Tuesday, January 12, 2010

January 13

OT: Gen. 28:1-29:35

Well, I'm back to feeling sorry for Esau. God bless him--he wants to do the right thing, but he's just a little slow to catch on. When it dawns on him that his parents aren't big fans of Canaanite women (and how could this just now be dawning on him???), he takes a relative for a wife. Too bad it is a daughter of Ishmael. Poor guy--he can't win for losin'.

I've been thinking that God has been repetitive with his declarations of blessing descendants, but it dawned on me that he keeps revealing His blessing to new generations. Duh. Earlier, he blessed Abraham. In yesterday's reading, he blessed Isaac for the second time. And today, he blessed Jacob. Jacob's response is interesting. He apparently thinks that he stumbled onto some kind of God portal, and that's why God is talking to him. ("Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it...How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.") Stairway to heaven dream or no, I wanted to say to him, "It's not the place, dingbat! It's you! God is talking to you not because you picked the right patch of earth to lay down on, but because you're Jacob." Again, this seems obvious, but it's amazing how these people did not realize their own significance. God chose them to start...everything. He chose to use them to proclaim Himself to the world. And they were just normal people. A few days ago, we read Jesus' proclamation, "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 8:11). By that point, these three men were iconic. In the time period we're reading about in Genesis, they are just confused liars who pass their wives off as their sisters and have problems with showing favoritism to their kids. It is amazing to think of what God adds to that equation. And what He adds to the equation with me. And it is amazing to think that he chose me to be an ambassador for Christ, that He speaks through my marriage and my family to show the world a message of reconciliation. That He uses my witness to others to bring them to Him. And that He does all that when I'm just a confused sinner who can't get through a single day without tripping over my own selfishness.

I also think it's funny that Jacob's next impulse is to play, "Let's Make a Deal" with God. "Okay, God, you say you want to bless me? Well, how about blessing me in this upcoming visit, and then I'll choose you as my God." Ugh. Thankfully, God is so creative, and He totally grants Jacob's request...technically. He also lets Laban completely take advantage of him. But hey--He keeps him safe! Sorry--that part made me laugh.

I did feel sorry for Leah, though. I thought it was interesting that the text says that Leah had "weak" eyes, but the footnote says that another translation is "delicate." I understand why they chose "weak," because the sentence is set up to contrast her with Rachel, who is described as beautiful. But I still would have gone with delicate. What does "weak eyes" even mean? See, I think it says that Leah had pretty eyes, but Rachel had a great body and was beautiful to boot. (Read it again--see? It works.) So even though Leah had stuff going for her, she was no external match to her little sister. The way that all played out was so sad to me.

I think it is interesting how God Himself tries to balance out the unfairness by giving Leah a slew of sons. You wouldn't necessarily think that God would be concerning Himself with stuff like this at this point in His nation building process. But He has shown Himself thus far to be quite compassionate toward the plight of women. He took great care of Hagar, for example. And he talked directly to Rebekah to explain the ramifications of her pregnancy to her. And now, He seems to understand the pain of rejection that Leah is filling and is blessing her in bigger ways than she can even understand. After all, through her body come most of the twelve tribes of Israel. I also think that it is VERY interesting how she hopes that the first three sons will help her husband to love her. But by the time she gets to Judah, she's like, "You know what? I'm just going to give thanks to God for giving me a son." (paraphrase of Gen. 29:35). And that's the one through whom Christ came.

NT: Matt. 9: 18-38

Quick detail: I think it is interesting that this version of the story describes Jairus' daughter as already being dead, but in Mark and Luke's version, she is dying and then dies while Jesus is going to her. It's clearly the same story. I'm not sure what to make of that. The other versions are in Mark 5 and Luke 8. Reading all three narratives, I see that it is not a small difference. I also thought it was interesting that Mark's version of the demon and the pigs had two demon-possessed men in the graveyard and not just "Legion." But in that case, I can understand that if one of the men was more prominent and responsive, you might not even mention the other one when telling the story. So maybe the others just focused on "Legion." With Jairus' daughter, I find the discrepancy more confusing.

But again with the women! I promise I'm not trying to do a gender-based reading of Scripture, but this time around, I just keep noticing the compassion toward women. In this story, Jesus raises a dead girl, and heals a woman who seems to have been plagued specifically with "female problems." In a society that seems to clearly view women as objects and property (both in the Old and New Testament), God seems to defy that vision of women with the compassion He shows to them. Interesting.

Psalm 11: 1-7

I grew up singing a hymn with the line, "Flee as a bird to your mountain." I don't think those people understood this psalm.

Proverbs 3: 11-12

My sinful, rebellious self is not a big fan of discipline, so these verses are always a good reminder.


  1. (Gen.) It just again reminded me of how blessed I am to have a great son-in-law! (Matthew) Thanks to a sermon I once heard at the Gulf Coast church in Florida, Matthew 13:29 has new meaning for me: "According to your faith it will be done to you." While I know that Jesus was speaking to these blind men who wanted their sight, Jesus also simply teaches basic truths...according to your faith, you will receive. Do you think 2010 will be just like 2009? Then you are right b/c according to your faith, it is. Do you think your marriage will never improve; then you're right, b/c according to your faith, it is. If one person thinks he will succeed and the other thinks he will not succeed, then they are both right...b/c according to your faith, it is. Well, I love that verse and it motivates me to maintain a positive outlook on life! I trust God to be with us in 2010...and I already know that NO MATTER WHAT, he is b/c according to your faith, it is.

  2. I know you have gone over this already, but I still can't decide what I think about all of the deception going on in this family while God continues to bless them. It does seem like there is very little consequence for it (except for the deceivers being deceived themselves). If I remember my Bible stories, this pattern just continues (with Judah and Tamar, Rahab, etc.--more in the line of Christ). I mean, these are the righteous, famous people of God while other people/peoples are described as being "wicked." It makes me wonder what "righteousness" and "wickedness" really mean. Looking in Hebrews 11, it would seem that these people were righteous because of their faith, not so much for their actions (except where their actions were indicative of their faith). However, Psalms and Proverbs tell us that we still have to do right things and allow ourselves to be disciplined... *Sigh* Here we go again. :)

  3. Mom,
    I totally thought of you when I read that verse! And I think the preacher used it well; I don't think he took it way out of context or anything. Good thoughts!

    And Becky, I don't feel like I've "gone over" this at all:). Mainly, I just keep raising the question about how all of these deceptions can add up to God's will. I feel waaaay out of my depth here, but I know that God is omniscient, which itself is a quality totally beyond my comprehension. And so maybe it's not so much that God wanted these people to act this way as that He knew that they WOULD, and He used their free will to accomplish His plans.

    It also occurs to me that nobody has the Law yet. There is no established code of morality. I'm sure they have consciences and everything, but really, consciences are a pretty horrible guide. For example, by all accounts, it seems like no one's conscience was bothered by the pass-off-wife-as-sister stuff. That move seemed totally justified to Abraham. So they are all living in a world where they are guided by their consciences and maybe the surrounding culture. No wonder they are so morally screwed up! That's probably why God gave them the Law. They clearly need some divine revelation in working out their morality!

  4. 2012 thoughts:

    I have been slightly more sympathetic to Jacob this year. For one thing, I've realized how God was simply not an active part of his worldview thus far. He feels that he must do everything himself to succeed in life. There is no such thing as just trusting in God to provide. That's why he can lie with a straight face and tell his dad (as Esau) that "God" is who helped him hunt so quickly. He almost seems like a practical atheist at that point. And so then, when he has his "stairway to heaven" vision, he assumes that HE stumbled onto GOD, not that God found Him. Clearly, he has a very skewed view of this God he "happened" to find, which is why he tries to wheel and deal with Him.

    And even throughout his stay with Laban, God seems to be a convenient cover or excuse for his own deceptions. He uses superstitious means to make the sheep be born a certain way, and then attributes it to "God's" favor. It seems that "God" is code for Jacob's own trickery.


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