Thursday, January 14, 2010

January 15

OT: 31:17-32:12

When I started reading about the stand-off between Jacob and Laban, the first thought that popped into my mind was that this reminded me of an episode of Judge Judy. Then I realized that I don't think I've ever watched Judge Judy. Instead, I decided that it reminded me of those times that I love so much in tv shows where people actually come out and say what they are thinking. So many plots are based on lack of communication (like in Lost, my favorite show), and I long for the times when people are actually forthcoming with each other. Today's readings was one of those times.

But first, the deceptions continue. The text itself makes clear that Jacob's fleeing was itself a deception: "Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away" (Gen. 31:19). The "moreover" refers to the fact that this is the second transgression of this chapter, the first being Rachel's theft of Laban's household gods. I realized something when I read verse 19. The text wants us to see that these things are wrong. It is not whitewashing these characters. It's not like the Biblical text acts like they are okay, and we modern readers are seeing their actions differently. No, the text is on our side. It goes out of its way to point out their deceptions, to point out their bad attitudes, to point out small events like swapping sex with one's husband for some mandrakes. That is interesting to me.

Anyway, Jacob flees, Laban follows, and then these two selfish deceivers have a verbal showdown. (Sidenote: I'm kind of glad, actually, that Laban didn't find the household gods, b/c he would have turned that into a big deal, and it would have distracted from the heart of the conflict between them. That whole incident really made Rachel look pretty horrible, though.) Jacob goes first and lays out his argument in verses 38-42, and I found it to be quite compelling. I was dying to hear what Laban had to say to it (you'd think that I'd never read this before! Apparently, I have amnesia!). Laban's response was brilliantly, uniquely "Laban." At first I was really put off by it. But then I came to see his side of it. His point was that all Jacob had came from him. Jacob came to him with nothing, and left with his daughters, their children, and flocks that came from him. So how could Jacob stand there and accuse him of treating him unfairly? The way Laban saw it, Jacob was a wealthy man because of him. (Of course, it was really God who blessed Jacob. Laban really was a pretty big jerk to him.)

And I love the way this Bible leaves us hanging at the "showdown" between Jacob and Esau. I thought Jacob was pretty savvy to divide his people and possessions into two groups like that. Years of looking out for #1 seems to have made him an expert at self-preservation!

I have more to say about Jacob's view of God, but I need to move on.

NT: Matt. 10: 26-11:6

Well. Today's reading is intense. I could write about every verse, but I'll choose the ones that stood out the most:

10: 28--"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." I interpret "the One" as Satan, but maybe it's God. Regardless, reading that verse made me understand more my biggest fear for my children. It is not that they'll die, but that they will endure something so awful that it distorts their perception of God and destroys their soul. Hmm, that was cheery. Next!

10:29--"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart form the will of your Father." I might be reading too much into this, but what stood out to me was "the will of your Father." Maybe this is a leap, but I'm thinking that, according to the logic of this verse, no deaths occur "apart from the will of your Father." Which means that all deaths that occur are within the will of our Father. I think my brain has been working on a theology of death, which, like I said before, I will address more fully when God gives annihilation orders in the OT.

10: 34--"Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on earth but a sword." I just don't buy that this has anything to do with war. The surrounding context is all about division. To me, the message is that following Christ is so radical that it has the potential to rupture the closest bonds that we have on earth. It's odd, b/c sometimes the Bible seems all about family values, but more often, Jesus Himself does not. In Christianity, Christ comes first, even before your family. Interesting.

10: 38--"and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me." It is interesting to me that Jesus makes these cross references before He dies on the cross. I mean, His disciples have no idea what was coming. I bet after He died and rose, they thought back on those words and were blown away. That, or they were terrified ("What?? I thought that was a metaphor!").

10: 39--"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." One of the deepest concepts of the Bible. I could ponder that one all day long.

11:4-6--When John the Baptist essentially asks if Jesus is the Christ, I love how Jesus tells them to report back what He is doing. My childhood preacher, Mr. Rob, preached a whole sermon on these verses, stressing the importance of our actions.

Psalm 13: 1-6

I don't know what the psalmist is going through in particular. He's probably referring to physical enemies. But reading this psalm reminds me of someone struggling with mental illness, whose enemies are the distorted thoughts in their mind that plague them. The psalmist wants God to deliver him, yes, but the final word is, "I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me." It is sometimes hard to believe that God is good to His children who are suffering and struggling. But Scripture repeatedly asserts that He is. I think if we understood the grace that He shows us humans, we would comprehend more of His goodness.

Proverbs 3: 16-18

More benefits of wisdom.


  1. Kim, every morning I want to tell you how much I am enjoying this Bible study, how your comments inspire me and take me deeper into Him, how much I love you, and on and on I go with my thoughts. But, there, I've said it this time...but know that I think it everyday!

    Psalm. "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God." When I read these verses this morning, my eyes filled with tears. I'm pretty sure that Michael had these verses highlighted in his Bible. I knew that you would be thinking of him, too. Oh, how I miss him. And then the wonderful words in vs 5: "But I trust in your unfailing love and my heart rejoices in your salvation."

  2. Aw, thanks, Mom! You are definitely my greatest inspiration in writing down my thoughts. Just knowing that you are faithfully reading each day is such an encouragement. You have always been so supportive of everything that I do, and it has shown me how having such belief in someone has such profound effects on that person. I feel like I can do anything, because YOU believe that I can! Because of your example, I will always let my children know that I support them and believe in their efforts. I know from experience that hearing that is so empowering.

    Anyway, in short, thanks for being an amazing mother. There, I've said it this time...but know that I think it everyday:).

  3. Aw, you two :)

    I am resisting the urge to go back and back-comment on every day this week ..while I have been reading both bible and blog (most days) I have been falling short of writing my thoughts out.

    Well, first I am amazingly blessed to be reading this like its the first time. While I certainly have read it before, reading slowly like this I am getting to see so many wonderful little details that I havent noticed.

    Personalities are very interesting - Jacob, Esau, Rachel, Rebekah, Laban, Leah ..all quite interesting folk.

    Today's reading made me feel quite stressed for Jacob..this is some serious stuff. He is sneaking off, confronting Laban, defending his family (how awful if Rachel had been caught!), confronting his brother (just via messenger), anticipating a ticked off Esau, dividing this family to protect them ..yikes. This is a stressed out guy right now.

    I also found it interesting that Laban is so attached to this daughters ..I thought the culture was very much a leave and cleave one when it comes to daughters. He seems really attached to them. Hmm.

    There are alot of things to note, but you covered them really well. They are all an interesting lot and I am excited to see how the story plays out :)

    Matt ..I have to admit that your comments were helpful because I basically was going ..."huh?" through most of it this morning.

    I did note that he was talking to his disciples only at the time, and that these seem to be way deeper lessons than the previous "dont even look at woman lustfully" concepts. These seem to be more complex and seem to be prepatory in nature. Its like he is getting them ready for the next level of understanding his and their role in the saving of Israel (bearing the cross, the world hating you, he can injure the body but not the spirit..etc.).

    I read it twice, and will have to read it again before the day is over.

    Psalms ..I love the wrap up of this Psalm for the reason you already cited. Its so neat to see the progress from clearly outlining his struggles to "but I know you got this".

    So often we feel so conflicted by what is going on around us, but as Christians we have the benefit of His "unfailing" love to protect us from bitterness and hopelessness.

    Prov ..that Wisdom chick is a good one! :)

  4. Genesis:

    There they go again with the drama. (Honestly, that's probably why it's one of my favorite books in the Bible.) :) I was really tempted to read ahead, but I stopped myself.


    10:28 - I have often been confused about who "the One" is, but my version (NLT) actually puts the word "God" in there:

    "Don't be afraid of those who want to kill you. They cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell."

    What stood out to me about this is that, in hell, apparently souls can be destroyed. Not just tortured but actually obliterated (if I am interpreting that right). I don't think that was the point, though. I think Jesus was trying to emphasize that we shouldn't be concerned with pleasing men; we should be concerned with pleasing God.

    10:29 - [Another soap box for me. I am reluctant to post this for fear of offending anyone, but I am leaving it because discovering this idea has given me SUCH PEACE in my life.] I think that means exactly what you think it means. I personally believe that it is impossible for God's will NOT to be done. If any event occurs, the simple fact that it happened shows it to be God's will. I mean, if something happened that was NOT God's will, that would absolutely scare me. I would MUCH rather God be in control than the devil. (Yes, this applies to "bad" things that happen too. I say, who are WE to say what is "good" or "bad"?) HOWEVER, there is God's will... and then there is God's will. I think there is a difference between what God tells us to do (what He "wants" from us) and what He actually needs to have happen for other things to happen that need to happen. Nothing is outside of God's control. We see in Genesis that His plan may even include things that we think are "bad," but that doesn't mean that we can go and be bad on purpose. We still have to be responsible for our own actions. (There is a lot more I could say about this topic too, but I'm trying to be brief. If anyone wants to discuss it further or to find out why this idea gives me peace, let me know.) So, yes, I believe that God is in charge of people dying. It may not happen on OUR time frame, but we know that God is just. When someone who loves God dies, maybe God just can't wait to have that person with Him. Or, maybe we lose someone we love to teach us how to comfort someone else who loses someone. There is really no way for us to know that now, but God knows, and that is good enough. (BTW, if anyone thinks I'm completely crazy, I can show you verses that lead me to think what I think, though they may not be perfectly organized into an outline or anything. Just ask if you want to know.) :)

    [Sorry if this is a bad time to bring this up as some of you are thinking about having lost loved ones. I really don't mean to be insensitive. Just know that I believe that there is purpose in that loss that ultimately brings God glory, and since you love God, it will work out for your good too:

    Romans 8:28 - "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."]

    11:2-3 - Why does John the Baptist have to ask if Jesus is the Messiah. He already saw the dove descending when he baptized Jesus. Well, I guess it just proves that John was human. :)


    I like how your mom's version says, "How long must I wrestle with my thoughts..." (What is that? NIV?) Mine says, "How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul." (NLT) I don't often deal with true anguish (thanks to God!), but I can definitely relate to wrestling with thoughts.


    Mine says, "all her [wisdom's] ways are satisfying." Hmmm. I'm sure this is true in the long run, but sometimes it sure doesn't feel like it in the midst of wanting to do something unwise.

  5. The idea of "destroying body and soul in Hell" is interesting. This verse opens the door a crack for the idea that Hell might be something other than eternal torment. Even saying so has been denounced as "false teaching" by some. However, I feel like that conflict is right in line with what Becky wrote about God's will/predestination. In both cases, we are dealing with issues that are simply above our pay grade. As a creature (not creator) who is subject to bound by time, I can only comprehend eternity by analogy and metaphor. I have no vocabulary to express exactly how God both knows and is sovereign over the future and yet is just when He judges my decisions in the present. Likewise, whether discussing Heaven as streets of gold or Hell as a place of burning sulphur, I recognize that no human imagery can possibly capture what the reality is. I proudly label myself a "fundamentalist," or a Biblical literalist, but in many cases, our instruments are not capable of playing God's melody. Maybe that's why 6 days of creation or antediluvian lifespans don't bother me so much--I trust the Bible, but I don't have to always "get it."

  6. Yeah, you're right, guys. God makes more sense, not Satan. I guess that verse always sounded like the "One" was so scary! But hey, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, right?

    And Becky, I can only speak for myself, but I wasn't offended at all by your comments. I, too, have found peace in the idea that God is in control of everything, including tragedy. Like Larry mentioned, I think there are parts of God's nature that it is almost ridiculous for us to try and talk about intelligently, since they are so far beyond our grasp. And besides, we just don't have the language for it. Like "will." I don't think that anything happens apart from God's will, and yet I know it is not God's will for us to sin. Soooo...I think there is a problem with this word, "will." When you are talking about an all-knowing, all-powerful, infinite God, I think it is impossible to grasp the nuances of His power, His design, and His foreknowledge.

    Great thoughts, guys. Reading Scripture, writing about it, and then reading your comments usually comprises the "deepest" parts of my day. Believe me, I love toddler land, but this is all very refreshing!

  7. Psalm 13 has been one of my favorites ever since I heard a song written about it years ago. I love the openess and honesty of the emotions. I love that feelings of doubt, insecurity, and angst can be brought to God as well as the good emotions. I often wonder if David had any idea that the psalms like this one would ever be read by anyone else. Most of all, I love the faith expressed. That even in the midst of so much uncertainty and doubt, he resolves to trust in the Lord.

    And Kim, you watch Judge Judy all the time and you know it:)