Thursday, October 29, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:1-11

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 37:1-11
Joseph was loved more than his brothers because he was born to him in his old age. The other issue was that he was a child of Rachel’s, the person Jacob chose and truly loved. It is a wonderful event when 2 people who love each other have a child.
Joseph was spoiled as a child. How could he not be? Israel (Jacob) outwardly favored him. He had a special robe made for him. All the other brothers knew he was their father’s favorite. And, perhaps these brothers of concubines felt slighted and shiftless. Perhaps they justified their poor actions, feeling like secondhand children, whose shortcomings Joseph readily reported to their father.
And since children cannot change how their parents regard them, Joseph’s brothers’ hurt turned to hatred, and that hatred settled on Joseph. Instead of hating their father, they, instead, hated what Israel loved above them—Joseph.
Being the favored child among so many, being a younger brother, being immature, probably gave Joseph the confidence to lash out the only way he could against them. He gave a bad report of them; he gloated over them with details of his special dreams.  And, all the while, they hated him more.
Finally, he tells his dreams to Israel, and his father rebukes him. Maybe he, too, had become perturbed with Joseph; or maybe he desired to protect him from his brothers. But, as Joseph’s brothers despised him more and more, Israel “kept the matter in mind.” He has to wonder on which of his many sons will God’s promise fall. By now he has realized that gaining the inheritance was sovereignly given to him by God and not through his craftiness.
Maybe Israel had learned that it’s best to just wait on God and let Him bring about His plan in due time, which is exactly what happens with Joseph—just not in the manner either Joseph or Jacob could have desired or imagined. But, there was purpose behind the trials Joseph would endure in Egypt. Joseph would not turn from the spoiled, favored child to the wise and trusting servant of God overnight. That would take a long stay in Egypt—in far less than favored circumstances.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, October 26, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 36

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Today: Genesis 36
It’s kind of hard to tell—at least for me—just exactly how things sized up for Jacob, Esau, and Isaac. Did they ever live close to each other? It does appear they had some connections with each other, although the accounts of their stories, for the most part, are dealt with separately.
But, we know that when Isaac is 180 years old, he dies, and these 2 brothers bury him. Then in chapter 36 the account of Esau is given.
He may not have produced the Promised Child or inherited the promised land, but Esau still became a great nation, the nation of Edom, who dwelt in the hill country of Seir. In the end God had blessed them both. Isaac had said in his blessing to Esau that he would eventually throw off the yoke his brother had on him. Jacob may have stolen the blessing, but it seems Esau had cared little for the promise that had been sent from God.
The things that often seem to disturb us the most often have a way of eventually sliding into the background and becoming insignificant. Also, Esau wasn’t the one chosen by God to inherit the blessing from God, so we shouldn’t be surprised that it wasn’t valued by him. He also doesn’t appear to have any problem with picking up and moving away. Esau’s only regret seems to have come with the realization that his choice of wives were a source of heartache for his parents. And it’s kind of hard to know who was to blame for that, probably both Esau and his parents.
And as for Rebekah, their mother, nothing is said of her. Apparently she died sometime while Jacob was away. It’s kind of interesting that the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, is mentioned and Rebekah’s death is not. Maybe that shows that prestige means little after all; maybe it was just timing. I guess it didn’t matter enough to deal with.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, October 22, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 35:8-29

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Finally Home Genesis 35: 8-29
After many long years, Jacob finally returns home—his real home where his father lives. Just because Jacob put away the idols that his family had followed and set off to do what God wanted, it did not mean that things would go well for him.
On his way, Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah died. Rachel dies in childbirth and is buried along the way, never to meet her father-in-law Isaac. Reuben, his eldest, sleeps with Rachel’s servant (Jacob’s concubine). What a relief it must have been to at last see his father’s face, even in his sorrow. And surely it brought joy and relief to Isaac to once again see the face of a son who’d been absent for so many years. But, the homecoming was shadowed by the events that had followed Jacob’s decision to follow God wholly.
Following God doesn’t mean life gets easier. But, it does mean that there’s a God in heaven. It means He cares for us. It means what happens has purpose, and we know it. And now that Jesus has come and the Holy Spirit the Comforter has come, we surely don’t walk the dark days of earth alone. There is strength for each day. And as each day folds into another and another, we too will eventually arrive home to see our Father’s face—not a father with old human hands, but God Himself, who knows the purpose behind each sorrowful and jubilant step we’ve taken.
It’s good to be home.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, October 19, 2015

Genesis to Now: Genesis 35:1-14

Dear Christa—
From Genesis to Now: Genesis 35:1-14
When life turns bad, we tend to do one of two things: respond with defiance like Simeon and Levi or turn to God, like Jacob. Finally, Jacob decided to be all in. Of course, God out and out telling him what to do probably helped.
Jacob’s family was steeped in idolatry. Along with serving God, they also worshipped a plethora of other idols from who knows where. They not only worshiped other gods, they carried around amulets associated with differing superstitions. But, Jacob demanded them all. Once and for all they handed them over to Jacob, and he buried them right under a great oak tree. The Bible doesn’t say, because it isn’t really relevant to the story, but I wonder what he thought when Rachel handed over her father’s household gods that Laban had searched for so desperately, and Jacob had put the thief’s own life on the line if Laban found the guilty one. How unwittingly we can come close to disaster and not even know it. It’s a sobering thought. 
First, Jacob put away all the things of this world that drew him and his family away from God. Then, he led them to the place God had directed his grandfather Abraham to go when he called him out of Er. And, here we notice that when Jacob determined to follow the Lord God, God came to him and reassured him of all He had intended from the beginning of his life: The true blessing—the promise of redemption for all the earth would come through Jacob’s lineage.
The slaughter of Shechem was terrible. It should never have happened. Jacob was not responsible, yet it totally affected him.
Sometimes we, as well, end up in messy, bad situations. Life doesn’t always turn out the way we’d planned.
When it doesn’t, there are two choices: We can run from God or to God.
The choice is ours.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, October 15, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 34

Dear Christa—
By the time Jacob got around to following God in a personal, serious way, many of his children were grown. If they were aware of the promise of becoming a great nation, it seems to have had little impact on them. Their mothers had worshiped God alongside other gods (Remember Rachel and the stolen household gods?). At any rate, the narrative seems to indicate God was mainly consulted in times of trouble.
So, what’s new about that? It’s often the same for us today.
As Jacob and the clan hangs out around Shechem, Dinah decides to go calling on the local women.
After all, she’s the only daughter mentioned, and perhaps a life with a bunch of brothers was lacking. Besides, they weren’t even there. They were all out in the fields watching sheep.
Long story short: Dinah is raped by the ruler’s son, also named Shechem. He wants to marry her, and the text even says he loves her. Yet, the Bible is clear here: rape is “a thing that should not be done.” However, an agreement is come to. Dinah is given to Shechem as his wife, and all the men of Shechem are circumcised. It all seemed good to the people of Shechem.
Shechem got what he wanted –Dinah—and the plan was to intermarry and become one people.
Biracial marriage isn’t the topic here, and it wasn’t forbidden for those who wanted to worship the God of the Israelites. Rabab and Ruth, both Gentiles, are ancestors to Jesus. But, these people didn’t desire to worship God. They only looked longingly toward Jacob’s wealth.
And, of course, Jacob’s son’s—not surprisingly—agree deceitfully.
And at the time when the men could least defend themselves, Dinah’s brothers (Simeon and Levi) go into their city and kill all the men and take the wealth, women and children—committing the same crime on a broader scale, than Shechem had toward them.
Jacob is shocked and angry at them. Yet, when he rebukes them, they reveal their defiance and unrepentance by simply answering, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”
A wrong for a wrong—again and again and again. No wonder we need a Savior. We need a Savior to save us from ourselves.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, October 12, 2015

From Genesis to Now: Genesis 33

Dear Christa—
Well, if there was any doubt about the pecking order among the wives, which there wasn’t, the set up to meet Esau tells all.
First, came the maidservants, nameless, only their job identifies them. Not only does Jacob not love them, to put them and their children first in the line of danger reveals all. Other than the children they bore him, they are not mentioned again in the narrative. Then came Leah—higher than a concubine, yet still not loved. Last, and most priced, are Rachel and Joseph. If Esau attempts to slaughter them all, perhaps they’d have time to escape.
I wonder what the women thought. I wonder what the children thought.
And Jacob goes before them all to meet what he does not know—trusting in the words of the God of his fathers—his God.
And, Esau ran to him, hugged him hard, and they wept.
Time has a way of putting life into perspective; it has a way a washing away rashness. It allows for reflection and pondering. And, most importantly, it makes way for God to work and people to accept His sovereignty.
The fact that Esau came to meet his brother indicates all these things.
God had blessed both men, and the things they’d vied for as young men no longer mattered to either of them.
I wonder how often we panic and take matters into our own hands, which causes discord and broken relationships, when if left to the workings of a sovereign God would eventually be irrelevant.
It’s something to ponder.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything