FAVORITISM IS COMPLICATED
Joseph, being seventeen years old, was pasturing the flock with his brothers. He was a boy with the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives. And Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. Genesis 37:2-3
Favoritism can be complicated. Take Jacob and his son, Joseph. Jacob didn’t make Joseph his favorite to spite other righteous sons. Many of the others had proven themselves to be troublemakers, bound up in foolishness. They had spurned their father’s ways and had left a trail of disappointment and hurt. Jacob didn’t spoil Joseph either by giving him a life of ease. He trained him to work hard and to do so with godly ethics.
I’m not defending the fact that Jacob showed favoritism. It wasn’t right. He acted unwisely and set things up for the other sons to hate their brother. From a sibling’s perspective, favoritism never works out well.
But from a parent’s perspective, the heart is a complicated thing. Continue reading
HANDLING YEARS OF REGRET
And Jacob came to his father Isaac at Mamre. Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. And Isaac breathed his last, and he died and was gathered to his people, old and full of days. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Genesis 35:27-29
I’ve been doing some Old Testament math. It’s easy for there to be half a century between chapters. And, don’t we all know how long and momentous just one year can be? It’s important to comprehend how much time has gone by since Jacob has seen his father, Isaac. I believe it’s over 100 years. Isaac was 40 when he married Rebeccah, 70 when Jacob stole the blessing, and 180 when his father died. Since Jacob left just after stealing his brother’s birthright, that would make the absence many decades long. I wonder if Jacob ever thought he’d see his father again. Perhaps he reasoned that this was the bitter consequence of his sin.
God, in His mercy, allowed Isaac to live just until Jacob returned to his homeland. Esau was there too. Both brothers, long estranged, were there to say goodbye to their father and, together, bury him.
God is merciful. God is redemptive. But there are losses because of my sin. Continue reading
The woman said to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when the One comes, He will declare all things to us. John 4:25
Do you know that you can ask Me absolutely anything? There’s nothing too insignificant. And don’t you know that you are not a bother? I don’t sigh in weariness when I see you coming. I already know the question you are going to ask and I’ve been waiting for you so eagerly to give you the answers. Don’t be surprised if you need to seek Me persistently. In seeking, you will gain far more insight about the answer than if I fed it to you in just a few lines. Everything that comes out of my mouth is full on many dimensions. Each truth could be explored for a lifetime. I want your understanding of Me to be comprehensive, not shallow.
I am the God of disclosure. You have no idea how much I’d love to reveal to you but when you live your life on the advice of others, you will have wasted most of it. We have a personal relationship so ask me personal questions.
- When you are hurting from the stings of another, ask me what would cause someone do to that.
- When you erupt in anger toward the last person you want to hurt, ask me why you did that.
- When you can’t get over a loss and you continue to grieve without end, ask me why the tears won’t stop.
- When a so-called friend treats you like an enemy, ask me how it’s possible.
- When you have a dream that feels very spiritual, ask me what it means.
- When you encounter several things that seem more than coincidence, ask me if I’m trying to say something to you.
- When you read the Word and feel nothing, ask me to kiss your heart to life.
- When you are frustrated with yourself, even to the point of dislike, ask me to show you who you really are in Me.
- When you don’t understand why I answered the Pharisees like I did, just ask me.
Do you see the questions you’ve never asked? Aren’t you interested in my answers? Asking is praying. Pray more. Listen more. I am close by, always listening for the sound of my name being spoken.
A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. Isaiah 35:8
When the pathway you travel is overgrown with weeds and thorns, and the next step is obscured, do not fear. I have already cleared the path up ahead and it is sunlit with the rays of my glory.
I call my disciples to what feels like too great a risk. Most turn back because they do not trust Me enough to lead them by the hand. You are proving to be an exception. Though you have had many years of experiences that might prove otherwise, you still choose to believe that I am true to My character. You are putting me to the test and I inhale the essence of such obedience.
BILHAH AND OTHER USED AND ABUSED
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Genesis 35:22
Bilhah is a woman without rights. She was Rachel’s maid all the way back to before Rachel was married. She learned to obey orders very young. She never knew freedom. In fact, much of her life was characterized by being used by others.
When Rachel couldn’t conceive, she gave Bilhah to Jacob as a secondary wife. She used her as a surrogate mother to conceive babies. Once they were born, Rachel would keep them and adopt them as her own sons. Once again, Bilhah had no choice.
Years later, she was victimized again as Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, took her honor. He snuck in her tent and in the darkness, lay with her. Bilhah could teach a class today on what it means to be victimized.
Did she know God? I want to believe so. She was immersed in all the teaching, the worship, the building of altars at pinnacle moments of faith. She saw it all and probably clung to God for the strength to endure hardship.
What can be said for the Bilhah’s of this world? Perhaps you are one. From a young age, you were taken against your will, used for someone else’s pleasure. Your life was a set up and choices were made for you. How do you come to believe in a God that appears to bless some and curse others? Those with heartbreaking stories have posed the question to me on many occasions. Can He be trusted to rule fairly? Continue reading
COPING WITH CHANGE
Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. Genesis 35:16-18
Too many changes in one’s life, all at once, put a person in a fragile place emotionally. It seems too much to process. When I initiate the changes, it’s easier. But most change is what happens to me and I have no control over it. Good changes are challenging enough but bad changes, one after another, bring the onset of grief. Continue reading
HAVE YOU EMBRACED YOUR IDENTITY?
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. Genesis 35:10
God has always been an identity changer. One cannot be near someone like God and not be severely affected. Either one is repelled and runs the other way or is smitten by His glory and wants to make Him their home. The identity-changing nature of God has never been more evident than when He personally changed the names of people. Jacob, in spite of all of his failures, persevered with good faith intentions and God acknowledged the change in his heart with a name change. The name Jacob means ‘supplanter’….one who takes something by force through treachery. Fitting, since he tricked his brother and stole his blessing. Years later, God saw that Jacob was one who literally wrestled with Him in order to receive God’s blessing. He persevered until faith in God defined Him. God chose the name Israel for him….one who perseveres with God.
While God may not give new earthly names to every person, my identity has radically changed if I was adopted into His family. God says that I’m no longer an alien, but a resident of heaven. He says that I’m no longer an enemy, but friend. I’m no longer cursed, but blessed. I’m no longer lost, but saved. I’m no longer rejected because of my sin, I’m chosen. I’m no longer unclean, but righteous. I’m no longer without purpose, I’ve got a calling. I’m no longer hopeless, but hopeful. Continue reading