Friday, June 12, 2015

God Goes Before

Dear Christa—
God Goes Before
Sometimes—even now, after all these years of living in the West—I get the urge to go home. Have you ever just wanted to go home? Twenty years is a long time to be away. Jacob had been blessed in Paddan Aram. He’d also had his fill of Laban and his sons. Surely, he missed his mother and father. He’d probably gained some appreciation for his father Isaac. He probably wanted his parents to see their grandchildren—especially that favorite—Joseph and for them to meet Rachel. But, the true encouragement was when God sent His angel to remind him that He’d done everything He’ promised Jacob at Bethel and that at long last it was time to go home. And so, he did.
Laban, eventually—after 3 days—heard of it and took after this rebellious son-in-law that he couldn’t seem to manipulate to his advantage no matter how he dealt with him.
But, God goes before—before Jacob and before Laban who eventually catches up to him.
God, Himself, warned Laban in a dream, and even though there isn’t any indication that Laban worshiped God, he wasn’t foolish enough to disregard Him either.
So, even though the parting between Laban and Jacob might not have been loving, it was somewhat civil. Of course, there is that incident of the household gods that Rachel had stolen and Laban pilfering through all Jacob’s tents. But, nevertheless, God protected Jacob just as he said He would. And, Jacob surely lay awake in his tent as Laban and his sons departed and turned his thoughts away from Paddan Aram with a sigh.
God had shown Himself true to this point. But, Jacob surely wondered what lay ahead for him. Perhaps his thoughts drifts away from Laban and his sons to his father, his mother, his brother.
Esau—surely Esau gave him pause even 20 years later.
What about this God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham?
What about the God of our fathers?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Let the Games Begin

From Genesis to Now
Laban vs. Jacob: Let the Games Begin
Dear Christa—
“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” I think the first time I remember hearing that old adage, or at least when I took notice of it, was in an Anne of Green Gables movie. The point being that Anne was falling into the same pattern of pride that had robbed Morella of the love in her past.
If ever there was an example of a family characteristic being passed from generation to generation it’s revealed in Rebecca’s family. Deception is connected to so many family members that you can’t really miss it.
Here in the second half of Gen 30, there’s a stand off between two manipulators—Laban and Jacob—and they are each doing what they tend to do—getting what they want through trickery.
Jacob has been far from home and family for many years now. Nothing is mentioned about any connection between him and his parents. Maybe in those days people left and were never heard from again. I don’t know. But, sometime after Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob gets restless and wants to go home. After at least 14 years Jacob is probably thinking his parents are old, that he wants them to see Joseph (the favored child), and surely Esau doesn’t seem as scary as he once least not yet.
God may have blessed Laban through Jacob, but Jacob through Laban had acquired two wives, two concubines, which had given him a significantly large family.
So, as Laban and Jacob discuss their terms, the parleying begins—not unlike the circling of two wrestlers sizing up their opponents—searching out the other’s weak spot and strengths. Only Jacob has a trick in his pocket that neither one of them recognizes at the moment.
the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, May 4, 2015

By God's Own Hand

Dear Christa—

Now, all the finagling in the human mind can’t change God’s design. The first thing Laban does after he makes his wages deal with Jacob is to remove all the animals that were marked to be Jacob’s and gave them to his sons to care for—3 days journey away. 

Jacob did little better. After Jacob strikes his deal with Laban and announces, “my honesty will testify for me in the future,” he goes about his own plan to glean the strongest animals and leave the weak ones for Laban.

Then, without Laban or Jacob recognizing it, God determined what each new baby animal would look like. Hadn’t he promised Jacob that He would be with him? 

So, by God’s hand Jacob became a wealthy man.

How often does God work on our behalf and it goes totally unnoticed by us?
How often do we connive and scheme to work things out, when in the reality, God has his plan and when he decides to work in our regard, he certainly will. 

To rest in the knowledge of his omnipotent hand—Jacob is not there yet, and I’m not either, I’m afraid.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, April 27, 2015

Leah, the Unloved Wife

Dear Christa—
Names were very significant in ancient times. They were often indicative of a person’s personality, but for Leah, the names she gave her children and her accompanying comments reflect the ebb and flow of one woman’s life experiences. Note the progression:
Reuben: “It is because of my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”
Simeon: “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.”
Levi: “Now at last my husband will become attached to me.”
Judah: This time I will praise the Lord.
Her children through Zilpah, her servant:
Gad: “What good fortune.”
Asher: “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.”
Leah’s later children:
Issachar: “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.”
Zebulun: “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.”
Dinah: The only daughter apparently didn’t merit a comment.
At some point, probably with the giving of the maidservants, it became the battle of the sisters. Although Leah was winning by a landslide in the birthing match, it seems to have changed little between Jacob and her.
Jacob slept with all four women, but he loved Rachel. And, even in their times of discord, it seems obvious that his heart belonged to Rachel and Rachel alone—the woman who welcomed him at the end of his journey to Paddan Aram. The one he was willing to work 14 years for. The one who was willing to sacrifice her life to give him one more son.
And, even beyond her death, his love for Rachel surely stung like a slap every time Leah saw his expression when one of Rachel’s sons entered his presence. We don’t know what Leah’s role was in deceiving Jacob on his wedding night; but one thing seems certain, none of it turned out the way she’d dreamed.
Vows and obligations in marriage are important, even essential, but nothing takes the place of a husband's love.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Genesis to Now: The Women

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: The Women
The end of Chapter 29 sets up the conflict between the sisters Leah and Rachel because they are both married to the same man. Both bear a burden: Leah desires the love of Jacob and Rachel desires children.
Our pastor of years ago, Dr. Martin, used to say that marriage is designed to result in children, unless that is not possible. There is something uniquely wonderful in two people bringing forth a child. It is truly the result of two becoming one flesh. No wonder it seems like a miracle. For Rachel, having Jacob’s love was not enough, and desire for a child caused contention between them.
So, as if having two wives to deal with weren’t enough, Jacob ends up with three, then four. Although having all those sons was considered a blessing, I can’t help feeling some sorry for him. And, I can understand the situation of each woman:
Leah: unloved, regardless how many boys she produced. She’s developed a nasty regard for Rachel as seen in her remarks over the mandrakes:
“Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband?”
Seriously? Had she forgotten the details of her “un”wedding day?
Living in disappointment for so many years had colored her world to see things totally differently from reality. It happened to Leah. It can happen to us as well.
Rachel: barren, wanting a child so desperately. To be barren can be a married woman’s greatest burden. There is just something inside so many who want that baby, all cultural pressures aside. It robbed her of happiness, and the stress became a point of contention between her and Jacob, who really only had eyes for her.
Then, there are the servant concubines. Perhaps, we should feel the most for them—there being little regard for their feelings by either their mistresses or Jacob—simply baby machines for the wealthy, these two. We would consider it absolute abuse in this day. Yet, at that time it was acceptable practice, and to be a servant girl was exactly that—a servant. It’s hard to even remember their names.
Life can bring great disappointment, and somewhere along the way, it will. How do we respond to the deep burdens of our souls? Like Leah, we can conjure a past that’s punctuated with falsehoods. Like Rachel, we can blame others. Like the concubines, there can be little we can do. Yet, there is One who hears the groaning of our souls.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16).
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Genesis to Now: Gen. 29:1-35

Dear Christa—
In Godly Girls we do a one-day lesson on Leah, “the unloved wife.” I’ve always had a soft spot for Leah. She wasn’t attractive. She couldn’t see, and her day was long before the time of contact lenses or even a pair of glasses, for that matter. She got her husband through deception.
Jacob hadn’t chosen her. Yes, he would keep his vows; he would provide for her; he would meet his obligations. He may have even cared a great deal for her.
But, he did not love her. Leah could no more earn Jacob’s love anymore than we can earn God’s.
For love is something that can only be freely given by the lover, and Jacob only truly loved Rachel.
It seems to me that a wife’s greatest desire is simply to be loved by her husband. Maybe that’s part of what God was talking about when he told Eve that the woman would desire her husband.
It’s easy during the children years to get distracted. Children take a lot of work. Throw in a job, financial issues, illness, and who knows what else, and after long years of being together, people can keep their vows, provide for each other, meet their obligations, and even care a great deal about each other, what about love?
In our day, there aren’t other spouses to compete with, but there is a lot of stuff. Married couples should ask themselves who they’d want to be with more than anyone else in the world. Hopefully, the answer would be each other.
--the parishioner who doesn’t do anything.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Dear Christa—
Rebekah was a schemer. She might have been beautiful. She and Isaac may have been happy together. It’s notable that it doesn’t appear Isaac took any additional wives. But she was a schemer nonetheless.
And, I’d say she came by it quite naturally from what we see of her brother Laban later.
Rebekah is the impetus and accomplice when Jacob wrestles the blessing out of Isaac. But, eventually scheming has a way of turning on us.
It isn’t long after the misdeed that word comes to Rebekah that Esau plans to kill Jacob, her favorite child, once his dad is gone. One scheme leads to another, and the next thing we know she’s packing him off to her brother’s to save his skin.
A master manipulator she tells Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living” (Gen. 27:46).
It is likely, as we’ll see, that the daughters-in-law were a thorn in the side, but Rebekah orchestrates Isaac’s decision to send Jacob to Laban.
It’s easy to manipulate situations to come out how we think they should. But, that’s not God’s way. The manipulator and schemer are always on the edge, always stressed out about how things will turn out.
God, however, calls us to rest in Him, to pray without ceasing, to always give thanks.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
It’s so easy to fall into conniving, and as with Rebekah, God does work life out the way He intends. Yet, He calls us to rest in Him.
Rest or stress—What seems more appealing?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything