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

Sunday, March 15, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Jacob Flees

 Dear Christa—

It doesn’t really appear that Jacob was concerned with God. He seemed to be far more focused on duping his brother and acquiring the inheritance of his father. But, as actions always have a way of catching up to people, he eventually found himself alone—far from his conniving mother’s advice and protection—fleeing the disappointment of a father and the anger of a brother.

Perhaps for the first time, Jacob had to grow up. It appears he’d gone quickly—before Esau found out he was leaving.

Now, it was night—dark, desolate—no city lights for comfort and assurance. Just the perfect place to find God—or for God to find him.

Note that God does not claim to be his God at this moment. He tells Jacob, “I am the LORD,” the God of your father and grandfather. He promises Jacob the land and the inheritance—for it was truly only God’s to give in the first place. Who but God controls our future? He promises to stay with Jacob and foreshadows becoming Jacob’s God as well.

When Jacob awoke, he was a changed man. Neither proud nor self-seeking, he was simply afraid (Gen. 28:16). If Jacob had never taken God seriously before, he certainly does now. He worships there and makes a vow—a commitment to God—that if God only watches over him and brings him safely home, God will be his God too—far less than what God had just promised him.

Though Jacob’s words have the impression of a condition, from this point forward we see Jacob’s growing dependence on God. Perhaps that’s always true of a real encounter with God—a shift from depending on our own control to a reliance on God’s eyes to watch over us and never to leave us. And, to bring us safely home.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Sunday, March 8, 2015


Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now
Isaac, and Ishmael apparently learned (if not to live together) to live tolerably in spite of their mothers, probably due to their father Abraham. For Ishmael had not been sent away, as had Abraham’s other sons. And when Abraham died, together Isaac and Ishmael buried their father in the cave he had bought in which to bury Sarah, as told in Genesis 25:9-10. It appears there was still familial connection between the two clans, for as we look at Esau in Genesis 28:6-9, he realizes how displeasing his wives were to his father, so he goes to Ishmael and arranges to marry his daughter. 

A couple of things standout in these verses: Jacob obeyed his parents, and Esau realized his wives displeased his father.

God is sovereign, and he has his reasons for everything, but sometimes I think Esau just didn’t get it. He didn’t get the whole thing about God and how important he is. If he had, would he have flippantly sold his birthright to his sneaky brother for a bowl of soup?
But, whether because of his own selfishness or because Isaac didn’t make much of it, it appears Esau only comes to realize that the wives he’d taken displeased his father after Jacob is sent away and obeyed.

Esau doesn’t appear to be close to his mother, but he did want to please Isaac. Maybe knowing he was Isaac’s favorite had made them both careless. Maybe he felt he didn’t need to worry about God because of his father’s love. The Bible doesn’t say, but his actions tell us he did want to please Isaac—so much so that he went to Isaac’s half brother, Ishmael, and married his daughter.

There are so many unknowns about this story of Esau, except that he really did want to please his father. But, somehow he seems to have missed the most important thing of all: Isaac worshiped the one true God. That should be our greatest desire, and the thing our children notice most about us. If my children had to say what is the most important thing to me, would they say “God”? I’m not sure they would.