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.

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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!

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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.

 

 

 

Genesis 31 – When God Speaks

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When Laban had gone to shear his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household gods.  Genesis 31:19

It’s interesting to consider that Jacob had worked for and been surrounded by an idol worshipper for so many years. Even so, he remained close to God. I’m sure God was ready for Jacob and his family to leave the influence of Uncle Laban and his idol worship. I certainly don’t like it when my friends are around those who have a negative influence on them with words or actions.

Laban had used Jacob and was enraged when he discovered they had fled.

On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” (22-24)

Two things stand out to me in these three verses. First, God will still speak to whoever He needs to. Idol worshiper or not! Second, and even more intriguing, is that Laban listened when God spoke. How interesting he was an idol worshipper, but willing to listen to God’s voice in a dream and not dismiss it. Laban took God’s directive to heart even though it was not His God but Jacob’s. I believe this speaks to the power and strength of our God and the fact that Laban had seen God’s provision and blessing on Jacob.  When He speaks, it’s a powerful experience. This fact reminded me of my time at the beach a few weeks ago.

I finally found a quiet overcast morning to walk the beach and have some quiet conversation with the Lord. As I began my walk, I found myself looking up at the sky and chattering away about life, prayer requests, questions. Then it occurred to me, why not just invite the Lord to walk with me. From my heart, I said, “Lord, will you come down and walk with me so we can be side by side? And I will stop talking so much and listen to what you have to say.”  I wish I could say I do this often. It’s harder for me to do then I like to admit! But as I kept walking on the overcast surf, I could sense the Lord reading my heart and understanding all the prayer requests that were making it heavy and then raindrops began to fall out of those heavy clouds. Slowly at first, but then faster and harder, even as the sun continued to shine. And then the Lord gently whispered to my spirit, “Allison, to see a rainbow there has to be some rain.”

I know that seems strange, but it spoke to my heart and lifted it among the heavy prayer requests to save failing marriages, mend broken hearts, open doors that seemed closed tight and heal the cancer-laced bodies of friends. Even in the heaviest of rainstorms, our God is the light and the promise (rainbow) of love, healing, and redemption. It’s in the storms we find Him, grow with Him, and revel in His power and might.

And so, just I said to a friend that morning through a text, I want each of you reading to know and trust that even though it feels like it may be raining a lot right now, I’m praying that the sun breaks through that He shines in all his glory for you.