Right now, the United States is in the midst of a governmental shut-down. The ramifications of that shut-down are yet to be fully realized. In the meantime, we sit out here in America and watch as the “leaders” talk and maneuver. It all seems extremely ridiculous and like a tremendous waste of time and resources. As Jacob flees Laban’s country, we find a similar situation between these two leaders. They are both trying to maintain the upper hand and it seems ridiculous. But, upon close scrutiny, we find that this is the first real opportunity for Jacob to stand up and be the leader of his people exerting the strength that God has given to him. Laban makes accusations and Jacob looks them squarely in the face. (The fact that Rachel did indeed steal a “household god” really isn’t the issue here. Jacob did not know about the theft. Plus, that “god” was simply a block of wood or stone – there was no power because only God is God. She does display a rather disappointing willingness to worship an idol.) Jacob is within his rights because God says he is, so Laban is coming from a position of complete weakness. While both he and Jacob know this to be true, Laban at least puts on a good show of pseudo-power.
We always have to ask ourselves why we engage in power struggles with one another. It has happened to all of us. It is part of the human condition. When that 2 year old stomps their foot and screams “No”, that’s the beginning. My first word (according to my mother) was “self.” I wanted to do it myself. I was the one in control. The struggle for power begins early. Laban feels a need to exert his power over Jacob just has he had been allowed to do for 20 years. That didn’t make it right but it was the reality between those two men. Now God has made a move and the situation has changed. The power has shifted. All Laban can do is accept his new reality and go back home. He really should have been grateful that God removed Jacob rather than giving him all of the power over Laban in his own land.
Jesus is the perfect example of maintaining the proper power balance. Of course He was never out of control – ever. During His suffering and crucifixion, it looked like He had lost everything. But in reality, He was still the One in power. It was His choice to go to the cross for us. The Jews and Romans were merely the tools of God in that entire scene. Even when He wrangled with the Pharisees verbally, we find that the Pharisees always walk away frustrated and defeated. While Laban and Jacob thought they were battling with one another, they were actually acting out the plans of God. You can struggle for power, but in the end, God is the only true power there is.