Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’
♦ Genesis 11-35 (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob)
I’m still in Genesis, reading chronologically through the Bible for the 2012 year. I’ve been journaling many or most of the things that have “jumped out” at me during my reading, but haven’t quite had the time to develop them into blog posts. I do plan on fleshing out my thoughts on some of these points, but I won’t be able to capture them all… that is, if I want to stay on track with my reading schedule. So, I’ll make this “Quick Hits” post a recurring feature of the blog for this year during my chronological journey (see my first Genesis Quick Hits here).
- Gen. 11:31-32 -One day Terah took his son Abram, his daughter-in-law Sarai (his son Abram’s wife), and his grandson Lot (his son Haran’s child) and moved away from Ur of the Chaldeans. He was headed for the land of Canaan, but they stopped at Haran and settled there. Terah lived for 205 years and died while still in Haran.
Can’t help but wonder about Terah. The Bible doesn’t say if he was someone that heard from God. I’ve got to think that he had some relationship with Him though… He must have introduced Abram to God at some point in his upbringing. I can’t help but imagine that Terah may have set out for Canaan on a similar quest as Abram would years later. The difference though, may be that Terah couldn’t find the deep and abiding trust that Abram found in God… the type of belief and trust that God counted as righteousness to Abram-Abraham. Perhaps this didn’t happen at all the way I imagine it. One thing we know for certain though… Terah was headed for Canaan, the land of Promise, the land that God did bequeath to Abraham and all his following generations. Terah stopped in Haran, put down roots and never pressed on in his journey. As a result of Terah’s “stopping the journey” he never saw the land of promise…he died still in Haran. I don’t want to be a Terah. I want to be an Abram/Abraham. O God, break me…and make me a foreigner wherever You will; transform me and change my name so it reflects the description of a man who believes You and Your Word. Amen.
- Gen. 12:1, 4, 7, 10 -The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you.” So Abram departed as the LORD had instructed… Then the LORD appeared to Abram… a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
This represents an interesting sequence of events to me: The LORD spoke to Abram, Abram believed and obeyed the LORD, The LORD appeared to Abram (establishing a covenant of relationship), and Abram’s trust in God is put to test as he is “forced down to Egypt where he lived as a foreigner.”
Abram’s life and God’s apprenticeship over Abram/Abraham seems to repeat itself with eerily similar fashion over and over and over again with other men and women in the Biblical narrative. I have read and heard stories of this repeated style of mentoring disciples and friends of God throughout history as well. I have experienced similarities in the sequence of Abram’s mentorship in my own life too. Perhaps my storyline is not as dramatic as the storylines of Abraham, Moses, King David, or the apostle Paul (to name a few), but the voice, hand, and guidance of God’s leadership is no less significant and no less real. Additionally, just as with Abraham, the testing of my faith and gentle pressure from God come to me so I might fully mature in the likeness and image of Christ.
- Gen. 12:10 -…a severe famine struck the land of Canaan, forcing Abram to go down to Egypt, where he lived as a foreigner.
Egypt: In the Bible, Egypt has historically been a metaphor for sin… representing bondage, oppression, and persecution. The Bible also teaches us that we were not originally created as people ruled by sin. When I read the words from Gen. 12:10 I thought we will always live as foreigners and sojourners while in and under the circumstances of bondage—this is a place that people of God, the friends of God, do not belong. While on this earth on this side of eternity, we will all find ourselves in “Egypt” living as foreigners. The promise of Christ and the work of His atoning grace is that we are also people of the deliverance. We won’t always live as foreigners—we are sojourners for a season, but even in our nomadic wandering feeling as though we are without a home… God is Present and with us bringing with Him comforting guidance as we are prepared for our final rest.
…”living as a foreigner” will continue to show up as we continue our journey through Genesis, especially through the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
- Gen. 15:1-10 -in this passage of Scripture we are told “Abraham believed and the LORD counted him righteous because of his faith.” God promises Abraham that He will be with him, protection, land, and many descendents. And, Abraham asks God “How can I be sure of these things…”
- Gen. 17:15-18; 18:12 -in these passages God tells Abraham he’ll have a son through Sarah—Abraham “laughs” to himself in disbelief (Gen. 17:17). Later, Sarah hears the Word of God saying again and affirming she will have a child; Sarah “laughs” silently to herself…
Just recently I was reading the Christmas Story in the Gospel of Luke and was intrigued by the parallel of events between the lives of Zechariah and Mary (Luke 1:5-80). What captured my attention were the questions posed by Zechariah and Mary to the angel Gabriel. Both wondered how the prophetic blessings Gabriel announced would happen to them, but the response of Gabriel to Zechariah was very different than the response to Mary. Similarly, as in the case with Abraham and Sarah, both of them “laugh” and question with disbelief the word of God concerning their own prophetic blessing of a child between them. The response of God to Abraham was very different than the response Sarah received. I want to consider this further in prayer and meditation and hopefully answer some of the questions I have; “What are the differences between Abraham and Sarah’s questions?” “What are the differences between Zechariah and Mary’s questions?” “We often have questions, doubts, and disagreements with God; how do these interactions relate or mirror the accounts of Abraham, Sarah, Zechariah, and Mary?”
- Ishmael and Father Abraham…
Gen. 21:17-18, 20 - “God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying… Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.’” “…and God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness.”
Gen. 25:5-6 - (Abraham’s “other” descendants) “Abraham gave everything he owned to his son Isaac. But before he died, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them off to a land in the east away from Isaac.”
Gen. 25:9 - In this passage Ishmael and Isaac come together so they might bury their father Abraham. The text doesn’t allude to any conflict or tension between the two men.
Gen. 28:6-9 - Apparently there is some degree of interaction and relationship between the House of Isaac and the House of Ishmael. In this passage we see Esau visiting “Uncle Ishmael” to get a wife… a wife that would be scorned by his parents Isaac and Rebekah
I don’t know what all of this means or if it means anything at all; I’m certainly not finished thinking on it. I do believe that my awareness of the tension between the Islamic world, Jewish world, and Christian world has made me a bit more sensitive to what the Bible might say about these relationships. I do know the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is also the God of Ishmael…and subsequently the God of Islam regardless of how the character and nature…and identity of God may have been subverted or redefined by them or their ancestors. I’m not sure how this transcends to the world we live today, but my guess is that it is relevant and should not be dismissed. Ultimately, I know that Jesus is God and He died to reconcile all of humanity to himself.
- Gen. 26:2-5 - The LORD appeared to Isaac: “Do as I tell you. Live as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you. I will do this because Abraham listened to me and obeyed all my requirements, commands, decrees, and instructions.”
“Live as a foreigner in this land”
- Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel— Gen.25:21; 29:31; 30:2 - A distinguished, if not imperfect, group of women who all experienced lengthy spans of “barrenness.” Each of these women took very long times to conceive and give birth to children. These were also the matriarchs of the covenant promise children of Abraham. For so many years of their lives their wombs “seemed” as though they were “closed” – closed until the fullness of God’s timing was realized. When the fullness of time arrived, God’s fruit is delivered.
I think this is true today as much as it was in the above mentioned accounts. I should never become impatient with what seems like unfulfilled promises…faded hopes…old dreams. God’s promises are true and will bring fruit in due time; my responsibility is to continue to pray and remind myself that God’s timing is everything…and always perfect; no matter how tiring or trying the wait may be for me. Trust, believe, and obey… this is my role. What seems on the outside, barren and without hope can bring forth life in the “fullness of time.” Thus says the LORD; “it is I who brings forth rivers in the desert where there were none before…”
-Something like 20 years elapse from the time Jacob first encounters God at Bethel and when God speaks to him telling him to return to the land of Canaan. We don’t know for sure if God spoke to Jacob during those twenty years or not (the text does not say), but we do know God was active and with Jacob preparing him for the return to Canaan and the fulfillment of the His (God’s) covenant promise to Abraham.
- God is present always.
- God is working always.
- God’ “speaks,” “affirms,” and “reaffirms” with his presence and with his working in our lives
In the midst of Jacob’s oppression and mistreatment by Laban, God was blessing Jacob to overflowing while purposefully fulfilling his covenant will.
God’s mercy “overflowed” on to the house of Laban in not just blessings of protection and wealth, but God even appeared to Laban in a dream warning him to do no harm to Jacob…ultimately sparing his (Laban’s) life.
- Gen. 32:1, 9-12, 22-32
-Angels of God come to meet Jacob on his way back to the land of Canaan. It seems Jacob is on a path to learning humility. He is reminded of his covenant promise to God he had originally made on his first stop through Bethel. He reaffirms his covenant… Inspired by fear and obedience??? Jacob learns humility. Jacob willingly surrenders himself to God and his brother Esau; he refers to himself as “servant” of Esau. Jacob wrestles with God and emerges “forever humbled” with a crippling limp that remains with him the remainder of his life.
- Gen. 33:10 - “…what a relief to see your friendly smile. It is seeing the face of God.” -Jacob to his brother Esau
I wonder about this statement of Jacob and I am curious how often we might observe “the face of God” in others when we approach them with humility while walking in obedience before our God.
- Gen. 35:1-3, 9-15, 27 - “So Jacob told everyone in his household, ‘Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourself, and put on clean clothing… I will build an altar to God. He has been with me wherever I have gone.’”
…God appears to Jacob and renews with him the covenant promise He had established between Himself with Abraham and Isaac. God renames Jacob as Israel…no longer the deceiver, he is the one who has been with the “God who fights” and lived. Jacob’s encounter with God is so life-changing it reverses his identity entirely. Here we see what true repentance is about, a complete turnaround from the life we have previously known.
“So Jacob returned to his father, Isaac, in Mamre, which is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had both lived as foreigners.” -Gen. 35:27
There must be something about that “living as foreigners” business…
More on my Quick Hits from Genesis later and I hope to “flesh out” and develop some of these highlights. If you have thoughts or ideas regarding any of them, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to share on the blog or contact me using the contact link above.
My Bible reading along with a few other excerpted readings from other sources took an unexpected turn this morning coming together to bring home and highlight the thought of single-minded devotion to God. This isn’t a new thought for me…or others for that matter, but it needs reminded in me from time-to-time. It seems no matter how “devoted” I think I am to God and/or how intimately in communion with Him I believe that I am, I lose focus…I get distracted and my affections begin to wander. I would rather that never happen in me and I would like to believe that I have singleness of heart, but time and time again I am reminded that I am not faultless in my single-minded devotion to my Lord.
I am reading through for a second time a book by Ronald Rohlheiser titled The Restless Heart. I read this book the first time while I was spending a month at the Pecos Monastery in New Mexico. I haven’t blogged or posted a review on this book yet because I’m still processing and “stewing” in it. Rohlheiser writes the following:
We are more busy than bad, more distracted than nonspiritual and more interested in the movie theatre, the sports stadium, and the shopping mall and fantasy life they produce in us than we are in church. Pathological busyness, distraction and restlessness are major blocks today within our spiritual lives. -Ronald Rohlheiser
Even when I am intentional about not busying my life, I still busy my life. I think it is a subconscious reality that while we are on this side of eternity we will forever be battling “busy” distractions; this is one of the unforeseen results of Adam’s choice of self over God. The subsequent consequence for us from this is the struggle to remain focused on relationship with our God as we meander through the daily business of life. Such is the price of original broken fellowship between me and my Creator God. And so I pray: “O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”
Remember that you have only one soul; that you have only one death to die; that you have only one life, which is short and has to be lived by you alone; and that there is only one glory, which is eternal. If you do this, there will be many things about which you care nothing. -Teresa of Avila
According to St. Teresa, if we are to will one thing and seek undistracted devotion, it will mean purposeful separation from “many things.” In other words, in order to say “yes” to God, it will be necessary to say “no” to many things. I think this is made clear in some of the words of Ronald Rohlheiser as he describes our busy distractions coming from temporal, fantasy-fueled, indulgences that feed our restlessness…these are some of the things we must say “no” to in order to find our way back to the path of time spent with the One who is (or should be) the real object of our devotion.
I was reading about Jacob this morning from Genesis and was caught up in mid-sentence with these words out of chapter thirty-two; “…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night” (Genesis 32:24). It says; …and Jacob was left alone. The context is Jacob’s return to his homeland. He is fearful of his brother Esau and sends ahead of himself all his family and all his estate. Forget whether or not Jacob is acting out of cowardice or self-preservation or any other motive. The point here is that he is alone; all alone. It is in this alone place and vulnerable place, this isolated place…that Someone comes and wrestles with him through the night. This is a moment of crisis and a pivotal point in the life of Jacob. His attitude, his nature, his physical state, and his name are all changed (this might be a metaphor for all of his soul, all of his mind, all of his heart, all of his strength). He is now, Israel, the one who has wrestled with God face-to-face. He is the man who is forever changed because he was alone with God.
“Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.” (Psalm 84:4)
I’m glad to be reminded of the cost of single-minded devotion and the reason for it. I am easily distracted. Setting aside intentional moments, literally scheduling alone times with God, are the ways and the means to remain focused on the will of one thing. Yes, it will mean saying “no” to many things. It will also mean a lessening of affections toward many things that used to captivate my attention, but I know this is good… replacing the ravenous restless hungers of my flesh with the soul satisfying presence of God is what my heart truly longs for. I am encouraged by the words of Jeremiah from Lamentations.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The LORD is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him!” The LORD is good to those who depend on him, to those who search for him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of his discipline. Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD’s demands. (Lamentations 3:21-28)
“…and Jacob was left alone, then someone came and wrestled with him through the night”
“O Lord, purify my heart to long for the one true thing and be distracted by nothing as I seek to know You with unbroken fellowship, undistracted devotion, and complete purity of heart. Amen.”
Last week’s Bible reading took me through the story of Joseph (Genesis 42-50).
It’s amazing to me the way God works His plan. I think, in general, we take for granted that God’s plan (Perfect Plan) for us will be good, and with “smooth sailing” so to speak. That is, if we obediently follow Him with submissive and loving heart, all will go well. We read from the Genesis account God’s Perfect Plan for Abraham was that his seed would multiply, increase in wealth and prosperity, and ultimately be a blessing to the entire world. I cannot help but take notice of how God orchestrates and effects His Master Plan through the life of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. I’m not sure that I would use the words “smooth sailing” to describe the lives of those men…certainly not Joseph in particular. Taking a high-level view of these four generations of men I see God using hatred, slavery, injustice, favoritism, imprisonment, deception, famine, oppression, and a few other unsavory tools to effect His Grand Plan.
Why do we naturally assume if we are in God’s Perfect Will that life might not be fraught with difficulty? God uses the difficult and the painful to polish and refine us. The difficult and painful are part of the perfecting processes of our lives and His Plan. We are reminded in the later writings of the apostles that we should welcome and embrace these moments; we should allow them to accomplish God’s work, His will, and His plan in our lives…and ultimately, become part of the fulfillment of The Grand Plan for mankind.
The new year has begun and with it, my reading-through-the-Bible chronological journey has begun anew as well. Over the past five years, I have discovered that I enjoy the chronological method of reading through the Bible more than any other reading plan. It creates a logical flow for me and ensures that I touch every part of the Grand Narrative. Anyway, that’s not exactly what I wanted to say in this post; I want to share about how I find God’s plan, will, strategy, or whatever else anyone wishes to call it incredible.
As I said, my Bible reading has carried me through the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and into Jacob’s life this week (Genesis 15-32). Repeatedly, God makes these men promises (sometimes vague and other times very specific) and then He calls them to trust Him. Then…He delivers; time after time after time. He (God) Delivers. Read the rest of this entry »