It took a year to read the Bible, then almost 9 months to read the Apocrypha. Now, I'm going to try to offer reflections on the Narrative Lectionary. But, I won't be posting daily--at least, for a while.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Reflections on readings for January 13

You, Lord, are righteous;
you love righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold your face (from Psalm 11:7)

Genesis 28:1-29:35
Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. Some time later, Esau loses the blessing due to an elder son. We weren't told that Esau resented his brother for taking his birthright, but we are told how angry he is over the loss of the blessing. When their mother, Rebekah found out that Esau had threatened to kill Jacob, she sent him to Haran to escape that fate and to find a wife while at her brother's house.

Now Jacob has begun the journey. He's on the way to the home of his father's father, Abraham, and his mother, Rebekah's. When it gets too dark to travel, he beds down. In a dream, he sees a ladder beginning on earth but reaching to heaven. Angels of God were climbing up and down the ladder.

The Lord God appears to Jacob and extends the blessing to him that had before him been received by Abraham and Isaac, promises a continuing presence with Jacob, and an assurance that Jacob will be able to return home.

Note that God came to Jacob where Jacob was. Jacob wasn't looking for God. Nothing is special about the place where he found God.

Questions that I ponder--
Why was Esau more upset about the loss of his blessing than of his birthright?
Why did Isaac never go to Haran?
Why does Genesis say the ladder (my NISB says that the Hebrew word could be translated as staircase) was set up on earth? Why didn't it drop down from heaven?

One of my favorite biblical theologians is John Goldingay. Here's an excerpt from his Old Testament Theology, Volume One, Israel's Gospel:
"At Bethel God promises to be with Jacob wherever he goes, yet Jacob infers that this particular place is one where God is present. It is God's house, heaven's door. Indeed, God later thus directs him back to Bethel and appears there, although also God speaks to him at Shechem (Gen 34:1-15). There is a rhythm about God's relationship with the ancestors, a rhythm of place and journey. It involves both fixed places where God appears and they worship, and journeys where they decide to go and God accompanies them...." (246).
Jacob had tricked his blind father into giving the wrong son the blessing. Jacob's uncle had tricked him into accepting the wrong bride. One big difference: Isaac was blind; Jacob, not. At the wedding, Leah may have been veiled; in the tent, later, it would have been dark. But, still, wouldn't Jacob have recognized her voice? Well, his father hadn't recognized his.

James L. Kugel, in How to Read the Bible, gives us this quote from the rabbinic text Genesis Rabba 70:19.
All night he kept calling her "Rachel" and she kept answering him, "Yes." But "in the morning, behold! It was Leah" [Gen 29:25]. He said to her, "Liar and daughter-of-a-liar!" Leah answered: "Can there be a schoolmaster without any pupils? Was it not just this way that your father called out to you 'Esau' and you answered him [by saying 'Yes']? So when you called out [Rachel], I answered you the same way."
Matthew 9:18-38
He heals the daughter of the leader of the synagogue. Report of this spread throughout the district. A woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for a dozen years touched the fringe of his cloak and she was well. He healed two blind men. Again word spread. He cast a demon out of a man who had been mute so he would be able to speak. The crowd was amazed.

Not everybody was happy. The religious insiders gossiped that he was assisted by the ruler of the demons. They can't get that he would be empowered by God because they don't get that God allows Jesus to assossiate with such unacceptable people as he had been helping that day.Thomas Long in his commentary on Matthew sums it up, "Jesus' ministry is one of mercy, not of judgment and ritual purity."

Prayer for Today: Lord, make us happy that others, even those that we don't really like very much, are healed. Lord, make us happy that you are willing to extend your healing to lots of people that don't fit into our ideal setting. Replace our attitudes of judgment with attitudes of mercy. Amen.

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