“While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. 13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” – Gen 29:11-4
At first glance Jacob’s weeping doesn’t seem to fit the story. He is looking for a wife. He finds her and he sits there and cries his eyes out. This is not how we would write the story but it is how the story went. If you read Genesis 28 it makes more sense. Jacob is sent out by his father Isaac to find a wife. He goes to find her. God appears to him and blesses him with the covenant blessing at Bethel. Jacob finds the kinfolk (where else are you going to find a wife in the old days, right?), and right after his mighty act of uncovering the well he bursts into tears.
I don’t think this was weakness on Jacob’s part. I know I am psychologizing the text quite a bit here but it is still interesting to me why he might have cried. In a world with no facebook, email, or cell phones…he flees for his life from his brothers wrath and travels to a place he has never been…away from his beloved mother and all that is familiar…and finally finds the people he is looking for. That was no easy task. That is a stressful task and even a terrifying one. Can you imagine walking to a distant land where you have never been trying to find a specific person with zero technology? I think I might shed a few tears myself.
What is more…God was with him. As so often happens with God’s promises the journey to their completion is not a stress-free zone but is often full of barriers, trials, and tests of our faith. In the end there is relief and things “click” into place where it all makes sense. You only understand that when the job is done and the fulfillment of God’s promise is obvious.
I love reading stories like Jacob and Joseph’s because they remind us that God is faithful even when things look pretty grim. The measure of God’s faithfulness is never how things appear on the surface. God’s faithfulness runs much deeper and wider and longer than that. It is a lesson that is hard to remember and even harder to learn in the first place.