Saturday, April 30, 2016

Zebulun

Zebulun seems a weird place to end this year's challenge.  It seems like Zebulun should have been dissected a few weeks ago.  If you are reading this and have read all of the posts this month, thank you.  I hope I didn't lead you down rabbit trails but instead peaked your curiosity and saw Jacob's story in a new light.  If I confused you or am off on any historical detail, please forgive me.  I did my best to stay true to cultural understanding as best I am able.  I realize my western understanding penetrated much of my posts, and I hope you will use this as a springboard to research on your own for more clarity.

Now, onto Zebulun.

Zebulun was the 10th son born to Jacob.  The 7th son born to and for Leah, but born as part of the bargain his mother and Aunt Rachel made:  sex with Jacob for a plant.

Zebulun was third in line during the desert wanderings.  His family camped on the east side of the tabernacle, a representative from his family brought their offering for the dedication of the tabernacle on the third day, and Ezekiel saw Zebulun's gate on the south side of heaven.

When he was born, his mother, Leah, said, "God has presented me with a precious gift.  This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons."  Hence, Zebulun means "dwelling."

When Jacob was dying he said this to his tenth son:  "Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon."

Moses said, about Zebulun and his brother Issachar:  "Rejoice Zebulun, in your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents.  They will summon peoples to the mountains and there offer sacrifices of righteousness; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sands."

When Jesus walked the planet he lived in Capernaum, in the area of Zebulun.

Zebulun had three sons:  Sered, Elon, Jahleel of whom no other significant details are found in the Bible.

I found the meaning behind the words Leah spoke when Zebulun was born somewhat heartbreaking.  The Hebrew transliteration says it this way:  

 has bestowed God upon me dowry a good now dwell with me will my husband because I have born to him six sons and she called his name Zebulun."  (Hebrew transliteration)

 "God has presented me with a precious gift.  This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons."  (NIV)


presented:  zabad - bestow upon, endow with

gift - zebed - gift, dowry

precious - towb - beautiful, pleasant, agreeable to the senses

dwell - zabal - dwell - English - to remain for a time; to live as a resident; to keep the attention directed

Synonyms of dwell:  abide, stay, hang around, remain, stick around
Antonyms:  bail, bail out, bug out, buzz off, clear off, walk out, take off, vamoose

Zebulun - zabal - see dwell above

Zebulun  was the last boy born to Leah.  When she named him, apparently she hoped the sixth son would be enough to make Jacob stay longer than his previous visits to her side of the camp.   (Apparently she must have forgotten that she had claimed Zilpah's sons as her own too).

But she couldn't make Jacob stay.

She looked into her little baby boy's eyes, the sixth of her womb, drinking him in, smelling that precious baby smell.  She looked at him and used the holy word God used when he looked upon his creation and saw that it was good.

Leah saw good like God saw good.  ("And God saw that it was good" sound familiar?)  She recognized good when she saw it.  She saw it in her precious boy Zebulun.

But it wasn't enough to make Jacob stay.

What Leah actually said, though the NIV English translates it poorly is in effect this (my paraphrase):

My time is now.  This precious gift from God is what will keep Jacob around.  Instead of running back to Rachel, this time, this time maybe he'll stay.  This time he'll stick around.  This time he won't bug out and take off in disgust.  This time...maybe this boy will keep him close by.

But there is no record that says sweet little Zebulun changed his father's mind about his mother.

But God did not walk out on Zebulun.  God hung around.  God planted Zebulun, Issachar, and Judah  on the east side of the Tabernacle, where the gate was and toward the sunrise.  Isaiah's prophecy concerning Zebulun was fulfilled in Matthew.  Eleven of the Christ's disciples came from Zebulun's territory in Galilee.

How many times do we fear God will walk out on us because of all we've done or haven't done?  Or is it just me?  How precious are the names of the twelve sons of Jacob.  They give us a picture into the heart of God.  Each child is precious to him.  Each of us grown physically, but infant in our understanding is precious to the God who created us.

He will never leave us or forsake us.  He is with us for the long haul.

Peace,

Ronda

Isaiah 9:1
Matthew 4:13-16
Judges 5:18
1 Chronicles 12:40
Deuternonmy 31:6
John 15








Friday, April 29, 2016

Yesterday

Psalm 90:4  
A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

2 Peter 3:8  
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:  With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

If we were to take those two verses literally, the life of Jacob and his twelve sons happened a few days ago.  So with that premise I give you: 

Y is for yesterday.


Yesterday, Jacob doubted.  Today Jacob believes.

Yesterday, Leah was hated.  Today Leah is experiencing pure love.

Yesterday, Rachel suffered.  Today Rachel is experiencing true joy.


I've had the opportunity this past month to return to the south and spend the entire month taking care of my granddaughter.  On my list of things to do while here was to visit some historical sights that I never made an effort to see when I lived in the south for 15 years.

So, you could say I've been visiting "yesterday" a lot.

Yesterday, when the south was neck deep in slavery and excess and war and turmoil.

Yesterday.

What do we do about yesterday?

Yesterday Jacob was struggling with God, Joseph was sitting in a jail cell, Rachel was crying herself to sleep and Leah was longing to be loved.

We look back on yesterday because God has given us yesterday to look back upon, but he doesn't want us to stay in yesterday.  Yesterday is over.  We can't redo yesterday.  We can only learn from yesterday.

As I visited plantations and saw evidence of our painful past, I also saw remnants of great joy and celebration.  If all we glean from yesterday is pain, what is to be done with yesterday's joy?

Yesterday.

If you struggle like me you trip over your own yesterdays a lot.  They stick out like uneven pavement, tripping me up when I least expect it.  I can throw my yesterdays and its pain and its joys in a box, refusing to open them, and locking them tight, throwing away the key.  But when I do that, I lose out on the benefits of the lessons each want to teach me.  Each wants me to learn from.

What is yesterday for if not to give us the reason to start over today?  To do better than what was done yesterday; to take the next step to finding the joy in our struggles.

Yesterday matters.  But only as a jumping board for making today matter more.  We can lament our yesterdays, our country's yesterdays, our world's yesterdays and feel despair and discouragement.  Or we can rejoice that we have today to do it better than it was done yesterday.  As our fingers loosen their grip on yesterday's pain, yesterday's joys and victories will be more visible.

Jacob and his family now see fully the meaning of all their yesterdays.

It's time for us to start looking for the meaning of ours.


Y is for Yesterday.


Peace,

Ronda



Thursday, April 28, 2016

Xenophobe

It always comes down to the word for X.

Ugh.

Before I start outlining my theme, the first question I ask myself is, "What will be my word for Q and X?"

Always, always X is the tough one.

Many in the challenge use a word that has an X in it, like eXamine, but I try to find an actual X word.  So then the dictionary hunt starts and because I've had a Biblical theme my choices are sometimes fewer.

As the world refugee crisis is touching our hearts and minds and fears these past few months the word Xenophobe is being tossed around a lot here in the United States.  To be accused of being xenophobic means someone is describing you as

"unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin."

Yeah, we can all be called xenophobic.    Prejudice is really the better word, if you ask me.  Prejudice is the nature of this beast we wear called the slug suit of sin.  It is a dirtier word and it means

  "a feeling of like or dislike for someone or something especially when it is not reasonable or logical."

We become afraid and prejudicial of those things we can't predict, we don't know, we don't understand, or we've only heard about from someone else rather than experience for ourselves.

I grew up in white skin world.  I probably saw two black people the first 18 years of my life.  When I married and moved away and lived in Navy towns, my world suddenly became much more colorful.  Then when I got to know a few people who didn't look like me I realized that they were a lot like me and the only thing that was really different about us was our skin color.

I was afraid of that which was not like me, that which was "foreign."

We don't have to be from different countries to go to someplace foreign.  Go anywhere in the United States.  The customs and traditions of the midwest are foreign to the customs and traditions of the northeast or the south.  Sometimes even crossing a county line one can feel they are in a foreign land.
How many cities are deemed "the bad part of town" or "where the bankers live?"  We don't need to get on a plane and travel outside of our own country to go to a foreign land.

Some do, I realize.  And some are "unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin."

Are you?

Are you afraid to get to know the person of a different color or religion or denomination who sits next to you at work? Are you afraid you won't have anything in common?

I'm so glad God is not "unduly fearful of what is foreign and especially of people of foreign origin."

Where would that leave us if he were?

Jesus wasn't afraid to come to our neighborhood, to our neck of the woods and get to know what it's like living as slugs.

Jesus wasn't unduly fearful of this foreign sinful land that he left his sinless home for to love on us and teach us and walk with us and suffer and die in our place.

Aren't you glad?

Aren't you thankful Jesus loves the foreigner, the one so not like him?  Aren't you filled with joy when you realize the barriers he busted through to get to you?  He didn't worry about walls and documentation and sponsorships.  He busted through the walls, he tore up the forged paperwork and he said, "I am your sponsor.  You are loved and welcomed in my home!"

We earthly vessels have a lot to figure out as we struggle with our tendency towards xenophobia.  Jacob's family, on top of all their soap opera struggles, lived as foreigners in a foreign land.  They were looked at as foreigners, as odd, as different, yet their struggles were like our struggles.  If we were to sit around their fires or they were to come into our living rooms, after the initial small talk was complete, the stories of struggles could be shared.

Wayward children?  Yep, one or two.

Jealousy?  Definitely.

Women fighting?  Most certainly.

Men who don't listen?  Girl, let me tell you!

Fighting children?  Ooooo, where do I start.

And then the deeper parts of the soul would be shared.

Broken hearts?  Head nods.

Loneliness?  Yes.

Fear?  Whispered yeses go around the circle.

What is foreign?  Only what we don't know.  Once we experience what is foreign we no longer have need to fear it or them or that way of doing things because we've tasted a little bit of what it's like to be the foreigner.

Xenophobic?  There is a cure.

Cross the line.  Break down the wall.  Extend a hand.  Bake a dish and bring it to a neighbor.  Then there won't be foreigners anymore.



Peace,

Ronda


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

(Wo)man

Leah.

Rachel.

Zilpah.

Bilhah.

Dinah.

Five women.  One man.

How do these five women of the ancient world fit into our modern world?  What can be said of them to uplift?  What can be said of their roles as sisters, wives, concubines, surrogates, daughters?  How can we (I) reconcile those ancient lives with yours and mine?  What can I boil down for you in a few words, on this W day of the A to Z Challenge that will give you hope?

I've struggled in my own role as a woman.  Being a Navy wife I've struggled in my role as wife/deployment head of house.  Having been married 31 years, I struggle with my role.  It's not easy living in the place God has for you with so many influences of my culture, my country, and the boundaries, or lack thereof, we have been born into.

Some use the ancient words to force submission.  Some use the ancient words to abandon submission.  Some don't use the ancient words at all.

I grew up in the late 60's and 70's when women left the honored role of homemaker in search of the greener grass.  They believed the lie that women could have it all - career, husband, family - yet, statistics are telling a different story.  We can look around us, in our families, our schools and our churches and see that as wonderful as it is to see women in roles that breed confidence, a price has been paid.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about Leah and Rachel, and their concubines Zilpah and Bilhah the past four months.  I've tried to imagine what it is like to be in their culture trying to find love and meaning through giving a man a child.  Although many things are different, the curse of Eve is still alive in 2016:

"Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you."

Before the fall - women were never meant to be ruled by their husbands.

Before the fall - woman's desires were meant for God.

Before the fall - the word equality wasn't necessary.  The word submission wasn't a bad word.

But after the deception - a woman's desire will be for her husband

After the deception  - a woman will be ruled by her husband.

It's not the original intent of the male/female relationship.

But even these thousands years later the curse is still in effect.

No one knows their real roles.  In my country, many women think their role is supposed to be equal to or the same as a man's and men are afraid to live their role without being accused of ruling.  Or, women think they don't need a man and men sadly believe them.

I've had some tender moments with God as I've faced my own role, my own identity as a woman by studying these ladies.  I remember and see all the times Jesus reached out to a woman.  It was a woman he first showed himself to, long before any of the men saw him after the crucifixion and burial.  It was a woman he pulled from being stoned, while pointing out that in God's eyes, all sin is worthy of punishment, no matter the gender of the offender.  It was through a woman he came to earth.  It was a woman who offered him her richest treasure as she poured it on his feet.  It was a woman who stood at the cross watching him die.  It was a woman who broke the good 'ol boy rules and sat at the feet of Jesus to be taught.

The prophet Joel saw a time when the LORD "Will pour out my Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see vision.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days."

The curse from the garden is not the law.  The curse from the garden is where the struggle lies.  The curse has never negated God's plan for the roles of male and female.  His plan still includes both men and women in the beautiful roles He has designed and purposed for them.

We may have lost our way, trying to follow the world's way of equality.  Surely when suffering was in our rearview mirror as the feminist movement backed out of the driveway, driving us down a path not  even considered or imagined, we still don't have it as God originally intended.

So what is there to learn from Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah and even no-story Dinah?

That's a personal question only you can answer.

Are you still like Leah and Rachel, hoping to find significance in having children, or in having a man love you?  Or are you more like Zilpah and Bilhah, unable to stand up and be more than someone's servant, to be used at your master's whim?

The grace that God bestowed on Jacob and his wives, despite everything we think they did to mess things up, is still beautiful grace.  Grace that sees beyond the daily sin and struggle of loving God most.  He loves us most, whether we love him back or not.

His love for us is true and unending and merciful.

He loves women.  He loves men.  He loves you.

You can never change that fact, no matter how hard you think you've messed up.


W is for (Wo)man


Peace,

Ronda

Genesis 3:16
Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew 26:6-13
Matthew 28
Mark 14
Mark 16
Luke 1:26-66
Luke 7:36-50
Luke 24
John 8
John 12
John 19:25-27
John 20






Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Vindicate

Dan was the fifth son born to Jacob, the first son born to Bilhah Rachel's servant, the first child who called Rachel his mother.

When Bilhah delivered Dan, Rachel said, "God has vindicated me, he has listened to my plea and given me a son."

Jacob said of his son, "Dan will provide justice for his people as one of the tribes of Israel.  Dan will be a serpent by the roadside, a viper along the path that bites the horse's heels that its rider stumbles backward."

Moses said, "Dan is a lion's cub, spring out of Bashan."

The tribe of Dan was part of the rear guard, along with the tribes of Asher and Naphtali.  They marched 10th in the desert and camped on north side of the tabernacle.  

If one judges the mothers of the twelve sons of Jacob by what they said at the birth of each child, one could sit high on a horse, looking down with unbalanced scales and wonder why in the world these words, out of all the words surely these mothers spoke over these children, why were these the ones God found it necessary we know?

I mean, really, God, talk about opening the door to harsh judgment against a woman who is no longer alive and can defend herself.  

But I wonder if that's exactly what God desired.  I don't know, I'm not God, I'm just thinking out loud here, but if we didn't have these harsh thoughts preserved for thousands of years, might we not get a little discouraged if we only had their wonderful comforting, mothering words to look back upon?

I mean, when you read that Rachel felt vindicated by God....that gives some hope for those women who have struggled with infertility, with sister conflict, with father/daughter issues.  Doesn't it?

So what was Rachel saying when she said that God had vindicated her?

By the way, Dan means "he has vindicated."  The Hebrew word is din which means in its short definition - judge.

God has judged me.

Ugh.  Rachel, we don't like the word judge here in 2016!  No Ma'am, that's a curse word in our part of the world.  No one judges anyone here, and we certainly don't like to discuss God's judgment!  

Don't like that word?  Well, here are some other words the Hebrew word is replaced with:

defend, dispute, execute judgment, govern, plead, strive

In the English, vindicate means:  to show that someone should not be blamed for a crime, mistake, etc. to show that someone is not guilty; to free from allegation or blame

I wonder if, as Rachel saw Leah conceive and give birth to four sons, if Leah poked some blame at Rachel.  I wonder if she taunted her.  Hated taunting Most loved.

You may have his heart, Dear Sister, but I am producing his offspring.

Maybe Jacob blamed Rachel.  He loved her, but her father tricked him on their wedding day, making him sleep unknowingly with Leah (I'd like to know how that happened) and then making Jacob work for him another 7 years before making Rachel his wife.

Maybe Jacob blamed Rachel.  What happened to you on our wedding night?  Why weren't you in the tent?  Maybe the words between them were harsh and left Rachel crying, night after night after night of trying and hoping and praying that this night a child would be conceived.

Imagine the pain as she watched Jacob go into her ugly sister's tent, then the agony of seeing her sister's belly grow.  She probably wouldn't be able to see the loneliness in her sister's eyes though,  the eyes that longed to see the spark in Jacob's eyes that she saw when Rachel walked by.

How sad I feel for both of those women.

How said I feel for Jacob.

The fact that Jacob had several women in his bed could be a strong argument for polygamy.  But better yet is the reminder:  Jacob's model for marriage is not what God's plan was for marriage.  God's plan was for one man and one woman because he knew the heartache anymore would cause.  I'm sure the culture around them saw nothing wrong about having multiple wives and concubines.  But just because the culture said it was ok did not mean the pain it caused wasn't real.

We can't blame the culture though.

Whatever went on, whatever prayers and pleadings were laid on God on by Rachel, when Bilhah gave birth to a little boy on Rachel's behalf, Rachel, for the first time maybe, realized God was listening to her prayers. 

Yes, she manipulated and took things into her own hands, but was God's goal that Rachel have a son or was God's aim perhaps that Rachel was learning to trust God when the culture around her wasn't?  (This will be on my list to ask her in heaven).

How ironic that Dan means vindicate or judge and Jacob prophesied that Dan would provide justice for his people.  How or if he did, we don't know.  

A descendant of Dan, Oholiab was appointed by God to assist Bezalel in the craftsmanship of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31). Samson, the strong man who defeated the Philistines, though blind and captive, was a descendant of Dan.  (Judges 13-16).

V is for vindicate.  The child who vindicates, Jacob's son, Dan.


Peace,

Ronda