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Genesis 33: Reunion


Genesis 33: Reunion

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hendrick Ter Bruggen: Esau Selling His Birthright

In the past we have reflected on the story of how Jacob found himself in hiatus from all he knew – and how we find ourselves in that same place from time to time in our lives.  Often we wander – guessing at our true destiny, seeing glimpses of it now and then, wanting the end of the endless waiting to arrive.  We have also reflected on how Jacob came to realize that his place of exile from home had become dangerous.  He plots to outwit Laban, his father-in-law, and he manages to escape the wrath of Laban’s sons – but where does he go?  He returns home.  Re reunites with his brother Esau– whom he had deceived.  The story of Jacob until this point is one of God’s pruning of a valuable vine.  So too are we the branches of this same vine.  So too does the master of the vineyard prune us – his faithful.

Today we reflect on Jacob’s reunion with the brother he had deceived.  We can learn much about ourselves in this meeting of two who once loved and have been in hiatus.

As I read through these verses today I am so struck by how this relationship has changed during the brothers’ time apart.  The attitude of deception that characterized Jacob in Chapter 27 is gone and in fact Jacob begs Esau to accept his presence and his gifts in verse 10.  And look at what he says.  “No, I beg you!” said Jacob.  “If you will do me the favor, please accept this gift from me, since to come into your presence is for me like coming into the presence of God, now that you have received me so kindly”.

Jacob – in receiving mercy from his brother rather than a wrath that would be justified – realizes and then admits aloud that he and Esau have a holy union.  They are meant to love one another and not deceive one another.  During their time apart, Jacob has come to understand that not only had he tried to deceive Esau when he sought to cheat him of his birthright . . . he had sought to deceive God himself.  He had sought to manipulate God’s plan.

Esau wants to accompany his brother home.  Jacob does not want to tax his family or his herds.  Esau offers guards to ensure the safety of his brother’s tribe.  Jacob declines.  The two bothers come to an agreement and eventually reunite.

Last year when we reflected on Jacob and the lessons he learned about being willing and faithful, this was the prayer that came to us that day.  I offer it again below.  May all of our waiting dreams and broken hearts find such sweet reunion as these two brothers with whom we reflect today.

Sweet and loving God, may I be ever-listening, ever-faithful, ever-willing to obey your plan.  I understand that you have something wonderful in mind for me and that from where I stand I cannot see as well as you and so sometimes I am a bit afraid of what will pop up next over my horizon.  May I refrain from manipulation and from being manipulated.  May I refrain from separating myself from you, may I return to you always when I am afraid, because I know that you are always with me.  Amen.   


Image from: http://www.pubhist.com/work/10288/hendrick-ter-brugghen/esau-selling-his-birthright

Written on October 17, 2008, re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Ezekiel 39:25-29: Restoration After Hiatus

Monday, October 21, 2019

Govert Flink: Issac Blessing Jacob

When we look at the life of Jacob we might be tempted to look at the story of his deeds or accomplishments: his early toying with deceit, his growing ability to focus persistently on a goal, his fathering of twelve sons who lead the Twelve Tribes of Israel.  When we look more closely we see that rather than a rising and falling arc of “doings” what we really find is a string of actions that are separated by pauses.  What Jacob has mastered is not so much the “doing” of life but the thoughtful hiatus.

In the story of Jacob we see that are many periods of hiatus in which he is separated from all he loves by either his own actions or the events that swirl around him.  When we reflect a bit more on Jacob, we might also see how and if and whether we experience hiatus in our own lives.  Today’s Noontime calls us to reflect on the goal we all have in mind when we are in a state of hiatus.  We yearn for the reunion, the curing, the re-construction, the bridging, the healing . . . the restoration.

We know that the lands and fortunes of the tribes of Jacob are indeed restored . . . and then lost again.  The people wander away from the lesson they thought they had learned during exile.  Their hubris and their lack of willingness to listen to and for the voice within gets in their way, they become easily distracted, and wander into the wilderness again to lose what they had regained.  Fortunately for humans, God forgives endlessly.  The prophet Ezekiel reminds us of this.

When we experience hiatus well we have the opportunity to learn much about ourselves.

We come to know that the Lord is our God, before whom no other god may stand.  These other gods may be our desire for wealth, looks, fashion, friends, prestige, life style, addiction – anything which separates us from God.

We experience the New Law of Love, the Law of the Beatitudes which Jesus brought us on the Mount (Matthew) and on the Plain (Luke).

We become people who do not fear poverty, illness or rejection suffered as the result of Kingdom Building and Kingdom Living.

We become light and salt and yeast to the world.  We are to be brothers and sisters together shouting with joy that God is good.

We become to be harvesters who go forth weeping to return singing.

We become people who are Jesus in a world which is not.

We become people who wait for, and hope for, and work for Restoration.

And this is the Restoration which awaited the tribes of Jacob.  It is the same restoration which comes to all those who wait actively, seek patiently, and witness persistently.

This is a Way worth following.  It is a Life worth living.

Amen.


To explore how hiatus figures in Jacob’s life and in our own, go to the A Journey Hiatus in the Journeys of Transformation page on this blog at: https://thenoontimes.com/a-journey-of-transformation/a-journey-hiatus/

Image from: https://www.thinkingfaith.org/articles/jesus-who-do-you-think-you-are-1-abraham-isaac-and-jacob

First written on October 6, 2008.  Re-written and posted today as a Favorite.

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Obadiah: Revenge and Forgiveness

Sunday, September 29, 2019

French School, 17th Century: Salomé

More thoughts on Salomé who sought revenge . . . and who asked for the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

“We know nothing about Obadiah beyond his name, nor is the place of the book’s composition certain . . . Obadiah did not specify that his message came at the time of any specific king or event.  On the other hand Obadiah 11-14 indicates that a major calamity had struck Judah and that the Edomites had capitalized on Judah’s troubles to their own advantage . . . common sense and a broad consensus suggest that the calamity was in fact the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

“Obadiah was written to the people of Judah about the Edomites (descendents of Esau), condemning them for their treachery and violence toward the people of Judah, as well as for their arrogance and indifference toward God”.  (Zondervan 1464)

This is the kind of prophecy which makes us cringe as we understand that revenge is not something we want as part of our value complex.  Seeking vengeance is the kind of thinking my parents continually warned us against for it can never be good.  We were often reminded in our growing years that when we dig a grave for our enemy we ought to dig two: one for them and one for us.  “The truth will always come out in the end”, Dad would remind us. “Don’t worry about the other guy getting credit that is not due him, or the other guy getting away with things.  It’ll all come out in the end.  Just keep your eye on yourself and your God.  And let God handle the other guy”. Dad warned us that human depravity was too crooked and too frightening for us to correct; he knew from personal experience that only God can deal effectively with deep evil.  We humans – even when we are in the best of places and times – cannot conquer forces that have spent eons gathering strength in the dark.  It is far better, according to Dad, to go to the light and stay there.  “That way God can see you and pick you up on his way home”.

Mother always intoned her mantra of “Kill your enemies with kindness.  Pray for them and you will never be alone; because you can bet on it that when people are that naughty lots of people will be praying along with you.  Think of the message God will hear when all those voices join together”, she would remind us.   “Yes, I know you want to get back at them but just pray for them. They will need your prayers.  And besides, the results are better”. 

These simple lessons were either never delivered or they were lost on Salomé who asked for and received John the Baptist’s head on a platter.  Yesterday we spent time reflecting on her portrait and we saw her sultry stare and sullen posture, arms draped around the killing knife and the platter that would deliver the head of her enemy.  Today we  see a similar likeness; she looks out at us in apparent satisfaction yet we know that revenge is not sweet.  It does not last and it does not satisfy.  It only brings about our own destruction and doom.  These are the truths spoken by Obadiah more than two millennia ago . . . and they are truths we can still use today.  We must wipe revenge from our hearts and replace it with forgiveness for the measure that we measure with is measured out to us.

And so we pray . . .

When we are most hurt by others, we must not strike back, we must forgive.

When we are most neglected by others, we must not plot their downfall, we must forgive.

When we are most abused by others, we must ask for their redemption and we must forgive.

When we are most abandoned by others, we must not treat them in like fashion, we must forgive.

When we are most damaged by others, we must not in turn inflict damage, we must forgive.

God forgives.  God restores.  God repairs.  God cures.  We are each called to do the same.  Amen.


A re-post from September 9, 2012.

Image from: http://www.bonhams.com/auctions/20016/lot/55/

ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY BIBLE (NIV). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2005. 1464. Print.

For more on the prophecy of Obadiah go to the Obadiah – Outrageous Hope page on this blog.

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Hebrews 12:14-17Peace and Holiness

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

Hendrick ter Brugghen: Esau Selling his Birthright

As we continue to consider the quality of peace in our lives, we reflect on this Favorite written on August 23, 2007. How do we find peace in our families? How do peace and holiness abide in times of deception and deceit? 

Strive for peace and holiness by avoiding bitterness, and by seeking reconciliation and unity through repentance and reparation.  Seeking blessing through tears does not work unless it is accompanied by true repentance and a true desire for intimacy and union.  The example of Esau is clear.  He deserved his inheritance yet he was cheated out of it by his own mother and brother.  We go back to rethink the story and we find something new.

In a homily more than a year ago, the homilist pointed out the following in regards to the stealing of Esau’s birthright by his brother Jacob: When we look at Jacob’s life, we see that he manipulated God’s plan in order to receive something which he thought he deserved.  He angled for his brother’s inheritance by clear and overt deception and betrayal. Yet in the end, his life was one of a series of losses of family members and of separation from loved ones.  The homilist pointed out that no matter how we try, we humans cannot out-maneuver God.

We reflect on how Esau was so often absent from the family, doing what he pleased while hunting and fishing.  He was a member of his family but had moved himself away from the intimacy of the precious circle of love.  Perhaps if he had been more engaged, more interactive, more truly present, less passive resistant or even passive aggressive, his brother would not have thought it possible to steal an inheritance.  Esau neglected something important that had been given to him: the gifts of his intimate family members.  He was cavalier in his attitude about them and in Chapter 25 of Genesis he sells his right for a single bowl of stew.  Later when he cries, he does not repent.  So Esau goes off to join the Ishmaelites and to begin his own tribe which thrives in opposition to the tribes of his brother Jacob.

And so as we reflect, we pray.

God in Heaven, keep us from neglecting those whom we love so dearly.  Do not let us stray so far that my loved ones believe me gone.  For those whom we love who stand away from us, let us always be open to the newness of the Spirit, always present to the impossible possibility that a new beginning is waiting to bloom.  For those to whom we have an aversion, for those we hold at arm’s length, keep us aware that you work wonders – even in the lives and plans of those who mean to do harm.  Keep us prudent but open to the possibility that hearts may be softened, walls taken down.  Keep us from being part of the wall.  Allow us to trust you to be our shield and protection.  Keep us holy and in peace.  We pray this in Jesus’ name as we abide with you in the same Spirit who guided Jacob and Esau. 

Amen.

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