Genesis 31:17 So Jacob arose, and set his children and his wives on camels; 18 and he drove away all his livestock, all the property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.
If you’ve read the last few chapters you know that neither Jacob, nor his father-in-law Laban, were of particularly strong character. Each screwed the other over, but in the end Jacob got the better of the two because God’s favor was with him. In this passage Jacob obeys the voice of God and returns to the land of his birth – Canaan. And of course, having left Canaan with little, he returns years later fabulously wealthy.
We will read this sort of thing over and over in the Old Testament. Wealth and power are signs of God’s favor whether we’re talking about Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, King David, King Solomon, and so on. But what about the New Testament? Can you think of any prominent leader in the New Testament who was fabulously wealthy or enjoyed temporal power? I can’t. Not even Jesus.
So what are signs of God’s favor in the New Testament? We read about the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the apostles to perform miracles and such. But mostly we read about God’s chosen being persecuted, struggling, suffering for the name of Jesus. Does anyone besides me find that interesting?
If you haven’t watched “The Two Popes” on Netflix you really should. It’s a fascinating story about the transition from Pope Benedict to the current Pope Francis and is nominated for multiple Academy awards. Anyway, it’s interesting to see Pope Francis confound the Vatican establishment with his refusal to accept parts of the privilege afforded popes. He’s a humble man who lives simply (well, for a pope he lives simply) and has a heart for the poor. It seems to me Francis chooses to reflect the New Testament version of favor more than the Old Testament version. I have to say I have great respect for that.
Heavenly Father, whatever form it takes, pour out your grace upon us that we might be witnesses of your love and grace for the sake of Jesus Christ. Amen.