Wednesday, January 13, 2010

January 14

OT: Gen. 30:1-31:16

Well. We are far from the Abraham-Sarai model where human interference screws up God's plan. Now, it is clear that God is using the crazy things these people are doing to directly accomplish His purposes. The twelve tribes of Israel spring from the bitter competition between two wives, and (unlike Ishmael), maidservants' sons are included in the count. And Jacob's little breeding experiment with Laban's sheep works to increase his wealth, which he totally sees as God's blessing. And maybe it is! Jacob definitely gives God full credit for taking away Laban's wealth and giving it to him, but it just seems to me that Jacob himself also had a hand in that...

I'm beyond feeling sorry for Laban, however. It is so crazy to me how this man who seemed to love Rebekah so much could treat her son so wrongly. Regardless, Laban and Jacob are a good match for each other, with their mutual deceit and manipulation.

Again, it is weird to me how God works through all of this. He is using competitive bitterness and lies to start the nation of Israel! I really don't get it.

And how about the trading of a night with Jacob for some mandrakes? That seemed like a small incident, so I wonder why it was included. Maybe it is in there b/c of what it reveals about the relationship between the three of them, though I can't see that it reveals anything good.

NT: Matt. 10: 1-25

Yesterday, Adrian asked about what was meant by "authority given to men." To me, today's reading shows a prime example of that authority. Jesus gives his disciples "authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness" (1). Also, the disciples are to have such confidence in God's provision that they aren't supposed to take anything with them. I thought that was interesting.

I both love and am confused by the concept of verse 13: "If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you." My usual take on this is that the disciples had the authority to bless things and people and that leaving their peace was like a blessing. And yet, on this reading, it seems like more than that. Regardless, I love the idea of a peace that is so powerful that you can physically share it with others.

Throughout Scripture, there are many verses that I "found" the first time I read the Bible for myself as a teenager. Each time, I was so amazed to stumble on a verse so awesome that I had never heard before. Matt. 10:16 is one of those verses: "I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves." I have always found that verse to be so pertinent to my life. I love how well Jesus describes the balance needed between shrewdness and innocence. I've always struggled with finding that balance.

I also like verses 24-5 (though I don't understand the last line, really). It is a good reminder to someone like me, whose nature longs for comfort and security that "a student is not above his...teaher...It is enough for the student to be like his teacher." I am called to be like Christ. He is my teacher and master. He did not seek comfort and security but instead sought wholly to fulfill the will of His Father. That's what I should be doing, too.

Psalm 12: 1-8

I think it is interesting how historically common it is to feel like there are no more godly people. Wickedness just seems overwhelming sometimes. Several lines here seem culturally relevant today, such as the last one: "The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men." I feel that, especially in our entertainment industry, we honor some pretty vile stuff. But all of this wickedness is nothing new. It is something to mourn, yes, but not something to fear. Verses 5-6 make it clear that God is active in these times. And from the New Testament, I know that He equips us to be lights to the world. Again, our job is not to fear, but to shine.

Prov. 3: 13-15

Good stuff about wisdom. (I remember this wisdom prologue being good, but long. At this rate of moving through Proverbs, I'm not going to have anything new to say about it for weeks!)


  1. My comment to Becky yesterday is my most updated theory on the "God's plan accomplished through deception" conundrum. I have written a couple of people for back up. We'll see if they'll weigh in:).

  2. Hi Kim,

    Jacob is certainly a mess! As to why God works through Jacob and his deceitful ways, here are a few thoughts as I have struggled with this question over the years. First, the Bible reveals a pattern of God working through unlikely characters (by the standards of their day): barren women, second-born sons, widows, Gentiles, prostitutes, lepers, etc., not to mention a talking donkey and a man-eating (and regurgitating) fish. The basic point of all this is that the power at work is God's.

    In Jacob's defense, his passion for the birthright and the blessing seems to be favored over Esau, who despised his birthright. See Judah's praise of Tamar in Genesis 38. In both cases, the person is valued for recognizing and desiring to be part of God's purpose, not for the tactics employed. Another theme in the Bible, however, is God's ability to work even through human failure, with the greatest example being the death of Jesus, which came as the result of Judas's betrayal, Jesus' rejection by the leaders of the covenant people, and the weakness of a Roman ruler.

    Jacob also reflects God's patience. By the time Jacob leaves Laban's service, he has come to recognize that God truly is with him, and that his scheming and deceiving have not brought him the blessing. He should have learned this lesson much sooner, because the tactics that got him the birthright and blessing resulted in the necessity of his departure from his home and family, with little more than the clothes on his back.

    The point of all this is not to encourage us to act with the same kind of self-reliant unbelief as Jacob, but to marvel at God's ability to work with his (and our) imperfections. We don't have to work to offer those imperfections before God; they will be plenty evident even with our best efforts to act differently.

    I appreciate the good work you and Greg are doing!

    Terry Briley

  3. Thank you so much, Dr. Briley! That really helped my understanding a lot. Thanks for taking the time!

    [For others reading, Dr. Briley is a Bible professor at Lipscomb, who teaches courses on the Old Testament. I took several courses from him, including Early Hebrew History and Isaiah. His course on Isaiah helped me to fall in love with that book, and it's where I found some of my favorite passages of Scripture. He also happens to be a Facebook friend, which means that it is very convenient for me to hit him up for answers to confusing Bible passages:)]

  4. [Here is Dr. Camp's response. He is another Lipscomb Bible professor. I love that, six years after graduating college, I can facebook my Bible professors with questions about Scripture, and they respond in less than two hours. I really, really love Lipscomb:)]

    Jacob is a rat. No question about it. His Mom doesn't come off looking too well either. We know from the oracle to Rebekah that the older would serve the younger, that is, that the chosen line would continue through Jacob. I wonder if Rebekah, like Sarah earlier, tried to engineer the result rather than letting God bring it about. If so, the results were a disaster for a long time in Jacob's life (see what he says to Pharaoh about the nature of his life). And like Abraham, Jacob has to learn to trust God rather than his own cleverness and devices. I think the "wrestling match" has something to do with that, and it may be parallel to Abraham's test in Gen 22. Will Jacob seek blessing in God, even wresting it from him, or continue in his own ways? Note also that Jacob receives ironic justice at the hands of Laban.

    Having said all that, still God blesses Jacob even in the midst of his tricking Laban (ironic justice for Laban) and clearly uses this unsavory character for his purposes. This is the wonder of God's choosing. He doesn't pick the ones we think he should. He doesn't operate in ways that always make sense to us. In some sense, because we are all fallen, he simply had to pick from an ugly lot. But perhaps in Jacob we see not only the mystery of God's choosing but also the mystery of grace where God works through those who seem to be the worst, though often with a great deal of pain as the chosen one is used by God (compare Paul in the NT).

    For the Jacob story, or most of it, I don't think there is a "go and do likewise." I think rather we see something about who God is and the lengths he goes to to fulfill his promises. To me it is interesting that in Heb 11, the only thing the writer comes up with for Jacob in terms of an example of faith is that he worshipped God leaning on his staff. And this was near the end of Jacob's life. Transformation and trust in God apparently takes some time for some. And yet he redeems, transforms, and uses them. I find some hope in that.

  5. I guess it is true that, regardless of what people God had picked, they would have been sinners. Also, you're right, Kim, as far as we know, there was no explicit Law for them at that time. (However, there had to have been SOME kind of standard because of the whole Cain/Abel sacrifice thing.) Maybe the point of it all happening that way was to highlight God's own power. Really, the whole point of His plan was to save us from our sins anyway, so it wouldn't have made any sense for the people by which the Savior came to have been perfect already. *Hmmm, deep thoughts...*

    Switching gears, I am curious if the "peace" in "let your peace fall on them" (NLT says "blessing") is the same thing as the "blessing" Isaac gave to Jacob. The way it is described, it almost sounds tangible.

    I wonder how Joseph felt about the fact that he was not good enough for his mother.

    And... We have even more similarities between Genesis and Matthew: Twelve Sons (Tribes of Israel)... Twelve Apostles. Also, references to sheep. (Hmmm, is there any significance in the spotted/speckled thing as we plug ourselves into the sheep/shepherd analogy, or is that taking it too far?)

  6. 2012 thoughts:

    My sympathy for Jacob continues this year. In today's reading, he is totally USED for sons. It seems weird to think much about his sex life, but for goodness sake, it is pretty much the topic of today's reading. And nothing about the encounters seem to be loving toward Jacob. "Here, sleep with my maidservant!" At least Sarah was attached enough to Abraham to get jealous of Hagar. These girls just celebrate when God gives them another "point" (read: son) in their competition. By the time the mandrake incident rolls around, it is clear that sex with Jacob is simply a commodity, a means to an end. It can be bought and sold for other enjoyments. So...what does that make Jacob?

    I'm telling you...this is SERIOUSLY messed up...