Crystal Writes A Blog

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Deaf by Discouragement


Covering His Ears by Flickr User Sharyn Morrow aka massdistraction, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works

Covering His Ears by Flickr User Sharyn Morrow aka massdistraction, CC License = Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works
Click image to open new tab to view original and to access user’s photo stream at Flickr.

Remember the old commercials that said, “When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.”? I remember that even if I didn’t understand it when I heard it as a young child. I learned what it meant later, so I did understand by the time I heard a song by Carman where one lyric line said, “Because when God talks, even E.F. Hutton listens.” Well, in today’s reading from Exodus 6:2 through Exodus 6:13, we find people that are not listening so well…even to God.

We are now at the beginning of Parashah (portion) 14. The Hebrew word for it is Va’era and it means I appeared. It begins after Moses speaks to God asking why He allowed Pharaoh to treat the people so badly after the request to leave for three days to worship, and God’s answer that Moses would now see exactly what Yahveh had planned for Pharaoh. Now God goes on to say that He is the God who spoke and made covenants with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but that He had never revealed His memorial name to anyone before Moses.

Yahveh tells Moses to tell the people that He has heard their groanings, and that He will set them free from the slavery of the Egyptians. He says they will be His people, and He will be their God. But then it says the people are too discouraged to listen.  I’ve seen it in movies where a person is so distraught or worried that they are kind of “losing it” and won’t pay attention to anything that is going on around them. Usually it takes someone slapping them to snap them out of it. God doesn’t tell Moses to slap the people, but He doesn’t just accept their discouragement or refusal to listen.

Moses then argues that if the people won’t listen, surely Pharaoh will not listen either, especially to someone like him who is not a good speaker. But God commands both Moses and Aaron concerning their approach to both Pharaoh and to the house of Israel, and He tells them exactly what will happen in order to free Israel from slavery.

God always has a plan to set people free, be it us or those we love. Sometimes we are too discouraged to listen or to listen well. Sometimes those we love and care about are too discouraged to listen. But if we keep the communication with God open, we are promised that when we seek and search for Him with our whole hearts, we WILL find Him. And we know that once we find Him, there’s a much better chance that we will find the knowledge we need to follow His plan for our deliverance from whatever has us or those we love in bondage. Let us be encouraged, and let us continue to listen.

December 28, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crossing Jordan


The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives

The River Jordan by Flickr User Cycling Man; CC License = Attribution, NonCommerical, No Derivatives
Click image to open original in new tab and access this user’s photo stream.

As you can see by the image, I’m not talking about the television show, but since I recognized the title, I at least looked it up. It looks like an interesting premise for a show, so if anyone has seen it and thinks I should check Netflix for it, let me know. 🙂

But I think I did learn from today’s reading of Genesis 49:27 through Genesis 50:20 why we associate death with crossing the Jordan River. Before I get to that part though, there were only 11 sons covered in the last two posts, so we do have one more son’s prophecy; the youngest son, Benjamin. Jacob’s words to him were that he was a ravenous wolf that would devour prey during the day and divide the spoils by night. After saying that, he concluded what Scripture calls blessings on his twelve sons. Well, honesty can be a blessing because it can make you aware when you’re heading down a dangerous path, but for it to truly be a blessing, the receiver will have to see it that way and determine how to use it as such. Like a wet paint sign that can keep you from getting stained by touching the stuff, once you see the truth, you must make a decision to use it for the best outcome.

When Jacob finished speaking, he gathered his legs underneath him and drew his last breath. Joseph ordered the physicians to embalm him, which took 40 days, and then the Egyptians mourned him for 70 days. When all was said and done, Joseph told Pharaoh of the promise he made to take his father to be buried in the cave with Abraham and others, so Pharaoh sent him, his family, and most of his servants to carry Jacob back to the land of Canaan beyond the Jordan river. That they were crossing Jordan to bury someone is what made me think that this is why we associate death with crossing the chilly Jordan, but I’m not sure, so it’s just my thought.

After they crossed into Canaan, the residents of the land saw that the Egyptians were weeping bitterly over the loss, so they named the place Abel-Mizrayim meaning “mourning of Egypt.” I know they had paid mourners and such back then, but it seems that this mourning was very real even though the Egyptians did not know Jacob that long. I’ve heard it said that the best way to live is to care so much about others that when you die, even the mortician is sad that you’re gone. I think Jacob lived that way.

Once the burial was done, they crossed back over Jordan, and Joseph and his brothers returned to live in the land of Goshen in Egypt. When they got back though, Joseph’s brothers started thinking that with their father gone, Joseph would surely try to make them pay for what they had done to him. They apparently did not believe what he said to them the first time, so he restated to them that even though they meant what they did for evil, God used it for good. He reminded them that he was not God, and it was not his place to take vengeance on them. Hopefully, then, they repented to God for their behaviors with the same trembling and humility with which they went to their brother. That’s a good thing to do before crossing Jordan in the spiritual sense.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part II


12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes of Israel Mosaic by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

As I’ve read these prophesies of Jacob to his sons, I’ve thought much about the power of words, but there’s more than words involved. Jacob may have had special feelings toward the children of Rachel, but these were all his sons, so I’m guessing that whatever he spoke to them was spoken with parental love. We are told in multiple Scriptures that God chastens those who He loves, so even the words that seem painful to the receivers are from a father’s heart. And so it is with those of us who call Yahveh our Father. Sometimes, He may give us words that promise futures we may not want to go through, but we know we never go through those futures alone, and we never go through them without promise that they will yield some type of fruit to the glory of God.

Four more sons are discussed in today’s reading from Genesis 49:19 through Genesis 49:26. The sons discussed in today’s reading are Gad, Asher, Naphtali, and Joseph. When you read these verses, and yesterday’s verses, in the Complete Jewish Bible, you’ll notice that most of the brothers get their own paragraphs, so it’s easy to tell which ones Jacob spoke of more than others. Of these four brothers, the first three get very little prophesy, but Joseph gets a lot.

In brief, Jacob says that Gad will be attacked, but he will attack in return and be victorious. Asher will produce plenty of food, including that which is considered for royalty. Naphtali is a free-running deer that produces beautiful fawns. Also, it’s possible that the prophesy of Naphtali is that rather than fawns, he will produce great writings. Of course, I like that one for a prophecy. 🙂

The rest of the writing focuses on Joseph. It says he is a fruitful branch by a well whose leaves reach over the wall. I see this as a tree planted by the water, so that speaks of strength, and a bearing a lot of fruit if the branch would hang down over a wall. Since Ephraim is said to represent “the church,” this could be prophesy of those of us reading this who are believers and servants of God now. How cool is that?

It goes on to talk about Joseph being attacked unfairly but that he was separated from his brothers to become a prince among them. Jacob even speaks the blessings of The Lord upon Joseph as being greater blessings than those that were upon his forefathers Abraham and Isaac. Considering the later prophesy when Ephraim will be united with Judah, I’d say Jacob’s words were certainly true.

I will go back and add the details for yesterday’s brothers now, but I wanted to get this post done and added before midnight.

December 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Future of Israel–Part I


12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez

12 Tribes Road Signs by Flickr User Zeevveez
Click the image to visit this user’s photo stream. He has interesting blogs and books on the Star of David and have even blogged on some of my 6 point kaleidoscope images.

Today’s reading from Genesis 49:1 through Genesis 49:18 covers the prophecies from Israel to the first seven of his sons. Those written of here were Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Zebulun, Isaachar, and Dan. Not all of the prophecies for the futures of these sons look like blessings, so I imagine that some of them were hard for Jacob to speak to them. It’s always hard for parents to tell their children the truth, but the lack of truth will do more harm than good, so it’s one of those necessary things. Of course, speaking the future as something negative and without hope may not be the best way to encourage someone either, so it goes back to a saying I heard many years ago, and something I suggest people apply when editing writing for others: Honesty without compassion is cruelty. You’ll have to read it for yourself to decide if the words are honest and compassionate or just honest.

I am actually finishing this post a day later because it was important to me to spend time on the phone with my uncle from Arizona. He was celebrating his 65th birthday, but we also had a lot to talk about concerning his son, my first cousin, who is younger than me but has suffered first from a bad bout of “Valley Fever” (a fungal lung infection that required multiple surgeries), and then suffered two strokes. He’s younger than me, and strokes don’t run in the family, so we think they were side effects of the Fluconozole they put him on for the infection, but regardless of the cause, he has been hospitalized since March. Please keep Chance Robertson in your prayers, not only for physical healing, but that he will use these events to make God the most important part of his life. My uncle has a neighbor who has been bringing Scriptures to him since he has been able to read again, and my uncle is in a place where he prays a lot and says he is willing to change in whatever ways God directs him. That is a great change and blessing to my heart, and it brings me right into what was going on with Jacob and his sons.

I’m sure Jacob would like to have said nothing but good to each of his sons, as any parent would like to do with their children. And I’m sure that even with the news that didn’t seem so good, he would like to have said that each of them would have an opportunity to repent and get it right. Of course, we don’t really know if there was more said, and it is my hope that those who made bad decisions did so with open eyes and minds if they chose to reject God.

So, in brief, Jacob said that Reuben was his first born and the strength of his first offspring, but because he had no self-control and climbed into his father’s bed with one of his concubines, he lost ground and would not have the full strength he should have had. This is the one that bothers me the most because I always hurt for those bad decisions that have consequences that cannot be taken back. All the repentance in the world cannot remove a child conceived by an illicit sexual relationship, and really we should look at the fruit of every sinful seed we plant in this light. We do not receive the true price for our sins (the wages of sin is death) if we give them over to Christ, but they still bear fruit we need to consider. In this case, Reuben missed out on strength he could have had.

Jacob also speaks to Simeon and Levi of losing out because of their uncontrolled anger. They plotted together to kill a man in anger (for raping their sister), but it also says they were cruel and killed animals. Yikes! Their price is being scattered and divided.

Next we get 5 verses on Judah. Remember that our Messiah Yahshua (Jesus) is The Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Verse 9 speaks of him as a lion’s cub, a lioness, and a lion on a mountain with prey. The next verse says he will lead and rule until “Shiloh” (meaning Messiah or the peaceful one so the word might actually be another use of “Shalom”) will come from him. It goes on to say people would obey this leadership. Verse 11 seems prophetic of Yahshua in that it says his colt will be tied to a vine (see Mark 11:2 just before the triumphal entry into Jerusalem). It goes on to say that his clothes will be washed in wine and in the blood of grapes. Of course, I’m not sure of the ending words to him of his eyes being darker and more sparkling than wine & his teeth whiter than milk.

The word to Zebulun is that he would be a harbor for lost ships; to Isaachar that he would be a strong donkey crouching between sheepfolds (maybe the Messianic Jews, but I can’t say since I’m not a trained scholar); and to Dan that he would be a judge of his people and a horned snake in the path. Maybe someday, if I remember once I’m in God’s presence for eternity, I’ll ask what some of these prophesies represent, but in the meantime, I’ll be satisfied to receive only what God thinks I need to know. Still, I will search because of what it says in Proverbs 25:2 that it is the glory of God to conceal a matter but the glory of kings to search it out.

December 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Raise Your Right Hand if You’re Sure


Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial

Raise Your Hand by Flickr User Viqi French CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial
Click image to view original and access photo stream in a new tab.

We used to play a game where we would pass around a sheet of paper with a list of slogans and see how many each person could get. For example, It takes a licking and keeps on ticking. How many remember that slogan was for Timex watches? Now, do you remember the old commercials that sang out, “Raise your hands if you’re sure.”? If so, you know it was for “Sure” brand deodorant.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:17 through Genesis 48:22 (the end of the chapter) goes back to Jacob laying his right hand on the head of the youngest son instead of the eldest. Joseph actually tells his father that he is doing things wrong. I’m guessing he thought it was a problem with either eyesight or senility. But Jacob assured Joseph that he knew exactly what he was doing, and that he was intentionally blessing the younger as if he were the older. He prophesied that in future blessings from the house of Israel, people would say, “May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” That would make Ephraim first as if he were the oldest.

After the blessing, Israel reminded Joseph that he was dying. He then comforted him by saying that God would stay with him and bring him back to the land of his ancestors. He also told him he gave him a bit of extra land above what he was giving his brothers. He willed to him the land that he had captured with his sword and bow from the Emorites.

Jacob was sure about what he was doing, from the son he blessed as the eldest to the extra land he bestowed upon Joseph. I also find it interesting to remember that Jacob, himself, was the one who had to fight for his share as firstborn because of the wrestling match in the womb that allowed Esau to be born first. I would have expected Jacob to be hyper-sensitive to any child who is a firstborn not being treated as such, but maybe his unique experience actually enabled him to see that blessings going to a firstborn just because they were born first didn’t always make sense. Jacob did need to have the blessings of the firstborn to become the nation of Israel that God created him to be. And somehow he also knew for sure that Ephraim would lead best with firstborn blessings.

And now, just for fun, how about a few more slogans only this time without answers:

  • Just do it.
  • Finger lickin’ good.
  • Have it your way.
  • Reach out and touch someone.
  • Snap, Crackle, Pop
  • It’s the real thing.
  • It keeps going and going and going…
  • Be all that you can be.
  • Sometimes you feel like a nut.
  • Once you pop, you can’t stop.
  • How do you spell relief?
  • Let your fingers do the walking.
  • The San Francisco Treat.
  • The best part of waking up is…
  • Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.
  • Good to the last drop.
  • M’m! M’m! Good!
  • You deserve a break today.
  • Bring out the best.
  • Hey Mikey, he likes it.

 

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lord is My Own Personal Shepherd


Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike

Shepherd with Flock by Flickr User Will Humes CC License = Attribution, NonCommercial, Share Alike
Scripture from Isaiah 40:11 from Complete Jewish Bible
Click image to open new tab to the original image and access to photo stream.

I can share all kinds of stories and Bible words with you, but the thing that carries the most strength is what God means to me personally. The most established scholar cannot compete with the actual testimonies of my life with God. Of course, there must be balance in that my testimonies about God should be supported by His word to show that I am actually following Him and not just my own ideas. If I am following Him as my Shepherd, I will go where He goes and try to imitate what He does.

Today’s reading from Genesis 48:10 through Genesis 48:16 goes back to Jacob/Israel on his death bed as he prepares to bless the sons of Joseph. He was having trouble seeing, but Joseph brought his sons close enough to him that he could see and embrace them. He praised God for allowing him to not only see his son again but also to see his offspring.

Joseph guided his eldest, Manasseh, to Israel’s right hand and his youngest, Ephraim, to Israel’s left hand for their blessings. But Israel purposely crossed his arms and placed his right hand on Ephraim’s head and his left hand on Manasseh. He began his prayer for them with a beautiful statement that Yahveh Almighty had always been his own Shepherd.

I love the personalization in that. He not only proclaimed Yahveh as God of all the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and himself, but by proclaiming Him as a shepherd, he declared himself to be a sheep that needed guidance. And, because he and his family were a family of shepherds, Jacob also connected to God in similarity of occupation. He knew God as both above him and with him in all things. As a matter of fact, there is a Scripture in Deuteronomy that I want to share now even though we will eventually get there in the studies. It’s from Deuteronomy 4:7, and in the Amplified Bible it says, “For what great nation is there who has a god so near to them as the Lord our God is to us in all things for which we call upon Him?”

There are many Scriptures that proclaim God as a shepherd, including the one on the above picture. The most famous, of course, is David’s Psalm 23. To personalize that Psalm, back in 2004, I wrote my own version of the psalm as attributed to myself as a writer. I’ll close this with that parody.

THE LORD IS MY EDITOR, I SHALL REWRITE
By Crystal A Murray
 
The Lord is My Editor, I shall rewrite.
He lays me down in green pastures
   – Of fresh ideas.
He leads me by the quiet torrents
   – Of conflict and resolution.
He develops my characters and subjects.
He leads me from beginnings to middles…
   – And from middles to endings…
            – For the plot’s sake.
Yea, though my protagonist walks
Through pages of shadows of death,
   – He fears not the antagonist,
            – For a good ending is promised.
God’s red pen and word-processor;
   – They correct me.
God prepares new writers’ books before me,
   – In the presence of my Amazon “wish list”.
He anoints my printer with ink,
   – My paper tray overflows.
Surely, acceptance and paychecks
   – Shall be offered me,
            – For every story I write.
And I shall dwell in my home office
   – As a freelancer…
             – All the days of my writing life.

December 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Poetry, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When I Get Carried Away


Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User "The Hamster Factor" CC License = Attribution, Non Commerical, No Derivatives

Carrying Away a Dead End by Flickr User “The Hamster Factor”
Click the image to open a new tab with the original image and access to photo stream.

I never know what I’m going to find when I do a Creative Commons search for an image that will match my title or subject. The above image just tickled my funny bone, so I had to include it. I know people aren’t supposed to deface public signage, but this one is just too cute, and it sort of lines up with the reading today from Genesis 47:28 through Genesis 48:9 as it talks about Jacob being carried away to his death, and the line could look a little like a coffin. 🙂

We actually begin a new portion today, so now we’re up to Parashah 12, Vayechi, meaning “He Lived” in Hebrew. We read in this section that Jacob has now lived in Egypt for 17 years which makes him 147 since he was 130 when they arrived. He calls in his son Joseph to advise him that he will soon pass away and to ask him for a promise. He wants Joseph to swear that he will not bury him in Egypt but rather carry him back to Canaan to be buried with his family, and Joseph agrees.

The next part is a little confusing to me in that he claims Joseph’s two children, Manasseh and Ephraim as his own children. He says they are equal with the rest of his children for the sake of inheritance, and they are numbered among the twelve tribes to this day even though Joseph is not. I know there is some prophecy about it later, so I know it was the right thing to do, but there’s no information at this point to explain exactly how Jacob knew to do it. I can only imagine it has something to do with his vision of Yahveh back in Luz near the time he was there with Joseph’s mother, Rachel. He retells this vision to Joseph, and he tells him that all his future children will be his, but not the two.

The section ends with Jacob suddenly noticing that Joseph’s sons are standing there in the room with them. I might have been embarrassed to realize that someone I was talking about was standing there all along, even if I was saying good things about the person. I remember asking for prayer for a young man I met at a bus stop, and finding out that he had accepted my invitation to attend a service when the pastor pointed out the guy a few rows back slinking down in his seat. Oh well, at least he knew I cared enough to ask the church to pray for him, right?

So that’s it for today, but just to stick with the theme, here’s a link for a video of a group singing the song When I Get Carried Away. I love the tune, and the lyrics to the chorus are…

I’m gonna let the glory roll when the roll is called in glory.
I’m gonna get beside myself when I get beside The King that day.
I’m gonna have the time of my life when the time of my life is over.
I’m gonna get carried away, when I get carried away.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3afLiU-jieM

December 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Egypt Thinks You’re Smelly


Image by Alkelda CC=Attirbution, Non Commercial, No Derivs

Shepherd and sheep dolls by Flickr user Alkelda.
Click on image to view original in a new tab and to access this user’s photo stream.

Sometimes, the negative opinions of others can play in our favor. In our reading today from Genesis 46:28 through Genesis 47:10, we see the family of Jacob arriving in the land of Goshen in Egypt. Judah went ahead as a guide, and Joseph loaded up his rig and went out to meet his father, Israel. They embraced and wept together for a long time, and Jacob declared that after seeing that Joseph was alive, he was now ready to die.

Joseph met with all his brothers and explained his plan to them. He said he would bring a few of them to Pharaoh, and that when they were asked what they did for a living, they should say that they were shepherds both now and from their ancestry. He explained that Egyptians consider shepherds disgusting, and that knowing they were a shepherding family would make certain they could stay in Goshen–I’m guessing away from the main part of town. So, Egypt’s abhorrence of shepherds would play in Israel’s favor to allow them to live from the fat of that land but away from the politics and prying eyes of the kingdom.

When the brothers and their father came before Pharaoh, everything went as planned. Pharaoh even declared that since they were professionals, they should be in charge of his flocks as well. With this, Jacob blessed Pharaoh and then he left.

I don’t know if I could make myself think of this story each time I deal with criticism, but it would be a good way to try to turn a negative into a positive. I’m always looking for the good thing that God will bring out of something because that is a way I comfort myself to make it through the hard times. To bring it out enough to bless one who may look down on me would take even more effort, but I’ll be taking this lesson to heart. As it says in Romans 8:28, All things work together for the good to those that love God and are called according to His purpose.

December 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jacob’s Bucket List


Image: What's on your bucket list? By Teresa Alexander-Arab

What’s on your bucket list?
Image by Flickr User Teresa Alexander-Arab
Click image to view original and access photo stream.

 

In the first verse of today’s reading from Genesis 45:28 through Genesis 46:27, Jacob is ready to go with the rest of his family to Egypt. He is excited and filled with life again, but he knows it’s short, so he tells them they must hurry up and go because he wants to see his son Joseph before he dies.

When Jacob goes to sleep that night, he has a vision of God calling out to him. God tells him that He is the God of his father, Isaac, and that He is still with him. God then tells Jacob not to be afraid to go to Egypt because it is there that He will make a great nation of him. And then God promises that after Joseph closes Jacob’s eyes for the last time, he will return to his homeland.

So Jacob and all his descendants; sons, son’s wives, daughters, and grandchildren, head to Egypt with all their possessions. Verses 8 through 25 list the genealogies of those making the journey, and the reading ends with giving us the number seventy as the total number of Jacob’s descendants moving to Egypt.

I love that Jacob was ready to go without a vision of promise from God, even though a vision is an important thing if someone wants to know where the finish line is at. But my guess is that no matter what was on Jacob’s bucket list before, once he found out his son was alive, everything else was scratched off and replaced with the desire to see Joseph. I laugh with people about things i should put on my bucket list, but I’ve never actually made one. Part of me thinks I’d be putting too much stock into human things instead of just trying to seek God’s will for my life. But if I were in Jacob’s position, seeing a child I thought was dead and have now found to be alive would definitely be worth making a list. Beyond that, I do have some things I’d like to accomplish, but I’m still seeking for a clear vision and focus in the midst of all my desires. What about you?

Share some things on your bucket list, and maybe I’ll share some of my heartfelt desires that could qualify for bucket list items.

December 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Weeping May Endure for a Fortnight


Sunrise by Sean MacEntee CC License = Attribution

Sunrise by Flickr user Sean MacEntee.
Click image to view original and to access this photographer’s full photostream.

For those who love trivia like I do, here’s an FYI for you. A fortnight is two weeks. So, weeping may endure for two weeks, or for two years, or for two generations, but since a thousand years is as a day with God, the important thing to remember is that whenever morning comes, joy will come with it. (See Psalm 30:5 for the exact Scripture.)

For Joseph and his brothers and their father, the weeping went on for a long time. In today’s reading from Genesis 45:19 through Genesis 45:27, Joseph is telling his brothers to load up their carts and donkeys with an abundance of provision for their journey back to Canaan. He also says he wants to make sure that there will be enough provision for their father to have bread as he makes the return journey with them. Of course, while he also gave each of his brothers a new set of clothing, he gave Benjamin seven sets of new clothing and even more provisions. I think he was happy to be reunited with his brother, don’t you? And finally, when he sent them on their way, he reminded them not to quarrel on their way back home. They were brothers after all.

When they arrived back home, the first thing they did was to tell their father that Joseph was alive. Obviously, he was reluctant to believe such good news. He had become accustomed to living in the grief of his son’s death. They told him Joseph was not only alive, but that he was also a ruler in Egypt. Even when they told him all that had transpired during their visit there, Jacob was afraid to believe such good news. The last verse says that it was only when he saw the wagons that Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt that Jacob’s spirit began to revive.

God knows just how much good news means to His children. There is an abundance of Scripture that talks about things of hope and good news. Even the word for spreading the truth of God’s love for us and salvation through Yahshua, gospel, means “Good News.” Since we are in the season of celebration of Christ’s birth, may we remember that the purpose of that birth was to bring the hope (and good news) of salvation to the whole world; to whoever would desire it and seek it. And while weeping of earthly measure may last for a night or longer, we have the hope that joy will come in the morning, and someday, it will last for eternity.

December 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Give to Get


Giving Blesses by Flickr User Pictoquotes

Giving Blesses Both the Giver and the Receiver by Flickr user Symphony of Love (aka pictoquotes)
Click the image to view the original and other images by this photographer.

At one time, I subscribed to a marketing newsletter all about the concept of what the author called “Give to Get” marketing. It talked of things like when banks would offer new toasters and blenders to get new customers. That type of marketing now might be a free e-book download to encourage the purchase of an author’s new release. People always seem more willing to buy if they first know that you are a giver.

For me, however, I read that marketing newsletter more in the interest of how it applied to real life than to sales. And from what I see in today’s reading from Genesis 42:19 through Genesis 43:15, Jacob was a fan of giving to get as well. in the story, Joseph has told the brothers to leave one of them in jail and let the others go back and get the youngest brother, Benjamin, to prove they are not spies. They discuss it amongst themselves, and they do not realize that Joseph can understand the Hebrew language they are speaking because they are using an interpreter. In verse 24, we read that Joseph had to turn away from them to hide his tears over their discussion of how they deserved the current situation because of what they did to their brother Joseph.

They leave Simeon and start the journey back home, but at camp they realize that all their money has been restored. They don’t know that Joseph requested it to be that way, so they think it is more punishment. By the time they get home, Jacob is truly scared that if he lets his sons return with Benjamin, he will then have lost three of his sons. But eventually, the famine is too great to fight anymore, and since Joseph had told them they would not see his face anymore unless their brother was with them, Jacob agrees to send him. Reuben and Judah both promise him they will give up their own sons in the promise of returning Benjamin safely.

As Jacob sends his sons back, he sends them with double the money to make sure they will pay for the first supplies in case it is an oversight. And then (this is what amazed and blessed me) he tells them to make sure to bring gifts with them. He tells them to bring spices, perfumes, oils, honey, almonds, pistachios, and whatever goods they have to bless the man in charge of the food. In other words, he wants to give something to the man in charge in order to have a better chance to get his son(s) returned to him. And today’s reading ends with all of them, their gifts, their double portions, and their youngest brother standing before Joseph.

The giving first idea is so much better than today’s idea of entitlement. It’s better than demanding. It’s better than playing on people’s sympathies. How much more are you willing to help someone who says he will mow your lawn for 5 or 10 bucks than someone who just comes to your door asking for money to feed his family? Even God is all about give to get. He made a world to put humans in. And when we did not deserve it, Scripture tells us that God FIRST loved us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. If we are truly following a WWJD concept, we will also give first. Let’s see, how does the chorus of that Sunday School song go?

Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Oh, how I love Jesus,
Because He first loved me.

December 4, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Because I Reverence Yahveh


Torah Scroll image from wynnie at Flickr

Torah scroll partly rolled out. By Flickr user “Steel Wool”
Click on image to open a new tab and view the original image with requested rights.

In today’s reading from Genesis 41:53 through Genesis 42:18, the prophecy of the abundance and famine is in full swing and famine is upon the whole earth. Egypt has plenty of food stored up for the people, and Joseph is in charge of sales and distribution. At the same time, Israel and his sons are feeling the effects of the famine, so he tells them to go to Egypt and get food for the family. However, he only sends ten of them and keeps Benjamin at home because he is concerned something might happen to him. Of course, something could have happened to any of them, so his keeping Benjamin at home is likely due to the fact that he is the only other son from his beloved Rachel.

So the brothers show up in Egypt, but they do not recognize Joseph even though he recognizes them. He begins to talk harshly to them and accuses them of being spies. They try to explain that they are all children of the same man, and they tell him there are twelve sons but that one is at home, and the other is gone. He tells them they must prove themselves, and he says that without proof he will not believe them to be anything other than spies.

At the end of today’s reading, he locks them up for three days, but then he lets them go with an order for them to obey him to stay alive. He then adds, “For I fear God.” That doesn’t make a lot of sense unless you understand a little something about the history of the scribes who wrote down the old Scriptures.

In brief: First, they were perfectionists. If they made a mistake while writing the words, they didn’t have White Out or a backspace key. The rule dictated that they must destroy the scroll and start over. They reverenced the name of Yahveh so highly that they would not write the name on the scroll for fear some mistake might cause the scroll to be destroyed and the name with it. So, instead of writing the actual name of God, they would often just leave a space knowing that people could insert “The Name” while they were reading the words aloud. Later, they would write the Hebrew word for “The Name” which is where we get people calling God Hashem. In addition, they would sometimes use the label “The Lord” or “God” but because those labels could also refer to false gods, they would omit the vowels and capitalize the first letters. That’s why it is important to me to capitalize the first letter of not only God and Lord, but also He, Him, Himself, etc., when speaking about God. Even C.S. Louis capitalized the “E” in “Enemy” in the book Screwtape Letters because the demons were speaking of The Creator. So, when you see “G-d” or “L-rd” instead of God or Lord, it is just an extra attempt to make sure there is a difference in referring to The Almighty as different from all other gods people may worship.

I said all the above simply to refer to what I believe Joseph was actually saying in that last verse. Because they were visiting a land where people worshiped gods other than The Almighty, I believe he was letting them know that he knew who God truly was. I mean, imagine going to a place filled with people who do not believe as you do but needing something from them and pushing yourself to go through with it. Then, imagine having one among them let you know that you are not alone as a believer in that place. I’m guessing they were quite relieved by that statement, and I believe he actually said to them, “Because I reverence Yahveh.”

December 3, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeding Pearls to Pigs


Cute pig staring through fence. By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

Cute pig staring through fence.
By Michael Loudon (thornypup) at Flickr

This is the beginning of another full portion for the week. As of Saturday as Sundown, we are in Parashah 9: Vayeshev (meaning “He continued Living”) and includes text from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 40:23. Today’s portion comes from Genesis 37:1 through Genesis 37:11 and tells about Jacob/Israel in the land of Canaan and then goes right into the story of Joseph.

So Joseph seemed to have a penchant for making people angry with him. First of all, they already had reason to find fault with him out of jealousy because they knew their father loved him the most. The Scripture says it was because he was the son of his old age, but I’m pretty certain Jacob’s love for him was greater due to his Jacob’s greater love for Rachel. And if the love itself wasn’t enough to make all the other brothers jealous, then there was the infamous “coat of many colors.” In one text I read, their theory was that the coat was a prayer shawl with the family lineage sewn in, but I can’t be sure.

So then, at seventeen years old (which the Scripture says is still just a boy) Joseph was out in the field helping to care for the sheep. While there, he was working with his father’s servant girls, and he brought a bad report about them to his father. After that, and maybe because he was feeling so confident in his father’s love, he started this habit of telling his brothers about dreams that didn’t make them look so good. in the first of these dreams, he said they were all out in the field bundling wheat when his wheat stood up on its own, and their bundles bowed down before his. Of course they teased him with saying things like how great a king he would be while he bossed all of them around. He did a similar thing when he told them about a dream where even the sun, moon, and stars bowed down before him. Even his father didn’t like the idea of hearing how he might bow before his son, but at least he took it to heart.

So, a very good friend of mine once taught me well on the meaning behind casting our pearls before swine. Or, as I listed in the title, trying to feed pearls to pigs. She said that God gives us special treasures. Sometimes they are dreams and visions. Sometimes they are simple truths. Sometimes they are deep revelations and truths. But always, we should not share every single thing He shares with us just because we know it to be true. We must wait for God to direct us to share our treasure. If we don’t wait,  it can end up becoming a situation where whoever we share it with shows our treasure little to no value and, in a way, dirties or trashes what was once a special treasure.

See, pigs would see no value in pearls since they will basically eat anything. They would not look at pearls as pearls–if they ate them at all. They would not see anything as treasure but only more slop. If we want our special moments and revelations to remain special, we must be careful to reveal the treasures we hold in our hearts, especially the ones we have received from our Creator, only to those who God directs. Though Joseph had wonderful visions of the future, his brothers did not treasure his dreams and only devalued them by teasing and taunting him. What God reveals to us should never be hidden under a bushel, but it must be shown to the right people at the right time. As it says in Proverbs 25:11, a good word spoken in due season is like apples of gold in settings of silver.

November 23, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Son of My Pain


Today’s reading is a bit of a long one from Genesis 35:12 through Genesis 36:19, but the bulk of the story is in chapter 35 with 36 being mostly the genealogies of Esau. Before that point, though, we read about Jacob’s travels after meeting with God again at Bethel. While they were traveling toward Bethlehem, Rachel went into labor and had a very hard time delivering. As she was giving birth, she named the child Ben Oni for “Son of my Pain”. And then she died during the birth.

Instead of the negative name, Jacob (who knew the power of names) named his son Benjamin instead which means “Son of the Right Hand” or “Son of the South.” He then buried Rachel in Bethlehem and set up a memorial stone on her grave. That site is the place of her memorial and grave to this day, according to Scripture, and I think it may actually still be there as of this writing.

It is just after this event with Rachel that we read of a sudden change of reference from Jacob to Israel. Even though he had been given the name change and had the name restated by God in a second meeting, Scripture was still referring to him as Jacob until this point. I don’t know if the change had to do with the birth of his last son, the death of the love of his life (who may have always called him “Jacob,”), or the death of his father, Isaac, who was buried by him and Esau as part of today’s reading. But from this point on, it appears he is always called by the name that represents him as one who prevails with God. For everything he has been through, that is actually a huge statement.

Now, before I totally finish up here, I want to share another piece of ApologetiX fun. (Can you tell how much I like this band?) The video below is a parody of “Sweet Home Alabama” by Lynard Skynard. It is called “Sweet Oholibamah” which is the name of one of Esau’s daughters. I tried to find a video with lyrics but was unable, but there may be some lyrics on the ApologetiX website.

November 21, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Circumcision of Truth


Today’s reading has some pretty sensitive topics, but it’s still a part of biblical history, so we will trudge on together. Our complete reading is from Genesis 34:1 through Genesis 35:11, and it begins with the story of a man, Hamor the Hivite, who has fallen in love with Dinah, the daughter of Leah and Jacob. Now, Hamor’s son, Shechem, was also in love with Dinah and demanded that his father go get her for him.

Before Shechem shared his intentions with his father, Hamor apparently tried to win Dinah’s affections and did not succeed, so he raped and humiliated her. And then I’m wondering if maybe he thought he could hide the situation is why he was willing to go to Jacob to ask for Dinah’s hand. But Jacob knew what had happened to Dinah, though since his sons were not available, he held his tongue. When Simeon and Levi, the sons of Jacob, came in, Jacob told them the situation, and they made plans for payback.

hen Hamor offered the women of his village in exchange for the women of Jacob’s people, the boys told them they would accept the offer only if all their men would become circumcised as the men in Jacob’s family were. When Hamor brought the news to his men, he told them he thought it was a good idea because the intermarriage of the families would mean they would inherit all the riches of Jacob’s people. Both camps, it seems, circumcised the importance of truth from their lives and communications.

Finally, when Hamor’s people got circumcised physically, the sons of Jacob waited about three days until the men were in excruciating pain. Then, they took advantage of the pain and weakness of the men and attacked and killed them. After they did this, the rest of Jacob’s people and servants plundered the Hivites and took their cattle and possessions. But Jacob was angry with them and told them it was going to cause all the other people around, such as the Canaanites and Perizzites, to join forces and attack him.

God came to Jacob and told him to go back to Bethel and make his home there and to build an altar at the place where he first met God. Jacob told his people to get rid of all their false gods (I’m amazed that he knew they had them and didn’t make them get rid of them before) and to get ready to travel to Bethel. As they traveled, God put a fear on all the people of the lands they passed through so they would not harm Jacob or his people. Finally, Jacob built the altar God told him to build, and God met him once more. This time, he said he would not only be named Israel, but from that point on should also be called Israel.

In Chapter 35, verse 11, (in the Amplified Bible) we read, “And God said to him, I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall come from you and kings shall be born of your stock.” What a promise from a God to His people–even after they had failed to put Him first in their worship and their behaviors. I think I’ve said before how I didn’t think God showed mercy in the Old Testament, but this is one of those wonderful stories that shows He truly did show mercy in wonderful ways since the beginning. And I imagine that we only know a piece of it with this recorded history, but I’m so thankful for what He has revealed to us.

November 20, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God, The God of Israel


Yesterday, we saw formerly feuding brothers reunited out in the midst of the desert. Today we read from Genesis 33:6 through Genesis 33:20, the end of the chapter. And today, we see the women and the children that have caught up to Jacob, and all of them bow down before Esau. After introductions, Esau asks the meaning of all the droves that were sent first before Jacob and his family. Jacob tells him he sent the droves to find favor with him, and Esau answers that he has plenty and that Jacob is okay to keep his possessions. Jacob then asks Esau to take the gifts if he (Jacob) has found favor with him. So he does.

After the family reunion, Esau suggests they break camp and all head back home together. Jacob suggests that Esau go first, and then says that he will walk slowly with the small children and nursing cattle, so no lives will be lost. Esau agrees, and even offers to leave some of his people with Jacob to help him. Jacob stays for a while and builds himself a house and builds shelters for his cattle. That’s when he named that place “Sukkot” which means shelters.

After Jacob traveled on farther, he camped outside the city of Canaan. While there, he bought a parcel of land on which to pitch his tent, and in addition to his tent, he also built an altar for God. At the altar, he named the place El Elohei Israel meaning “God, The God of Israel.”

The way today’s reading ends shows miraculous hope and change. Jacob, the supplanter who originally talked to his father’s and grandfather’s God like he was a stranger to him, is now Israel who claims that this same God is His God–The God of Israel. I think I may try to approach God in this way myself, looking to Him and calling Him “The God of Crystal.” I think it will personalize things and remind me just whose child I am. Let me know if you try it and how it makes you feel about your relationship with Him.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Brothers United


Today we get to see what Jacob will do differently after meeting God face to face. It’s a short reading from Genesis 32:31 through Genesis 33:5, and it starts out with Jacob naming the place of his wrestling Peniel meaning “The Face of God.” He so named it because he had met Yahveh Almighty face to face and lived to tell about it.

But something more than Jacob’s name changed during his encounter; something even more than the limp he walked away with from the touch to his hip muscle. As we continue in the reading, we find Jacob setting out again toward his brother, Esau, knowing that he was still going to meet both him and the 400 men he had with him. But where Jacob was previously hiding behind all the other groups, now we see Jacob pushing his wives and slave girls and children behind him and racing in front of them despite the possibility of dangerous consequences. Jacob had somehow gained confidence, and it would seem he trusted God to answer his prayer to be reunited with his brother as family instead of as an enemy.

When Jacob saw Esau, he fell on the ground and bowed before him. When Esau saw Jacob, he ran to him and hugged him and wept on his neck. They were more than reunited, they were united like they had never been since birth, and maybe even since growing together in Rebekah’s womb. And when Esau asked about the women and children who were walking behind his brother, Jacob humbly acknowledged that they were gifts of God. In the Complete Jewish Bible, Jacob answered, “The children God has graciously given to your servant.” Jacob was truly no longer a supplanter, but was happy to see Esau as not only his brother, but as his older brother to whom he owed respect.

P.S. NaNo has been slow going of late, but I am at 24,319. Also, I just remembered today about a video by ApologetiX that uses the song “Takin’ Care of Business” and turns it into “Jacob’s Name is Israel.” I’ll be adding it to yesterday’s blog after I post today’s.

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wrestling With God and Prevailing Against Sin


As we continue into today’s reading from Genesis 32:14 through Genesis 32:30, we read the rest of Jacob’s plan for meeting with Esau and trying to appease his anger. He chooses a bunch of animals and then puts them into groups heading toward Esau. He tells the men who head up each group of animals to tell Esau that they are a gift for him and that Jacob is nearby in the next group. Jacob’s intention is to watch and then move backward a group at a time until he is sure Esau will accept him without killing him. At the same time, he sends his two wives, two slave girls, and his eleven children across a stream with his possessions.

With the gifts in front of him and his family across the stream, Jacob is alone for the night. Suddenly there was a man wrestling with him. Jacob refused to give up and continued to wrestle until morning. Scripture says that when it appeared the man would not prevail against Jacob, He touched him in his hip socket so that his hip was dislocated as he wrestled. And then Jacob said the words that gave away that he knew exactly who he was wrestling with. The man had asked Jacob to let him go because it was morning, but Jacob said to Him, “I won’t let You go until You bless me.”

Now, I love what God does here. He asks Jacob what his name is. Remember way back when Jacob was born, when Jacob stole the birthright, and when Jacob deceived his father? In all those things, Jacob lived up to the meaning of his name; supplanter. He tried to come out first, he stole the birthright, and he falsely gained his father’s blessing. Esau even pointed out how the name was fitting for him. Now God is asking Jacob to admit that he is as his name, one who steals what he wants–one who wrestles for his blessings. Like the first of the “12 Steps” in Alcoholics Anonymous (and related programs), God is telling Jacob that He will not bless him until he admits who and what he is. It works the same in repentance when we finally admit that we are sinners in need of God’s salvation. And I am certain I am not the only one who has wrestled to get to that point, but it is worth the wrestling if you fight until you subdue the flesh and press through to obtain God’s blessing. Paul mentions in Philippians 3 that he is pressing on and forward to a goal of something that lies ahead of what he has now. It’s a finish line where everyone who crosses, and not just the first one, is a winner.

So, after he said his name was Jacob, everything changed for him. After we admit we are in need of God (and not just at our first repentance but each time we wrestle with something that we need to let go of), everything can change for us as well. AFTER Jacob confessed the absence of God in his efforts and admitted that he was trying to do everything on his own, THEN God not only blessed him, but his blessing came with a name change. God changed the name of Jacob (supplanter) to the name of Israel (wrestled/contended with God). He put His title, EL, right into Jacob’s new name. Jacob was no longer one who had to steal positions and possessions or birthrights and blessings. He was now one who was blessed of God because He sought God’s blessing face to face.

November 17, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Jacob Prayed


Today we begin a new portion: Parashah (portion) 8, the Hebrew “Vayishlach” meaning He Sent. It runs from Genesis 32:4 to Genesis 36:43, but today’s reading is simply from Genesis 32:4 through Genesis 32:13. Jacob is on his way back to the home of his birth in obedience to what God directed. He knows Esau still lives there, and he is sure Esau is still angry, so he sends men ahead of him to let Esau know that he is coming to him with gifts of cattle and flocks as a peace agreement.

The men came back and told Jacob that Esau was coming out to meet him, but they also said he was bringing 400 men with him. This made Jacob fearful and distressed, so Jacob created a two-fold solution. First, Jacob split his people and possessions into two camps. This way, he said, if Esau comes to destroy a camp, one camp of people will still get out alive. That was good preparation, but the second solution was the best.

Jacob prayed a beautiful prayer to God. He first reminded God that it was His idea for Jacob to return, so he showed he was being faithful. He then showed humility and thankfulness by telling God that he knew he was not worthy of the love and faithfulness He had shown him since he first crossed the Jordan with nothing but the staff in his hand. And then he asked God to please deliver him from the wrath of Esau and to keep His promise to make his seed abundant. He even repeated God’s promise to him and to Abraham and Isaac as it had been given to them by God.

I believe that prayer showed a relationship with God that was built on more than just a “gimme” game. I love the faithfulness, thankfulness, humility, and praise that came before the requests. And as we continue into this portion, we will see the wonderful things God did as a result of that prayer.

November 16, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Watchtower of Angels


This post will be kind of short and fast because I had a rather difficult time getting connected to the internet–even from my phone. But I think I’ve got something now, so we’ll see what I can do. The reading today is from Genesis 31:43 through Genesis 32:3, and it continues on with yesterday’s story where Laban met with Jacob after chasing him down because he thought someone had his gods.

Well, today, he is trying to say that everything Jacob has belongs to him–including his daughters and cattle. But I think he’s saying it more like a protective daddy since after saying it, he makes a suggestion that he and Jacob make a commitment about caring for his daughters. They set up stones to represent the place of the deal. Laban gives it an Aramaic name, and Jacob gives it a Hebrew name. But one meaning for the place is also The Watchtower.

As part of the deal, Laban says his gods will watch him, and Jacob’s God will watch him. He then tells Jacob that if he hurts his daughters, God will be watching out. Later, as Jacob continues on his journey, he sees angels in the camp and declares it as God’s camp. He then gives it another name; Machanayim–meaning two camps.

In closing this, I’ll just say that I think we all live in two camps, and I believe that angels camp near us often. I also believe that God watches us, though not from a distance as the song declares. I’m thankful that even in unfair situations like Jacob went through, God can bring truth and His presence into the situation.

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Go Takin’ My Gods


Think Elton John & Kiki Dee singing, (but with slightly different lyrics)…

Don’t go takin’ my gods,
I won’t go takin’ your gods;
And Jacob I looked in your tent now;
Tell me what did you see?

And, as we read in Genesis 31:17 through Genesis 31:42, when Jacob took off from Laban’s house unannounced, he took the wives he had worked for plus all his children and livestock, and Rachel took Laban’s gods. Laban was apparently pretty ticked off, so he pursued Jacob and his caravan but before he caught up with them, Yahveh Almighty sent him a dream not to say anything to Jacob good or bad. Well, Laban didn’t exactly obey, but he did believe God enough to not bring harm to Jacob. He did, however, decide that he should search through all of their belongings to see if he could find his gods.

Jacob was so sure that no one in their party took the gods that he said whoever had them could be put to death. I’m guessing this scared Rachel pretty good, so she sat on the saddle bag where they were hidden and said she couldn’t move because it was her time of the month. It kept Laban from searching, so it kept her from being found as a thief.

So I was trying to think of a good title for this, and I suddenly imagined Laban and Jacob arguing to the sound of Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart. I think I mentioned a few days ago how much I like parody. But as funny as that is, as I continued to write, I suddenly realized how some people rewrite God and His creation into their very own parody. Like Laban, they have seen the mighty works and wonders of The One and Only God, but somehow they look for concrete and touchable things to prove what they have seen, so they make stone gods in parody of The Real God who is unseen. In today’s day and age, they worship the creation instead of The Creator, and parody the real power of The Almighty with a false worship of gifts and miracles and, worst of all, men.

It’s a parody because it’s a play on the real thing without truly being real. It’s a parody because it’s a comedy of errors in not exalting Yahveh Almighty to His rightful status. It’s a parody because of the silliness and foolishness of people thinking they have power that doesn’t belong to them instead of worshiping The One in Whom resides all power. But it’s a parody that is not funny, and it’s one that will end horribly when men go to Jesus with the conversation that is shown in Matthew 7:22-23 (Amplified Bible):

22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name? 23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].

I still love parody, and it thrills me that ApologetiX has figured out how to parody things that were otherwise not of God and turn people’s eyes toward Him. May we never take the wonderful things God has done for us and parody our love for Him by showing love for what He does more than for who He is.

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What You See is What You Get


Okay, just a little give away to my age here, I remember when Flip Wilson had his own television show, and when he did a skit as a character named “Geraldine.” I was still pretty young, but as I recall it, Geraldine’s famous line was “What you see is what you get.” In the above video, they switch to the Geraldine doll at 37 seconds and then at about 1:08, you’ll hear the line. I felt the video of the doll was a cuter way to share, but you can always do a search if you want to hear the real skit.

These days, it’s usually abbreviated WYSIWYG and pronounced “wissy-wig,” and it usually relates to something technical. But whether it is about technology or a girl pretending to be unpretentious, it still makes the same basic statement: What you are able to view with your eyes is exactly what you will be able to take home with you. In today’s reading from Genesis 30:28 through Genesis 31:16, we will take a trip back to Bible times when Jacob used the idea of WYSIWYG to make himself rich.

See, his uncle Laban had been gaining off of Jacob’s hard work and genetic providence since he came to visit. He took far more than his fair share, and Jacob knew it was time to take his wives and go home, but he needed some type of inheritance to support them with. When Laban wouldn’t give him a rightful due of livestock, Jacob made a deal with him. He told Laban that he would feed and care for his animals and that when they bred, he would take all those that were streaked, spotted, and speckled. Laban agreed, and then he took away all the streaked, spotted, and speckled animals so that when they bred, there would be less chance of them breeding the ones he promised to Jacob.

Now, Jacob had been given a dream by God. Yahveh told him he saw the unfairness of his uncle and told him exactly what he needed to do to fix things. He advised him to cut branches from poplar trees and peel the bark away until the branches were streaked, spotted, and speckled. He then set the branches up at the feeding troughs since that is where the animals went to mate. Upon breeding, all the babies came out with the designs instead of plain, because they birthed just what they saw as they mated. This meant all the newly born livestock went to Jacob and his family per the agreement with Laban.

When Jacob was ready to go back to his homeland, he ended up going with everything that he had worked for and that rightfully belonged to his wives. God saw the inequality, and God created a way to balance things out. And, yes, Jacob had to listen, he had to obey, and he had to do a little work to help bring that balance, just as we often have to do when God gives us the tools and direction to bring balance into our own lives. We need to pay attention to His direction, and we need pay attention to what we place before our eyes. But if we will turn our eyes upon Jesus, and look full in His wonderful face, then WYSIWYG will mean wonderful things for us.

P.S. Barely any NaNo words in the last two days (none today), but I hope to make up for them at our upcoming retreat. Sitting now at 22,802 words.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lives Without Love


When I read more about Leah today, from Genesis 30:14 through Genesis 30:27, I feel heartbroken for her. She has had four children, she has had two in proxy through her servant girl, but she still feels unloved. When her son collects some mandrakes from the field (thought to be translated from Hebrew meaning “love plant”), Rachael asks Leah if she can have some to help with her infertility. Leah gets upset and accuses Rachael of trying to steal her son as she has done with her husband. So Rachael makes a deal with Leah to exchange some of the fruit for Leah to have her husband back in her bed with her.

After all is said and done, Leah conceives and bares three more children, two boys and girl. She gives Jacob Isaachar (hired/reward), Zebulun (dwelling) and Dinah. When she named Zebulun, she said, “Maybe now that I have given him six children, my husband will live with me.” Finally, after Leah had her three new babies, Rachael finally conceived and gave birth to Joseph meaning “may He add” and hoping this was the end of her infertility and disgrace.

Both of these women had so much pain. Leah was unloved and lonely, and Rachael was infertile and felt rejected by God. But they were sisters. They could have loved each other and been there for each other through everything they went through. Leah could have cared for her sister’s infertility and invited her to help raise her nephews and nieces, but she was so bitter about the fact that her husband really wanted to be with her sister (and had actually married her in ceremony) that she did not care for her sister’s pain. I wonder if she had drawn closer to her sister, would she have felt less lonely? And I wonder if Rachael had cared more for her sister’s inability to change how their husband felt about her, and her inability to change the looks she was born with, would Leah have tried to spend more time with her. It seems that bitterness and envy made both of them lonelier and restricted both of them to lives without love of one kind or other–be it without a husband in the dwelling or without a child to raise.

Hebrews 12:15 talks about the root of bitterness and the torment that comes with it. I think feeling like you are living a life without any love in it would certainly fall under the definition of torment. But since the chapter ends with Jacob finishing his work for Laban and asking to return to his homeland with all his wives and children, maybe there is hope that once they all live together, the sisters can find love for each other again.

November 12, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

This Time, I Will Praise God


SPOILER ALERT! FIRST, read today’s commentary before you watch the video! This is the video I promised I would look for back when I told you this story was upcoming. It’s by my favorite parody group, ApologetiX, and this is their official video for the song, “Downer of a Sister” which is a parody of the song “Chop Suey” by System of a Down. If you would like to read the lyrics and learn more about this amazing band who writes and sings Christian parodies of songs from a variety of genres, visit this song’s lyrics page on their site at http://apologetix.com/music/song.php?freebie=true%20&song_id=383 Once you watch the video, I would love to hear your thoughts about this song, and other ApologetiX songs you may have listened to, in the comments below. Thanks.

Now, today’s reading comes from Genesis 29:18 through Genesis 30:18, and it continues the story of Jacob’s love for Rachael. Jacob loved Rachael so much that when Laban asked him to work for seven years in order to have her as his wife, he worked happily and said the years were like only a few days. And then the wedding and feast were set in order.

On the wedding night, Laban snuck in Leah because she was the first born, and Jacob did not know until the next morning that he had slept with (and therefore married) the wrong sister. He was angry at Laban, but Laban explained it was just the way they did things. He promised he would give him Rachael at the end of the marriage week if Jacob would promise to stay and work for another seven years. He wanted Rachael enough that he agreed to the request.

When he took Rachael as his wife, he was much more in love with her. Yahveh Almighty saw that Leah was unloved, so he made her fertile and Rachael unable to bear children. Leah bore 4 sons to Jacob before she gave birth no more, and each time she was certain that having the children would cause her husband to love her. She named her first three sons Reuben (see, a son), Simeon (God hears), and Levi (companion). But when she had a fourth son, she turned her praise toward God instead of hoping that her husband would love her, so she named him Judah, meaning praise.

Rachael was still infertile, so she gave her handmaiden to Jacob who bore him two more sons, Dan (he judged) and Naphtali (my wrestling). Leah, unfortunately still struggling to feel loved, then gave her own handmaiden to Jacob who also bore him two sons, Gad (fortune) and Asher (happy).

I truly feel compassion for both of these women. I am sad for Leah in feeling unloved, and having plenty of experiences to push her to feeling that way. I wish, for her sake, that she would have been able to have a relationship with God the way people these days are able to, with His Spirit of Comfort able to dwell within us, but somehow, she did know that it was God who was hearing her needs, and that is why she named her children as she did. I think when she named the last one Judah, she was giving praise directly to God, and maybe that’s why the lineage of our Messiah comes through that one.

I also felt bad for Rachael because of being childless. I know that feeling from my own childlessness. I know there is comfort in having children by proxy, and I love the nephews I was privileged to raise for a few years from the depths of my heart–even when they have hurt me. But I also know that there is a part of me that will always wonder what it would have felt like to have known a maternal bond from conception and birth. And yet, as Leah when she had her fourth child, I can still say, I will praise God.

Oh, and just to keep with the NaNo updating, my word count today is 22,731

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kissing Cousins


We know from the past few days that Jacob was on his way to live with Abraham’s family to find a new life away from Esau, and that he made one little detour to talk to God and worship Him. Now, in today’s reading from Genesis 29:1 through Genesis 29:17, he has arrived in his family’s homeland. The first thing he finds is a group of shepherds gathering around a well with a rock covering it up. He asks them why they are not watering the sheep they have with them. They tell him that they are waiting for all the rest of the sheep from all the pastures because the rock is too heavy to move back and forth more than once.

Jacob asked the men what family they were from, and when they told him they were from Haran, he asked them about Laban and was happy to realize he had found his mother’s family. About that time, Rachael showed up with a bunch of sheep to be watered. Jacob got so excited that he kissed her and then rolled away the stone and watered her sheep for her. She took him home to Laban, and all the relatives hugged and kissed each other and were very happy to be united with their own flesh and blood.

Jacob was so excited that he began working for Laban without requesting any kind of pay. Laban let him do so for about a month and then told him that it didn’t seem right to make a relative work that way, so he asked Jacob what his price might be. The chapter doesn’t end with saying what Jacob’s price was, but it does tell us about Laban’s two daughters. It says Leah, the oldest had weak eyes, but Rachael had beautiful features. Guess which kissing cousin Jacob was going to choose?

We are so used to all the ways in which we can communicate these days–be it from landlines, cell phones, computers, letters, or one day plane trips, that many of us at least virtually see our relatives far more often than they did in Bible days. But even with having so many years between family reunions, and being so excited about meeting Jacob, did you notice how easy it was for Laban to start him working and forget that he was a relative and deserved better than that? I guess it’s part of the human condition, and it reminds me of the time when God Himself had to remind his people to not forget Him for all the benefits He showered on them. Since it is the season when many will be gathering with family and friends for various holidays, I pray we will all be thinking of the value each of those people has in our lives, and that we will not forget these values just shortly after our welcoming kisses and hugs.

And that’s the best I could come up with today because my mind is actually on preparations for an upcoming writer’s retreat and then a whole lot of company. If I reread those Scriptures and God gives me something more, I’ll be sure to come back to share. In the meantime, I did get over 2000 words written for my NaNo novel today, so my total stands at 20,830 words.

November 10, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

From a Pillow to an Altar


Sun rays in clouds.

Sun Rays in the Clouds by Crystal A Murray
St. Louis, Missouri, July 2011

This is a night where I am thanking God for another way to at least begin my post, and I’ll add that I’m thankful for the Nuance people who created the Swype keyboard since I can type so much faster with it.

So, tonight we begin a new portion since sundown was the beginning of a new week. We are at Parashah 7, called Vayetze and meaning He Went Out. The full portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through 32:3. Our first piece of this week’s portion runs from Genesis 28:10 through the end of the chapter at Genesis 28:22. In it, we read the story of Jacob and His meeting with Yahveh Almighty. We don’t get to see their full conversation yet, but the introduction has some great stuff in it.

Jacob lies down in a field to sleep, and he grabs a rock to make a pillow for himself. As he sleeps, he sees a ladder where angels are making journeys from Heaven to Earth and back. And then it says, “Suddenly, Adonai was standing there next to him.” He reminds Jacob that He is the God of his grandfather and his father, and then He reveals to him that the ground where he’s lying will be given to him and his descendants. He goes on to tell him of future promises like He gave to Abraham and Isaac; that his seed cannot be counted and that all the families of the earth will be blessed because of him and his descendants. And here, from verse 15, is my favorite part (and a part I am holding claim to for my very dear friends Mark & Debbie): “Look, I am with you. I will guard you wherever you go, and I will bring you back into this land, because I won’t leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Do you realize what that means? It means God is telling him that He will NEVER leave him since what He has promised him is untold numbers of generations in his future. It lines up with His promise from Matthew 28:20, “And lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

When Jacob wakes up, he says, “Surely, God is in this place, and I did not realize it.”

Okay, so I have to break here for a minute for a song. I think in songs quite often, and I’m guessing it’s something I picked up from my grandmother who left this world back in 1988, and with whom I shared a birthday for my first 24 years. I heard she had a song for everything. Anyway, this Scripture makes me think about the song that goes…

Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place,
I can feel His mighty power and His grace.
I can feel the brush of angels wings,
I see glory on each face.
Surely the presence of The Lord is in this place.

So back to Jacob who declares the place the gateway to Heaven and names it The House of God even though it was originally called “Luz.” He then takes the pillow that he was sleeping on, stands it up, pours oil on it, and makes it into an altar for God. After setting up his altar, he makes a vow that if God will stay with him as a guard and provider, so he can travel in peace back to his father’s house, he will follow Him and will faithfully return ten percent of all God gives him. And that’s where this portion ends, but I have a last thought here.

The word tithe means tenth, so without God asking for it, Jacob has decided it is right to give back to God a tithe from all that God provides for him. This is the 2nd place since Genesis 1:1 where a tithe has been mentioned, and both were something men came up with as a way to say thanks in return for provisions. Later, we will read how that changed with it becoming a portion for the Levites, but I find it interesting that it was originally thought of by men as a type of “thank you” gift. I know the feeling of wanting to give back to someone who has freely given to me, and at that point, a tenth often doesn’t even feel like enough, so I can understand the idea of wanting to give back to God when He has been a faithful and loving provider. I can also understand the resistance of people who don’t want to feel forced into tithing to someone who they do not feel is giving to them and who is demanding that people give to them because they deserve it or because of their position, or whatever. Tithe belongs to God as a gift of thanksgiving, and when I look at it this way, giving feels much better. Actually, everything I look at from God’s perspective feels better.

P.S. Because this was our writer’s meeting day, my NaNo word count went way down. I’m incorporating the story I wrote for our writer’s exercise into my novel for this day just so I can have some kind of word count. My total for today is 18, 749, and that at least keeps me still on track for my personal goal.

November 9, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Rebellion as Revenge


Tree Reflected in Lake at KFC in Louisville, KY

How people treat you, is a reflection of their character—not yours.
Tree reflected in still lake at KFC Corporate Offices in Louisville, Kentucky (By Crystal A Murray)

Today, we get to the rest of the current sibling rivalry between Jacob and Esau. The reading is a very short set of verses from Genesis 28:5 through Genesis 28:9, and it talks about Esau overhearing as Isaac sent Jacob away with blessings and with the order to stay away from the Canaanite women.

So, what does Esau do? While Jacob is obedient to his parents and goes to the home of Laban, the brother of his mother (also known as “uncle” these days), to choose a wife, Esau goes to the house of Ishmael (I think he would have been a great-uncle), and finds a Canaanite wife. The story shows it as if he made that decision to spite his father for sending his brother away with blessings. And in his heart, I’m sure he blamed the need for revenge as the reason for his rebellion. But since he had already been rebellious in the types of wives he had chosen before, I would say the rebellion was already in his heart, and he just needed to justify it.

I’m sure we all have known, or have heard about, people like that. You know, those people who do nothing wrong on their own but only do what other people “make” them do? They make excuses, and they promise to make you pay a price if you confront their bad behaviors. Listen to the songs that try to make people (mostly impressionable youth, I think) feel bad for being snitches. They don’t encourage people not to do the things that could be snitched on, they just encourage others not to tell anyone if they witness a crime. Sure, of course it’s better to let people get away with a crime, so they’ll be free to commit even more crimes in the future, than it is to make them pay a price for their own bad behavior, right? I wonder, if someone had snitched on Trayvon Martin when his crimes were minor, would it have kept him from getting to a point where his defensiveness put him in a position to be killed? Or, did he make a decision, like Esau, and was going to choose lawlessness no matter what? If the latter, then someone coming forward as a witness could have prevented other victims, including the one who now has to live forever with the fact that he took a human life–whether it could be justified or not.

I’m sure I’m not alone in the following: I have become depressed when people blamed me for their mistakes.  Because I am a fixer, if I could not fix someone and stop them from doing the wrong thing, then when they blamed me, I took it on like it was the truth. I have done that for years and only recently found at least some relief from that bad habit after reading the following quote (as shown on the image above)… “How people treat you is a reflection of their character, not yours.

I think that quote is a perfect statement to describe Esau’s attitude in this story. He did already have that bad attitude, and it was likely that no matter what Jacob, Isaac, or Rebekah did, he would have made the same bad decisions until he made a heartfelt decision to get rid of the rebellion and struggle within himself. We can be what God designed us to be only when we keep the conversation between us and God alone. His word promises that if we will commit our works to Him (that is without blame or excuse), our thoughts will be established. Of course, when our thoughts are established, I guess we won’t be thinking about things like revenge anymore, right?

P.S. I was able to get my 2000 words in today and get my count to 18,118, but I hope I can make up for yesterday with a few extra words tomorrow.

November 8, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Curse in The Blessing


Our reading is from Genesis 27:28 through Genesis 28:4, and it tells the rest of the story from the deception that was begun yesterday by Jacob and his mother, Rebekah. Isaac showered great blessings on Jacob, including passing along to him many blessings from Abraham like “those that curse you will be cursed, and those that bless you will be blessed.”

But right after giving him the blessing, Esau showed up with the meat he had hunted for and prepared especially for his father. When Isaac realized what was done to him, he cried out because he could not take back his word even though he was tricked. Esau cried out and said that “supplanter” was a great meaning for the name Jacob because he had stolen from Esau twice. One thing I was apparently wrong about was that the blessing accompanied the birthright. I thought that when Esau gave up his birthright, it meant he was giving up whatever blessing would automatically go to the firstborn, but the way Esau has a fit and claims that Jacob stole both things, apparently they were two different blessings. Of course, I don’t know that Esau would have valued the 2nd any more than he valued the first, so I’m certain God allowed things to happen as they did to keep the blessing in a place of value.

Esau was so angry that he planned to kill Jacob as soon as they were done mourning their father. Rebekah heard him making his plans, so she advised Jacob to go back to his mother’s homeland to hide from Esau. She told him how much she despised the Hittite wives taken by Esau and forbade Jacob from marrying from among them and advised he go get a wife from her brother’s children. So, while Jacob had wonderful blessings from his father, he would be cursed to be in hiding until his brother’s anger waned away. We who know the rest of the story, though, know that even what could have been a curse in his running away will turn out to be a blessing in the end, even though Jacob will have to endure being tricked himself. Oh, and if I don’t remember when I get to that part of the story, someone please remind me to attach a funny video by the band, ApologetiX, that demonstrates that trickery. In the meantime, how about a cute video about Jacob and Esau called “Twins Came Out.”

Finally, at the end of his begging, Isaac did find a blessing for Esau as well. Isaac told Esau that he would reap the fruit of the earth, but that he would be a servant to his brother, and that he would live by the sword. He also told him, though, that a day would come when he would break loose from being his servant and in so doing, would break Jacob’s yoke from off his neck. Knowing what I know about the future of Jacob, I’m not certain that breaking that yoke off is truly a blessing. But, since God has opened the door to bring even Gentiles to His throne of grace, He has made it so that we can all partake of His blessings if we choose Him.

P.S. I was a bit low on word count for NaNo today and wrote only 1400 of my planned 2500 per day. I wrote after I posted this, so I’m having to come back and add this note later. But, you know, if I added all the words I wrote in e-mails to the writing group and comments on blogs to other writers I support, that would’ve made my word count–LOL. Anyway, today’s total is 16,106 so I’m still ahead of schedule for finishing with 50K by the November 30th deadline.

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feminine Wiles


Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray

Protected Beauty by Crystal A Murray
With 1 Corinthians 1:18 Encouragement
Click on image for Flickr page and more.

We have a slightly longer reading today from Genesis 26:30 through Genesis 27:27. It begins where yesterday left off with Abimelech spending the night and being blessed by Isaac. They all made a commitment to treating each other with blessings from that point forward, and while they were making the agreement, Isaac’s servants came to report the digging of a new well. Isaac named the well Beersheba, which meant “Well of the Oath.”

The end of Chapter 26 tells us that Esau was now 40 years old, and that he married two women that grieved his parents. Very shortly afterwards, Isaac began to realize that his time on earth was coming to an end, and he knew it was time to pass the blessing of the firstborn to Esau. He asked Esau to go out and hunt for his favorite game and bring it back for him to eat, so he could spend some time with him and give him the blessing that was due him as the firstborn. And, yes, that is the blessing that he gave up for a bowl of stew.

Now, we’re not told if Esau confessed his foolish trade, and we’re never told whether Jacob shared that information with his mother or father, but I’m thinking he at least shared it with Rebekah. And I’m thinking that is why Rebekah decided to use her feminine wiles and have a hand in how the blessings were dispersed. She overheard the plans between Isaac and Esau, so she made secretive plans with Jacob on how to trick his aging father who was almost blind.

In a quick summary, Rebecca had Jacob get some goats from the field, and she prepared them to taste like the game that Esau normally prepared for him. Then, she took the skins from the goats and put them on Jacob’s hands and on his neck. After that, she placed some of Esau’s clothes on him, so he would have the scent of his brother. When Jacob went in to present his father with the food, Isaac thought the voice sounded like Jacob, but through touching his skin and smelling the clothes, Isaac was mostly convinced that he was indeed talking with his eldest son. The rest of the story should be in tomorrow’s reading.

I’m mostly certain that at least some of you readers have had the experience of giving from your heart to someone who was ungrateful and who did not value your gift or gifts. And it’s likely also true that each of you has given to someone who was grateful and made you feel wonderful in your giving. Giving to a grateful receiver is far more enjoyable than giving to a taker or is demanding or thinks he or she deserves what you have to give. Even God makes His salvation to whosoever will because it just feels better to give to someone who humbly receives and values a gift.

I know the plan between Rebekah and Jacob seems a bit unfair to Esau, but I have to wonder if God did not set all this up with allowing Rebecca to hear the plans, with keeping Esau in the field just long enough, and with making sure that the blessings were given to the one whose heart was closest to God. I believe Jacob was closer because of Esau’s lack of respect for the birthright, because of Esau’s marriage that grieved his parents, and because of verse 20 where Jacob, imitating Esau, makes the following statement: Adonai your God made it happen that way. I think this statement shows that Esau did not believe in or respect Yahveh the same as his parents or his brother. And I believe God wanted the birthright blessings that would affect the whole future of Abraham’s descendants to be given to the one who most valued and respected them.  We will learn later just what it meant for Jacob to carry the birthright into the future.

P.S. NaNo words today hit 14,888, but I’m running out of story, so I’ll gladly take prayers for some more creative ideas. Thanks.

November 6, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sibling Rivalry To Die For


Today, we begin Parashah (portion) number six for the year. It is the Hebrew word “toldot” and it means “history.” Our verses today run from Genesis 25:19 through Genesis 26:5, and they begin the history of Isaac and Rebecca.

We learn from the beginning that Rebekah was childless just as her mother-in-law Sarah was. I’m sure Isaac had heard the stories of Sarah’s pain in that, and I’m sure he heard about the failed attempts to do things man’s way instead of God’s way, so he sought God on behalf of his wife. God blessed Rebekah and allowed her to become pregnant, but it was a hard pregnancy. Not only was she pregnant with twins (and without an ultrasound or a gynecologist to explain it all to her), but the twins inside her were already rivals. They fought so much that the story says she wondered if it was even worth living through.

Rebekah made it through her pregnancy, and the children became what the Lord told her they would right from birth. The first to be born came out covered with hair and not at all delicate, so he became his father’s favorite. They named him Esau. The younger must have been fighting to be born first and came out holding onto the heel of his brother’s foot. They called him Jacob, meaning supplanter, and he was happy to hang around the house and spend time with his mother rather than living the wild life of a game hunter. She was happy with that. And I’m sure she also remembered God’s words to her that the older would become the servant to the younger.

The word supplanter also means usurper. It is not necessarily a complimentary name as it describes someone who unlawfully takes or steals something that was not meant to be his. And since Jacob was not the warrior type, he had to grab what he wanted by more subtle and conniving means. You’ll see this played out more than once as we read his story.

So, Jacob not only likes to hang around the house, apparently he also likes to cook. And apparently he does a good job of it. So, he decides one day to go sit outside and make a stew that everyone around could smell. I imagine it was one of those aromas that makes your mouth water even when you have just finished eating. Oh, but to someone who is hungry… And Esau was hungry. He came in from hunting and was tired and hungry, and he smelled that enticing aroma. He probably thought that just by asking, his loving brother would give him what he wanted. Not so. Instead, Jacob told Esau that if he wanted some of his lentil stew badly enough, he would trade his birthright as the first-born son for a bowl of it. And Esau was somehow so hopeless that he said his birthright would mean nothing to him if he died of starvation, so he made the trade. Scripture tells us that this shows how little Esau’s birthright meant to him.

The first time I read all this, I felt sorry for Esau and a bit frustrated with Jacob. But now it makes me wonder if Jacob was supposed to be the first-born from the beginning, and the fight in the womb came from Esau being a bully and pushing his way to the front. I’ve seen too many take something they were sure should belong to them and then not respect it, so I know it can happen. And I know Esau could have sought God to sustain him until he was able to eat if his birthright meant anything at all to him. And now I’m ready to see all the blessings that come from one who values what he has and what he will do with the blessing of the first-born. Stay tuned.

P.S. I placed a NaNoWriMo widget at the top of my page, so you can always keep track of my word count. I was out most of the day, but I am happy to say that I added over 1800 more words to my count today. And I’m even feeling good about my character’s day of time travel.

November 2, 2013 Posted by | Bible Study, Nonfiction, Torah Commentary | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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Language, Attitude, Health, and Home

Miller Theology

Duane's Miller's commentary on Christianity and culture

Inkspirations Online

A well of inspiration and encouragement for Christian writers

3rd Letter Writers

Telling Stories. Sharing Life.

Quills & Inkblotts

Because the world needs good stories

dwwritesblog

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein

Truth in Reality

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...." (Hosea 4:6)

Loved, chosen, & empowered

Learning to follow Christ one day at a time

Hallelujah

Thinking about all the reasons we have for praising our LORD.

CLADACH Publishing

Producing and Providing Inspirational Books

The Narrowing Path

walking together in truth and love.

Happy Eco Mama

Green parenting, positive psychology and connecting our little ones to the natural world

Create With Joy

Infuse Creativity In All You Do

Stories With Heart

Blog of Best Selling author David Johnson

Andrew M. Friday

website of science fiction author Andrew M. Friday

Above All Else

Thoughts from Katie Foster

Crystal Writes A Blog

A Place to Read What "Crystal-Writes"

Editor

Simply beautiful publishing powered by WordPress.

THE WORD on The Word of Faith (a GroupBlog)

BREAKING FREE from The Word of Faith Movement & telling the World about it! TELL US YOUR STORY

behind the lens

the view from the other side of the window

Blaire McDaniel

Finding God in the Gray.

The Matt Walsh Blog

Absolute Truths (and alpaca grooming tips) **Facebook.com/MattWalshBlog

On Faith and Writing

A Daughter of the King

Christian Design and Video Share

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Wordsmith's Desk

some thoughts along the way

Socialism is not the Answer

Limited Government Is

By the Blood of the Lamb

And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb...

Iris Grace Painting

imagine, create, inspire

Today's Author

Fostering a community of creative writers through articles, comments, writing prompts and a healthy, supportive environment.

Louisville Christian Writers blog

For members of LCW to spread their blogging wings or reblog their own posts.

Monica Mynk

Stories of Broken Girls, Seeking Love, Finding His Truth

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Women: Each One A Survivor

Enjoying Every Moment

Jessie Jeanine

A survivor inspired by the tragedies and triumphs of life.

DiscernIt

Deut 32:28 "They are a nation without sense, there is no discernment in them."

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