Israel’s great ancestor was Abraham, and the story of Israel’s ancestry is one of favoritism – specifically, God’s favoritism. Abraham goes to war against five kings of the East, and defeats their massive army with his personal house guard. He lies about Sarah to the King of the Philistines, but it is the King of the Philistines who must ask Abraham to pray for his healing. Isaac lives in hostile territory, but his wealth increases inexplicably and beyond all bounds despite violent opposition. Jacob becomes Laban’s slave for twenty years, being cheated every step of the way. But still Jacob succeeds more than Laban. In fact, Genesis 31 says that in spite of Laban’s seeming upper-hand, Jacob basically acquired all Laban’s property. In a long speech at the end, Jacob tells us that the secret of his success is the favor of the Lord. In every age, the people of God must learn this lesson: success is defined, and guaranteed, by God.
It was a lesson seemingly lost on Jacob’s wives. Do you wonder why Rachel stole Laban’s “household gods”? Household gods (particular idols) were a sign of ownership. The one who held the gods, held title to the family property. What they did not understand was that ownership was not tied to an earthly title, but to a relationship with the Lord, who really (as is demonstrated in these stories) owns all things and distributes them as He pleases.
The gods of Laban became a source of distraction to Jacob’s family, and a hindrance to further success until at last, Jacob called on the family to purge themselves of them. When we forget that God controls everything and is the source of everything, we begin to look for worldly ways to success. Those paths always only lead to failure. God is the fountain from whom all blessings flow. He guarantees success according to His definition – the only one that counts – to all who fix their allegiance solely on Him. Failure becomes an impossibility, no matter what the odds.