Chapter 29 launches us into the next major phase of Jacob’s life. Having arrived safely in the region of Haran, Jacob discovers to his joy that he is near the household of his uncle Laban. In the heat of midday, Jacob was met with several reminders of the Lord’s providence. As though to highlight the absurdity of happenstance, the writer casually describes the coincidental arrival both of shepherds who know Laban and, then, Laban’s own daughter Rachel.
The fact that Jacob had travelled to Paddan Aram to look for a wife and came first to a well should remind us of the earlier occasion when Abraham’s servant, who had come looking for a wife for Isaac, had arrived at probably the same well. None of this is accidental. We are being trained to discern the providence of God in all that comes to pass. God has promised to be with Jacob. And here that promise is kept just as it will be when Jacob encounters more painful providences from the Lord.
Though, by this time, Jacob had become more mindful of both the Lord’s presence and his responsibility as the covenant heir, he seems not to have lost any of his characteristic tenacity and enterprise. He remains that little one clutching to the heel of his brother. Though his encounter with Rachel was clearly brought about by the Lord’s hand, it will be the occasion for much heartache. In this way we learn that God’s providence is not limited to pleasant pathways. God’s providence includes those means of discipline for the purpose of character transformation. And Jacob’s character will be transformed in many ways through long years of frustration and hardship. It is the step-by-step work of God’s gracious sanctification in the lives of his children. It was for Jacob. And it will be for all of us who belong to the Lord.