Exodus 32-33 is one of the most heart-breaking passages in the Old Testament. The context is “while the teachers is away, the children will play.” There are other variations like cat and mice, but with the point – Moses had gone up to talk with the LORD on Mt. Sinai; [Exodus 24] and the people below begin to “play harlotry”. Now remember God enabled the Israelites to “ransack” Egypt as they were leaving – taking all sort of pillage. I find it very interesting that while Moses is getting the instructions for building the Ark of the Covenant and the other items for the Tabernacle in the Wilderness; the people below in the valley were using the same resources to create their own version of God. While Moses is getting the Tablets of Stone with the Law written by the finger of God, below the people are rising up to rebellion; and the leader is Aaron! After reading about all the details given for making the Altar, the incense, the High Priest clothes, Court of the Tabernacle; the Veils, the Bronze Altar, the boards and sockets from gold and sliver – we jump right into the premeditated work of “creating an idol” to worship. Moses couldn’t have been gone long before the “playing” started. I can remember as a child how that as soon as my parents were out of sight, we kids would start doing what we know we couldn’t otherwise do. Moses up on the Mountain being all spiritual and all, but sin and rebellion in the valley. Most of us have had mountain top experiences, even Peter wanted to stay on the Mount of Transfiguration and build tents. But we don’t live on the Mountain; we live in the Valley! Living in the Valley is hard, the trenches of ministry can be very lonely and depressing. I often was reminded after going to a leadership development seminar, that my bosses would remind me, that “the stuff you learned there, won’t work here, so don’t even try it.”
The difficulty with this passage is that God had been faithful to Israel; they had received Manna, Water and Quail. God as Jehovah-Jireh had provided for all their needs. But this isn’t the 1st nor the last time that Israel will replace God with another god. Baalism was the reason for Israel going into Babylonian captivity. Mankind likes a “sensuous visible god.” The fact that Israel forgot God so quickly proves that without leadership – people will cast off restraint. Mankind will worship something; even it is himself. “Make us a god” – so Aaron accommodates their request. “Give me you jewelry and earrings;then he fashions it into a “golden calf.” How much more blasphemous could they get! The Golden Calf was a god of Egypt. In God’s omniscient way He informs Moses what “his people” are doing. Moses destroys the stone Tablets on his way down the mountain. If it were not for the intercession of Moses; God would have killed them all. We know that the Tablets will be replaced and God being merciful spares the people. But did they ever get over their “Hearts of Stone?”
In Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5 and 34:9 we have a word from God about the people. He tested them to see if they would be obedient. The word used to describe the people of Israel [God’s people] was OBSTINATE. This by definition means they were stubborn, pig-headed, inflexible and unmoved. Might I add – UNGRATEFUL.
One wonders after reading about the Israelites why God even bothered with them – but we quickly would find that the same could be said about us. God is long-suffering and merciful. He doesn’t want anyone to perish. There will be great failures in our walk with the LORD – but He still loves us. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us – the godly for the ungodly. The covenant is renewed between God and His people. But they continued to have a heart of stone. Lamentations 3:23 says that God’s mercies are renewed each morning. We all should be thankful that God is a forgiving and loving God. Praise Him today for His “unconditional Love.”
Beginning in Exodus 25 we find the instructions for building the Tabernacle. The Tabernacle was used by the Israelites until the time of Solomon’s building the 1st Temple at Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was the outdoor “sanctuary” for worship, sacrifices and where Moses sat for listening to judgements for the people. It was permanently set-up at Shiloh and forgotten; that is the Ark of the Covenant, until David retrieves it and brings it to Jerusalem. The Tabernacle was intricate and expensive. As one reads through the various furniture and curtains that make-up the entire Worship Center; one might wonder where in the world would they get such materials and of that great quantity. We must remember that God enabled the Israelites to “ransack” the Egyptians of all the gold, silver and various other precious resources. As a side note, while Moses is in the mountain getting all the instructions; we have Aaron and the people below making a Golden Idol Calf to worship. The very same materials that were to be used for Yahweh and worship – now was being used to produce a “cultic” worship. Which just goes to show that if we aren’t careful, we can take what God meant for good and turn it into a detestable abomination to Him. There is great detail and specifications for each artifact to be in the Tabernacle. The construction begins with the Ark of the Covenant. We have all watched the “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and saw the representation of the Ark, with the Mercy Seat of Cherubim’s. There is no expense spared as gold is either overlaid or solid in the making of the Ark. The Mercy Seat can be confusing, it is nothing other than the lid for the Ark of the Covenant. Inside the Ark are three things: Aaron’s rod that budded, bowl of manna and the Tablets. It is called the Ark of Testimony – for it is the place where God will meet the High Priest. It is the Holy of Holies place where atonement will be done once a year, for the sins of the nation. Inside the Tent of Meeting, also inside the veil is the Table of Showbread, golden lamp-stands [known better at Menorah]. Then there is the outer Court, but still inside the tent, the place where daily sacrifices will take place. There are curtains that are 39 feet tall and 6 feet wide that will be joined together by loops of gold. The flooring is described as a 30 foot square. Then there is the veil and screen that is so famously torn from top to bottom, however that was in the Temple not the Tabernacle. The construction of the Bronze Altar is quite a feat; some 9 1/2 feet x 4 1/2 feet rectangular table. Then there is the Court of Tabernacle that is separated from the Holy of Holies that measures 150×75 ft. When I was reading about the High Priest’s clothing I could help but visualize what the pope in the Roman Catholic church looks like all dressed up in regalia. Moving on to chapter 30; we find the instruction on how to get anointing oil. The spices and such can be found today and I actually made some one time, quite interesting smell and concoction. We know that Aaron had two sons that violated the Altar of incense, for they burned “strange incense” to the Lord. [Lev. 10:1] I often wondered why the incense, but when I thought of the blood sacrifices and all the burning of flesh and grain, I can understand the need for a sweet-smelling aroma. I know this didn’t make for good reading – but the House of worship to the Lord even today should be held in such I regard; but somehow we have “cheapened” the place of Worship where people are to meet the Lord. If there was such particular detail about what was acceptable, shouldn’t we be maybe just a little more reverent with the places that are chosen to bring our sacrifices of praise?
Our reading is from Exodus 21-25; I want to include last weeks chapter 20 – in it we have the account of the 10 Commandments. The following chapters have more or less various ways of interpreting the Ten Commandments. These are listed as “sundry laws”. I find that looking at these verse this past week in light of the Cross and the trials of Jesus during the Passion week is significant. Especially, sin the Law is our schoolmaster that condemns us because our “depraved nature” to sin. We know that Jesus is the End of the Law, having fulfilled and made the Law lose its power. The Law [10 Commandments] are still effective to point out our humanity is in need of a Savior. The Cross of Jesus “it is finished” took the penalty of sin and death and nailed it to the tree. It is because of the various laws in our land today that so many are “considered criminals” of which Paul had said that we all were because the power of evil Satan had worked in us to be the sons of disobedience. In a criminal case, we would all be found guilty. We all deserve our just punishment. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” [Romans 3:23] “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is Eternal Life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 6:23] The chapters of our reading have a plethora of laws, many that we would think are obsolete and even ridiculous. But I have been reminded of some of the laws states, counties and cities have on file still about hitching horses and the such. Specifically, in the reading there is the crime or infraction of the Law, towards beasts, slaves and neighbors; then there is listed the means of restitution for the perpetrator. I presume you could call the “Sundry laws,” “Civil Law” for us today. It is there to maintain a semblance of order and respect for other people and their property. Without Laws and Lawyers, we would have a society of chaos. Paul tells us that we are not to fear those that are enforcers of the Law, for the Law is only for those who violate the Law. If we observe or keep within the limits of the Law there is no fear of the Law enforcers. I have learned in life though that locks are for honest people!
The Law was enacted and called upon during the Passion week; however it was “interpreted” in such a way [twisted] to make a case against Jesus. One thing I have learned about the laws, all someone has to do is insinuate that you did something, then it is up to you to prove your innocence. So much for “innocent until proven guilty.” When Jesus was accused of insurrection – no collaboration could be done. They accused him of revolting against Caesar – no foundation. Jesus was like a sheep before its shearers silent [Isaiah 53].
Three bad trials [all illegal], a mock trial at best; then a mob scene in front of Pilate, here we have a gentile, pagan governor swayed by the “legalistic lawyers” of the day. The religious rulers wanted Jesus dead – they couldn’t do it so they had Pilate do it, as if they could “wash their hands of the whole mess.” Jesus and Lawyers didn’t get along anyway. Their contention was always over how to “interpret the Law.” They knew the Law, but not the Author of the Law. The “practiced man’s laws at the neglect of The Law.” No one is ever redeemed by the Law. The Law could only prove that I am a sinner, it couldn’t do anything for me but condemn me. Jesus came and was made sin, He who knew no sin – that I might be the righteousness of God in Christ. So we must understand that Laws and Lawyers are necessary to show us our sin. But Jesus was our Advocate, our Defense Attorney. But like no other, when the Righteous Judge, Our Heavenly Father pronounced judgment on our sin – Jesus pleads our case and tells the Father – I paid it all! Satan is the Prosecuting Attorney – But our Defense Attorney our Advocate has already won the Verdict – Not Guilty by way of Cleansing! The blood of Jesus has Cleansed us of our sin – and we are forgiven – our record of sin ex-sponged forever!
Exodus 11-15; In this last plague from Yahweh, we find there is so much more than just the hard-hearted Pharaoh at stake. The 10th plague is the death plague. When we look at Egypt – “called the house of slavery” we can draw from this phrase – it means enslaved to sin and its bondage over us. Sin is not going to let us go easily, much less go to worship the LORD! In the beginning of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his heart. But by the last three plagues we find that the LORD knowing Pharaoh’s intentions and ego, hardened his heart further. The point of the plagues wasn’t just to get Israel out of Egypt, but also that the LORD El Shaddai would be glorified through His work in Egypt and the bringing down of Pharaoh. The news of the “LORD’s strong hand” was spread all over and for many years kept in the memories of Israel and the surrounding nations. Some 40 years later Rahab, recalls the great defeat and victory God/Israel had over the Egyptians. The Memorial of the Passover while being an Israelite Feast – it has great significance for people of Faith in Jesus Christ. The instructions for observance are important with respect to the “unblemished Lamb” – for such was Jesus. We find that the Institution of the Passover was the New Beginning of days for Israel. Their Jewish calendar is based on the event. The month is Nissan correlates to our month of March/April; hence Easter during this time of the calendar. The Lamb was to be taken and observed for 4 days; this observance was to ensure that there wasn’t any defect in the Lamb. Jesus entered into Jerusalem on Sunday and on Thursday; four days later the Religious leaders came to take him and crucify him. Jesus meet the requirement of the Unblemished Lamb. Required was the absence of Leaven; this has been over emphasized in the Lord Supper for Christians today. The reason for no leaven was because the people were to be in a poster of readiness. Some have equated the admonition of Jesus to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees [Matthew 16:6 -ff] as leaven has the meaning of sin. The Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover over time became jointed together into a week-long Feast to the Lord. Jesus in the Upper Room with the disciples on Thursday was observing the Feast of Unleavened Bread – even though it was called the Passover. Passover did not occur until the Sabbath Friday and the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb in the Temple. Jesus was the Passover Lamb – he was scourged and crucified at the time the Passover Lambs were being sacrificed in the Temple. However, Jesus’ sacrifice as the Lamb of God was a one time completion of the sacrifices – that’s why the Temple Veil was torn, no longer did there need to be a Lamb sacrifice or a Day of Atonement – Jesus in Hebrews is the High Priest and the Lamb [blood] sacrifice once and for all. The Blood was to be placed on the doorposts and the lintel; the presence of the Blood [which makes a cross] would cause the “death angel to ‘Passover’ the house.” When the blood of Jesus is applied to the repentant person, it is effectual for “passing over” the sins of the person and the eradication of death – that’s why we have eternal life – death no more holds sway over us. The Resurrection is proof that death has been defeated by Jesus. Sin and death have been dealt with and the Believer is “free” to live the abundant life in Christ – John 10:10b and Col 1:27. The institution and Memorial were to be perpetual for Israel until the time of Jesus – who would come to “fulfill the Law” of sacrifice. The Memorial Feast finds its counterpart for us in the Lord’s Supper/Communion observance. This is an Ordinance not a Sacrament. In other words we observe for “remembering nor for saving.” Israel was to remember and pass on the great deliverance from Egypt – just as we are called to remember the deliverance from sin by Jesus through the Lord’s Supper table. Israel fail miserably in remembering which so often led to their troubles and falling away. The failed to remember the Lord’s feasts and celebration such as the Year of Jubilee and Sabbatical Year – this directly relates to the 70 years in Babylon captivity, marking the number of times Israel forgot the Lord’s Feasts. We must remember and pass on to our children the “why” of the things we do for in doing so we exalt and bring glory to God for His “righteous powerful strong hand.”
Sometimes the things God is trying to accomplish in His Redemptive Plan are hard to understand and hard on those whom He uses. This week we look at the struggles of Moses answering the call of God to go and be used to set Israel free from the enslaved Egyptians. Moses was still hurting 40 yrs. later after being banished because of murder. He is on the back side of Mount. Horeb, probably feeling that his life basically is over except just playing out the shepherding thing. When God calls Moses, he tries to make as many excuses as he can; all of which is rejected by Jehovah. Finally, in the anger of the LORD, God says he will use Aaron as the spokesman, but Moses will still be the man God will directly talk to. At this point there are probably many of us who think because of our past sin, that God can’t or won’t use us. – the truth is God will use broken vessels to show His grace and mercy more readily than someone who has not been wayward in their walk. Now this does not excuse us from our sin and need for repentance; but God is the one who puts us on the shelf, not us! Also we read through the 10 plagues that God brings on Pharaoh and the land. There have been many that have read through this section of Exodus and felt “compassionate” for Pharaoh. The hardening of his heart by God is often felt to be unfair. A careful reading will expose to the reader, that initially Pharaoh had a hard heart, and that after plague of the Boils, does God harden Pharaoh’s heart. God is omniscient – He knows our thoughts and intents of our hearts. The rebellion and refusal to listen to Moses/God was in the heart of Pharaoh already. If we are not careful we can think that God did the same thing to Esau and Judas, but the individual has the choice to respond to the Lord – Pharaoh chose to reject God and thus endured the Plagues. There is a very clear pattern to how Pharaoh reacts to the plagues. During the first three, because they didn’t affect people or the palace, he pretty much just passed them off. This became especially true when the wizards and magicians were able to duplicate the plague. In fact the first time Moses request permission to go in the wilderness and worship [odd for they don’t do a good job of worship when they are in the wilderness] the labor of the Israelite people is increased for now they had to go get the straw to make the bricks. Needless to say, initially the Israelites were anti-Moses. With the many plagues  Pharaoh doesn’t seem to get that God will reign supreme. As the plagues progress, there is a pattern of trying to negotiate with God/Moses on leaving. It is interesting that Moses kept saying let us go three days in the wilderness to worship. I am not sure just how far all the people, livestock and such could go in three days. So the intent was much more than just a go and come back – they wanted to leave permanently. Obviously Pharaoh was not willing to let his workforce just take off. This story of how God delivered Israel out of Egypt is a story that will be remembered by Israel all of its days. The point that God said He would be known and glorified throughout the world because of His great power displayed in releasing Israel from Egypt. This point was spread wide because in the Promised Land, Rahab and others knew/heard about God’s power and that He was with the Israelite people. So the point of being glorified through Pharaoh came true completely. One final thought – Pharaoh was always in crisis of belief mode – when the crisis was in full swing, he would try to negotiate the release; but when the plague subsided; he would revert back to his hard hardheartedness. We are the same way – while a crisis is raging we cry out to God for help; but when it is over or manageable, then we become dependent on our own abilities to manage the situation. This could be a reason why God has to put drastic things in our lives to get our attention.
In Exodus we find an event that would become the journey out of bondage for Israel, but a spiritual journey for all of us to escape the clutches of evil. It is a paradox that Egypt has become bondage for Israel, when previously it was a place of refuge from the famine. Some 460 years have passed since God gave Abraham the promise of a Promised Land. I do not know what the meaning for the wait to come back out of Egypt was all about. It could be that Israel had to get to the point of willing to leave. This can and has been us in our own journey. In times of famine all of us have embraced the “things of this world” to overcome the hardships of life. But if we find our comfort in these “devices” as a believer it can become paralyzing. We do know also that the fulfillment of the Canaanites was not yet accomplished – Gen 15. Just as we know that God has not sent Jesus back for His Church because the fulfillment of the “times of the Gentiles” has not been completed. Romans 11:25. In this 460 years Israel has grown from a mere family to a multitude of approximately 1.6 – 2.3 million people. This would be quite an undertaking to move that many people.
Enter into the saga Moses. The scripture tells us that a King or Pharaoh who knew not Joseph rises to power. We read about the fear of Egypt concerning the growth of Israel and the fear that Israel will side with Egypt’s enemies should the time come. Too many Israelites! SO commands were given to kill all male babies. This is ironic for in China today the opposite is held true. There they only want male children. Obvious for their own work force. The evil here is exterminate anyone that might threaten the Pharaoh. We have the same thing when Herod tries to destroy any possible King of Israel in Matthew 2. Please capture this principle early in this book – Egypt is Evil; Egypt is Sin and Egypt is Satan. For the man without God, Satan/sin desires to keep him incarcerated and shackled by sin and guilt. The forces of Evil/Egypt will not willing let people go. Satan does not want to lose his imps; yet he does not want man to overpower him either. Sin and Satan wants to keep us in chains to do his evil bidding. For a person to come to freedom, he must be set free through the deliverance of God. The ten plagues are reflective of the great length that God went to to defeat Satan. It is quite interesting that Israel always seems to find itself back in Egypt. The Patriarchs seemed to travel there routinely. The Believer once he or she has been set free from the bondage of the taskmaster, often finds that they are re-shackled by sin and guilt. Satan and sin are readily waiting for all returning slaves! Do not be one!
The deliverer – Moses had to be secretly saved from the cruel edict of Pharaoh, ironically, Pharaohs daughter “saves” the deliverer from the Nile. This begins the training period of Moses. He is taught all the tactics of war and educated in every imaginable art and science. Yet the bible tells us that he elected not to enjoin the comforts of Egypt, but chose to identify with his people. Preparation time is a lonely time. Yet, the timing by Moses in killing the Egyptian and then another 40 years on the backside of the desert herding sheep were for the event of the Exodus. We should not hurry or begrudge the preparation time of our Lord. He knows what tools and skills we need to do the job He needs us to do.
In chapter three, the many and varied excuses offered by Moses just doesn’t matter to the Father. He chose Moses, prepared and developed Moses, now it was time for Moses to do what God had prepared him to do. We are all incapable of doing the work, but God will prepare and develop us for His task. Moses would need to know all the arts and tactics of Egypt – know your enemy; but also know how to shepherd stiff-necked people, hence the sheep training. God doesn’t waste anything in our development. Hey Moses what is that in your hand?
This week we have come to the end of Genesis, but it seems more like an intermission. Like the break between major acts in a play or musical. When we conclude this book of Beginnings, we have Jacob [Israel] having moved to Egypt and having lived there for some 17 years before his death. The dreams of Joseph have been true and acted out according to God’s plan. Joseph’s rise to high level in Egypt has enabled his to position his family – all 70 of them into a fertile land called Goshen; separated from the Egyptians and able to live out their culturally unique lifestyle. Joseph has saved his family, Egypt and surrounding nations from certain starvation. Now, we know that God the Father was at work to save Israel; but many were the benefactors because of His grace and mercy. The intermission as I call it will last some 460 years; just as Elohim had told Abraham in Genesis 15:13. This is quite a break from the story, but nevertheless now the last time God will have a great intermission. The time between the Testaments will be a 400 year silent period. I wonder what the purpose was for such a long period? There are times in our personal life where it seems that God may not be speaking. This times of “silence” can and are often very disturbing for us. We have an expectation that God should be speaking all the time. I have had many such times in my life, of which I was unnerved because they occurred. I had to learn that the silence doesn’t mean something is wrong or right, it is just a time of silence. The doubt comes to us when the “silence” happens that we have done something to offend our Lord. I have had to remind myself that with my earthly father, he didn’t always get up in the morning and tell me that I was his son. I already knew that I was his son, and really didn’t need daily affirmation. However, many believers struggle is God hasn’t somehow affirmed to them continually that they are “sons” of God. Why do we need these words of affirmation all the time? The flesh, human nature or lack of self-confidence? I am not really sure. I do know that we like to be reassured that everything is okay in our relationships – to the point that we want to hear it from people. Think of this, women like to hear the “I love you’s” from their husbands, and if they don’t it unsettles them. SO they ask “Do you love me?” Nothing has changed, but silence is troublesome for us.
I have to admit I wonder about those extended periods in the Bible where nothing was going on [well at least written about] and the people who lived during that time. We will find out in Exodus of the harsh living conditions the people had to endure. From a position of such favor, to one of jealousy and heavy burden. *****Note, I do understand that the time in-between the Testaments was very busy from a worldly standpoint – God was at work preparing the world for the right conditions that would maximize Jesus’ ministry – Galatians 4:4. I would suppose the same must be said about the time in Egypt. Times of ease are often times of apathy and falling away – such as life in USA. Israel had a good life while Joseph was in charge, they would not leave such a “great situation” on their own. In fact we find that even as hard and difficult it was to live in Egypt – the people constantly wanted to return to such a life. God was blessing and preparing Israel for the next significant chapter in His Plan. Good times are enjoyable, but difficult times are for growth. [James 1:2-5]
So if you find yourself in a silent period of your walk with the Lord, enjoy it and get prepared for the Lord is about to do something that you will need all your strength for. Isaiah 40:31 – key verse in learning how to wait on the Lord. Trouble is none of us like to wait!
Genesis 41-45 has Joseph in the house of Potiphar and Pharaoh. While we know the deceit and deception of his brothers put him there, a strong message is found in the phrase, “and God was with Joseph.” Surprisingly enough Joseph does not appear bitter or revengeful about the lot life has given him. In each situation, we find that Joseph rises to the top, primarily because God was with him, but also a faith that Jehovah is stronger than anything life can throw at us. After the dreams in prison, Joseph spends another 2 years. SO much for an early release for good behavior. Forgotten by the Cup-bearer, Joseph waits, yet in his waiting, he rises to being in charge of the prison. Dreams come again to the narrative, this time it is Pharaoh who has the dream. ****Note dreams do not always come true, nor are they necessarily from God. Special time, special place. We have the Holy Spirit at work in us to discern the path of our lives. Cows and Corn – seven fat, seven lean. Feast and famine times. On with the story, Joseph is second only to Pharaoh for the rule of Egypt. Point here is that Joseph has to be in place before the problem occurs. God has Joseph in the right place at the right time for all the right reasons. God is going to do a work to get Jacob [Israel] to Egypt – this in itself is a fulfillment of Genesis 15, when God says to Abraham that his people will spend 400 years in Egypt. Well it makes sense that they would have to get there to get called from there. God’s plan is right, God is at work – He is still at work today even when we don’t necessarily recognize it. Joseph has been in Egypt for 13 years, he is now 30 years old. He has married and is entrenched into the Egyptians culture.
The famine comes – Jacob and family need food, so begins the saga of back and forth with the sons of Israel getting food and the manipulation of Joseph. It is interesting that even though it has been 13 years since the deception of Joseph’s death to Jacob, the brothers have not forgotten it. In fact when things go awry, the first thing they think of is the retribution for their evil done to Joseph. Eventually, the ploy to get Benjamin to Egypt and the indictment that the brothers are thieves. The dreams of the dreamer come true, twice the brothers fall on their face and bow to Joseph. I wonder what he thought when it happened? Jacob is not beside himself, not only has he lost Joseph, Rachel – now Benjamin is in jeopardy of being lost. It is good to see some of the brothers step up – Simeon and Judah to try to spare their father the agony. As the story develops Joseph reveals himself to his brothers – not sure that was a great time for them. Their sin obviously still haunts them. At the revealing – Joseph tries to console the distraught brothers and prove his love for them. This isn’t a “what goes around, comes around story.” It is a story of love and compassion in-spite of deliberate and malicious dealings.
Joseph is gracious and compassionate, in-spite of life, family and circumstances. He had a faith in the Father, that didn’t waver in the difficult times. I really don’t know how I would respond. The point of the narrative about Joseph, brothers and the events – God is at work in us to bring us through His plan for our lives and for His purpose in others. The “it’s all about Me syndrome” is not found here. How many of us even now find ourselves in a precarious position that seems unfair and ungodly? Are we willing to let the father in heaven “work out in us, what has been worked in?” Jacob in the end is rejoined with Joseph – and lives out a life of comfort because for a time he had to let his child go so that he could do the work of God. Are we willing to allow God to use us, or family and situation for His greater glory instead of our own immediate comfort?
Genesis 28 has Jacob running from his brother Esau who has just been tricked by Jacob and his mother. Through some deceptive help of his mother Rebekah, Jacob escapes with the Birthright and Blessing of the Promised family. As a runner I have found that you can run as long as you want, eventually you will tire out and be caught. For me it was unwilling to accept what the Lord had told me for 15 years – I was being called to the ministry. I fought it and ran from it but in 1994 after becoming completely exhausted with “playing” christian, submitted to the Father. It was a great day and burden lifting experience. Jacob on his running to Laban, encounters Yahweh at a place to be named later as Bethel. We know the story as Jacob’s Ladder. Remember at this point Jacob is lost, really lost. He has heard from grandpa Abraham, and listened to Isaac talk about God and His amazing acts – yet has not known Him. The Heavenly Father, repeats the Promise that has been passed down from the last two generations, now given to him. Jacob isn’t even remotely close to being ready to be “put in the ministry.” It will be some 20 years before Jacob submits to the Lord. In Genesis 28: 18-22, it sounds like Jacob is playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with God. The very words Jacob states will come back to him. At this point God is the God of Abraham and Isaac, but not His God. In the next few chapters we run into the rascal Laban and his basket of tricks and deception. Over the next 20 years, Jacob works for two women, of which only Rachel does he want. At the end of the “courting process” Jacob has four  women and 12 children, 11 boys and Dinah. Jacob should have learned his lesson, when he woke up with the wrong woman on his wedding night! Laban will prove to be a formidable challenger as far as tricks are concerned. So after 20 years – Jacob runs some more, this time from his present position to his past. The encounter with Esau, who at times really seems to be the victim, lest we forget Hebrews 12:16; both men are rich with resources. Jacob fears for his life and set up stages of goats, camels, kids and wives in front of himself – still the “shameful coward” to face his sins. Jacob tricks Esau again, telling him he will follow behind later, and send Esau on his way. Of course I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the poor parenting of Jacob in the dealings with Shechem and Dinah ordeal. Even though Dinah had been knowing raped, Jacob kept silent – however the sons could not let it go. Through a painful circumcision and then slaughtered while recovering, Simeon and Levi avenge their sister Dinah. Back to the River – hearing from God this time, Jacob goes to Bethel, where he first encountered Yahweh. Crossing rivers, Jacob comes to Bethel again, this time he is an active participant in the dealing – he wrestles with God, and gets crippled in the process. What a point – all of us wrestle with God, and having wrestled with Him – our Walk will be changed from that day forward!At least there is a respect for God now, Jacob tells his entourage to “put away your foreign gods, purify yourself and change your clothes [ same statement Naomi tells Ruth to do before meeting Boaz in Ruth 3]. Final the runner is no longer the Rascal, instead of running from God, he is running TO GOD. On the plain of Paddan-aram, the trickster Jacob becomes Israel. A name change because of a personality and heart change. Just as Abraham became God’s man of blessing, now Israel is the conduit of blessing to all people’s. Tell you the truth I would not have chosen Jacob! But then again he probably wouldn’t have chosen me; but both of us have been chosen by the Father! It is a sad time, for just as Jacob [Israel] gets right with the Father, he loses his beloved Rachel in child-birth of Benjamin. The 12 Tribes are now complete – but what a cost. At the end of this section, the Runner has Run, the Rascal has met his challenge, and the Rivers have wound around to bring the weary traveler back to the Promised Land. Changed, weary, and blessed. More parenting problems next week.