January 12, 2015

Genesis 30-32 - When Rachel realized that she wasn’t having any children for Jacob, she became jealous of her sister. She told Jacob, “Give me sons or I’ll die!” Jacob got angry with Rachel and said, “Am I God? Am I the one who refused you babies?”

Rachel said, “Here’s my maid Bilhah. Sleep with her. Let her substitute for me so I can have a child through her and build a family.” So she gave him her maid Bilhah for a wife and Jacob slept with her. Bilhah became pregnant and gave Jacob a son.  Rachel said, “God took my side and vindicated me. He listened to me and gave me a son.” She named him Dan (Vindication). Rachel’s maid Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son. Rachel said, “I’ve been in an all-out fight with my sister—and I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali (Fight).

 One day during the wheat harvest, Reuben found some mandrakes in the field and brought them home to his mother Leah. Rachel asked Leah, “Could I please have some of your son’s mandrakes?” Leah said, “Wasn’t it enough that you got my husband away from me? And now you also want my son’s mandrakes?” Rachel said, “All right. I’ll let him sleep with you tonight in exchange for your son’s love-apples.” When Jacob came home that evening from the fields, Leah was there to meet him: “Sleep with me tonight; I’ve bartered my son’s mandrakes for a night with you.” So he slept with her that night. God listened to Leah; she became pregnant and gave Jacob a fifth son....

 And then God remembered Rachel. God listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and had a son. She said, “God has taken away my humiliation.” She named him Joseph (Add), praying, “May God add yet another son to me.”  After Rachel had had Joseph, Jacob spoke to Laban, “Let me go back home. Give me my wives and children for whom I’ve served you. You know how hard I’ve worked for you.....

 Jacob said, “You don’t have to pay me a thing. But how about this? I will go back to pasture and care for your flocks. Go through your entire flock today and take out every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb, every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. That way you can check on my honesty when you assess my wages. If you find any goat that’s not speckled or spotted or a sheep that’s not black, you will know that I stole it.” “Fair enough,” said Laban. “It’s a deal.” 

But that very day Laban removed all the mottled and spotted billy goats and all the speckled and spotted nanny goats, every animal that had even a touch of white on it plus all the black sheep and placed them under the care of his sons. Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob. Meanwhile Jacob went on tending what was left of Laban’s flock....

 But Jacob got fresh branches from poplar, almond, and plane trees and peeled the bark, leaving white stripes on them. He stuck the peeled branches in front of the watering troughs where the flocks came to drink. When the flocks were in heat, they came to drink and mated in front of the streaked branches. Then they gave birth to young that were streaked or spotted or speckled. Jacob placed the ewes before the dark-colored animals of Laban. That way he got distinctive flocks for himself which he didn’t mix with Laban’s flocks. And when the sturdier animals were mating, Jacob placed branches at the troughs in view of the animals so that they mated in front of the branches. But he wouldn’t set up the branches before the feebler animals. That way the feeble animals went to Laban and the sturdy ones to Jacob.

 Jacob learned that Laban’s sons were talking behind his back: “Jacob has used our father’s wealth to make himself rich at our father’s expense.” At the same time, Jacob noticed that Laban had changed toward him....That’s when God said to Jacob, “Go back home where you were born. I’ll go with you....Over and over God used your father’s livestock to reward me....”  Rachel and Leah said, “Has he treated us any better?.... Any wealth that God has seen fit to return to us from our father is justly ours and our children’s. Go ahead. Do what God told you.....”

 Jacob called his family around, “Get stones!” They gathered stones and heaped them up and then ate there beside the pile of stones. Laban named it in Aramaic, Yegar-sahadutha (Witness Monument); Jacob echoed the naming in Hebrew, Galeed (Witness Monument).....Then Jacob offered a sacrifice on the mountain and worshiped, calling in all his family members to the meal. They ate and slept that night on the mountain. Laban got up early the next morning, kissed his grandchildren and his daughters, blessed them, and then set off for home.  And Jacob went on his way...

 Then Jacob sent messengers on ahead to his brother Esau in the land of Seir in Edom....The messengers came back to Jacob and said, “We talked to your brother Esau and he’s on his way to meet you. But he has four hundred men with him.”

Jacob was scared. Very scared.....And then Jacob prayed, “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, God who told me, ‘Go back to your parents’ homeland and I’ll treat you well.’ I don’t deserve all the love and loyalty you’ve shown me. When I left here and crossed the Jordan I only had the clothes on my back, and now look at me—two camps! Save me, please, from the violence of my brother, my angry brother! I’m afraid he’ll come and attack us all, me, the mothers and the children. You yourself said, ‘I will treat you well; I’ll make your descendants like the sands of the sea, far too many to count....’”

 But during the night he got up and took his two wives, his two maidservants, and his eleven children and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He got them safely across the brook along with all his possessions.  But Jacob stayed behind by himself, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he couldn’t get the best of Jacob as they wrestled, he deliberately threw Jacob’s hip out of joint.  The man said, “Let me go; it’s daybreak.” Jacob said, “I’m not letting you go ’til you bless me.” The man said, “What’s your name?”  He answered, “Jacob.”  The man said, “But no longer. Your name is no longer Jacob. From now on it’s Israel (God-Wrestler); you’ve wrestled with God and you’ve come through....”


John 8:1-8:30 - Jesus went across to Mount Olives, but he was soon back in the Temple again.  Swarms of people came to him.  He sat down and taught them.  The religion scholars and Pharisees let in a woman who had been caught in an act of adultery...they were trying to trap him into saying something incriminating so they could bring charges against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger in the dirt.  They kept on badgering him.  He straightened up and said, “The sinless one among you, go first:  Throw the stone.”  Bending down again, he wrote some more in the dirt.  Hearing that, they walked away, one after another, beginning with the oldest....Jesus stood up and spoke to the woman.  “Where are they?  Does no one condemn you?”  “No one, Master.”  “Neither do I, “ said Jesus.  Go on your way.  From now on, don’t sin.”

 Jesus returned to address the crowd: I am the world’s light.  No one who follows me stumbles around in the darkness.  I provide plenty of light to live in.” 

The Pharisees objected, “All we have is your word on this.  We need more than this to go on.”  Jesus replied, “you’re right that you only have my word.  But you can depend on it being true....You decide according to what you can see and touch.  I don’t make judgments like that.  But even if I did, my judgment would be true because I won’t make it out of the narrowness of my experiences but in the largeness of the one who sent me, the Father... you have my word and you have the word of the Father who sent me.”  They said, “Where is this so-called Father of yours?”  Jesus said, “you’re looking right at me and you don’t see me.  How do you expect to see the Father?  If you knew me, you would at the same time know the Father.” 

Then Jesus went over the same ground again about him leaving them and that they will be looking for him but in the process missing God in this and headed for a dead end.  He continued with “you’re tied down to the mundane; I’m in touch with what is beyond your horizons.  You live in terms of what you see and touch.  I’m living on other terms...If you won’t believe who I say I am, you’re at the dead end of sins.  You’re missing God in your lives.”...

They still didn’t get it, didn’t realize that he was referring to the Father.  So Jesus tried again...”The One who sent me stays in me.  He doesn’t abandon me .  He see how much joy I take in pleasing him.”  When he put it in these terms, many people decided to believe.