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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

From Eden to Egypt Day 39

...But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” - Genesis 32:26 (NIV)
Jacob (The Bible Collection)

Jacob was on his way to face his brother.  He had ran away from Laban.  He was on his way to face the brother who sought his life.  He had sent everyone else ahead of him to his brother Esau.  Now, he sat alone and awaiting the coming confrontation.

Jacob didn't expect the man to appear.  Yet, he knew that this man was different.  He wrestled with the man all night.  His words showed his will to fight to the very end.   I will not let you go unless you bless me.  Those were the words of Jacob as he fought earnestly with the man throughout the night.  He held on, refusing to be overpowered by the man.

Jacob was never the same after that night.  He was permanently injured (v. 25).  He was no longer to be called Jacob again.  Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.    He was left changed in many ways.  He had wrestled with God face to face.  He had held his own with God.  He struggled with the Almighty and survived.  Even the place was changed.  He called it Peniel because he had seen God face to face and his life was spared.

Imagine being in Jacob's lonely condition.  Imagine finding yourself wrapped in a struggle with God.  That's the spiritual condition of many.  many do not have that strong bond with God, but He is near.  They grapple with the Lord, seeking their own will and not His will.  In the end, after toiling with all of their might, God can still change them.  God can make them different.  It is the powerful work of the Holy Spirit that wins us over and captivates our souls.  In the end, God prevails and overcomies our frail spirits.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

From Eden to Egypt Day 38

Now it came about when Rachel had borne Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own place and to my own country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me depart; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.” But Laban said to him, “If now it pleases you, stay with me; I have divined that the LORD has blessed me on your account.” And he continued, “Name me your wages, and I will give it.” But he said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you and how your cattle have fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased to a multitude; and the LORD has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?” So he said, “What shall I give you?” And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: Let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled and spotted sheep, and every black one among the lambs, and the spotted and speckled among the goats; and such shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.” And Laban said, “Good, let it be according to your word.” So he removed on that day the striped and spotted male goats and all the speckled and spotted female goats, every one with white in it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and gave them into the care of his sons. And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. - Genesis 30:25-36 (NET Bible)

If you didn't know any better, you would think that Laban was working Jacob some more.  The passage reveals the sticky situation of their relationship.  You discover clearly how Laban and Jacob were intertwined on multiple levels and degrees over their years together.
  • Laban was Jacob's uncle, the brother of his mother Rebekah
  • Laban was his boss/ supervisor; he tended the herds and flocks of Laban
  • Laban was his father-in-law, the father of Rachel and Leah
After the birth of Joseph, Jacob is ready to go out on his own.  He was ready to part ways with Laban.  However, Laban pleads against Jacob's departure.  He shares in verse 27 that he knows how the Lord has blessed him for the sake of Jacob.  Laban is willing to negotiate at this point.

What is odd to me is how Laban jumps on the opportunity for Jacob to set his own wages.  He hears the young man out, but he fails to realize something.  When Jacob arrived in Haran, Laban was a herdsman and labored among his own flocks and herds.  As he began to prosper and take advantage of Jacob, it appears that Jacob is more familiar with the herds and flocks than Laban.  Thus, Jacob's offer may appear tempting to the unwise and unknowing. 

Laban was out of touch with his flock.  Jacob wasn't swindling the man.  He was using his own knowledge to his advantage.  He had an advantage over Laban.  Laban agreed for things to be as Jacob had outlined, according to verse 34.

Their relationship was starting to change. This was no longer the young man so in love that he would work an additional seven years for his love's hand in marriage.  This young man had prospered Laban and wanted to do his own thing for his own family.  No matter the details of it all, we know that the relationship has grown deeper and deeper.  Jacob is ready to part ways and be gone.

I would have been ready to go, too.  Imagine living close to one such as Laban.  Think about how Laban's sons must have teased and taunted Jacob about those fourteen years serving for the hands of their two sisters.  Jacob used what he knew to his advantage and made a move that placed some distance between both he and Laban, approximately "three days' journey." In any similar situation, I believe most of us would have told Laban off as we were packing our small things and causing a major divide within the seriously-dysfunctional environment. 

Good for Jacob.  He didn't go for losing.  He used all to his advantage in order to advance his own prosperity.  This allowed for how Jacob to "increased exceedingly" in verse 43.  Jacob did so without totally doing Laban in or taking him out.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

From Eden to Egypt Day 37

So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. - Genesis 29:20 (NIV)

Jacob and Laban, Before 1737 Giclee Poster Print by Jean Restout II, 18x24
Jacob & Laban as depicted by Restout

Jacob was willing to work with his uncle Laban in return for his younger daughter Rachel.  Laban appears to agree with the "wages" for the young man's labor.  After all, to summarize Laban's words in verse 19, it would be better than Jacob have her than some other man.  As the passage reads in more than one place, Jacob loved Rachel.

What You Won't Do For Love
One of my favorite songs is Bobby Caldwell's What you Won't Do for Love.  It appears that before such a song was even recorded, Jacob demonstrated that love will take you on a strange ride.  It drove Jacob to work for seven years to get the one he loved.

25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”
26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” - Genesis 29:25-27 (NIV)

Did I mention that Laban was Rebekah's brother? The very same woman who had favored one son over the other and who schemed with her son to steal the other's birthright was related to Laban.  That pretty much explains how we arrive at the situation where Laban has duped his young nephew, replacing Leah for Rachel.  Imagine being in that family.
Yet, after confronting Laban, Jacob still agrees to do another seven years in return for Rachel.  The man was in love.  He knew what he wanted and he was determined to get it.  He definitely went out of his way for this woman.

Jacob teaches us a lesson here.  He didn't simply settle.  He went for what he wanted with determination.  He didn't get detoured or distracted by Laban's deception.  He maintained his focus on his love for Rachel.  He didn't sue Laban or try to give her back to Uncle Laban.  He dealt with things as they were and went forward with focus.  Many of us need to see this and understand that we, too, need to deal things and move forward.  Delays and downfalls will happen. We need to move on and move forward with determination and focus on our goal, even if it is for love.

Rachel's Man - A Biblical Romance

Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years. - Genesis 29:30 (NIV)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

From Eden to Egypt Day 36

Genesis Record, The: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings
Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”
- Genesis 27:41 (NIV)

There are no minced words.  Esau didn't hold a single thing back.  The brother exploded with emotion.  Before swearing to seek violent and bloody revenge against his brother, Esau had wept aloud in agony and torment.  Another translation reads: Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing.  Henry Morris said: "Esau's hatred might have led quickly either to murder or to such family conflict as would destroy the house of Isaac and Rebekah." In other words, things heated up real quick once Esau discovered of his brother's trickery.
His brother, with the help of Rebekah their mother, had deceived their father and stolen Esau's blessing.  "Esau had suddenly changed from an indifferent, carefree sportsman into a bitter, vindictive neurotic," writes Henry Morris.  Esau unleashed words of fury in his father's presence.  And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? for he hath supplanted me these two times: he took away my birthright; and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said, Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me? (Genesis 27:36, KJV).  Such was the rage that came forth from Esau.
However, the deeds of Rebekah continue behind the scenes and under the cloak of deception.  She gets wind of her eldest son's threats against her favorite son, propelling her into action again on Jacob's behalf.  "Knowing Esau's nature," Henry Morris writes of Rebekah, "she assumed his anger would pass away quickly and he would soon return to his carefree ways." Rebekah warns Jacob, urging him to take refuge with her brother Laban in Haran.  She assures him that things will cool down with Esau in a few days.  Obviously, this woman had spent so much time putting her love and care into one son over the other that she did not realize the extent of her eldest son's rage.
Jacob (The Bible Collection) 
Look at Jacob's issue.  He had his mother coaching him in deception and his brother breathing threats of violence against him. His character was deemed befitting his name, according to Esau's outburst.  His death was promised by Esau once the days of mourning for his father were over.  Jacob was forced into hiding.  He ran away with the blessing, fleeing for his own life.

How many of us run like Jacob? We go out of our way to get something. We obtain it, and then we are so unsettled that we can't enjoy it. We buy a house, and then we struggle working two jobs and a paper route just to stay in it.  We fight our way through school to obtain a degree, then we have to go back to school to get a higher degree to compete for a promotion or a career change.  We go through whatever to get what we want, only to realize that what we wanted can't be enjoyed like we thought.
The Cost of Discipleship

That's not what God wants for us.  He wants us to live free of our possessions.  That was the whole point when the Lord encountered the rich young ruler the other day.  Could you sell all that you have and simply follow Jesus? Could you leave all, leave everything behind, just to follow after the Master? We must control our possessions, not allowing them to have control over us.  When Jesus tells us to count the costs, He is asking us to decide if we are willing to sacrifice and serve as His disciples.  That type of inheritance won't cause you to run and hide.  It should cause you to go and tell others.

Monday, February 7, 2011

From Eden to Egypt Day 35

5Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6Rebekah said to her son Jacob, "I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 7'Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.' 8Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 9Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. 10And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies."- Genesis 27:5-10 (ESV)

You can blame as much as you want on Jacob's name.  That's pretty much where many go when it comes to making commentary on the life of Jacob.  However, look at Rebekah's actions.

Look at:
  • Rebekah's Motivation: Even though Esau had sold his brother his birthright in Genesis 25, that doesn't seem to be enough to ensure that Jacob would inherit the firstborn's inheritance of a blessing from the old man.  Rebekah is said to have loved Jacob (Genesis 25:28).  her love for one son over the other, just as Isaac's, caused her to make a move.
  • Rebekah's Movements:  She was present, within hearing distance, and she went into swift action.  She had heard enough to make a move.  She knew enough of what was about to go down, so she countered with a move of her own.  In fact, she incorporated her favorite son in the move to make it even more dastardly.
  • Rebekah's Masquerade: She seems to have an answer for everything.  "Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me" ( Genesis 27:13, ESV).   Those were her words.  She helped disguise goat rather than the "game" that Esau was to hunt.  She even proposed a way for the smooth-skinned Jacob to appear as hairy as his brother.  She mastered the masquerade.
How did she get to be such a way? Maybe we overlooked that her brother was Laban, a natural swindler and crook himself.  He was the very same relative of Jacob's who did the wedding night switcheroo on the young runaway. 

Her hand in this deception may have very well played out in Jacob's later life.  Jacob grew and went on to develop similar tendencies.  He favored one son over the others.  He swindled his relative Laban in order to increase his own flocks and herds.  He went on to earn a reputation as a swindler. 

Nonetheless, God changed his name to Israel.  God made him a great nation.  The twelve tribes came out of his lineage.  He went on to become one of the great patriarchs of the Bible.

We don't have to live out our lives the way Mama did her thing.  We don't have to take things on like Daddy did.  Each of us can live differently than the dysfunctional examples that our families may give us.  We can simply dare to be different.  We have a shining example in Christ.  He went through things like betrayal, false accusations, and similar offenses.  Let us live to be more and more like Christ, the best example that we have.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ. - 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From Eden to Egypt- Day 34

Genesis Record, The: A Scientific and Devotional Commentary on the Book of Beginnings

And he moved from there and dug another well, and over that they did not quarrel; so he called its name Rehoboth, saying, "For now the Lord has made room for us, and we shall be fruitful in the land."- Genesis 26:22

Isaac went through a lot in dealing with the quarrelsome and troublesome Philistines.  He named one well Esek, the Hebrew word for "contention." The second well was named Sitnah because of the hatred and strife that existed because of it.  After those two, he went further and further away and dug a new well.

And he moved from there and dug another well, and over that they did not quarrel;

Rehoboth, meaning "room, broad space," indicates Isaac had arrived at a peaceful juncture in his life.  There was room and plenty of space for Isaac to exist without the Philistines laying claim to what he had.  He dug another well and discovered no quarrel or strife.  Isaac found himself at peace for a little while in Rehoboth.  He realized that the Lord had made room for him and that his being "fruitful in the land" would come about from the Lord.
Amen Me!