Monday, January 16, 2012

Blogging the Bible: A theft, a promise, and the turned tables

 As the Blog through the bible experience continues, here are some thoughts on Genesis 27-29

Genesis 27 is a sad story. It tells how Jacob“acquires” the blessing. Earlier, Esau had despised his birthright, and sold it for a bowl of soup. Now, Jacob goes and steals the blessing. The details are fairly clear Isaac sees that the end is coming, and while he must have known of the promise that the older will serve the younger, the promise that God has chosen Jacob, he wants to give it to Esau, his favorite. Rebecca intervenes,but not with the godly counsel a wife should give to her husband, but with trickery, and deceit. She calls Jacob, and tells him what Esau is supposed to do, and then puts together all the details to deceive her husband, so that Jacob, her favorite, will gain the blessing. Somehow, someway, this all work,because ultimately, God has planned that Jacob will receive the blessing.

There are several things that stand out to me in this story. There is the absolute search for blessing. Tim Keller, in several of his sermons, talks about how we have a glory hole, this desire to feel admiration, and recognition, and love. Augustine talks about this same thing when he writes “our hearts will not find rest until they find rest in thee”.Both brothers crave the blessing.

Notice what we see in Esau, and in Jacobs’s words as he pretends to be Esau. Earlier, he married two Canaanite women. Now, as Jacob plays Isaac, he says something about how Esau viewed God. When Jacob drew near, Isaac said to him, "How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?" What’s the answer? "Because the LORD your God granted me success." Not the Lord my God, or our God, your God. That’s telling. Is this why God allows this plan to work? Then look at how Esau throws a temper and begins to plan to kill his brother.

Again, notice how broken this family is? Would you ever think anything good could come from them? Forget salvation to the ends of the earth. They’re a tycoon family squabbling over the estate before Dads dead.

And yet, despite this, God is working. Rebeccashouldn’t have done what she did. Jacob shouldn’t have done what he did, and yet, through their spectacular sins, God is still working out his purposes to bring the promised line to the end he has planned. He undoubtedly could have set things up so that Jacob was born first, if Jacob was the one He wanted to carry on the line. Instead, Esau is born first, but Jacob is chosen, as if to say that the line is important. Is God teaching us a lesson, early on in the story,that His sovereign, intervening choice is more important than mere human seniority, than mere primogeniture?

Chapter 28 opens with a cloud, Esau is already married to Canaanite women that his parents hate, and so Jacob sends him away,to go to the home of his ancestors, to marry one of the daughters of Laban (a,meaning one, not both). He declares that God will fulfill the promise to Abraham through Jacob. While we usually have to return stolen goods, the blessings of the covenant are now his.  Notice the words of verse three and four. “God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojourning that God gave to Abraham!”

But, with that said, see the reality that’soozing out from behind Isaac’s words. While dad is sending Jacob “to find awife” and it sounds all good and holy- a righteous wife, the reality is, Esau wants to kill him. Jacob is running for his life.

And so he goes. Now, what happens in verse 6?Here you have them going back and filling in the details, first summary, then details. See that more details about Esau are given in 6-9. Still not understanding the Abrahamic covenant and its purity, he now marries someone from the unchosen line of Ishmael. But more importantly, we are given verses10-15, which tell the story of the ladder. There, God states to Jacob that He will be with Jacob.

Notice a few things about the story of the Ladder. First, notice that God again makes an unconditional covenant. Jacobdoesn’t earn it, God simply says, “"I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” Moreover, there is a personal word of hope. God say “behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you." (Gen28:15)

Notice that God does this when Jacob is still not someone who worships Him. Notice, God of Abraham, and Isaac, but not Jacob. God is pushing his way into Jacobs’s life though.

Notice where they are, Bethel. Bethel is from two Hebrew words. Beth- House, and El- God. House of God. Here, Jacob sees a ladder, think a ziggurat, not a house ladder, and he sees emissaries of God moving. Jacobs’s conclusion is, the Lord is here, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven." The result is that he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. What’s going on with that? This is rudimentary worship. He doesn’t have a calf, or a lamb,but with what he has, he worships.

Notice also that Jacob starts trying to negotiate for what is already his. God just said, "I will do all this for you."Now Jacob starts trying to make a deal with God “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father's house in peace, then the LORD shall be my God and this stone, which I have setup for a pillar, shall be God's house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you." And how does God deal with him. Does he strike him with fire? No. as the story moves on, God will do all that he promised, and more. He meets all of Jacob’s conditions. D.A. Carson, looking at this passage,observes that “One of the great themes of Scripture is how God meets us where we are: in our insecurities, in our conditional obedience, in our mixture of faith and doubt, in our fusion of awe and self-interest, in our understanding and foolishness. God does not disclose himself only to the greatest and most stalwart, but to us, at our Bethel, the house of God.”

Genesis 29 tells the story of Jacob getting wives. He arrives at Labans house, and is taken in with much rejoicing. But then, Jacob is asked what he would like for wages, after he serves in the home of his uncle for awhile, and he asks to marry Rachel. Since he doesn't have the customary marriage "dowry" to give, Jacob agrees to work for seven years to obtain it. But, when the wedding day comes, Jacob is tricked by Laban and marries the older daughter Leah. When he discovers the deception, the marriage has been consummated, so Laban tells Jacob that he can work seven more years to have Rachael also as his wife. Jacob finally is able to marry Rachael and then works for another six years to obtain his own flocks and wealth. 

The whole story is tawdry, sad, and somewhat funny.

Notice that the trickster, gets tricked. God always him to taste the cup he has inflicted on his family.

Notice how the unloved, gets married, and how Jacob is still looking for blessing, this time by seeking the love of the most beautiful woman, Rachel. He's seeking to fill the God shaped hole, and receive the love only God can give, the blessing only God can give, in the arms of a beautiful woman.

Notice also, that Jacobs search for blessing extends to his family, as his dysfunction spreads to his family, and Leah now seeks to find the approval and blessing the of her husband, through childbearing. It doesn't work.

But notice what she does learn. you can see the lesson in the names of her children. First she has Reuben and she said, "Because the LORD has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me." Then she has, Simeon, and she said, "Because the LORD has heard that I am hated, he has given me this son also." Then she has Levi, and she said, "Now this time my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." Finally, she has Judah, look what she says this time. "This time I will praise the LORD." She learns to praise the Lord. She learns what Jacob hasn't. Hope and joy, true blessing, is only found in the Lord.

What's the lesson for us in all this? Two big things.

First, in all this, God is working through the brokenness, bringing glory and honor out of shame.

Second, the only source of true blessing, is the God who made us, everything else will leave us empty.

No comments:

Post a Comment