When you remember that you are walking on the righteous path, following the Good Shepherd, you can endure all the trials and sufferings you encounter. Psalm 23 is a very comforting chapter because it is a clear reminder that the Lord guides His children through every step of life. Have you ever noticed, however, that Psalm 23 mentions that the Lord leads His children though both “green pastures” (v. 2) and “the valley of the shadow of death” (vs. 4)? This is because the Lord’s providential ordering of our steps does not mean we will always walk in green pastures. Sometimes, in order to remind us that we must trust in Him alone, God leads us through dark valleys. Let us keep this in mind when we pick up our study of Genesis in chapter 29. Jacob has had a life-changing encounter with God and is now entering Haran to meet His uncle Laban. During his 20 years in Haran with Laban, Jacob has triumphs and trouble. Consider:
- Our Steps are Providentially Guided. Christian, remember that you are on the path God has provided. Jacob knows that God is guiding his steps and he enters Haran trusting that God will return him to the promised land with a wife (see Gen 28:2). God had promised Jacob to be with him wherever he went (Gen 28:15). There are no coincidences with God. It was no coincidence that Jacob found the well that Rachel was using. Christians must take heart in knowing that God is in control of all things, especially our lives. Let us walk each day in faith.
- Our Trials are Lovingly Granted. Christian, remember that your trials are used by God to test the genuineness of your faith (1 Peter 1:7). Sometimes we forget that our trials serve this purpose. Trials are not the result of a mean God seeking to destroy you, but a loving God seeking to mature you. God guided Jacob to Laban’s house and permitted Jacob to be placed in a challenging situation (see vs. 21-30). God guides our steps, but does not always guide us over smooth paths. Christians must endure trials, trusting that God is in control of our situations.
- Our Challenges are Painfully Effective. Christian, remember that people in this world may mistreat you. While God allowed Jacob’s trial for good, Laban meant it for evil. Laban asked Jacob to name his wages for the work he is doing for him. Notice that Laban is treating Jacob as an employee rather than a family member. After a deal is reached (7 years!), Laban deceived Jacob by substituting Leah on the wedding night instead of Rachel. Christians must realize that we are not immune from trials and that we will encounter people who try to mistreat us. Let us not shrink back from our mission, but consider how vital our work is in this world.
- Our Empathy is Desperately Needed. Christians must remember the old expression: “What goes around comes around.” Jacob deceived his father and brother and is now on the receiving end of deception. Paul wrote in Galatians 6:7, “whatever a man sows, that shall he reap.” In other words, if we treat others with contempt, don’t be surprised if you are treated with contempt. Those who gossip most are usually the most gossiped about. Christians must realize that God allows this to take place so that we would experience how hurtful our words and actions can be.
Psalm 23 tells us that the Lord leads us in paths of righteousness “for His name’s sake” (v. 3). Psalm 23 also tells us that we “will fear no evil” (v. 4) because the Lord is with us. Let us remember this during our times of triumph and trouble. Let us trust God as we follow Him on the paths He leads us down.