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







Monday, April 25, 2016

Unloved


The most heartbreaking words spoken, in my opinion, are the words Leah said when she gave birth to Simeon.

"Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too."  So she named him Simeon.
Genesis 29:33

When I first read the word unloved, with my English mind, I think, Poor Leah, if only Jacob had loved her like she loved him.  Certainly Jacob must have at least liked Leah.  I mean, he did sleep with her five more times after Simeon was born .

But then there's that darn Hebrew dictionary and it reveals a much darker picture.  As hopeless as Leah felt to be unloved, it is even more distressing to know that the Hebrew word, sane (pronounced saw-nay) does not give hope to anything close to Jacob liking Leah or even being on a friendly basis with the mother of seven of his children.

Sane, pronounced "saw-nay" means to hate.

You read that correctly.  It wasn't just that Leah was unloved, but liked.  No.  Leah felt she was hated by Jacob.  Deeply hated.

It was not Leah's fault, initially.   Jacob thought he was getting Leah's sister, Rachel, as a wife, and when he found out too late he had sex with Leah and not Rachel, he had to have been very angry.  Wouldn't you have been angry?  We can rightly assume that the brunt of Jacob's anger was towards his father-in-law, but unfortunately for Leah, she was the one in the line of fire.

Have you ever been angry at someone or something and took that anger out on the person closest to you, just because of physical location?  Have you ever been the one who bore the brunt of the anger meant for someone else, but you happen to be the one who gets the venomous words?

Jacob, I believe, was most angry at Laban.  It was Laban who caused the one desperate sister to betray the other all for the sake of cheating Jacob out of pay for his labor.  We don't need to discuss the value of a woman in that culture, do we?  Yes, she went along, but to not go along may have meant dire consequences for Leah.  Or she may have thrown caution to the wind and just hoped......

Hoped that Jacob would learn to love her like he loved her sister.  One night in my tent, perhaps Leah thought, and I can make him love me more or at least enough to forget about my pretty sister.

I would speculate the anger Jacob felt towards Leah may have frightened her.  Even though Leah knew what was going on when Jacob entered the marriage tent Rachel should have been in, Leah knew she was not what Jacob had bargained for.  When Leah did not say anything to disclose what her father had done to Jacob surely that had to have infuriated him.  Maybe Laban forced her to deceive Jacob the same way he had tricked him.  She should have spoken up, but she didn't or maybe couldn't.  Could she have spoken up and lived?  Add that question to the heaven list, will you please?

Jacob loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. The Bible makes no bones about his feelings towards the sisters.   Leah is the one who said Jacob hated her.  Did he hate her before she betrayed him?  Or had he been neutral towards her, or even worse, just looked through her as he searched for the pretty sister? She probably assumed he hated her and rightly so, after she played along with her father's plan.   One tends to assume the worst when a guilty conscience is involved.

From their wedding night moment on, Leah may have longed for Jacob to love her like he loved her sister.  If Jacob thought the it was Rachel he was with in the marriage tent, I would imagine that was the one and only time Leah experienced passionate love.  Maybe that night is what she clung to, through all the years of trying to produce a child who might make Jacob forgive her and love her like he loved Rachel.

But it never happened.  Jacob loved Rachel.  When Jacob faced his brother, Esau, after parting with him on bad terms many years before, he put Leah and her children in the front of the caravan, while Rachel and her boys were in the back.

That had to hurt.

Again.

She would forever in her earthly life bear the consequences of loving a man who did not love her.  She brought children into the mess, hoping they would be the cure for her husband's disdain, but they weren't.  They suffered too.

I wonder if Jacob, when he looked at Reuben and Simeon and Levi and Judah, wished those boys had come from Rachel's womb and not her sister's.  I wonder if Simeon and Levi would have not acted so quickly in defense of Dinah had they had the love of a father who loved their mother.  Those boys most likely bore the brunt of the disdain for their mother Jacob may have been working through those first few years of their marriage.

As much as Leah felt hated though, Jacob did keep coming back to her.

Funny how we can't always see the forest for the trees, isn't it?

We don't know anything more about what they felt and thought beyond what the Bible tells us they did and felt.  But Leah felt hated.  The boys felt their mother's pain.  Human behavior does not change.  The human behavior and instinctive bent in ancient times is the human behavior and instinctive bent of our modern world.  Perhaps the hatred Jacob felt towards Leah and Laban took root in Simeon's heart.

We don't have to look too far in our modern world to see the effects of unloved mothers, disrespected fathers, brokenhearted children, and broken homes on our society.

There's nothing new under the sun.

But here's the hope for the unloved.  For those saw-nay:

Long after Jacob and Leah and Rachel had died, God gave a blessing for those caught in the soap opera life  Jacob, Leah and Rachel lived out.  When the Lord gave instructions to Moses, he said this:

"If a man has two wives, and he loves one but not the other, and both bear him sons but the firstborn is the son of the wife he dos not love, when he wills his property to his sons, he must not give the rights of the firstborn to the son of the wife he loves in preference to his actual firstborn, the son of the wife he does not love.  He must acknowledge the son of his unloved wife as the firstborn by giving him a double share of all he has.  That son is the first sign of his father's strength.  The right of the firstborn belongs to him."

Jacob did acknowledge Reuben as his firstborn son.  But we know what was said after that.  Life went on for Jacob and Leah and Rachel.  They had their squabbles and difficulties I'm sure, and, I like to think, tried to make hay when the sun was shining, but God remembered the pain of the unloved sister.  He saw her pain.  He knew her heart.

The words Jacob spoke over those twelve boys had to have stung Leah, if she heard them, when the most blessed words were spoken to Joseph and Benjamin, the children of the woman Jacob loved, instead of the children of the woman who loved Jacob.

Who really is to blame for the mess and pain of unloved Leah's life?

Laban?  Jacob?  Leah?  Rachel?

All of the above, with the added component of the church answer:  sin.

What isn't said about any of them is that they loved the LORD more than the earthly relationships.  If that had been their hearts from the beginning maybe, just maybe there would be a different story to tell.

Hindsight is 20/20 though.  We can speculate and play the "If Only" game for their lives and our lives all we want and it won't change a thing.  But the hope and the promise though is what God feels towards the unloved.

"Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up:
a servant who becomes king,
a fool who is full of food,
an unloved (saw-nay) woman who is married,
and a maidservant who displaces her mistress."

How interesting that it is the tears of the unloved woman which make the earth tremble.  I wonder...when the earth trembles, is God weeping?


Peace,

Ronda


Deuteronomy 21:15
Proverbs 30:21-23
Genesis 29



Saturday, April 23, 2016

Tamar


If you've been keeping track of the sons of Jacob you are probably wondering what happened to Judah.  When I mapped out my A to Z and filled in my potential subjects for each letter, I was in a quandary as to who would take the J spot and where I would put the other J son.  So Joseph got J and Judah got delegated T Day.

For those of you who have some knowledge of Jesus' line you know that the Savior came from the line of Judah.  So let's start with the basics of Judah and then we'll meet Tamar.

So Judah was the fourth born son of Jacob and Leah.  When Judah was born, Leah said, "Now I will praise the LORD."  Somewhere between when Misery, One Who Hears, and Feel Affection For were born, Leah made some peace between herself and her LORD.  

Judah may have been a peace making child for Jacob and Leah and Jacob and God, because Jacob said of his fourth son, "Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies, your father's sons will bow down to you.  You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey my son.  Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness - who dares to rouse him?  The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his.  He will tether his donkey to a vine, his colt to the choicest branch; he will wash his garments in wine, his robes in the blood of grapes.  His eyes will be darker than wine, his teeth whiter than milk."

Whoa.

We, looking in the rearview mirror, knowing the fulfillment of so many of these prophecies being fulfilled by Jesus, can simply say, "Whoa."

Judah could not have realized those words his father were speaking were about a future grandson.  Could he?

Let's say he did.

Did he grasp in the moment his father was dying that his descendants would carry the Messiah's blood?  I don't know, so once again, I will add this to my list of questions to ask when I stand in Judah's line in heaven.

It had to have been a punch in the gut to go from hearing that blessing to the mess he eventually made of his life, Joseph's life, and the life of a woman named Tamar.

First Joseph.

When the brothers all wanted to get rid of him out of jealousy, Judah did not want Joseph to be killed.  But he did not mind offering the suggestion of selling his little brother to some Ishmaelites would be a better plan than murder.  He did not want to kill his own flesh and blood but he didn't have a problem selling him.

The guilt must have consumed him too, though.  Being around his brothers after what they had done to Joseph must have been more than he could bear because the Bible says that when the lie was finally told to Jacob, along with Joseph's bloody robe, "At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam named Hirah."  He married a Canaanite woman and had three sons with her.  

But Judah's firstborn son, Er was "wicked in the LORD's sight; so the LORD put him to death."

(I wonder if Judah had thoughts like "I deserve this, after all I've done to my brother.)

His second son, Onan was put to death by the LORD also, for reasons I'll leave you to find out on your own.

In enters Tamar, Er's widow, Judah's daughter-in-law.  Judah had promised her his youngest son when the boy was old enough.  While Tamar was waiting for the boy to grow up (I know, right?), she went back and lived in her father's house.  

Shelah, Judah's son, grew up but Judah did not keep his promise, so Tamar took matters into her own hands.  She dressed up as a prostitute when Judah came to town, slept with him and became pregnant with twin boys named Perez and Zerah.  

Through all the shenanigans - and really you need to read Genesis 38 to get the full story, it's a good one - Judah, nor his descendants, did not lose their place of being the royal line to Jesus, the King of Kings.

What kind of God uses such messed up, wicked, manipulative, deceiving, corrupted people to bring his perfect son into the world?

My God.

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

My God.

The Bible is not filled with stories of perfect faith or even perfect people.  Judah and Tamar are prime examples.

But the names of Judah and Tamar are not only in the Old Testament but also the new.  They are actually part of the first chapter of the first book of the New Testament.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob (yes, our Jacob)
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers (how interesting none of the other brothers made the list)
Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar.......
.....

....

All the way down to where it says, and Jacob (a grandson of our Jacob) the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called the Christ.


Do you really think you are too bad to be loved by God?  

Really?

After all these folks have done to do everything they can to get God to shut them down, you still think your sins are so unforgivable?  

Open up to Genesis and Matthew Chapter one.  Get yourself a concordance and look up a few more of those names Matthew listed in the line of Jesus and get back to me with the reason why your sins are too big to be forgiven.  Tell me why God can't use someone like you for any of his purposes.

I dare you.

God certainly didn't honor Judah with the lineage of the Messiah because of anything good he did.  And he certainly didn't discredit Judah and take away the bloodline because of the bad Judah did.  God did it so you and I can see that we're all nothing without him. 

God has no problem using nothing and making it into something special.  

Judah and his descendants went from fourth in birth order to first in desert order.  Judah and his descendants led the Israelites in the desert and paved the way for the King of Glory to come down and live among us.

 Judah, a jealous brother hater and deceiver of women.....


Peace,

Ronda






Friday, April 22, 2016

Simeon

Simeon was the second born son to Jacob, son of Leah.

When he was born, Leah said, "The LORD heard that I was unloved and has given me another son."

Jacob said,  "Simeon and Levi are brothers - their swords are weapons of violence.  Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.  Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!  I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.

Moses:  Simeon's tribe was the only tribe Moses did not bless.

When the first census was taken there were 59,300 men over the age of twenty in the tribe of Simeon.  At the second census there were 22, 200.

The Simeonites camped on the south side of the tabernacle, Ezekiel also saw them on the south gate of heaven.

When Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt to buy grain during the famine, Joseph recognized his brothers before they knew they were dealing with the brother they had conspired to kill years earlier.  After Joseph sent them back to fetch Benjamin, Simeon was "taken from them and bound before their eyes."  Simeon may have been the ringleader years before in getting rid of Joseph, and Joseph may have used the opportunity to administer some of his own revenge.

Simeon and Levi were the ones who avenged the rape of their sister Dinah, so there appears to be a bent of violence in the second son of Jacob.   Be sure to come back on U day and I will have more to tell you about what may have been an underlying root to Simeon's behavior.

All was not violent for Simeon's descendants though.  During the reign of King Asa, the tribe of Simeon was among those who encouraged King Asa after Asa heeded the words of the prophet Azariah:

"Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin.  The LORD is with you when you are with him.  If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.  For a long time Israel was without the true God, without a priest to teach and without the law.  But in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, and he was found by them.   In those days it was not safe to travel about, for all the inhabitants of the lands were in great turmoil.  One nation was being crushed by another and one city by another, because God was troubling them with every kind of distress.  But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded....."

King Asa went on to remove the detestable idols and he repaired the altar of the LORD.  Then "he assembled all Judah and Benjamin and the people from Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who had settled among them, for large numbers had come over to him from Israel when they saw that the LORD his God was with him."

We live in a time of great distress now.  Violence is becoming more and more the norm for unchecked and uncontrolled emotions.  Revenge is an attitude that continues to be used both privately and on the world's stage.  We are not unlike the ancient people of King Asa's or Simeon's time.  We can easily be persuaded to take one of two routes:

Revenge or repentance.

May we be like the descendants of Simeon and the other tribes who sought God eagerly, and he was found by them.  May the Lord then give us rest on every side.


Peace,

Ronda

2 Chronicles 15
Genesis 42:24




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Reuben


Reuben was the first born son of Jacob and Leah.

Reuben, not exempt from the emotions of his mother, received a name that means "He has seen my misery."  When he was born, she said, "The LORD has seen my misery and now my husband will love me."

When little brother Joseph was annoying his big brothers enough for them to want to have him killed, it was Reuben who rescued him from death by standing up to the jealous and hurting brood.  He had persuaded them to throw Joseph in a well instead of killing him.  Reuben planned on sneaking back later to rescue his little brother, but before his plan could unfold, Joseph was sold, and Reuben was left mortified and sentenced to many years of guilt, shame, and regret.

(By the time this happened Joseph was 17 and so Reuben had to have been at least 28, maybe older.  It took time for his mother and aunt to manipulate biology through other women and we don't know how far apart the children were in age).

By the time Benjamin was born and Rachel had died, Reuben was old enough to sleep with Bilhah, the mother of his younger brothers Dan and Naphtali.  Jacob got back from burying his wife only to hear what his son had done.

Reuben, already having suffered a guilty conscience for years by the time the famine struck, made the journey with his brothers and half brothers to Egypt for food.  By then Reuben would have been in his mid 50's.

That's a long time to carry the guilt and shame for the past.

Reuben may have been like some of us who suffer guilt and shame from the past.  We think every bad thing that happens is because of the first bad thing we did.  That's probably what he was thinking when the brothers faced their brother Joseph in Egypt. and Joseph insisted they go back to their father and fetch Joseph's full blooded brother Benjamin.

The guilt was still driving Reuben.  The regret of the corporate lie ate at his soul all those years later as the brothers felt they were being punished for what they had done decades before.  The turmoil in Reuben erupted as he said to them,  "Didn't I tell you not to sin against the boy?  But you wouldn't listen; that's why this distress has come upon us," he said to his brothers.

Oh, how we silly slugs try to connect the dots of why one thing happens because something else happened we claim as evidence.  We think we know why bad things happen and why we deserve for bad things to happen to us and other people.  We often get punishment mixed up with consequences and mistake one for the other.

Oh, the agony, Reuben suffered in his guilt ridden soul.  A lifetime of regret for not speaking up louder, for not standing up against his younger brothers.  He was the oldest but clearly Misery felt helpless and trapped in his own jealousy.  His life couldn't make his father love his mother, how could his words have made himself or his brothers love Joseph?

When Jacob died he said, "Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, the first sign of my strength, excelling in honor, excelling in power.  Turbulent as the waters,  you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father's bed, onto my couch and defiled it."

Ugh.  Blessing and shame spilled out and over onto the boy called Misery.

Just as he may have felt some redemption in the first part of his father's words, he was knocked down again by the shameful reminder of his actions.  Jacob's legacy to his son was one of "I will never forget what you have done."

Moses looked beyond the sins of Reuben and blessed the descendants of Misery by saying, "Let Reuben live and not die, nor his men be few."

When the Israelites went into the Promised land Misery's kin numbered 43, 730.  As they marched in the desert his descendants changed birth order with Judah, marching fourth, camping on the south side of the Tabernacle.  Ezekiel saw his gate on the north side in heaven.

God's forgiveness extended to Reuben, and thankfully it was not based on what his earthly father said.  Reuben was not forgotten by God.  His past sins hung on that cross right next to yours and mine.  Forgiven and wiped clean.  In the book of Revelation, there is a gate in heaven that has Reuben's name on it.

Maybe it uses the English antonym for misery -

"Heaven."





Peace,

Ronda

Genesis 35:22
Genesis 42-45

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Quiet

It's been a toss up between two Q words:  Quiet and Quarrel.  A few years ago, quiet was my word in the A to Z challenge.  So I quickly dismissed it because...well, been there..done that.  But then I came across the word quiet again as I studied one of the main characters to this year's challenge, Jacob.

Genesis 25:27 describes Jacob and his brother Esau this way in the New International Version:

"The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents."

Some of the other English words used for quiet are:

blameless
flawless
innocent
integrity
perfect
strong

The short definition of the Hebrew word for quiet - tam - means:  complete, blameless, guiltless.

Interesting.......

Before Leah and Rachel and their father Laban's shenanigans,  Jacob was described as complete, blameless, guiltless.  If you've gotten anything out of the last 20 days here, you probably would not use those words to describe Jacob.

So what happened?

How did someone go from being described as tam to downright angry and not afraid to voice that anger at his own flesh and blood instead of using it against the true wrong doers, the rapist of his only daughter?

Does a man described as quiet have it in him to curse his sons and refuse to have anything to do with them?

Apparently so.

Maybe the boy hanging around the tents was a sleeping bear, with more of his father's and brother's influence in him then we learn when we first met Jacob.

Maybe Rebekah had a great influence on him during their time in the camp.  Maybe being around the women and children, Jacob learned how to not make waves, how to let things be, how to remain silent.  Maybe he learned how to pick his battles carefully, but all the while a roaring lion lay beneath the tam exterior.

Maybe when his daughter Dinah was raped and his ears heard her cries he went into his learned way of coping with injustice.  Maybe while his sons waited for him to lead, waited for him to stand up like their uncle Esau may have, Jacob was praying and listening.  Maybe as they waited for their blameless and guiltless father to take revenge, the same father was listening for the voice that had told him, "Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome."

But while Jacob was waiting on God to lead, the boys could wait no longer.  They themselves acted when their quiet father couldn't or wouldn't or didn't know how.  For the first time...maybe... Jacob was starting to get what God had promised him all along.

Who knows?

But the man who was described as quiet did not remain quiet and two who shared his DNA bore the brunt of that hidden roaring lion.

Quiet Jacob.  Flawless Jacob.  Innocent Jacob.

The Psalmist wrote:

"Consider the blameless (tam), observe the upright; there is a future for the man of peace."

Jacob's life was far from peaceful.  Living with the estrogen of not just one woman but four certainly does not bring peace to anyone!  But somehow, some way, God ordained it that the quiet roaring lion and his descendants would be the line to peace.  Real peace.  Although there were many detours and misguided turns along the way, God still paved the way for real peace to come through Quiet Jacob and his revenge seeking sons.

Perhaps while Levi and Simeon were waiting on their father to act, quiet Jacob was waiting for God's direction.  Sadly, their haste and impatience led them to take matters into their own hands.  Perhaps Jacob was just starting to connect the dots between the two encounters he had had with God when his sons barged past him with their knives.

Who knows?  We weren't there.  But I'm sure the rest of the details will be exciting to hear when we meet Jacob and Levi and Simeon on the other side.  All we know is what the Bible tells us happened.

A quiet man's seeming lack of action led to his sons seeking revenge in brutal ways.  Even though it appeared to them their father was sleeping, he was instead listening and waiting and...listening.  When Jacob first encountered God he was afraid.  The second time Jacob encountered God he wrestled him and declared he had seen God face to face.  The third time, well, it happened after the tragedy of his daughter, but it all came full circle in the third encounter.

"God appeared to him again and said to him, 'Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel....I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number.  A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.' Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

"Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.  Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel (house of God)."

Jacob was far from a perfect man in our eyes.  In God's eyes though, He was the perfect man for the perfect plan.  He was part of the perfect path for perfect Peace to enter into our peace-less world.  The Prince of Peace would enter through the DNA of a man who doubted, feared, and struggled both by his own hands and the hands of others.

That Prince of Peace would later stand before a jury of accusers and listening to others tell lies about him.  Instead of defending himself or seeking revenge, Peace "remained silent and gave no answer."  A quiet man.

Q is for Quiet.


Peace,

Ronda

Genesis 28: 10-22
Genesis 32:22-32
Genesis 35:1-15
Mark 14:61

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Promises

As much as we tend to judge past and present Christians on their behavior and use our understanding of those behaviors to declare or reject a personal trust in God, we would do well if we stepped back from our judgments and looked at the facts.

Yes, Jacob doubted.  Yes, Leah and Rachel connived and manipulated.  Yes, the boys battled jealousy well into their 50's at least.  Yes, the descendants of these children, loved by God, didn't get it right and didn't always follow God as well as you or I may have if we were in their sandals.  Despite all their efforts to make God look bad, the fact remains:

God never changed.  God never broke his promises to those who doubted.  His promises were never contingent upon their belief in his ability to keep them.  His promises were made because he could keep them.

God keeps his promises.  It does not depend on us trusting in his promises for them to be kept.  God remains true to himself and his word for his sake, not ours.  He is not waiting for us to trust his promises in order for him to fulfill them.

A promise from God is the greatest guarantee one could ever get from anyone or anything.  A promise from God far outweighs any notarized piece of paper or any contract a man or woman can sign.

 Bible Gateway states there are 5467 promises of God.  Won't you take a look and see how many promises speak to you.  Enjoy the journey.

Peace,

Ronda



Monday, April 18, 2016

Obedience

It all comes down to obedience.

Obedient:  willing to do what someone tells you to do or to follow a law, rule

Another word for obedience is submission - the state of being obedient; the act of accepting the authority or control of someone else.

From the beginning of time obedience - submission to an authority or control besides oneself -  has been the problem.  That's how Adam and Eve were enticed.  The seed was planted that they were not in control of their own life.  That's why Jacob found himself in the messes he was in from time to time.  His descendants learned obedience the hard way - the slave way.  They didn't willingly obey, they were forced to obey.

When Jacob heard the promises God made him it would have been the smarter thing to submit immediately to God's way.  He might have avoided many of the conundrums he found himself and his children in had he not said, "If you are.".

It's so easy for us to say that, isn't it?

If only he had listened to God the first time....If I were Jacob I would have.

Yeah, right.

Oh, if it were only that easy to obey or submit in these sin tainted flesh clothes we walk around in every day.

If you like to look up words in a concordance, look up verses on patience.  Be sure you look up the Old Testament verses to see how much patience God has for us disobedient sin tainted children who constantly buck his wisdom and think we know better.  Submitting to God has many benefits, if only we would learn them the easy way instead of the hard way.

So here's the truth about the word obey.  If you're like me you may have always thought negatively about obedience.  You may have thought, "God's telling me something I can't do, so I'm going to do it."  Or, "If I get to worried about obedience I'll forget about grace.  I live under grace, I don't need to worry about obeying."

There's a general theme in the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated obey/obedience in the English.  It's not what you think.  It's not what you thought.  It is far from a negative meaning and much more positive.  We generally think if I don't obey I am punished, rather than think, if I obey I am blessed.

Obedience simply means:  to keep, to watch, to preserve, to watch over, guard, to properly maintain, to keep intact.

Whenever you see a form of the word obey in the Bible remind yourself that it most likely doesn't mean the first thing you are thinking.

And here's an even more interesting point:

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.  Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him...

Did you get that part about Jesus "learned obedience."

Learned - manthano - learning key facts; gaining "fact-knowledge as someone learns from experience, often with the implication of reflection - come to realize.

Obedience is learned.  Submission is learned.  It doesn't come naturally to us sin stained flesh wearers.  (Jesus was not sin stained, but he certainly wore our flesh coats).

Grace keeps us in the learning game.  There is no disobedience that is not covered by grace.  The only disobedience that is not covered is the refusal to keep learning and resting on his grace.  Jesus learned obedience.

If he had to learn how to submit, how to hear God's direction for which way to go or not to go, then why on earth do we think it's something we shouldn't learn or practice?

If you belong to Christ, you are God's child, chosen according tot he foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood.

Jesus learned obedience so that we can learn obedience from him so that we can obey him.  So that we can submit to him.  So that we can accept his authority over us.

If only Jacob had believed God the first time, like his Grandpa Jacob, I may not have anything to write about for a whole month.

If only we would believe God the first time and submit to his authority over our lives.

When one trusts one can obey.   I wonder what that would look like, all of us who claim the name of Jesus falling completely under his authority, like Abraham and Jesus.   We all seem to find it better to take the Jacob route though.

What would happen if you submitted to God's authority and stopped demanding God prove himself to you?  Would it really hurt to try it?

When one trusts, one can obey.  Jesus did, and through his power, you can too.


Peace,

Ronda

Romans 5:19; 6:16
2 Corinthians 10:6
Hebrews 5:8
1 Peter 1:2
2 John 1:6
2 Corinthians 10:5
Philippians 2:8
1 Peter 1:14
1 John 2:3; 3:22,24
Exodus 34:11
Numbers 15:39
Leviticus 18:4; 25:18



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Naphtali

Naphtali was the sixth son of Jacob, second son born to Bilhah, Rachel's servant when Rachel was jealous of Leah for having children when she herself couldn't.  When Naphtali was born, Rachel said, "I have had a struggle with my sister and I have won."  Naphtali means, I struggle.

There's a name meaning you may shy away from bragging about.

Jacob said, "Naphtali is a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns."

Moses said, "Naphtali is abound with the favor of the LORD and is full of His blessing; he will inherit southward to the lake."

So what Rachel saw was not what his father saw, and it certainly wasn't the legacy he left to his descendants.  How sweet of God to bestow favor on a child such as the words Jacob and Moses spoke.

What we're named doesn't mean it is who we are.  Clearly, we are more than what some people call us, and our purpose is not determined by another person's means or manipulation.  In spite of his mother's manipulations, Naphtali had noble offspring.

When King Solomon built the Temple, a man named Huran whose mother was a widow from the tribe of Naphtali and whose father was a man of Tyre (not an Israelite family) made the grand pieces that would go in the Temple.  Huran's father was a craftsman in bronze and Huran was highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work.

Capernaum, the town where Jesus lived as an adult was in Naphtali.  It was there Isaiah prophesied the Messiah would come from when he said, "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned...For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."

No matter the circumstances of our conception and birth, our Jesus is not about keeping us as our human parent's intent.  Our Jesus is making us into who He can use for the glory of His name.  It may not happen in our lifetime, but our descendants will be blessed by the faith residing in us to glorify His name in our time.

Naphtali was not his mother's struggle.  He was not a prize between his mother and his aunt and the surrogate who carried him in her womb.  His mother struggled with her own flesh and desires, but that was her struggle.  Naphtali's line was part of bringing peace to the world's struggle.

That peace is named Jesus.  The one who bore our struggles, every single one of them, taking them upon his own divine human flesh.  He knew Rachel's struggle as well as he knows yours.  He carried Rachel's struggles as easily as he carries yours.

Peace,

Ronda

1 Kings 7; Isaiah 9; Hebrews


Friday, April 15, 2016

Manasseh

Manasseh was one of Joseph's sons born to him while he worked for Pharaoh in Egypt.  After the reunion between Joseph and his brothers who sold him into slavery, Jacob and the other wives and children came to Egypt and lived there.  When Jacob lay dying he decided to make Joseph's sons his sons.  Yep, you read that right.  People smarter than me could tell you why and I'm not going to dissect it here.

Manasseh and his descendants were then considered the children of Israel and became known as one of the twelve tribes, along with his brother Ephraim.  Joseph would not be called a tribe.  He would not have a desert order, a gate named after him, nor a duty for the tabernacle care.  So although Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, born to Rachel from her body, he did not have a similar role as did the other tribes.

Manassah, however, was eighth in line when the Israelites wandered in the desert.  Although older than his brother Ephraim, history repeated itself when Manasseh, though second born, received the blessing of the first child from their grandfather Jacob.  (Jacob had received the blessing of the first child through deceit, when his twin brother Esau was the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebekah).

The most significant story about a descendant of Manasseh is the story of Gideon.

Gideon lived at a time when the Bible says, "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD."
There was trouble with a group of people called the Midianites who were mean to Jacob's grandchildren.  Just plain and ugly mean.

As some naughty children often do when their naughtiness gets them in trouble, they call out to their daddy to help them.  That's what Jacob's kids did when the Midianites oppressed them.  And God sent Gideon, from the "weakest clan in Manasseh...and the least in my family."

Gideon felt pretty small because he didn't know how big his God really was.

But the Bible says that "the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon."  Gideon got clothed with the garment of God almighty himself.

Gideon came from the tribe of Manasseh.  Manasseh was Joseph's son, Jacob's grandson, whose mother was an Egyptian.  Perhaps her descendants were the slave drivers over Joseph's descendants.  We may never know, but even those not one hundred percent Hebrew flesh and blood were used by God to bring freedom.

Again.

And again.

And again we do evil in the eyes of the LORD.

And again, God patiently waits for our call for rescue.

For some reason, God likes to be asked for help, the hardest thing to ask for with these stubborn hearts of ours.

But like he told Manasseh's great great grandfather, "I am your shield, your very great reward."  That promise to Abraham was for everyone of Abraham's descendants, whether by flesh and blood or spirit and truth.  It's God's promise to you too.

Call for help.

Again.

And again.

And again.



Peace,

Ronda


Genesis 27; Genesis 48-29

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Levi

Levi was the third son born to Jacob and Leah.  At the time Levi was born, with two older brothers and no half brothers yet, apparently his mother Leah still felt no affection from her husband, Jacob.  When Levi was born Leah said, "Surely this time my husband will feel affection for me since I have given him three sons."  The name Levi means "being attached or feeling affection for."

If we could jump back in time, I'd grab Leah by the shoulders, look her square in the eye and shout, "Stop having babies with a man who doesn't love you!"

But really, who are any of us to judge.  Right ladies?  Oh, the stories some of us could tell about what  we women have done for the affection of a man.

Well, we're not here to beat up Leah or any of her gender, let's think about Levi.  (No man bashing allowed here, but Levi was the son of Jacob and this blogging challenge does center around his sons).   Children can sense when parents are in conflict.  They feel the conflict of hurting parents.  They may not be able to voice it or put words to their feelings, but I wonder if Leah's sons sensed growing up who their father really loved.

So Levi grows up and becomes a brother to 6 more brothers and a sister.  I wish we knew the age difference between the children, but at the most logical, Levi was at least 7 or 8 when his little sister Dinah was born.

I told you on D day, Dinah, that there is very little known about her birth, but there is much known about how two of her brothers were affected by something that happened to her.

Levi was one of the brothers.

Dinah was defiled, she was raped, or as the Hebrew definition says, "lay with her by force."  We don't know how old she was at the time but only that "she went out to visit the women of the land."  While she went out to visit the women of the land, "Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, took her and violated her."

What's interesting is that, like many 21st century women can relate, after he violated her he professed his love to her and spoke tenderly to her.

And did nothing.  Well, sort of.  Shechem's father came to Jacob to make a deal with Jacob, his women for Jacob's women, but at the same time he was giving his sales pitch, Dinah's brothers found out what happened.  They were "filled with grief and fury, because Shechem had done a disgraceful thing in Israel by lying with Jacob's daughter - thing that should not be done."

You can read about what all happened in Genesis 34.  It isn't pretty but it would help you understand the rest of my take on Levi.

It's not pretty....What Jacob didn't did or didn't do isn't pretty.  What Simeon and Levi took it upon themselves to do to bring revenge on Shechem.  Not pretty.  Pretty gruesome.

But when the murders were over, the plunder plundered, then Jacob spoke.

"You have brought trouble on me by making me a stench to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land.  We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed."

But Simeon and Levi did not bend to their father's rebuke, but said, "Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?"

So, ugh.

Not a shining moment for the family.

If Jacob had not said to God, "If you....then I" maybe this whole mess would have been avoided.

Maybe.

Maybe if the sons sat in the shoes of the father and waited for the father to act.....

Maybe.

But if either of these scenarios would have played out, you and I would have missed some big lessons.

Levi, despite his violent ways, was the one God used to bring justice to his little sister.  Levi's descendants were set apart from all the other children of Israel to be the Levites.  Those descendants were in charge of God's holy dwelling.  They were the ones whose priests facilitated oneness with God for their relatives.

Moses and Aaron came from Levi, the revenge warrior's line.

Moses, the one to lead thousands out of slavery came from the one who avenged his little sister's rape and bore his father's disgrace.

Levi.

When Jacob died, he said this about him and his brother Simeon:  "Simeon and Levi are brothers - their swords are weapons of violence.  Let me not enter their council, let me not join their assembly, for they have killed men in their anger and hamstrung oxen as they pleased.  Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!  I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel."

But God let Levi's descendants carry the Ark in which held the Ten Commands and Aaron's staff.

God knows a little bit more about redemption than an earthly father.

Moses was a little more prophetic when he said this about Levi's descendants:  "Your Thummim and Urim belong to the man you favored.  You tested him at Massah; you contended with him at the waters of Meribah.  He said of his father and mother, 'I have no regard for them.'  He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children, but he watched over your word and guarded your covenant.  He teaches your precepts to Jacob and your law to Israel.  He offers incense before you and whole burnt offerings on your altar.  Bless all his skills, O LORD, and be pleased with the work of his hands.  Smite the loins of those who rise up against him; strike his foes till they rise no more."

Levi's descendants were musicians in Solomon's temple.  Levi's descendants were priests for Jacob's God.  Levi's descendants carried a vein of violence and rebellion just like their namesake.

But God used him anyway.

Just like God uses us, anyway.

Take hope in Levi's story.  Find camaraderie with Levi when faced with injustice, but act on the knowledge of God's promise to Jacob before making God prove himself to you.  Bad things will happen, but a heart that trusts in what God declares himself to be will keep that same heart from being an agent of bringing bad things to fruition.

Let us all learn from Jacob.  Let us all feel the pain of Levi's knowledge of his unloved mother.  But then, let us see the God who spoke to Jacob in a dream as the God who is our own God.

"I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.  I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.  Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.  All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

God did do everything he promised Jacob.  Everything.

He proved himself, just like Jacob asked.  Levi was part of the promise.  That little boy's heart, perhaps seeing the tears of his unloved mother fall, was part of the picture of redemption for his whole family.


Peace,

Ronda





Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Korah


Korah was the great grandson of Jacob's son, Levi, whom you will learn about tomorrow.  You may want to wait until tomorrow to read about Levi in order to have a better understanding of Korah.
Levi had Kohath.  Kohath had Izhar.  Izhar had Korah.  

Clear as mud?  Good.

After the descendants of the twelve sons of Jacob were rescued from slavery in Egypt, they wandered in the desert while learning obedience to a Holy God, building a Tabernacle, whining, worshiping,  and whining again.

 It was a process.

These families had the same issues all families have.  Issues of insecurity in regards to favoritism, who's boss, who has a say, who doesn't have a say.  The families who wandered in the desert were....families.  Dysfunctional families.  Just like ours today.

(Did you think because they were in the BIBLE they were perfect or better than you or more.....holy?  Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.)

On a particular day in the desert, a group of Israelites, kin to Levi and Reuben (Jacob's oldest son), felt the need to breach authority.  God had put Moses in charge.  God did.  Moses didn't put Moses in charge.  God put Moses in charge.

But Korah (Abraham's great great grandson) and his cousins thought that God must have had it wrong.  The cousins listened to the disgruntled words of Korah and jumped on his bandwagon of rebelling against the authority God himself had established through Moses.

When Moses got word of the anarchy beginning to erupt, he did something unusual and abnormal for us 21st century folks peeking into the past.  He didn't call a therapist for family counseling.  He didn't send Kohath to his tent.  He didn't post on Facebook any links to helping families get along or submission to authority.  He didn't yell at the whiners.

The Bible says, "When Moses heard this, he fell facedown."  Moses was so distraught over what was being said and the emotions that were driving them, the only thing he knew to do was to fall on his face before God.

When we're faced with hard things, emotional things, family things, we may learn a thing or two about what to do first, not thirty first.

Fall on your face before God.  He'll take care of it.  He'll work it out.  

He did for Moses.  Although it didn't work out so well for Korah or his family members.

When Moses next spoke, he told Korah (I'm paraphrasing), "All right, if you want to be in charge, let's see who God wants in charge."  I can almost hear Moses thinking to himself, If you want the job, you can have it! He said a lot of other very strong words to Korah, which you can read in the whole story in Numbers 16.

But in the end, God showed Korah, and the rest of the Israelites who he wanted in charge of this ragtag group of former slaves.

The next day Moses went to the boys from Reuben's line, Kathan and Abiram, who were joining Korah in his tantrum.  The elders of Israel followed Moses, and Moses warned the whole group of former slaves - "Move back from the tents of these wicked men!  Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins."  So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.  Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents."

So Moses tells everyone that only God will be the one to decide who is in charge.  

And God did.

As soon as Moses finished talking,
"the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions.  They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community."

So, it didn't work out very well for these people.  One person, Korah, got a bee in his bonnet, felt insecure, insecurity led to rebellion, rebellion led to a lot of people dying.  All because he didn't accept God's authority placed on Moses.

And really, who can blame him?

Moses was just a man.  Just like Korah.  There wasn't anything special about Moses except that he had been raised by Egyptian royalty, even though he was really an Israelite.  God could have picked one of the thousands of men who had been living as slaves to lead them out, but he choose Moses.  God could have rescued any number of babies from the Egyptian drowning and raised them up to be a leader.  But he didn't.  God choose Moses out of all the babies that could have been saved by the mass drowning of baby boys, God saved Moses.

And Korah didn't like God's choice.  Maybe Korah thought a murderer shouldn't be in charge.  Maybe Korah thought someone who was better well-spoken then Moses would have a better handle on communication.

Who knows?

Korah's attitude cost not only his life, but the lives of many, many others.  One person's disgruntled view poisoned many.  Innocent children were lost because of one man's pride.

The God who used the earth to swallow up rebellion is the same God who sent his Son to pay the price for the sin of rebellion.  Not the way we humans would handle things, I know.  But His ways, as strange as they seem to us, are His ways.  The God who commanded the earth to swallow up rebellion is a holy God.  Whether we acknowledge his holiness or not does not diminish or disprove his holiness.  He only tolerates rebellion for so long.    

So, what does this mean to me and you?  

Only you can answer that question.  But you may need to answer a few more before you can answer that one.  Ask yourself these questions:

Do I see God as holy, holding authority over all things?  Is my life a reflection of that belief?  How do I approach God when I am being tempted to rebel?  Do I speak to others, hoping for them to see things the way I see them?  Or do I seek God to show me where I am rebelling against his authority?
Do I fall down before God when faced with the dysfunctional behavior of those around me?  Or do I ignore it or try and make excuses for it?

God had to show he was holy to this band of former slaves, not because he had an ego to satisfy, but because He was in charge.  He was the rescuer, not the rescued.  The rescue wasn't just from the shackles of physical slavery.  He was rescuing them, and consequently us, from the shackles of spiritual slavery.  They were thick and stiff necked.  We are thick and stiff necked.  They quickly forgot the miracles he displayed when they were rescued from physical slavery.  We do the same.

Sometimes God has to use earth shattering events to wake us up from our slumber of unseen slavery.  Sometimes even literal earthquakes are the method he uses.  Sometimes he uses illness, or death of a loved one, or the loss of a job or home.  It's not his first choice, whatever way he uses.  A father's first choice would always be that a son or daughter would obey out of love, not out of fear or rebellion.  No parent likes to discipline a child running off track.  Sometimes a firm swat on the butt is what it takes to reign the disobedient in.  Sometimes it takes more than a swat on the backside.

His desire isn't to coddle us and hope we see him in all his fullness.  His desire is for us to see Him as he is.  A holy God who will comfort us and who longs for us to love him as he is and serve him out of love and a fear that bows in awe, not trembles in dread.  As much as I would like to see God as a pushover and willing to change the rules for me if I whine and complain, He has to remain true to himself and cannot put up with my being obstinate and rebellious to his authority forever.

His grace alone holds off his wrath, but we still can get a spanking from time to time, like any good father or mother does to prevent a child from further harm.

A good parent disciplines.  A good parent is not a friend to their child. until the child understands that discipline is what keeps the child from harm.  God knows the rebellious bent of our hearts.  We're the ones who have a hard time recognizing the hard things may be allowed because God is trying to reign in some rebellion that is busting out and trying to take us, and perhaps many others, down with us.

A good dad disciplines.  Discipline and love are a fine line for us human parents to balance - even though good discipline stems from love.  God does not do one without the other.  Ever.  

Korah and his relatives found that out the hard way.


Peace,

Ronda

Exodus 1 and 2
Numbers 16




Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Joseph

Jacob had two sons whose names start with the English letter J, so I will save Judah for later in the month and tell you about Joseph today.

Joseph was the eleventh son of Jacob, born to Rachel, through Rachel, the natural way, unless those mandrakes really worked.  When Rachel named him she said, "God has taken away my disgrace.  May the LORD add to me another son."  Joseph's name means, "may he add."

Now, if I were Rachel, says this judgmental 21st century woman, and knowing all the trouble she had to have her own child and all the ways she tried to manipulate God into giving her a child, you would think she would be happy, oh so very happy, to have just one child.  She could have said, and I'd like to self-righteously think if I were her I would say, "Thank you God.  I will call this child the name that means....oh let's say, "Thanks."  

But I'm not Rachel and she's not here to discuss this further.  What God wants us to know is what he wants us to learn from as best we can.  I admit I am taking poetic license in this challenge blog.  It is my own reading between the lines of human behavior that causes me to reach sometimes non-biblical and unsanctified conclusions.

Back to Joseph:

What I can imagine, putting my 21st century thinking in an ancient culture, is most likely the
blessing/burden placed on Joseph the day he was born was proof that God had taken away the disgrace of his mother being unable to conceive her own child.

Are there any 21st century women feeling less like a woman because they are unable to conceive their own biological children?  How many women, struggling to conceive, going to extreme lengths to force their bodies to do what only God can bring about, the meeting of a sperm and an egg into a human being, can see themselves in Rachel?

And she had the nerve to ask for two?

We get one of something, something we hoped and wished and prayed for again and again and again. We made promises to God that if he would only give us what we want we would be satisfied and never ask for another thing from him again.  We judge those who abuse children we so desperately try to have, yet those same children we dreamed of having wear us down and the memories of our want and desire for them get shoved under the mess of dirty diapers, sleepless nights, and twenty four seven duty.  We think we'll be satisfied when we get what we are sure would fill the hole in our hearts, but it isn't long and we are longing for more instead of enjoying the amount he has given.

Maybe it's just me who does that.

At any rate, Joseph's blessings from his father were the most endearing of the twelve boys.  (No surprise there, right?)

Jacob said, "Joseph is a fruitful vine, a fruitful vine near a spring, whose branches climb over a wall.  With bitterness archers attacked him; they shot at him with hostility.  But his bow remained steady, his strong arms stayed limber, because of the hand of the Mighty One of Jacob, because of the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel, because of your father's God, who help you, because of the Almighty, who blesses you with blessings of the heavens above, blessings of the deep that lies below, blessings of the breast and the womb.  Your father's blessings are greater than the blessings of the ancient mountains, than the bounty of the age-old hills.  Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the bore of the prince among his brothers."

Moses continued the praise of Joseph before he died, "May the LORD bless this land with the precious dew from heaven above and with the deep waters that lie below; with the best the sun brings forth and the finest the moon can yield; with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills; with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush.  Let all these rest on the head of Joseph, on the bore of the prince among his brothers.  In majesty he is like a firstborn bull; his horns are the horns of a wild ox.  With them he will gore the nations, even those at the ends of the earth.  Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim; such are the thousands of Menassah."  (Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph's sons whom Jacob claimed as his own on his deathbed).

So, is it any wonder than, this eleventh son of twelve boys was annoying to his older brothers?  Is it any wonder why those brothers, when this boy bragged to them about a dream he had of them bowing down to him, would first try and kill them, but then throw him in a well until slave traders came along and bought him?

Rachel didn't live to see what happened to her boy.  She didn't experience the horror of the lie his half brothers told their father about Joseph's demise.  The Bible doesn't say exactly how old Benjamin was when Joseph was sold, but we know she was not alive to experience the famine, or the drama play out between her boy and his half brothers in Egypt.  She died never knowing what happened to her firstborn son, the boy she would have done anything to conceive and carry in her own body grew up to be a wise leader, innovator, and saved many from starvation.

Perhaps Rachel's years of barrenness were used to instill in her biological son a steadfastness and peace that Joseph exhibited the years he was in prison and then as the right hand man to the King of Egypt.

Joseph could have been bitter and had every right to shake his fist at God.  Maybe he did those cold lonely years in a prison.  But then again, maybe he didn't.  Maybe his mother  Rachel instilled in him a modeling of deep patience and great hope around her boy.  When she could have been bitter, perhaps it was then she prayed hardest.  Maybe little Joseph saw in his mother a great peace in her eyes because she had waited so long to have him.

At any rate, Joseph said the most beautiful words any follower of Christ can sew on their hearts for any circumstance they are now in.  These are the words Joseph spoke to his brothers at the healing reunion of all reunions:

"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt!  And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. ..But God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God."

The mother who had the right to be bitter, gave birth to a son who had a right to be bitter.  But neither of them took the bait.  I like to think that instead of letting bitterness take root because of their circumstances, they both prayed.

The child named May He Add went on to save those who had been added into Jacob's family, including his younger brother, Benjamin, Rachel's second son.


Peace,

Ronda


Monday, April 11, 2016

Issachar

Jacob's son Issachar was the 9th son born to him.  Issachar's mother was Leah, via Leah.  When Issachar was born, his mother, unloved Leah, said, "God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband."  Although Issachar was Leah's fifth biological son, he wasn't born until after his mother and aunt Rachel struck a deal with some Mandrake plants.

Big brother Reuben had found some plants that apparently had some fertility value to them.  When auntie Rachel saw the plants she struck a bargain with her sister, the one unloved by their shared husband.

The magic plants...for sex with Jacob.

How about that conception story to tell your children?

Leah's desperate longing for Jacob's love had a price.  A cheap one at that.  A few magical plants.  Yet, when she gave them to her sister, she got to try once more to get the love of her life to love her..... using her body.

I wonder if she was superstitious.  She was able to have children successfully.  Perhaps when Reuben found them she dismissed them with a shrug and said, "Your aunt Rachel should try these, I sure don't need them."  When one is desperate to have children, home remedies and old wives tales come to the surface.

So Unloved Leah saw Issachar as a reward from God.

That's a good thing to hear your mother say when you're little.  "My little reward," Leah probably cooed over him.  But sooner or later, the little reward probably had some questions.

"What was I a reward for, Momma?  Did you win a race?"

Can you almost see those deep brown eyes looking up at his mother's face, wanting to know the reason he was called her little reward?

I don't know how the family dynamics of all these personalities played out when they learned the reasons behind their names.  It's a culture I can't relate to; what may be very strange and abnormal to me may be perfectly logical to them.

But still, I wonder.

Issachar, though born 9th, his descendants were second in line when they wandered around the desert after the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  When the offerings were made tribe by tribe for the Tabernacle dedication, Issachar's line brought theirs on the second day.  They camped on the east side of the Tabernacle, a very special place to camp.  Ezekiel's dream says Issachar's gate will be on the south side in heaven.

When his father was dying, he said this to Issachar, "Issacher is a rawboned donkey lying down between two saddlebags.  When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor."

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

Issachar had four sons, Tola, Puah, Jashub, Shimron.  Out of those four boys came 54,400 men twenty years old and older at the first census when the Israelites had escaped Egypt.  By the time of the second census they had grown to 64,300 men.

Whatever may be the story behind Issachar's conception and birth, his childhood and lineage, one thing is clear, his name is in heaven, written on a gate, his tribe's name sealed for eternity.  God blessed the boy called Reward with descendants far beyond Grandpa Abraham's and Grandma Rebekah's imagination.

Perhaps when Leah snuggled with Issachar, rocking him to sleep she snuggled with her little Reward,  sent by the One who told his Great Grandpa, "I am your shield, your very great reward."


Peace,

Ronda