Monday, January 24, 2011

The Beginning of Israel - Genesis 32 to 34

[Genesis 32.] It is fear time for Jacob: Esau is on the way to meet him with 400 men. His possessions are split into two camps. He is separated from his wives and children. so he kneels down and prays "Oh God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, oh Yahweh who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,' I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have show to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'" (Genesis 32.9-12) This is the best prayer in the book. I would study this. I know that I left out the much-loved section where Jacob is said to have wrestled Jesus (Genesis 32.24-30), but I want to focus in on the less-noticed parts here.

[Genesis 33.] Esau, by the sheer grace of God, does not slaughter Jacob. God answered Jacob's prayer and changed Esau's rage into mirth. By the time Jacob reaches him it seems like the ol' ginger wolfman is pretty glad to see his long-lost brother. Except for the suspicious-looking 400 man army behind him, he seems pretty nonchalant ("Oh, these 400 men? Why, I didn't even notice them there!"). Two lessons to take from this: I. God's actions and man's go together. Even though God changed Esau's heart and Jacob had faith that He would, Jake still devised a plan to win his brother. Sometimes God chooses to work through our actions. II. Man's actions and God's go together. Even though Jacob developed a good plan and followed through with it, He still relied on God to do the real work. God can work without our actions, but our actions can't work without God.

[Genesis 34.] Thousands of years before Sun Tzu ever wrote "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill," Levi and Benjamin avenged their sister's honor by suddenly wiping out a small city-state. And they did it by themselves, walking all over their victims after luring them into circumcising every man in the town for the sake of a treaty. The specifics on morality are hazy here: on one hand, they looted, pillaged, and wiped out an entire people. And they lied. On the other hand, the two brothers had a point when they asked Jacob "should we have let Shechem treat our sister like a prostitute?" This is the part of Genesis that I have the hardest time with. Whatever the case, God works through all actions and circumstances, and nothing happens on this earth outside of his perfect will.

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