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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

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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