Monday, January 11, 2010

January 12

OT: Gen. 26:17-27: 46

Today's theme: character flaws.

Esau is not so great at wife selection, choosing two Hittite women who cause his parents grief. He also has a touch of false victimization ("Jacob stole my birthright!" Well, no, sweetie--you gave it to him). But the main problem is that he is just so impetuous. That impetuousness can probably account for his first two flaws, but it definitely accounts for the rage he feels at Jacob. What bothers me is not so much that he is angry or even that he wants to kill his brother (though that last part is bad), but that Rebekah knows that he's going to calm down and "forget" it ever happened. I've always thought Esau was good for being so forgiving to Jacob later in life, but now I'm beginning to think he's just dumb. He burns hot and cold; he feels, therefore he does. In short, like yesterday's reading alluded to, that's why they call him "Red." He's just a hothead. (Quick paraphrased movie quote: "Why do they call you Red?" "I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm Irish." Anyone? Anyone?)

Not that Rebekah and Jacob are better. On the contrary, Esau may be a big, dumb brute (sorry Esau--I really do like you!), but these two are conniving manipulators. They go to great lengths to deceive Isaac and steal Esau's blessing. It may have been Rebekah's idea, but when he's in the room with his father, Jacob lies and lies and then lies some more. He even has the nerve to invoke God, telling Isaac that he found the game so quickly because "The Lord your God gave me success." You lying liar! (Okay, I may be a touch judgmental today.)

Now, here's my conundrum. These extravagant deceptions actually add up to fulfilling God's promise to Isaac. It's not like Sarai, who took matters into her own hands and messed everything up. All this lying and manipulating is fitting perfectly into God's plans. And the Bible doesn't seem to pass judgment on it one way or another. I recently read in a Beth Moore study the author's opinion that God feels no need to justify His morality to us specifically throughout the Bible. So in other words, He doesn't swoop in and provide caveats every time something shady goes down. But still, it seems weird that the divine path to Israel goes right through these lies and deceit.

On the other hand, it is oddly comforting that God puts up with these guys. I know it has less to do with them and more to do with His plan, but just the fact that He shows them so much grace gives me hope for the rest of us!

NT: Matt. 9: 1-17

This seemed like a really short reading today. It included Matthew's shortened version of the paralytic being lowered through the roof (sounded like the same story to me, at least), the calling of Matthew, and some words from Jesus. I think it is interesting how in the last reading, Jesus had people asking to follow Him, and He kind of shot them down, but this time, He goes right up to a tax collector and asks him. Increasingly, I'm finding the calling of the disciples to be an interesting, somewhat confusing process. I also love Jesus' words, "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." He repeats those a couple times elsewhere in Scripture. They always speak to me, because my personality could "sacrifice" all day. In other words, if there was a list of right actions to be done, I think that would be great. Give it to me, and I'll check them off one by one. But to actually show mercy, to love your brother deeply from the heart, to be forgiving...those are much harder. As someone who was raised a Christian, I find the external things to be almost second nature sometimes. But Jesus is interested in the heart. That's always convicting to me.

Psalm 10:16-18

"The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land." That is why it is better to be a Monarchist than to belong to a particular political party. (Thanks, Larry, for the terminology.) I'm not a Democrat or a Republican; I serve the King.

Prov. 1: 9-10

Short but sweet. "Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine." Sounds like a verse my dad would like. He loves those giving ones, as do I.


  1. Movie Quote: Shawshank Redemption, Morgan Freeman, as Red. (Gen.) Somewhere along my spiritual journey I must have been taught that this situation between the two brohers was a foreshadowing of things to come: That the "chosen" would lose their place and the "second sons" (us) would receive it or have access to this inheritance through Christ. (It's not something I could have concluded with my own limited green stuff.) However, at one point along my spiritual journey, I recall thinking that this was a terrible story of injustice, having great pity on Esau. And the message I got from it was simple: life is not fair, nor is it supposed to be. Later in my journey, after reading the story, I was able to see some of the same character flaws that you have pointed out, Kim. I am just so thankful that God is the judge of all b/c I am too limited to make judgments of people's hearts. This story has also served as a reminder to me after my children were born to be sure there was no favortism towards my children b/c nothing good comes from that behavior. So, this message has shaped and reshaped and reshaped my thinking over the years! (Matthew) People just shouldn't be looking for ways to out do or "do in" Jesus. He is the King. Period. Just have faith. He knows best. Jesus loves mercy, not sacrifice...beautiful, beautiful. (Proverbs) Like you said, marvelous giving verses.

  2. I have a question for all of you daily readers from today's reading (I'm only reading the NT this year in an effort to stick with the daily bible reading while surviving nursing school):

    What does Matt 9:8 mean? "When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men." Specifically the "who had given such authority to men." Is this an acknowledgment of Jesus' humanity or did the crowd not understand that this was more than just another man?

  3. Adrian,

    Hmmm...first things first: I don't know the answer.

    But that has never stopped me from rambling on:).

    I think that the "authority" that awed them was the ability to physically heal a man of paralysis. In that case, it wasn't just Jesus who had that authority. His disciples healed people, and so did many in the early church.

    Sometimes, I don't think we realize the authority that God has actually given us as humans. It is that authority that awed David when he wrote, "what is man that you are mindful of him,the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet:
    all flocks and herds,and the beasts of the field,the birds of the air,and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas." (Psalm 8: 4-8).

    I think that as members of His Kingdom, Christians have more authority and power than we sometimes realize. One of my pet verses is I Cor. 4:20: "For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power." I haven't fleshed out exactly what all that means, but it is something that I have been exploring of late. I could go on about that, but I think it would be getting off track from the answer to your question:).

  4. Mom,
    I like that take on Esau and Jacob. I would never have thought to look at it metaphorically like that!

  5. Hmm..deep thoughts.

    I always have alot of questions about the Isaac/Esau/Jacob story seems so devious, and wrong of a mother to betray both her husband her other son in the process. And, why was the verbalized blessing so binding that he couldnt say "oh, you lied to me ..i take that back." I mean, if it wasnt meant for him then why was it so binding?

    Hmm. The culture I guess.

    I think it is so sad that Isaac really didnt believe Jacob was who he said he was, and he really tried to make sure he was wrong. When he found out "he trembled". So sad. The betrayal is so deep.

    Matthew ..deep thoughts Adrian and Kim :) I am just AGAIN amazed with how Jesus is just turning these people on their heads. He is just mixing up all their ideas of what God/man relationship is about.

    "I desire mercy, not sacrifice" ...fasting, shrunk wineskins ..serious stuff.

    The authority thing is such a novel idea for them ...authority to forgive sins? The Pharisees didnt have that, even they had to make sacrifices. But, earlier the crowd was amazed that he spoke "with authority, not as the teachers of the law" . Its like they could tell that he spoke from a different angle and it really affected them.

    I think based on the verse immediately before it ..."But so that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins."..AND "..get up, take your mat and go home..." he was really establishing his superiorness (if that is a word) even greater than the physical act he was demonstrating. How that translates to the part of "men" I dont know ..good question though :)

  6. Adrian, my take on the "authority" thing is just that they were so impressed that God had sent someone to earth who could actually forgive sins. I think we (Christians under the New Covenant) tend to take forgiveness for granted. To those guys under the Old Law, it was a very different thing, dealing with priests and animal sacrifices and ceremonial washings, etc. If I had been there, I would have thought Jesus was being blasphemous too. However, seeing him physically heal the man would have made a difference. That would have put him on the same level as a priest to me, and probably even higher.

    However, since it talks about his "speaking with authority" in other places (like after the Sermon on the Mount) where he doesn't even necessarily do miracles, I think there was just something about his demeanor that set him apart from other men. My impression is that Jesus was 100% confident about what he was saying and doing (because he was only doing what he saw his Father doing). Because we have the Holy Spirit, I do think that we have power now, but I think that is just God acting through us. Jesus WAS/is God, so he was the real deal authority-wise, if that makes any sense.

  7. 2012 thoughts:

    In the NT reading, I had some thoughts about fasting. Jesus' disciples are criticized for not fasting, and He defends them by saying that since He (the bridegroom) is with them, then it is not time for fasting. But He claims that when the bridegroom is "taken" from them, they will fast. In the past, I have taken that to mean that after Jesus left this earth, His disciples would once again fast as a regular discipline. (Also, He seems to assume people fast in the sermon on the Mount.)

    Today, though, I didn't see it that way. Elsewhere, Jesus tells His disciples that when He leaves, it will be even better for them b/c God's Spirit ("the Helper") will be with them. In that sense, they will be even MORE continually in the presence of God after God's Spirit comes. So, it would stand to reason from Jesus' words here in Matthew, there would be no reason for them to fast. Instead, these words in Matthew 9 seem to be a prediction of His impending death. In other words, His disciples will fast b/c of their grief over His being "taken" from them, not as a regular practice.

    And as for the sermon on the mount, of course Jesus assumed His listeners fasted. They DID fast. His point was not about fasting per se, but was part of His larger theme of not doing religious "works" to be seen by others. But since I don't think fasting is mentioned in any of the epistles (will check in a second), it seems that it is not assumed that Christians will continue this practice.

    That said, I do find it helpful to fast while living in an overstuffed, overindulged culture. I think it is useful to "correct" my outlook a bit and to turn my eyes to God.


  8. 2012 Update:

    They did fast a few times in Acts, but it is not mentioned in any of the epistles. The Acts fasts were not just rituals though; they were accompaniments to specific prayers, which God answered.