market their ideas in the cauldrons of power in order to coerce others to become a puppet of their political correctness. Jacob could well ask,

“Am I destined to ape the morality of those I admire the least?”

Building healthy working relationships without autocratic power-mongering and bullying, is the sign of a healthy workplace environment. 

  1. INSPIRE SUCCESS (not being Threatened by it)

“Does my workplace culture remain fluid and open to new ideas, inspiring success rather than being domineering and repressive?”

In educational institutions as well as political arenas, workplaces as well as neighbourhoods, there are authoritarian, arrogant, narcissistic personalities, who feel a strong need to control or dominate, and who use bullying as a tool to conceal their shame and boost their self-esteem, demeaning others in order to feel empowered; the Laban & Sons of our world. We can choose to refuse a bullying culture.

Finding purpose and fulfilment in life will involve overcoming the obstacles, the barriers, brick walls, roadblocks and hurdles ahead. If I am to seek the direction and the courage I need to move forward in my life, I will find myself disentangling myself from toxic environments and toxic people.

Jacob has faith in the promises of God for his life, but having purpose and privilege in being involved in that which has eternal value does not make it easier for him to find the courage he needs to face his detractors; those who dislike him; critics or cynics; and those who say disparaging things about his faith and play the bully in the name of tolerance. 

Jacob is no innocent, perfect man. He’s under pressure, and obedience to God will often involve going against the flow. He is learning not be bullied by the restrictive attitudes of others. Once, he had his manipulating mother to push him past his problems using deception, but now he will find other allies and a different courage inspired by faith instead of fear. The invitation he gives us is that of pursuing your God-given destiny.

It’s time to become a returnee and brave the journey to the land of promise. But will he be prepared to lose his job to pursue his destiny? What about you? 

Pastor Ross

Job 42:7-17 – JACK AND JOB HAVE A YARN ABOUT LIFE AND FAITH 

The Tea Break by Robert-Todonai - oil-on-primed-hardboard.jpg

The Tea Break by Robert-Todonai – oil-on-primed-hardboard.jpg

CELEBRATING AUSTRALIA DAY WITH JOB

Job went through a pretty tough time in his life. Since Australia Day I have been thinking about Jack, an imaginary Christian bushman from the outback of Australia sitting by his campfire. We’ve lost a lot of our Australian slang (Strine) but I picture him reading the last chapter of the book of Job. What would he think?

He reads Job 42:10RELY ON GOD TO SUPPLY ALL OUR NEEDS

“When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!”

There by the campfire Jack starts having a conversation as if Job is right there with him, sharing his billy tea. He says “Twice as much as before, eh! (is that right?). You mean to tell me you didn’t have a brass razoo (money) but now you have heaps and suddenly you have friends again, right? Talk about a Happy ending. So why doesn’t that happen to me? I wouldn’t mind havin’ a double pay packet every time I pray for a mate (friend).

He continues to read,

“So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters.”

When Jack reads this he says …

I wouldn’t say no to havin’ me own farm with the animals thrown in for good measure. It’s like a double portion lotto win after feeling so crook (sick) and living off the dole like you did. For me, if I makes ends meet at the end of the week (make enough money to live), I’m happy. It’s as if God regards you as his firstborn son and is giving you an inheritance ahead of time.”

Jack’s got a point. The first born son in Job’s culture received a double portion of the family inheritance, the leadership of the family and the spiritual priesthood of the family. With more responsibility comes more resources. God supplies our needs not just our wants.

Jack follows the cross-references to the New Testament to Philippians 4:19 (NLT) in his Bible and reads that God will “… SUPPLY ALL YOUR NEEDS from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Then he turns to one of his favourite verses in Matthew 6:33 (NLT) which says “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you EVERYTHING YOU NEED.”

As Jack turns back to the book of Job, he says: So just as a matter of interest, what did you do with all that dough (money)? I think I’d celebrate over a beer if I had all that dough – an’ have all me mates over for a Barbie (Barbeque).

Jack continues to read… SHARE YOUR BLESSINGS WITH OTHERS

All Job’s brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. (Job 42:11).

Jack reads more… because not only does Job share his blessings with others but he is WILLING TO RESTORE RELATIONSHIPS. Jack just can’t understand this.

“And they consoled Job and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring” (Job 42:11).

When Jack reads this he says “Crikey, (exclamation) the local jewelry shop must have done well out of you that week. Kind of like Christmas since they all bring gifts. But you can’t tell me they are fair-dinkum. When you haven’t seen them in donkey’s years (a long time) and all of a sudden they lob in (show up) and say g’day (hello) as if they lived next door, you have got to suspect that their friendship is a bit dodgy (misaligned). Clayton’s friends (Clayton’s is a non-alcoholic beer brand. Not the real thing).

But what I want to know is where your brothers and sisters and former friends were when you were as sick as a dog and down and out. All of a sudden they turn up like a bad smell when they hear about your fame, like groupies to a rock concert.”

Jack remembers reading back in Job 19. In that passage Job says,

When I was destitute my relatives stayed far away, and my friends turned against me. My family was gone, and my close friends forgot about me. My servants and maids considered me a stranger. I was like a foreigner to them. When I called my servant, he didn’t come; I had to plead with him! My breath was repulsive to my wife. I was rejected by my own family. Even young children despised me. When I stood to speak, they turned their backs on me. My close friends detested me. Those I loved turned against me (Job 19:13-19).

Annoyed by Job’s so-called friends and family, Jack says “That’s exactly what I mean. They don’t mind eating your tucker now, but then they treated you like you had Ebola. Your rellies jumped ship and left you without a lifeboat, now they flock around you as if their ship has come in.

Your close buddies brushed you off, left you in the lurch, didn’t want to know you, didn’t have your back, but all of a sudden they boast about knowing you and party with you like footy fans at a grand final.

He looks puzzled and holding his place in Job he turns to Romans 12:15. “Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15 NLT). “Well,” he says “they know the first part of that verse but not the second.”

They are willing to celebrate with him now. but they certainly didn’t shed any tears or pray for him when he needed them the most, yet Job forgives them, just like that.” He gives a dull click of his calloused fingers.

FORGIVE THOSE WHO LET YOU DOWN

In Job’s culture to eat with someone is a sign of friendship and covenant agreement. Jack admires Job. He is impressed that Job doesn’t complain but welcomes his friends to celebrate with him in his home. As he looks into the campfire and adjusts the Billy, Jack says. “Job, you’re alright! I like you. Look at you. You’re as good as gold! No grizzling about them not giving you a hand when you needed it the most. You’re as happy as a pig in mud that you are well again and as keen as mustard to hang out with everybody, even though they let you down. You’re stoked that everything has worked out and as far as you’re concerned there is no need to whinge about the past. You’re a good bloke (man).

He would welcome Job around his campfire at anytime.

Jack is still trying to understand how Job can be so forgiving. He says “So what you are saying is that I am supposed to put up with mates who let me down as if it’s water under the bridge. I think I understand what you are getting at, Job. I recall when I believed in Jesus, He forgave me, so the least I can do is to forgive others.

Jack turns to Colossians 3:13 (NLT) “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”

You are not trying to imply that everything has a happy ending just because you are one of Jesus’ mob. Not every trial we face is going to disappear, not every problem we come across will be solved, not everything will have a fairy-tale ending.

What you are trying to say is that we can forgive others who let us down and trust God, knowing that He’s at the end of the track. After all Jesus knows that life can give you a tough time. He was left in the lurch when He died for our sins on a Cross. Peter let him down badly.

OK, I’m happy for you, Job. One minute you’re out on the street with nothing and then all of a sudden it’s Christmas. One minute your mates are bailing you up in a corner and giving you an earbashing, then they are giving you ear-rings. One minute they call for blood and the next minute they think your blood’s worth bottlin’ (valuable. Worth keeping). One minute they all shoot through (disappear) but now they barrack for you like you’re the local footie star.

“And even though you’re are an old codger the thing is that Bitterness is not your boss. You take it all in your stride, even though it’s not easy. You forgive others and you trust in God for your future.

Anyway, yours is a fair-dinkum (genuine) rags-to-riches story, eh?

If Job could answer, I think he would say

TRUST GOD NO MATTER WHAT

Jack, if my life proves anything it is that a person can still love and respect God whether he is blessed or not. You can lose everything or have everything and still love God. He would say I value my relationship with God and that alone is enough. Despite everything that happened to me, I have ended up with a greater trust in God. Romans 8:28 NLT says “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”

Job would say I have known the worst and the best of human life. I have learned that I can trust God in pain and devastating circumstances. I have learned to forgive others just as God forgave me.

Satan was proven wrong and even though some of my questions will never be answered, God doesn’t owe me an explanation. I won’t ever know everything. The invitation He gives me is to know and trust in Him.

Jack: Good on ya mate (Australian blessing). I’m with you (I agree).

Pastor Ross

see more of Robert Todonai’s paintings at http://todonaiart.com/