Genesis 30 – That Doesn’t Make it Right!

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Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” Genesis 30:3

When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. Genesis 30:9

What’s your first thought when you read those two verses? Mine was, “What is wrong with these women?” It’s easy to look at these women from our modern Western eyes and only see  . . . well, the crazy side.

It’s difficult for us to imagine the ridicule and shame women experienced in Biblical times when they were unable to have children. Now, we are blessed with lots of medical technology that can assist women with conceiving. I know women who have tried for years, paid thousands of dollars, endured hormonal swings due to medication, and everything from injections to invasive procedures to have the children their heart’s desire, but NEVER did I EVER hear one of them share they gave their husband a new lover to bear them a child. A surrogate is one thing, but a lover is quite another.

In Biblical times, reproduction was vital to continuing the family line and earned you honor and respect with your husband and family. It must have been heartbreaking enough for women who had a difficult time conceiving. The maternal heartbreak along with the outside pressure and judgment from society must have been crushing.

I used to struggle with reading these things in the Bible. How could all these people who were Biblical leaders, that I sang songs about in vacation Bible school and the pastors teach about, be so quick to turn to multiple wives, idols, and sins? Now, I look at it from another perspective.

I find comfort in knowing:

  • Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean that God was OK with it.
  • God is big enough to work around my mess (whatever that may be) and use me for His glory if I have a willing heart no matter what my current state.
  • God extends grace and forgiveness when we take the wrong path

However, I feel it’s important to remember:

God forgives, but the natural consequences still remain. They do not dissolve away like our sins do with the grace of God. The actions we take now will continue to ripple through our lives and all through the lives of our descendants. I guess the question is what kind of ripple to do we reverberating through the generations to come? It’s a convicting thought, but one I try to keep on the forefront of my mind and heart as I wake up each day and touch the world with my words, actions, and deeds.

Do we want waves of anger, hatred, division, slander, cruelty, and bitterness rolling over future generations or do we want tides of love, grace, peace, forgiveness, mercy, and truth to wash over them?

I see ripples in my extended family that are unhealthy and will continue until hearts are softened and control is released. We can’t control the ripple effects of others, but we can seek to make our own waves those of restoration and not destruction.

 

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Genesis 29 – Some Call It Karma

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Don’t worry, this hasn’t turned into a Buddhist or Hindu blog. But, karma is an interesting word to consider when reading this chapter of Genesis and reminds me of some scriptures from Galatians 6 that means much the same thing.

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. v. 7-8 (MSG)

There is so much going on in this chapter. It is easy to feel sorry for Jacob as he is tricked into marrying the “tender/weak-eyed” Leah instead of his true love, Rachel. Can you imagine how betrayed and devastated he must have been when he awoke the night after his wedding on for his bride to remove her veil and find the wrong girl? I wonder what their marriage ceremony was like? Traditionally, the bride was veiled, but it must have been a lot of veils to hide a completely different person. Plus, they must not have said, “Leah do you take this man, Jacob, to be your lawful wedded husband . . . ” or he certainly would have caught on before the next morning.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. 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?” Genesis 29:21-25

But even with all of those thoughts of anger, resentment, betrayal and confusion racing through Jacob’s head, you can’t help but wonder if he thought of his own father at that moment. The father who he had deceived when he stole the blessing of his older brother Esau.

This whole birth order thing was SUPER important in those days. Jacob stole the older brother’s blessing and now he was stuck with the older sister before he could have the younger one because of tradition and custom.

Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” Genesis 29:26-27

I wonder if Jacob was beginning to realize his sin had circled back on him. Now, not only did he have to work for 14 years instead of 7, but he was going to have 2 wives instead of the one he truly desired. We have already seen in Genesis how this two wife thing works. It doesn’t. So sit back and hold on as we continue in Genesis and see the hurt, jealousy, and pain that this causes Jacob, Rachel, Leah and their children.

I know God will have some exciting new revelations for us in this familiar story.

Genesis 28 – Heaven was Dreadful?

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This week I’ll admit the lazy days of summer were in full swing and I was dreading jumping back into Genesis. I honestly just wanted to take a nap or keep reading this new book about I just started about reading scripture in its true context. BUT, I’m so happy I didn’t let those distractions keep me from taking some time to dig deeper into Genesis 28 because I discovered something interesting.

Verse 17, caught my attention and I went to one of my favorite ways to study scripture – reading in different translations.

He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:17 (NIV)

Jacob woke up from his sleep. He said, “God is in this place—truly. And I didn’t even know it!” He was terrified. He whispered in awe, “Incredible. Wonderful. Holy. This is God’s House. This is the Gate of Heaven.” Genesis 28:17 (MSG)

And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. Genesis 28:17 (KJV)

Did you catch it?! The first two translations (and many more I didn’t post) use the words, “How awesome is this place.” However, in the King James, it says “how dreadful.” Thank goodness there is more than the King James Version for me. I would have read that sentence and wondered why did Jacob think it was so awful when He saw the Gate of Heaven?

The word contrast riddled my brain and I wondered how did the newer translations get this so wrong? How did they get awesome from dreadful? And that is where I went to my another favorite tool when studying scripture, the dictionary. Which is where I learned that dreadful can also mean inspiring, awe, reverence or shock. I’m no world traveler, but I’ve never ever heard anyone use dreadful with that definition in mind. This was all new to me. I hope I’m not alone out here.

This was such an eye-opener. It made me consider all the other things that I may read or have read in scripture that I haven’t taken the time to sit and ponder. That I may have skipped over and wondered but never took it any further leaving me with the wrong impression or question in my heart. Please don’t let this scare you away from scripture! It’s complex but compelling. Frustrating, but fruitful. Mysterious, but miraculous. Gritty, but full of grace. And it’s for every single one of us that desires to grow closer to God. Thank goodness for that “Stairway to Heaven” (Jesus v.12) that offers us a road straight to Him. Without Him, we would have no way there.

We won’t understand everything the first go round, the second or even the third, but that is why the Bible is considered to be active, alive and relevant for us today just as it was hundreds of years ago. Now go out there and use that new vocabulary word in a new way and surprise some people you know. Tell them how dreadful their story was and then take that chance to explain not just a new meaning, but the gospel.

What a God we serve!

Genesis 27 – A Twisted Heart

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We have all read the stories about parents who do dishonorable or foolish things to put their children in a good position. Whether it’s in school, sports, competitions, or social circles some are willing to put ethics and morals aside to push their child to the top of the list. In chapter 27, we see a mom (Rebekah) put her son over (Jacob), not just others, but her other son (Esau).

She helped Jacob steal the blessing intended to be passed from Issac to Esau simply because Jacob was her favorite child.

So he went and got them and brought them to his mother, and she prepared some tasty food, just the way his father liked it. Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then she handed to her son Jacob the tasty food and the bread she had made. Genesis 27: 14-16

Both Rebekah and Jacob were divisive, conniving, deceitful and corrupt as they moved forward with their plan. How could the Lord let them get away with it? Why couldn’t Issac just take it back and give it to Esau? After all, it was his blessing, to begin with, and his brother had already tricked him out of his birthright. Talk about family drama!

What struck my heart this week was a great truth and reminder that although we may try to alter God’s plans (unknowingly or deceitfully), He will have His way. His plan will prevail and there will be consequences for our sins. Forgiven, yes! However, the consequences of our sin do not go away.

When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?” Genesis 27:45

Of course, Esau is furious about his brother stealing his blessing. This wasn’t their first tangle as brothers. So, Esau was out for blood. In order to protect her favorite child, Rebekah hatches another plan to keep Jacob safe and sends him off to live with an uncle and find a wife.

So did Rebekah and Jacob end up paying any consequences? Well, the coming chapters will unfold more about the challenging life Jacob had with Uncle Laban, but it’s also interesting to point out that although both Rebekah and Jacob thought he would only be gone a couple of days. Jacob was gone for 20 years! Not only that, while Jacob was gone, Rebekah died. She was never able to see her favorite son again after she dishonestly secured him Esau’s blessing.

I wonder what that was like for her? Did you think she still felt it was all worth it after she said good-bye and year after year she never saw her treasured child? Did she ever regret her actions? And what about Esau? He stayed. What was their relationship life after Jacob left? I imagine it was pretty chilly around the dinner table (at least for a while). Did Esau ever really forgive her for how she had tricked him out of his blessing or for her outright acknowledgment that Jacob was her favorite? Did she ever apologize or try to explain herself?

I have so many questions. But finally:

As moms, women, Christians, and parents, what can we learn from Rebekah? When did things start to go wrong in her heart? What could she have done to guard her heart against fear, deceitfulness, and greed that led to such a broken family?

Being able to read and ponder these questions about Rebekah’s story is more proof that the Bible is a living text and still relevant to us today? God’s lessons are alive and teaching throughout time so we can try to avoid the sinkholes of Satan.

Genesis 26 – A Working Well

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Again with the “my wife is really my sister” sham.  Only this time Issac repeats the mistakes of Abraham. I’m not even going down the Issac making the same mistake as Abraham road. Moving on . . .

At first listen, this chapter seems a bit boring unless you find the documentation of all of Issac’s well-digging exciting. And honestly, I kind of did. It’s intrigued me.

Isaac reopened the water wells that had been dug in the days of his father Abraham and that the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died. He gave them the same names his father had given them. Then Isaac’s slaves dug in the valley and found a well of spring water there.  Genesis 26:18-19

Water is the source of all life. Without it, all living things would perish. And, even without a load of scientific understanding, Bible writers understand that too and refer to God as the Fountain of Living Water. He gives us all life through the death of His Son.

Jesus answered, “If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would ask Him, and He would give you living water.” John 4:10

These wells Isaac was digging were imperative to their survival in this place. However, much deeper than that (pardon the pun) is the well in our hearts that leads to the Living Water of Christ. Without His Word (the Bible) penetrating our hearts, minds, and thoughts we won’t survive. Yes, our hearts may still be beating and we may still be running around this planet, but the hope, peace, provision, courage, strength, love, grace can’t exist without us filling the wells of our hearts with God’s word.

One of my friends said it best when she stated, “When people call and want advice from me, I tell them that I’ll help how I can, but I really don’t have what they need. That they can spend time complaining and listen to my advice for 30 minutes or they can open the Bible and receive the best wisdom available.” The Bible grows our wisdom by sharing the stories of so many who struggled with faith, lived by faith, overcame obstacles and created some of their own. There is a lot of wisdom to be learned in the pages of the Bible.

I sat a few weeks ago with a group of women in ministry leadership. They revive my spirit and encourage me greatly. We discussed how we need to ensure, in all our ministries, that women never feel guilty about not studying/reading the Word of God the “right” way and that it isn’t fair for them to compare their time with God to someone else’s, but instead find what works for them individually.

Do you like to sing the word of God, listen to it, read it, doodle it or memorize it? Do you need a set time every day or do you like to feel the mood strike? Do you like the Message translation, the King James or something in between? Do you like to mark up your Bible as you study or use a journal?

The “how” isn’t the important part, it’s the “when”.  And we should all strive to be seeking God, His love, wisdom, and truth over anything else in our lives.

What 3-30 minutes in your day can you turn off the tv/computer/phone, hide in your closet from the kids, put your phone on mute, and read from God’s written Word? I promise you that whatever you were doing, it will never fill your “well” like scripture will. And when we have a working well, life is so much abundant than with a dry one.