Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’

Genesis 48

11 Israel said to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children too.”

15 Then he blessed Joseph and said,
   “May the God before whom my fathers 
  
Abraham and Isaac walked faithfully,

the God who has been my shepherd 
  
all my life to this day,

16 the Angel who has delivered me from all harm 
  
   —may he bless these boys.

May they be called by my name 
  
and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, 
and may they increase greatly 
  
on the earth.”

Genesis is a beginning.  Literally.  Genesis opens with the phrase “In the beginning,” or “At first.”  But as is often the case the beginning is … just the first thing in a series of many things.  So Genesis is a beginning, and it’s a journey- a middle.

We’ve met lots of people- Adam and Eve, Cain, Abel, Seth, Noah, Abram, Sarai, Lot, Lot’s daughters, Isaac, Isaac’s servant, Jacob, Esau, Laban, Rachel, Leah, Rueben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, (and Tamar), Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Joseph and Benjamin.  We’ve met Potipher, the Egyptian Royal captain, and his cougar-wife.  We’ve met a royal baker, and a royal cup-bearer.  Pharaoh himself.  But he’s not the first king- we’ve also met the mysterious Malchizekek.

But we’ve also met somebody else.  Creator God, who speaks and creates, and hovers over unformed things.  Creator God who builds and creates and proliferates LIFE.  God, who walks in the garden in the cool of the afternoon relishing what He finds to be very good.  An all-powerful God who creates a community to spend time with, and enjoy.  An all powerful God who makes us free to love Him back, or … not.

The God who sews garments to cover up something He made good, because of the fear that sin created.  The God who, when disobeyed, rather than retaliate and answer in wrath, promises to set things right, and keeps things from getting any worse.  The angel with the sword flashing back and forth between us and the Garden of Eden.

We meet his presence in angels- messengers.  Messengers who come to break through the barriers and communicate God’s promises, over and over.  Despite rebellion.  Despite disbelief.

And we meet God, a shepherd.

As Israel lays in his bed, he places himself in the role of a sheep- and tells Joseph that God has been his shepherd.

After all the things Israel has experienced, after all the different ways He has experienced God, and God’s presence in his life, this is how he describes God.  A shepherd.

The lasting words of God reverberate in that description: I will be with you.

God is introducing himself to you, right now, today.  Not as somebody who will shepherd you.  But as somebody who always has.  God is a shepherd.  He is guiding you to safe places to lie down.  He is choosing ripe, green grass for you.  He finds a place where you can wade in the water and drink without fear of predators, without fear of drowning.  You may wander out of sight, and get lost, get stuck, get tired.  But he is the Good Shepherd and He will come out, leaving the flock to find you.  You will hear his voice, and call to him, and he will pull you from the mud, pull you from the briar- and return you on his shoulders to where you are safe.

This is the God of Genesis.  He’s a fixer.  He’s a lookout.  He’s a shepherd.

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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.

Genesis 43

11 Then their father Israel said to them, “If it must be, then do this: Put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift—a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. 12 Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake. 13 Take your brother also and go back to the man at once. 14 And may God Almighty[a] grant you mercy before the man so that he will let your other brother and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

“May God Almighty grant you mercy before the man… [and] as for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved.”

Jacob Wrestles with an Angel

What a moment.  I wonder if this is the moment that Jacob the deceiver, now Israel who struggled with God, has finally quit struggling.

This man’s name relates directly and explicitly to his determination to wrestle with God.  His history is one of friction, terse ambition, and conflict.  Yet he is the one who is favored.  His name will be the name of a nation of people.  His name will be known for thousands of years beyond his own life.

The picture I’ve linked to- it’s called “Jacob Wrestling with an Angel” by Gustave Dore.  I love it.  I don’t know much about painting, or criticism.  I have no idea if it’s any good, or if it’s trite.  But I love it.  So I guess it’s good.  I love how Jacob is on the lower ground, and his body looks tense, like he’s really working, but the angel has his wrists in his hands.  And his face is totally … blank.  Like he’s not really exerting himself.

Though he struggled, fought, schemed, managed, and argued, he was the recipient of favor.  There was struggle and contention within the womb of his mother.  He “grasped” his brother’s heel, even at the moment of birth.  Rather than emulate his older brother, he actually turn away from his brother’s habits and pleasures- while Esau would hunt, and boy scout about, Jacob would stay near the house, and learned more … domestic arts.

He seemed opportunistic, taking any chance to gain something for himself.  Like a claim to birthright.  Like a blind father’s blessing.  He wanted that badly enough to stand in front of a blind man and lie right to him.

When that plan turned bad, he ran away from home, fleeing to his uncle’s home several days journey from his angry brother.  There he attempted to gain a wife, and was in contention with his uncle, turned father-in-law, when his bride turned out to be somebody other than he’d agreed to.

Then his wives were in struggle between themselves, each straining for the favor of her husband.  And then his children- they too struggled between each other, jockeying for favor.  Jockeying for position in the line of succession, the line of blessing.

In all this- the story of his life up to this point, is like holding up a mirror to the race of humanity.  Struggle.  Against.  God.

And now… there’s no more energy to fight.  No more energy to struggle.  Joseph is gone, Simeon is gone, all of their food is gone, and now he struggles to protect Benjamin from a similar fate.  But there are no more alternative routes.  No more victories.  So he finally gives in.

May God grant you mercy and if I am bereaved, then I am bereaved.

I think it is more than appropriate to say that Jacob/Israel, as much as anybody, can serve as an adequate representative for the race of humanity.  And the gem is less in how Israel represents us to God, but rather how God relates to him in spite of the struggle, in spite of the constant friction.

God chose Jacob to be a special kind of conduit to the people of the world.  He blessed Jacob abundantly, taking a poor man with a knap sack and a strange dream in the desert and giving him 2 wives, at least 13 children, and more goats than you could shake a stick at.  Important to distinguish between the children and the goats- though it’s an easy mistake to make.  Both climb everything, eat grass, crap where ever the spirit moves them to, and do nothing but bleat all the time.  Moving along.

God was determined to make a way.  He had made a promise to Eve that somebody would come along who would take back the life she’d given away.  He had promised Noah that he would be a blessing to the whole world.  He had promised Abram a family that rivaled the stars in the sky and the sands of the deserts.  He actually promised Abram much more- He promised that He himself would be torn and shredded if He did not keep His promise to Abram.  God promised Jacob that he would never be alone.  Ever, no matter what.  God had a stack of promises.  Promises He initiated, promises that He was bound to.  Promises that He was BOUND to keep.

All of His promises were connected to the abundance of LIFE.  And not the striving, stressed out life that was usually happening- but a LIFE that was better.  God makes promises to us that we will gain something awesome from living His LIFE.

What we learn too, is that sometimes God’s promises, as solid and true as they may be, aren’t necessarily what we expect, or when we expect.  Abram was promised a nation of families- but it took decades.  Decades of years passed before Isaac was born.  And Isaac was only one child.  But then Isaac had a child.  Two.  And they fought.  But then Isaac had a grandchild.  And another.  And another.  And then…

Passages like this one, and those around it, can seem baffling when taken out of the context of the whole book.  Or even out of context of the whole Pentateuch.  But what I see, having combed through everything leading up to this point, and knowing what’s coming- is a God that can be trusted even when I can’t be.

God is building his answer to the first promises and like any good builder, He’s building it carefully, using the materials He has, and the place that He has them.  And He has a plan.  The boards are warped, and full of knots.  The ground is rolling and far from flat.  The rocks are shaped in peculiar ways, and don’t stack well.  The nails are different lengths, different guages, and piled up loosely in the bottom of a cracked pail.  But this will be a mansion with many rooms when God is done.  A city of mansions.  Filled with Jacob’s who finally stopped struggling, and called on the mercy of God.  And when the struggling stopped, and the calling began, the blessings just kept coming, as they always had.  But now, all the dams were broken, all that blocked and slowed and diverted the flow of God’s word and work were cleared away, and they could finally move.  Finally run, without bends, turns, oxbows or reservoir.

On the surface, these stories appear to be about Joseph, or about his brothers, or about Jacob.  But really, this whole book, and every story in it, is about God the Father, the Creator, the Promiser, the LIFE lover, and Busted-Stuff-Repairer.  Sometimes, you just have to back up a little bit to see it.

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.

Missing Jesus

Posted: January 31, 2012 in Chapter-a-day
Tags: , , , ,

 

Genesis 32: 

1 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob 

saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

 

 

7 In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

9 Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

 13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”

 17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’”

 19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

 22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

   But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

   “Jacob,” he answered.

 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

   But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 

 

You know what I love?  I’m reading this in a Life Application Bible.  That means that in the footnotes of the page, rather than notes and trivia about the noted passage, a small devotional type message is there, imparting the nugget from just that one isolated passage.  But you know what?  When it gets the part about Jacob wrestling “the man”?  Nothin.  The Life Application Bible has nothing further to add, sir.

Sometimes the bible- sometimes GOD, is just a mystery.

Why are Jacob and “the man” wrestling?  How is it that “the man,” who we’re supposing is God, cannot overpower Jacob?  Jacob asks “the man” twice for his name, but ends up calling the place “I saw God’s face.”

What does “the man’s” blessing mean?  “You have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

And I confess, I have nothing to add either.  Nothing conclusive, I guess.  Questions, maybe.  It appears to me that Jacob is alone, having sent his wives, and children ahead of him.  One thought that occurs to me is that this night of wrestling- maybe a physical type of the night in Gethsemane that Jesus would spend, wrestling in prayer.  Not that Jacob is some kind of Jesus-figure.  More like he’s a human figure, and instance of our relationship, post-Eden, post-fall, in the midst of our struggle.  He has to wrestle to understand.  He has to wrestle to reach peace.

I’ve wondered why we suppose that “the man” represents God, and not some other figure.  Why must the mysterious man be God?  Could he represent an angel of challenge?  Is he perhaps the figure from Job- the Accuser?  Or perhaps he is Jacob’s alternate self- the self that deceives and schemes, wrestling with the Jacob that returns home humble, Esau’s servant?

But this is all focused on Jacob.  And I had hoped to be focused on God through this series.

So why must God be mysterious?  Why does God seem to resent Jacob’s insistence on learning His name?  Assuming, as tradition has held, that the mysterious man is in fact a manifestation of God, Jacob asks him twice for His name, and both times is flatly turned down.  God even asks him back, “Why do you ask my name?”

Maybe it should be obvious to Jacob- obvious who he’s contending with.  Maybe that’s something you and I should be relating to.  What if God is moving in our lives, trying to direct and steer, teach and guide, and we are always resisting, always pulling away?

What about Jacob not being overpowered?  What then?  Then Jesus.  Then a way is made for God to open the way.  Through Jesus, God becomes victorious.  Not man.  Maybe that’s what was missing that night, when God would not be able to overcome the will of man.  The will of man was determined, set on itself, not willing to be steered, taught, directed or guided.  But then Jesus comes, peeling back the veil over the near and present Kingdom of Heaven, and God can shine through that determination.  Jesus comes, and a way is made that the will of man, broken and faulted, self-focused and hell-bent can finally be turned.  Finally overcome.

Maybe that night of contention was just missing the touch of Jesus.

Genesis 28:

4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.”

13 There above it[c] stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[d] 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.”

 16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[e] though the city used to be called Luz.

 

 

The bible is an interesting tool in the right hands.  It’s an even more interesting one in the wrong hands.  It’s striking to me how we debate about literal translations, or metaphorical/allegorical translations, and what’s right and what’s wrong, etc, etc, ad nauseum.

 

Because the first thing the bible is, absolutely and concretely, is a historical account.  It is a written record of events that happened somewhere to somebody or because of somebody.  So I like to start there when I’m reading.

 

Here, in chapter 28, Isaac has accepted that he was duped into blessing Jacob, and affirms that blessing by directing him to marry from his own people in Harran, where Abraham began his journey when his father died.  So Jacob leaves, carrying the legacy of his father Isaac, given to him by God and also his own father, Abraham, a blessing of prosperity, and as we’ve come to speak of it, that Jacob would have a “full quiver.”

 

Jacob stops along his journey, finding a suitable place to spend the night.  He sleeps, but has a dream, a vision, where God ordains Jacob as the next to carry the legacy of His promise to Abraham, and to Noah before him, the legacy of a family like the sands of all the shores, or all the stars in the sky.  And that in that family lineage would be a blessing for all the peoples of the earth, a veiled reminder that He’s still working out his first promise to Eve, the promise of reparations for the damage of the serpent’s lie.

 

Jacob awakes, and amazed that God would appear in this desolate, bland, unremarkable place, says “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.”  Honoring this newly revealed treasure, he renames the place, calling it “Bethel.”  The text notes that it already had a name though, “Luz.”

But apart from the strictly historical aspect, , here I find an interesting “type,” or an image of something more conceptual.  It may not be the primary function for this passage of scripture being in the historical record for us all to see, but nevertheless, it bubbles up to the surface when I read this.

God is already everywhere we go.

See?  Deep, huh?  No, but seriously, how many times have you felt like you were trying to bring God into somebody’s life?  Like, opening the door to somebody’s heart and trying to help God squeeze in like a camera crew for the TV show “Hoarders”  trying to worm their way into a crowded hallway, around a door that can’t open all the way.

Dude-  God’s already in there.

Maybe you have a husband or a wife who is closed off from your faith, and you want so much to share it with them.  But you can’t find an entry point.

God is already in there.

Whenever that person experiences you loving them, God is there.  Whenever that person experiences you engaging with their problems, and hurting from their hurts, God is interacting with them.

I see a model of that in this story of Jacob’s.  He lays his head down in an unfamiliar place, and God reveals himself.  Jacob awakens, and realizes that though the place is unfamiliar, unremarkable, and otherwise appears desolate, God is already here.  So he claims it with an altar, and renames it.  It’s never going to just be some spot on a map.  It’s never going to be called desolate again.  Now it’s Bethel, the Lord’s house.

Where are you?  Has God shown himself to you yet?  Or are you possibly trying to bring God someplace that He’s been already forever?  Look around.  Where is love being shown or given?  Where is service being done?  Where are people investing into each other with genuine concern and selflessness?  God is already there.  Call him out, remove the veil, and name Him.

This is another block in the bridge called mercy.  Another paver on the road “grace.”  He is already there providing for your needs before you recognize Him.  He isn’t waiting for you to call on Him to shower down His gifts on you.  They are laying around you on the ground, waiting for you when you get there.  You are wearing them.  Sleeping in them.  Loving them in your life already.

The rock upon which Jacob laid his head that night, the rock that became the altar marking this unremarkable place called the Lord’s house, was already there.  Jacob didn’t pack it with him.  All he did was lay his head on it, and God opened up the realm, peeled back the veil and showed himself.

Just go on your journey, and keep your eyes open, and if you are tired, or think you are alone, just lay down.

Genesis 27 :

6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau… Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: 9 Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. 10 Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.”

19 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn.

33 Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”
 34 When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”
 35 But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”

It’s hard to make sense of this passage.  There.  I said it.  A few pages to the left, Rebekah’s seeming barrenness is broken when Isaac prays for her.  But then she has a really troubled pregnancy, and she prays to God seeking solace.  He reveals to her that the reason for her great discomfort is that twin boys are jockeying for position in her womb, and that they will be contentious rivals.  God reveals to Rebekah that contrary to the cultural standard of the day, the younger brother will rule and dominate the older.  And with that thought, when the babies are born, the younger brother follows the older, grasping onto his foot, signaling the usurpation that is to come.

Sometime later, after the boys have grown some, Esau comes in from a hard day of hunting, completely famished from his work.  Jacob, who has been preparing soup is home when Esau arrives and demands a portion of the stew Jacob has been making.  Shrewdly, Jacob offers to trade the food for Esau’s claim as first-born son- in short, the entirety of Isaac’s legacy and possessions, as well as the right to determine and decide in all matters as eldest son.  And rashly, Esau, not seeing the long-term value of his title as first-born, sells it for one bowl of soup.

But now- now we see Jacob and Esau’s mother conspiring.  She is eavesdropping on a pivotal conversation in Isaac and Esau’s life- one where Isaac indicates that he sees the end of his life approaching and wants to bequeath a blessing on Esau and effectively prepare him for Isaac’s eventual death and Esau’s ascension to head of the family.  So Rebekah schemes and tells Jacob to participate with her in deceiving the old man- a move which Jacob initially resists, but then appears to accept fully.

Maybe Rebekah never told Isaac about the Lord’s prophecy to her during her pregnancy.  Maybe Esau and Jacob never told the old man about the soup.

Or maybe they did.  Maybe Isaac had learned of the prophecy, knew about the soup.  But didn’t get it.  Maybe he knew that God wanted to use Jacob, but Isaac wasn’t all the way onboard.  Maybe someday we’ll actually know.  Till then, we just have “maybe’s”.

I don’t see a moral here.  I don’t see a lesson to be learned really.  Nothing that I can apply to my life in order to be a better, happier, more productive person.  If anything, I see scheming, distrustful, and manipulative personalities working overtime here.

But I see something else- God said Jacob would be the greater.  Circumstances were stacked against it, but it happened.  It was impossible, but it happened.  So I can see that even when God appears to be making impossible promises, promises that my every experience with our reality denies feasibility to, they still happen.

Are you an Esau?  Men crave the affection and approval of their dads.  Most of them probably have it, but really struggle to see it, or believe it.  Their inability to see their father’s love for them drives them to great lengths, possibly even to the degree that their desire for their father’s approval (or anybody else’s I suppose) becomes their highest pursuit, their greatest good thing- an idol.

Or maybe you’re a Jacob, craving power, never satisfied with what you have.  Maybe you always want one more thing.  Or maybe you think that the only way you can “be something” is by stealing what belongs to somebody else.  Maybe you don’t think you have value, just being you.

Esau showed himself to be rash, and careless.  He was quick-tempered.  Maybe he failed to really throw himself on the strength and mercy of God to be cared and provided for.  

Jacob was easily tempted to do things he knew was wrong.  He was inclined to being opportunistic.
Perhaps these qualities are what showed God how things would be, that he would say the younger would be served by the older.  God’s intimate understanding of Esau’s character and rash behavior, as well as his understanding of Jacob’s quick thinking, and devious nature would somehow create this cultural abnormality, where the younger brother presides over the older.  I don’t really know.

But I know that I can completely trust what God says.  He is not fickle, and he’s never ever misguided.  The only real mark on his character that can be spoken of has to be the company he keeps.