Posts Tagged ‘image-of-God’

Genesis 46

1 So Israel set out with all that was his,  . . .   2 And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you . . .”


On the road again!  It seems like all of the really amazing things happen to Jacob around the periods of traveling and transition in his life.  And every time he goes somewhere, there’s a vision.  And the vision is always a reminder and assurance of the only promises God ever seems to really feel compelled to make.

In Genesis 28, Jacob was making a “strategic extraction” after he found himself persona non gratis amongst his brother.  I’m sure he was a little scared at the time, because he left with nothing more than a staff and directions to Taco Bell.
But on the way, he has a dream and God astonishes Jacob, telling him “14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth,” and “15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
In Genesis 31, a few pages and 20 years to the right, Jacob is making another “strategic extraction” after hearing his brothers-in-law making some not-so-neighborly remarks in his general direction.  He has more than he arrived with, and can’t move with his typical ninja like stealth.  But God comes, again, with a vision and an assurance that though the times are different, and the circumstances are (a little bit) different, His promise remains the same.  He says to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.”
Later, God again tells Jacob to move.  He directs Jacob to leave Shechem (where, by the way, there are a LOT of very angry guys waiting to heal up), and move to Beth’el.  God gives Jacob a new name, Israel, and attaches His ongoing promise to proliferate Jacob’s family to that new identity.  “11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty[f]; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”

And now, today.  In Genesis 46, Jacob is reveling in his own prodigal son’s return.  A son who was dead is alive.  And an invitation is before him to move again.  God revisits him, repeating the old promise, reassuring Jacob.  3 “I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. 4 I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

God’s promises to Jacob, regardless of Jacob’s life, regardless of Jacob’s destination, have always been the same.  “I will make a great nation of peoples from your family.”  And “I will be with you.”

God’s promise to me, and to you, isn’t really any different.  It isn’t really any less objective either.  Because it’s God’s promise to us, not the other way around.

He may not be planning to “make a nation” out of your family.  But He does have some function, some purpose, some reason for you.  Some point to your existence.  You have some unique place in the universe that nobody else can adequately fulfill or perform.  And it’s a God-level, Jacob-like degree of ultimate importance we’re talking about.

I don’t think that God’s promises are really all that different from one person to the next.  He promises over and over in Jacob’s life to prosper him- but it is so that he can succeed at God’s purpose for him (which is to make a nation of people- so think lots of name-bearing off-spring.  Like boys).  And He promises over and over to “be with you,” to Jacob.  Repeatedly.

And not just when times get tough.  Not just when times are good.  Not just when Jacob is a good boy.  Usually when he’s not.  This guy, though in his old age seems submitted enough- has led a life of fighting, of friction, of trouble-making, and “strategic extractions.”

This is the God I’m meeting not just in Jacob’s life, but throughout the entire book of Genesis.  That promise of prosperity to fulfill God’s purpose, be it to build a boat, build a people, restore the integrity of His creation- it is repeated in every generation of humanity.  And ours is no different.  Because God is no different.

The God I’m meeting in Genesis made something amazingly, very good.  And He liked it.  He made so many special things, but he made one thing in particular, and gave it something particularly wonderful.  Us.  He said, “Now, let us make man, in our image.”  Everything else was according to its kind.  But this- this will be different.  It will be in our kind.

And when things got sideways, God didn’t give up.  He didn’t give up then, and he’s not given up now.  He says, after Eve had disobeyed, that One will come who will smash the serpent’s head.  That’s a promise.  And he makes that promise in every generation.

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Genesis 36

1This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).

 2 Esau took his wives from the women of Canaan: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite— 3 also Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of Nebaioth.

40These were the chiefs descended from Esau, by name, according to their clans and regions:

   Timna, Alvah, Jetheth, 41 Oholibamah, Elah, Pinon, 42 Kenaz, Teman, Mibzar, 43 Magdiel and Iram. These were the chiefs of Edom, according to their settlements in the land they occupied.

   This is the family line of Esau, the father of the Edomites.

“Baby, even the losers get lucky sometimes,
Baby, even the losers, keep a little bit of pride, they get lucky sometimes,”

I don’t think there is a lot to be said here.  I considered not writing a post at all about this chapter.  But then a thought occurred to me.  “This guy was the loser in the deal.  And he still gets a spot in the Bible.”  Why?

So, if you haven’t been around lately, Esau is the elder brother in a odd situation.  He is a twin.  Usually, the elder brother is the chief punk in his house.  But not this one.

During Rebekah’s pregnancy, she cried out to God because her pregnancy was so uncomfortable.  And God replied, telling her that she was having trouble because she had twin boys inside of her, and they were struggling with each other.

In fact, God also told her that the younger would be greater than the older.  That there would always be contention between the brothers. And that oddly, the older would serve the younger.

I wonder if she considered that often as the boys grew.  She must have.  Esau, as a young man must have put the weight on first, gotten the hair on his arms and legs first.  He’d have likely been 1st string on the Varsity football team.  He was the big, rugged guy.

Jacob- well.  Jacob did home econ.  He liked to cook, preferred sitting by the fire, and long talks with with his mother.  He was… dainty, fair skinned.  And mouthy.  Surely there was a mistake made.  She must have misunderstood what God meant.  Hormones and stuff.  Jacob?  Waterboy material.  Smart, sure.  But overpowering Esau?  Controlling Esau?  Nah.

And yet.  It happens.  Rebekah sees to it that it happens.  And it goes.  But not well.  So Jacob runs.  Far.  And for a long time.

He grows wealthy, establishes a strong and prosperous family.  He is blessed by God, and in time, God comes to change his name.  Israel.

And all along, right in the middle of all that, Esau.  Esau is still here.  Still chugging along.  And not doing so bad for himself either.  Just has this nasty little curse hanging over him.  Screwed over by his brother, and his parents resent him some, because in his anger, he married with the local girls, none of whom were especially impressive to Isaac or Rebekah.

Yet here he is, in the biblical record, with a burgeoning family.

God has actually blessed him in his lifetime.  Kinda like God actually blessed Ishmael in his lifetime.  Why?

Because He is a life lover, and a promise keeper.  And he told some people he would make whole nations out of their families.  A promise like that is potent.  It doesn’t die in the frost.  It survives.  It springs through crusty ground.  It is drought tolerant, heat hardy, and, well, it just grows.  God promised Abraham that a nation would come through his son.  From his own body.  And God blessed Hagar and Ishmael because, well, they were connected to that promise, by hook or by crook.  And so is Esau.  Yeah, he was impetuous with things.  Yes he got robbed.  And yes he did not handle it especially well.  But there’s another “yes” to be considered.  Yes, he is a part of Abraham’s bloodline.  And Isaac’s.  And that’s not nothing.

God is generous.  God keeps his word.  If you are in Jesus bloodline, if you are walking in Jesus’ footsteps, living in two planes- two realities, the Kingdom of this world, AND the present Kingdom of Heaven- if you are part of Jesus’ family heritage, then there can be no question.  God has raised you up with Jesus, because you are tied to Him.  God will be generous to you, regardless of how you screwed up your birthright, without regard to how you might have valued soup over your place as an image bearer of your creator.  God is generous to you without regard to your anger management issues.  God is generous to YOU with only the very highest regard to your unbreakable connection with Jesus.   As He wills to bless Jesus, you too will be blessed.  And as He blessed Jesus to do good works, peeling back the veil of God’s nearness and His kingdom’s nearness, He will move in you, stirring your spirit to compassion, goodness, mercy, gentleness, peace, and patience, placing his hand over your hand on the curtain between this world and God’s world, and aiding you as you turn it back to reveal His ways, right here, right now.

Genesis 34: 

1 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her.

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. 6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in[a] Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where[c] their sister had been defiled.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land.

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

One of the things I treasure about the bible shows itself here, in this passage.  The bible is honest to a fault.  It doesn’t try to paint it’s heroes as anything but… well, messed up people who make awful decisions.  It doesn’t make anybody perfect except Jesus.  You might expect the heroes of a book of legend to be largely flawless.  You might expect moments of indiscretion to be left out of the record.  People with dicey reputations and spotty records might be left out altogether, just for the sake of preserving the better name of the greater good.  But that just doesn’t happen in the bible’s record.

The character of God is sometimes hidden though.  Not invisible.  Not absent.  Just a little harder to see.

In the beginning, God made people in his image.  This is a core tenet of Judeo-Christian society- God imparted something to the human race that is distinctly him.  It’s a mysterious gift- the biblical narrative never states emphatically what exactly that is- what the “it” is that makes humanity bear God’s image.  Does that mean God has eyes, and a nose, and ears?

The bible says that God is spirit, so I’m inclined to saying no-

The Genesis story says that God made Man (and by that, I mean to indicate all of the race of humans) “to rule over the earth” and to “care for it.”  I think that is a cornerstone to understanding what it means to bear God’s image.  We are to bear a sort of responsibility, on behalf of God, for and to His creation.  We are stewards.  And in that regard, he has gifted us with attitudes and characters that are like Him.

Justice.  Concern.  Compassion.  Creativity.  Conservation and Prudence.  Pleasure.  Management.  Service.  Culture and Community.  Glory!  Even glory.  We desire to be known, and to know.

The list could go on.  But we can learn about God, and about who he is by seeing what drives us because he built us to be like Him.

But with sin in the picture, those motives, originally good, can be twisted and deformed.  And that is what we see recorded here.

Jacob’s sons, after learning of Dinah’s tragic abuse at the hands of Shechem are infuriated.  They take on for themselves the injustice of rape.  The rape of their sister is a personal affront.

It is no different with God.  He is the ultimate empathizer.  When His creation is mangled, misused, or mismanaged, it is an affront to Him.  It is disregard for something He highly regards.

If you have been mishandled, misused, or hurt, whether it was at the hands of a Christian or not, God empathizes with you.  God takes your side.

Where the story goes off the rails is where Simeon and Levi decide to take matters into their own hands.  They trick Hamor and Shechem into getting circumcised by telling them it is required to take Dinah as a wife.  But then when they have been circumcised and are just beginning to heal, Jacob’s sons raid the town, taking advantage of their severe inability to defend themselves adequately, killing all of the men and plundering the town.

This is not God’s justice.  This is just another kind of rape.

When Jacob hears it, he’s furious.  He berates the boys, telling them what an awful decision it was.  They are not justified in doing this horrible thing by the horrible thing that had been done to them.

God is the one who brings justice.  God alone is judge.

He built in us a desire for justice.  But vengeance is the Lord’s.

It is a good thing, and a sign of his stamp on you when you either feel the sting of injustice, or the keen desire to see justice reign.  That is something in you that God designed and gives Him pleasure to see.

But justice in God’s Kingdom is delivered on the hands of forgiveness.  Retribution comes in the form of a cool glass of water.  For when we bless our enemies, we peel the veil back on God’s new kingdom, right where we are.  And the true enemies, Pride, Greed, Sin, and Death, are the ones who are chastised.

The Kingdom of God, and the Image of God don’t look all that different. Justice reigns.  Mercy drives.  Love and compassion are the fuel.  Violence and vengeance have no place in the Kingdom of heaven.  On one day, God will dispel all that mars the face of his kingdom.  Until then, it is forgiveness, empathy, and compassion.  When evil is committed, pursue justice.  By dousing the fire of fury with the cool water of mercy.  In the steam that rises, God’s image takes form.

 

Genesis 19:

 

—4 Before they had gone to bed, all the men from every part of the city of Sodom—both young and old—surrounded the house. 5 They called to Lot, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them.”

— 10 But the men inside reached out and pulled Lot back into the house and shut the door. 11 Then they struck the men who were at the door of the house, young and old, with blindness so that they could not find the door.

— 12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

— 15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry!

— 16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the LORD was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

—
 21 He said to him, “Very well, I will grant this request too; I will not overthrow the town you speak of.

— 32 Let’s get our father to drink wine and then sleep with him and preserve our family line through our father.”

 

Holy cow. Who says the bible’s boring? Just to summarize, God, in the form of three men, visit’s Abraham and Sarah to tell them two things: after all this time (26 years) it’s finally time, and they are going to have their promised baby, and 2) great oppression of God’s LIFE has been happening in a neighboring metropolis and God is going to verify and eradicate. But Abraham is able to boldly approach and question God (in the form of these three “men”), and God promises to show mercy to the entire city if he finds 10 righteous people there.

So we begin today’s section of Genesis with two angels traveling to Sodom and meeting Lot, Abraham’s nephew. Lot invites, then insists, then cajoles these “travelers” to come and stay in his home, underneath his protection and custody. After supper we begin to see why- a crowd of men, young men and old men, in fact, the scripture says that “all the men” of the city mobbed around Lot’s house, commanding Lot to expel the travelers into the street so that the mob could “have it’s way” (read; gang-rape) them. Lot refuses. In fact, he even offers his virgin daughters to the mob (which is a little off-putting, don’t you think?). But to no avail. The mob will be satiated.

God now steps in, throwing a flash-bang into the mob and pulling Lot back into the house. It’s decision time.

“If you have anything you care about in this town, it’s time to pack it, tell it, drag it or tie it up and posse-outta here. It’s goin down.”

These travelers have seen what they came to see. They came, without presumption, and the spirit of the town, one of rebellion and debauchery has declared itself the sheriff. And so the outcry that had reached God’s ears will be definitively answered.

Boom.

Lot runs out into the middle of the night, searching for anything, anyone that would be valuable to him or his family. When he approaches the men who are betrothed to his two daughters in the middle of the night frantically telling them that they need to come, come now, they laugh him off.

So now it’s Lot, Lot’s wife, and their two daughters. That’s only 4. The deal was for 10. Let’s go. Now.

But the scripture says they hesitated. In fact it says it’s now dawn. Which means the angels had been waiting all night for Lot to wrap up business. So the angels then grabbed their hands and literally hurried them out of the city. But as they’re leaving Lot whimpers a bit about where the travelers have instructed them to go. The travelers concede to Lot, promising not to harm the place where he has chosen to go.

So the travelers warn them: “Flee! Do not look back! and don’t stop anywhere on the plain!” As they run, Lot’s wife’s fortune is sealed as she looks back, and is then turned to a pillar of salt. Lot and his daughters continue on.

Time passes. Lot now has gone to the place he’d feared. His daughters, seeing no hope to carry on the family (in the absence of other men) seduce their own father, one at a time, getting him drunk enough that they each can have sex with him.

This is the Bible. These are the people God has saved.

Gnarly.

A few observations. First. Wow. We have angels mixing with men. We have gang-rape. We have a frantic scramble to warn people. But they laugh it off. There’s drama and urgency. There’s tragedy on the plain. There’s sorrow, heavy drinking, and then a shadowy and incestuous seduction. Desperate Housewives? Boring. Bible? Cuh-raaaaaaaaazy!  And we have God, coming to see.

Maybe there’s a spot in your life that you wish someone could see. That someone would just recognize and rescue you from. God longs for justice. When we long for justice that is God’s image in us. Sin in the world does not obliterate our likeness! It infects it. It acts as a corroding impurity in something that is absolutely beautiful. When you long for justice- when you feel mercy or compassion, that is God’s image shining through you!

Sometimes it seems like justice is a long time coming. I wonder if maybe in those times when it seems like it will never come, if maybe God is showing somebody else mercy to get their poop together? You know? God is standing there, fist of justice ready to come in and save you from your awful thing- but somebody who shouldn’t be under that fist just needs to get out of the way. or somebody who’s important to somebody shouldn’t be under that fist- maybe that time, that waiting, is God literally saving somebody else, showing somebody else that same mercy.

Here’s another thought- the angels tell Lot that the “outcry to the Lord against [Sodom’s] people” is so great that He must answer. The outcry to the Lord- from whom? Maybe it’s not a “whom” but a “what?” Justice is for more than people. Justice is for God. A wrong committed against another person is a wrong committed against God. A wrong committed against the earth is a wrong committed against the Creator.

It’s my son, thumbing his nose at me, as he punches his brother. It’s me, snapping at my wife for something that I’m upset about. It’s the guy on the road giving me the bird because I made a bad decision, carelessly. Maybe it’s me making a decision carelessly, and driving too close to the dividing lines between the lanes. My point is this: we don’t harm each other when we harm each other, we show malice to the Creator. Likewise, when we show kindness, when we give someone a cup of water, we show love to our Father.

Don’t wait. God is patient. He has had the injustice and corruption of Sodom and Gomorrah on his to-do list for a long time. But Abraham held him back- said, wait, wait. Mercy? If you find 10 people? Show mercy? And God relented. He went to find his 10, and when he couldn’t find them, put his finger on the button. But first- Lot, do you have anything you need. before I root out the corruption here? So more waiting. When Lot comes back empty handed the travelers say, “Okay, let’s get it goin!” and Lot. Hesitates. Seriously?! So the travelers take his hands and hurry them out. God is patient. But not with injustice. And not forever. When God says boogie, it’s time.

Finally (and only because this post is twice as long as usual), Lot’s daughters? Woah. Settle down girls. There are more fish in the sea. But again we see the sort of people that God mixes up with. We see that God can work with weird folks. We see that God can make amazing things happen with truly “amazing” people.

It says that one of the daughters becomes the mother of Moab. Do you know what that means? Moab is the father of the people from whom Ruth, the storied daughter of Naomi and to-be wife of Boaz. Who was the father of Obed, who was the father of Jesse, father of David, King of Israel, lineage of Jesus, born from the Spirit of God and the child-woman, Mary.

Jesus’ great-great-great-great was born in scandal. Conceived incestuously in a cave.

Such are the people God runs with. And people think Christians are goody’s. So, so messed up. We should not be so quick to disassociate from the train-wreck of our lives. This is the fabric. God doesn’t run from the fight. He goes into it. And when he gets in it, it can get a little messy, a little sideways. But when he’s done, He’s in the center, and all will be right. Till then, know His mercy for us. Hurry towards him without looking back. Flee what is unjust, because it is a snub at God. And don’t be afraid to get a little messy on your way. Ask around, tell people what you’ve seen and where you’re headed. And if they laugh you off, don’t spend too much time arguing.