Gen devos 31-35

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 31

Food for Thought: Run Forrest run…
If you have ever seen the movie Forrest Gump, you will remember that Forrest seems to always be running. In our readings about Jacob he too does a lot of running. Jacob has fled from his home and his brother and now some twenty years later he is fleeing his father-in-law. Jacob seizes an opportunity and his wives consent and they and their children make their way back to the land of Canaan. Laban pursues Jacob. It is looking like there may be a war between the house of Laban and the house of Jacob, but the Lord intervenes and tells Laban not to harm or hinder Jacob. The two men are able to work out an agreement and create a memorial of stones to serve as a witness to their agreement that they wouldn’t cross the heap of rocks to hurt either one.
This is an important scene for Jacob. For in this scene he isn’t trying to deceive anyone. He has grown as a faithful man of God. Jacob just wants to be free from Laban’s twenty year imprisonment and deceptions. Sometimes in order to change, someone has to live with or work with someone who helps that individual see the extent in which they need to change. With all of Laban’s faults, he really does help Jacob change. I don’t imagine change for Jacob happened overnight. But over the course of twenty years, contending with his deceptive uncle, and a change in wages over and over again, Jacob wakes up so to speak and begins to want to return to his own land. In the scene where Jacob and Laban are discussing Jacob’s departure, and desire to return to Canaan, Jacob speaks of God in the active tense. Jacob acknowledges that God has been with him, just like he promised him.
Again, let me point our attention to promises of God. We serve a God who is can and does. We serve a God who works through our circumstances, and situations to mold us into the kind of people he wants us to be. Twenty years is a long time to wait for anything. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I am very impatient. We don’t like to wait in line at Walmart, or when our high speed internet doesn’t work as fast as we think we should. We live in 4G world, but we have a God who doesn’t always work on our timetables. Abraham waited 25 years for Isaac, now Jacob has had to wait 20 years to go home. What I am reminded of in this chapter is that we do not control God. He will always do what is best for us even when we disagree with his timing. Jacob had some growing up to do, Abraham needed to be totally reliant on Yahweh. If we are honest these two needs are still present in our lives. We all need to do some growing up into Christ-like maturity, where selflessness and humility guide our interactions with one another and with outsiders. We all need to be totally reliant on Yahweh. It is because we live in a 4G world, have nice homes, nice cars, food and clothing we need to learn to completely trust in God. We live in a world that teaches fierce independence, but we serve a God that requires total fealty and dependence. Will we have ears to hear what the Lord is saying in and through his Word?
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:
Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 32

Food for Thought: WWF, the top rope, and a body slam or two…
I don’t know if you noticed, but Genesis 32 opens and closes with mentions of heavenly beings (angels and Yahweh) coming to earth, and Jacob seeing and meeting them. Jacob sees angels at his camp, and names that place Mahanaim (which means two camps). This isn’t the first time that Jacob had seen angels, if you remember back in Gen 28 he had a vision of stairway where the angels of God were ascending and descending. If you remember Jacob had just fled with his wives, children, and herds and was heading to his father’s home and preparing to meet Esau. The text tells us that Jacob was nervous (32:7) about this pending meeting, and sends messengers ahead of his pending arrival, and then Esau comes to meet with Jacob with 400 men. Jacob fears that this is a war party, and launches a plan to secure his assets, he divides his wives, and kids into two groups, and then sets out to soften his brother’s wrath with a large gift of animals. Jacob prays out of this place of distress and fear and then as he is making final preparations for meeting his brother, he sends his family across the Jabbok, and he spends the night alone. Jacob wasn’t expecting the arrival of a stranger. This is no ordinary stranger. The text doesn’t tells us of any hospitality, or greeting, just that the man attacked Jacob and they wrestled with one another. Unable to pin Jacob, this stranger reaches out his hand and touches Jacob hip and wrenches it. Daybreak was coming, and Jacob won’t give up and asks for a blessing. This unidentified stranger asks Jacob his name, and then changes it, “your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome” (Gen 32:28). Jacob then does what I think we all would have done, he asks this stranger his name (v. 29), and then almost as mysteriously as he arrives the stranger apparently disappears, and Jacob realizes that he has not only seen God, but had done hand to hand combat with him and was spared! (v.30). Jacob names the place of this encounter, Peniel (face of God).

I resonate with Jacob’s story. As a kid I watched the WWF on Saturday morning. I loved Hulk Hogan. My mother is still mad at me for all those t-shirts I tore up just like my hero, the Hulk. He was the strongest, toughest, and the best wrestler ever! My dad even one time bought me tickets to see the Hulkster in person. But, I don’t think Jacob drive to pile drive Yahweh, or jump off the top rope. But, he wrestles with God. His life is marked by struggle. From his days in his mother’s womb, to stealing the birthright, and his father’s blessing, to his time with his uncle, Jacob’s life was marked with struggle. I feel like that I too have wrestled with God. Not physically of course, but figuratively. Jacob’s name was changed to one who had struggled with God and man and overcame. But, he also walked with limp for the rest of his life. What’s your limp? You know that one reminder that is visible that recalls your attention to a time when God defeated you in your will, wishes and intentions? Maybe your limp is a place, a person, a thing? Limps aren’t a bad thing. I think every time Jacob took a step, he was reminded of how good God was even in those times he couldn’t see where he was being led, or how the outcome would be. Jacob limped because he had the courage to become vulnerable to the Lord, and to let go of his desire to control his life, and the lives of those around him. Jacob held on to God, and in so doing let go of his worries, doubts, and inadequacies are we willing to do the same?

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 33

Food for Thought: Family Reunion…?
Chapter 33 is the climax of chapter 32 (and really since Jacob left for Paddan Aram), Jacob will finally meet his brother. Chapter 33 opens, “Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men” (33:1). But Jacob is a changed man. In chapter 32 he was fearful and distressed, he prays, and wrestles with God. Jacob had spent his whole life controlling situations, people, and circumstances. And now after wrestling with Yahweh, a name change, and new walk, Jacob is ready to meet his once wrathful brother. Jacob had divided up his wives and children and goes ahead of them and once he sees his brother, he bows down to him to ground to him seven times. This is a crucial scene. For here the birthright stealer, becomes a humble servant, and bows in the presence of his brother. His wives and children will do the same. Even though Jacob was able to secure the birthright, and the father’s blessing, with the gifts that he gives Esau he in essence is returning what would have been rightfully Esau’s as the first born. Leave no doubt, the blessing to Jacob is secure. But what a transformation this is in his life.
There is another important element in the chapter, one that we may miss. But it is one that I think that further helps us understand the Abrahamic promise of land, descendants, and future blessing to the world. The blessing was also given to Isaac, and to Jacob. Right at the tail end of chapter 33 there is mention that Jacob travels on to the outskirts of Shechem in Canaan. Remember Canaan is the land of promise! In v. 19-20 we read, “for a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.” Earlier in chapter 23 Abraham was able to secure the first piece of actual promised land that belonged to him or any of his descendants, the cave of Machpelah. Here in chapter 33 Jacob purchases the area where he set up his tents, and builds and altar. This is further fulfillment that this land would belong to the descendants of Abraham. God is expanding his territory! I think the really interesting thing here, is that Jacob builds an altar here to Yahweh and names it “God, the God of Israel, or it also could mean “mighty is the God of Israel.” Jacob acknowledges the source of his life, blessing, prosperity and future. Jacob builds an altar as a memorial that life was bigger than him, that life is all about God.
Maybe for us we too need to let God’s territory and rule expand in our lives. It took Jacob a long time, and it seems to be case for all of us that life is indeed a journey. Every day is really an opportunity to let God have and use us fully. Jacob’s journey is really our journey, we have phases where we are selfish, we are on the run, where we wrestle with God, where we surrender, and where we celebrate the victories and proclaim his faithfulness. How is your relationship with God? Where are you in Jacob spectrum? If something needs to change, what is it? Go ahead and bring it before God, surrender it, and let him have control!
Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?
Prayer:
Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 34

Food for Thought: A lesson in Shechem…
Genesis 34 is a sad chapter. Dinah, once of Jacob’s daughters gets violated by one of the wealthy young men from one of the leading Hivite families. Shechem wouldn’t have one any brownie points on Valentine’s Day for sure! He sees what he wants and then takes it by force. This is not the way to enter into a marital relationship. News of this most despicable deed reaches Jacob. Shechem’s father Hamor (remember Jacob bought some land in chapter 33 from this family) comes to Jacob to negotiate a fair price for his daughter’s hand in marriage to his son Shechem. Notice 34:8-9, “But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 9Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.” Hamor’s request seems like a reasonable request, but there is just one giant problem. Hamor’s offer seems to be a counter blessing to the Abrahamic blessing from Yahweh. What is at stake in the intermarrying of the Hivites and Israel and his descendants, was a complete loss of identity, land, and descendants, property. If Israel gives in they will lose their distinctiveness.
Jacob’s sons respond deceitfully to Hamor and Shechem ( I wonder where they learned their deception?). Jacob’s sons devise a plan to seemingly allow this union between the Hivites and Israel to be a done deal, if they men of the area would be circumcised (34:15). This is sort of weird request, but the men agree to Jacob’s sons demands (34:18-23). Notice what is at stake, again a loss of identity, distinctiveness, “ Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours?” (34:23). After the men give consent, Simeon and Levi the brothers of Dinah through Leah (Gen 29-30) go into the unsuspecting city while all the men are recovering from surgery and they killed all the males in the town, and they also took “…their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses” (34:28-29). Jacob’s son turned the tables on the wicked scheme of the Hivites and instead of losing land, and their animals to the Hivites they annihilated them and plundered them. Jacob recognizes that his sons’ zealousness to protect their sister put Israel and his descendants in jeopardy because of the future threat of the people of the land merging in alliance against them (34:30).
The lesson we learn in Shechem is one of the heart. We learn about the motivations of what is we truly desire, or worship. Israel and his descendants were circumcised out of obedience and commitment to Yahweh. Shechem was circumcised out of his love for Dinah. The people of Shechem were motivated to be circumcised by economic gain. Also, we are reminded that God can and does use sinful people to accomplish his plan. God promised to bless Abraham and his descendants. He does, but sometimes when God’s chosen people act out of fear, or in this case vengeance, the story doesn’t go the way it was planned. Jacob had earlier come to the end of his life of self-sufficiency and the need for control over circumstances, and people, but was transformed. Will Jacob’s sons learn the same lesson of letting go of the need to manipulate and control their environment?

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

Daily reading: Read Genesis chapter 35

Food for Thought: From Shechem to Bethel and Beyond…
Chapter 34 ends with Jacob worried that the people of the land are going to rally together to come against he and his family. God calls Jacob in chapter 35 to go back to Bethel, the place where he first met the Lord. This place was significant to Jacob, it marked the beginning of a life of faith. A life of ups and downs, but one of ultimate triumph. But before they depart, Jacob tells his household to get rid of their foreign gods, to change their clothes and to purify themselves (35:2). Apparently, Jacob’s kids and others in his household were worshippers of other gods. Jacob had already made his choice and wanted his children, and his entire household to be caught up in the unfolding drama of God’s redemptive love – the same story that he was now caught up in (35:3). There is no argument from the people in Jacob’s household, they all give up their foreign gods and Jacob buries them under the oak in Shechem (35:4). I think this is a significant moment in the life of Israel’s family. All through their history, and especially later on in the wilderness and beyond to their time in the Promised Land, foreign gods were a constant snare to God’s people. We learn a powerful and potent lesson here from v. 4. If we want to be caught up in the life God has in store for us, we have to be willing to lay everything down. We have to be willing to bury our old ways, and our old allegiances in order to fully embrace the ways of Yahweh. Those of us have been baptized into Christ, this is in essence what we have declared – that we do not belong to any other, but solely and completely to Yahweh. We were buried, and died to our old ways and allegiances in order to be raised up to a new way, a new Master, and a new allegiance.
Once Jacob and his family arrive in Bethel he builds an altar and he names that place “El Bethel” (35:7). Remember Bethel means “house of God.” Jacob is declaring that God is the God of this special place! Notice 35:9-12 is repeat of the Abrahamic blessing. God confirms the name change of Jacob to Israel. In v. 11 God rehashes the commandment to be fruitful and multiply command. Even though humanity had been booted out of Eden, God was still working in creation through humanity to return the intentions for his creation to earth – Abraham’s descendants would be the agents of this renewal! Also, notice v. 11, that the command to be fruitful would result in Israel growing into a nation, and community of nations, even having kings come from Jacob’s line! Then in v. 12, God promised once again to give the land of Canaan to Jacob and his descendants. Verse 14 is indicative of the total commitment that Jacob had made to Yahweh. A drink offering was made to Yahweh, as well as the use of oil. Jacob is marking this place as a special memorial of the Lord’s faithfulness.
Chapter 35 ends on a relatively sad note. Both Rachel and Isaac die. Rachel dies giving birth to Ben-Oni, or “son of my trouble.” Jacob renames is son to Benjamin, “son of my right hand.” Jacob marks her burial place with a pillar. Jacob altogether had twelve sons, v. 23-26 recount the names of his sons. Upon returning home to his father, Isaac dies at the age of 180 (35:28). It is pretty interesting that Esau and Jacob are both together here at the burial of their father. Here were two brothers who fought often, and now as older men they had made their peace in chapter 33, together they pay their respects to their deceased father. Death is a part of life. Really chapter 35 is about the burial of a lot of people, and foreign gods. Remember, the chapter opens with foreign gods being buried, then Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah dies and is buried (35:8), then Rachel dies and is buried as is Isaac. The death of Isaac, and the transition into chapter 36 set the stage for the final cycle in the book of Genesis, the Joseph cycle. Keep reading and keep praying!

Reflection:
1. What stood out to you today?
2. What is one thing you can take away from this chapter?

Prayer:

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About Jason Retherford

The random musings of a youth minister.
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