Genesis 38 – Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll

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I’ll admit that I didn’t really enjoy chapter 38. Do you ever wonder sometimes why they included some of this stuff in the Bible? It’s like a soap opera or a bad reality TV show.  So, what’s the point? As with the many other things we’ve discovered through this year in Genesis, we see yet another thread of the importance of genealogy through, what I’m calling, this “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” chapter. This uncomfortable chapter is relevant for us because of the people we are introduced to.

In this chapter we are introduced to Tamar, Judah, Zerah, and Pharez, but what’s so special about them? If we search for their names in the Bible, we find them again in an important place. At the beginning of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah.

This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham:Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar, Perez the father of Hezron, Hezron the father of Ram, . . . .  (Matthew 1:1-3)

Although the vivid details of sex, prostitution, and lust can make this chapter a little uncomfortable to read, it’s the “genealogy” factor we need to stay focused on. This knowledge drives an important reminder home for all of us. These people, no matter how messed up, are important because they are the beginning of the bloodline for Jesus, the Son of God. I love the fact that our amazing God uses broken people to produce His one and only Son for our benefit and eternal life. In fact, the amazing thing is that God is still doing this today. He is still in the business of using His broken and sinful children to be His hands and feet in this world.

Now that’s a take-a-away!

 

 

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Genesis 37 – Parental Failures

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If you have been around church for any length of time or even attended Vacation Bible School just once in your life, this story will be very familiar to you. Joseph, the treasured and favorite son of Israel (Jacob) is given a special coat by his father which creates some major family drama. As we will see over the next several chapters, Joseph was an honorable man with Godly character. In fact, commentators point out that there are more chapters written about Joseph than Isaac, Abraham, and anyone else. When studying the Bible, little cues such as this are always intriguing to note and ponder. So, what can we glean from Josephs’s story, character, trials, and faith?

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him. (v. 3-4). 

If you are a sibling, you totally get the reaction of jealousy and hatred from Joseph’s brothers. Joseph was the baby and was treated as the obvious favorite. We only hear about the coat of many colors he received from his father, but can you imagine all the other little things along the way that led to his brother’s frustrations? Maybe he always got the biggest piece of goat for dinner, never had to take the trash out or fetch the bath water. Shoot, maybe he even got to take the first bath with the clean water.

We discussed family legacies last week and again, we see Israel (Jacob) making the mistake of playing favorites. He knew first hand, from growing up with his parents, how it felt to be dishonored, second best and not the “favorite” son.  Why would he want to put all his other sons in that position, by putting Joseph above them?

This portion of scripture came at the perfect time for me. Just yesterday, I was sitting with a dear friend discussing all the decisions we have to make as parents to give our children the best we have to offer. Sometimes, we make the wrong move and it doesn’t work out the way we intended or have to allow them to learn the hard way on their own. We just have to pray it offers learning lessons and not pain or setbacks. The truth is, we make mistakes as parents, and I think “favoritism” was one of Israel’s mistakes. Although, as we will see, God still accomplishes His great plan for Joseph’s life and his family. It brings me comfort to know that through my failures as a parent, God can work it together for the good of my children and can bring redemption, healing, and blessing through the mess.

Certainly, mistakes and failures are not our first choice, but when we keep praying for God to guide, protect, lead and light the path He desires for us to follow He will make a way.

I hope these verses were a great reminder that you are not alone out there. Parenting is hard, but you aren’t the only one who has tough days, says the wrong thing, or just gets it all wrong sometimes. The truth is, there is no perfect parent out there, just many trying to do the best they can. Is there a friend/parent that you can encourage this week? Do you need a little encouragement? Reach out to a friend and share your struggle or e-mail me. I’ll listen! You are loved!

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Squad

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This would have been a very boring chapter for me, but as God would have it, just a few weeks ago I read some incredible Christian fiction by Ted Dekker. His novel series A.D. 30 and A.D. 33 were fascinating and quite accurate historically and Biblically. The main character, Maviah is an Arabian desert princess who lives in the time of Jesus.  It tells of her adventures in and around Petra and run-ins with Kings such as Herod. I know we are only in Genesis and Herod comes much later, but it was the desert cities that came to life for me in these books and as I read Genesis 36 this week the imagery from Dekker’s books filled my mind as I read about Esau’s family settling in Edom.

Dekker’s books include maps so you can appreciate the travel and journey of his characters. It intrigued me how closely he tied his fiction into historical data, maps, and Biblical scriptures. So, when I read in verse 9 about Edom and the hill country of Seir I wanted to explore more.

The brothers had too many possessions to live together in the same place; the land couldn’t support their combined herds of livestock. So Esau ended up settling in the hill country of Seir (Esau and Edom are the same). So this is the family tree of Esau, ancestor of the people of Edom, in the hill country of Seir. (v. 7-9).

Esau and his descendants filled the land of Edom. From him came thousands and thousands of descendants called the Edomites.  Unfortunately, Esau didn’t just pass down his leadership that we see proven in his lineage as a line of tentmakers, dukes (v. 15) and kings (v. 31). Unfortunately, we also see his great pride and desire to live by his own power than seeking God’s passed down to as well. These words from Obadiah about Edom.

“Listen to this, Edom: I’m turning you to a no-account, the runt of the godless nations, despised. You thought you were so great, perched high among the rocks, king of the mountain, Thinking to yourself, ‘Nobody can get to me! Nobody can touch me!’ Think again. Even if, like an eagle, you hang out on a high cliff-face, Even if you build your nest in the stars, I’ll bring you down to earth.” God’s sure Word. Obadiah 1:3-4

It was a legacy of pride that no one recognized or sought to break for the sake of generations to come. But, God wouldn’t continue to bless a nation of selfish and prideful people. (If you are interested in the outcome, you can read more in Obadiah)

There were two main things that God showed me this week through Genesis 36. One, that reading some really good historical Christian fiction can actually help inspire you when reading/studying the Bible. Two, we all have legacies in our families. Some of those legacies are good and some bad. My prayer this week is that God would reveal to each of us what legacies we are holding on to that are unhealthy or negative influences on our lives, hearts, children, and families. I pray too that He will give us the courage, strength, and power to break the cycles of anger, resentment, pride, selfishness, violence, greed, or __________________________ (you fill in the blank) so that our children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren have a chance to live without the shackles of past generations.

 

Genesis 35 – Strange Gods

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Wow! There is a ton of family history and drama that occurs in these 29 verses of Genesis 35. Let’s lay out the big ones from top to bottom.

  1. God tells Jacob to take his family and hit the road to Bethel.
  2. Jacob instructs them to get rid of all their foreign idols and they move forward without trouble from anyone. (Why did Jacob’s peeps still have foreign god’s? Seems like he would have made that rule long before now. Anyway?)
  3. Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, dies and is buried.
  4. God changes Jacob’s name to Isreal. We know how much God loves a name change.
  5. They move on from Bethel and on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem) Rachel dies giving birth to Benjamin. Note, she named him Ben-Oni, but his father named him Benjamin.
  6. Then we are introduced to Reuben. Another sinful son of Leah & Jacob’s like Levi and Simeon we learned about last week. Reuben sleeps with his father’s concubine Bilhah. Let’s be honest, that’s just all kinds of wrong. Yikes.
  7. Jacob/Isreal finally returns home to his father Isaac and at 180 years old Isaac dies his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Whew!!! That’s a lot. Keep in mind this didn’t happen in just a couple of days. I don’t know exactly how long it was, but I can say that I have had weeks that felt as if this much happened in just a few days. Ever had one of those?

Even with a packed chapter like this, my heart couldn’t get past sitting on what I mentioned in #2 of our list above.

So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.” (v. 2) 

In the Message translation is says, “alien gods” and in the KJV it says, “strange gods”.  Any other than our one true God and Creator is the wrong thing. And so my mind began to consider all of the strange gods that I may have tucked under my camel’s saddle (or in my heart) that I haven’t been paying attention to or identified as idols. I found a few, but I realized that the one at the top of the list is my own children. I’ve let fear blind me into not recognizing it sooner. As of a week ago, I now have two teenagers.  Fear of them being hurt physically, sexually or emotionally, trying drugs, taking the wrong step so they don’t get to attend the college they want, not making the school team they are trying for, being hurt by friends . . . (I could actually keep typing for a while) can be overwhelming.

This fear and worry about my children is an idol that I have placed in line ahead of God. My step today is to pray, place this fear and worry at the feet of my Heavenly Father, ask Him to give me the faith and trust that He loves my children more than I ever could and know that His hand is upon them and the plan He has for their lives.

So, I ask you today. What is your strange god? What keeps your mind and heart spinning and working in a nonproductive way and is hindering trust and faith in your Heavenly Father. It’s more difficult to identify when it isn’t something tangible sitting on a shelf shining in the sunlight, but I assure you it’s just as much of a hindrance. I pray that as you take time to consider this today that God will open your eyes, as He did mine, and give you the courage and strength to identify it, place it at His feet and serve the One and Only God. You are LOVED!

Genesis 34 – Just Breathe

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In Chapter 34, we are introduced to Simeon and Levi, Leah’s boys and the deep sin that rules their hearts. Next week, we will meet her firstborn, Reuben.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. This chapter is full of heartbreak all around. First, with the incredibly horrid sin of rape. Dinah, also Leah’s child, is raped by Shechem the son of Hamor. I can only imagine the anger, rage, and heartache Jacob, Leah, and their family must have felt for their daughter.

After learning of his son’s horrible actions, Hamor found himself in a tough spot. He was negotiating and begging for his son’s sin/crime. He said to Jacob and Dinah’s brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.” (v. 11-12)

Although the scriptures say Hamor spoke to the father and brother’s, we see that it’s the sons who reply and not Jacob. Not only was it the sons who replied, but it says they replied “deceitfully”.

Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. Genesis 34:13-15

Circumcision?! I’m a female, so I know I can only speak from a female perspective on this, but I think most men would agree this was no small request. Verses 18-24 give us a little insight into his speech, but I find it hard to imagine that’s all it took to convince a whole city of men to accept this arrangement.

This is where my mind starts swirling with questions like:

  • How in the world did Hamor convince all the men in the city to be circumcised?
  • Would Hamor have ever offered that to Jacob if his son hadn’t defiled Leah or did he just offer it out of fear?
  • It says Jacob’s sons replied “deceitfully” to Hamor. Where was Jacob? Did he walk away in disgust? Did he rush off to comfort Dinah and Leah? Was he to overcome with anger or grief to respond himself?
  • Did Levi and Simeon have time to come up with this plan before presenting it or did it just instantly come to them?
  • Did Jacob know about his son’s intentions and go along with it quietly or was he surprised when it happened?
  • With Jacob’s relationship with God, how did his son’s (and maybe he, himself) fall so far away that murdering an entire city seemed ok?

How did it go so wrong? How did the anger towards their sister’s rapist (although well deserved) swell to such a rage that they could construct a plan like this and murder an entire city? I was reminded through these scriptures, that although I don’t pick up a literal sword, I sometimes lash out with my words.

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. James 3:5

Anger and fear can blind us to the way God calls us to live. It reminded me of a friend who recently confided in me about a “family situation” she was dealing with. She had reached her limit. She knew she had to remove herself from the “situation” or the outcome would not be desirable. I told her that “we all reach our maximum capacity to extend grace” every now and then. Ever been there? Reached your maximum capacity? Did you know you were about to get pushed over the edge and remove yourself from the situation or did you blow and then realize it was too late? The tongue can be an ugly vile tool, but when the heart is healthy it sings praises and gives encouragement.

As our relationship with the Heavenly Father grows,  it gets easier to see when we need to step back and find restoration in God. It becomes more bearable to be a peacemaker and breath grace into others. I love that image because I know there are many situations that without God I would be breathing a lot, but it wouldn’t be grace-filled. I need Him. I need Him to recognize when I am about to meet my maximum capacity. I need Him to help me recharge and refocus. I need Him to help me breathe grace into others. I have realized, after many years of trying, I can not do it without Him!

Although I know there will be times, my heart will surprise me. Will sneak up on me. Will rise up and respond in a way I never intended. That’s when I fall to my knees and ask God to keep working and thank Him for never giving up on me.

Genesis 33 – Take Out The Trash!

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Sorry for the double post this week. Last week got so crazy I forgot to post. We were trying to squeeze every last drop of fun out of summer before school starts.  

After everything Jacob did to his brother, it’s easy to understand his concern about encountering Esau again. However, we find it wasn’t necessary. God had been working in their hearts for years between their first altercation and deception.

But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Genesis 33:4-5

Wow! Have you ever received forgiveness and grace of that magnitude? Or have you ever found yourself in a place to extend that kind of forgiveness? Both positions are humbling and can bring a sense of awe and gratitude one doesn’t normally experience in daily life.

What kind of life would Esau have had if he had kept all the anger for his brother in his heart for years and years? Keeping anger, resentment, shame or guilt bottled up does nothing for us. I remember when a “not so fresh” smell had taken over my car. There was no more ignoring it or covering it up with air freshener. So, while getting gas I decided it was time to clean out the trashcan I kept in the back seat for the kids. Whew! If you have ever been a mom or had kids in your car for any length of time you can imagine all the things that came out of that trash can. Some recognizable and some NOT!

Forgiveness is just as vital to our walk with God as repentance.  If our hearts go uncleaned we can start acting “not so fresh” ourselves. Attitudes, anger, restlessness, regret or whatever else you have left rotting in your heart can permeate your life and the lives of those around you. Ignoring it won’t work. Covering it up won’t work. Well, it might for a little while, but eventually, you won’t be able to stand yourself or worse, others won’t want to be around you.

The good news is that just like that trashcan in my car, we can empty out the trash we ’re holding in our hearts every day! God is waiting for us to drop it off at His feet, accept His love, His forgiveness, and His grace so we can extend it to others. His great love for us is a mystery to me. I don’t understand it, but it is real and available to us if we just ask.

 

L – let it go

O – on your knees

V – very passionately

E – every day!

LOVE

Genesis 32 – There May Be Scars

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So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. Genesis 32:24 

Genesis 32:24 has been one of my favorite verses for many years because I can relate to it in a personal way. I have wrestled with God (not literally, like Jacob) in my heart and mind many times over the years. We have wrestled over prayer requests, failures, idols, and my own doubts and fears.

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. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” Genesis 32:25-16

Sometimes I’ve been in a desperate place and others times I’ve momentarily lost my way. I’ve begged Him to take away the thought, the hurt or the trial. Only now and then do I end up with a scar, but scar or no scar, I’m thankful God always shows up and always wins.

 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (v.29-30)

I can’t help but think about Jacob at this moment. Bless his heart. He has finally escaped the long trial of living under the thumb of  Uncle Laban and now he discovers he is headed straight into the path of his brother. Remember Esau? Remember how Jacob tricked him and stole his birthright? If I was Jacob, I would have been scared too!

He jumped out of one hot kettle and into another. Then, on top of that, as Jacob sits alone (after sending all his wives, children and servants ahead of him) he has to spend the night wrestling. I’m sure he was to tired and didn’t really want to wrestle. I’ve certainly been there, but you don’t really have the choice when God shows up and wants to make some changes in your heart. Sometimes, you just have to buckle down, hold on and keep moving.

Are you and God wrestling right now? Wrestling a new way for your life? Struggling to release an addiction or sin from your grip? Grappling with fear and anxiety that is trying to paralyze you? Battling old habits while to keep your eyes on God’s face? Are you tired and worn out from all the effort and setbacks?

Don’t give up! It’s worth the match. God is fighting for you and with you to make that change in your heart, prepare you for the next steps ahead and will show you the way. It will not be easy! You may walk away with some scars, but the lessons and growth from this challenge will jump-start your faith and trust in Him in ways we can’t comprehend until we have completed the match.