. . . . . Rachel stole her father’s household idols and took them with her. (Gen. 31:19b)(NLT)
The Bible says in multiple places perhaps most notably in the Ten Commandments that God is to have preeminence in our lives. The first commandment reads “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods (Exodus 20:3 – 5a)(NLT)
Christian and many non-Christians alike are familiar with this commandment. While non-Christians might consider the Ten Commandments a good moral code, Christians know these commandments along with the entire Bible provide guidelines for how are we to govern our lives. The struggle of placing God singularly and supremely in our lives has been around since the Garden of Eden. Satan enticed Eve by saying, “you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). God, knowing the lure of other gods, call us them to leave them.
Jacob was swindled by his father-in-law Laban to work for him for 14 years. By this time, their relationship had started to sour. When Laban was shearing sheep, Jacob seized upon an opportunity to leave. He called to his wives, Leah and Rachel to muster their children and belongings to go with him to his homeland of Canaan. It is unlikely that Leah and Rachel had previously traveled far from their home, so despite being treated like outcasts by their father, Rachel felt compelled to take some of the old life with her. In packing up her belongings to leave, she stole her father’s household gods.
It is human nature to want to cling to the remnants of the past, regardless of how good or bad that the past may have been. We tend to romanticize the past, often referring to it as the “good ole’ days”. We conveniently forget the hurts, headaches and disappointments of the past. We are most susceptible to this when we are confronted with present day struggles or our way forward seems unclear.
After God emancipated the Israelites they found themselves in the wilderness and they could not always “see” how he was going to provide for them. This caused them to look longing back to their place of bondage, “we remember the fish we used to eat for free in Egypt. And we had all the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic we wanted” (Numbers 11:5)(NLT).
Jacob did not have to twist the arms of Leah and Rachel to go with him. When Jacob spoke to Leah and Rachel about making a run for it, they responded, “That’s fine with us! We won’t inherit any of our father’s wealth anyway. He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us.” (Genesis 31:14-15)(NLT)
Yet Rachel persisted is taking her father’s household gods, a reminder of her old, painful life with her. Beyond that, she lied to her father when confronted about the theft. This is often our reaction when our father God confronts us about those household gods in our lives, be they career, children, reputation, material possessions or whatever. We may be blind to our household gods and we may not become aware of their place in our lives until we’re threatened with their loss.
God calls his children to a new way of life. As God led the children of Israel to the Promised Land, it was a way in which they were unfamiliar. Joshua reminded the Israelites as they set to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land they had “never traveled this way before” (Joshua 3:4). Nothing can escape the clenched fists that we use to hold onto the past, but sadly and conversely, God cannot place into our open hands the promise of hope and a future.