Friday, August 22, 2014

Peace in the Middle East- Will it Ever Come/4

Hatred can be a killer. Picking up with the split of Jacob and Esau hatred begins to brew. Not only did Esau give up his birthright for some soup, now he is placed beneath his younger brother in everything that pertains to family. He will not become a patriarch, he will not inherit the wealth and prestige from his father. Filled with bitterness and hatred he heads to the land of the Ishmaelite's.

Rebekah hears of the hatred her son has for his brother. She calls Jacob to her and plans on sending him away. Isaac admonishes Jacob to never take a Canaanite woman as a wife. Esau hears the fathers admonition and in order to get back at his father he goes and takes the daughter of Ishmael as his wife. The scripture doesn't give us much light on the behind the scenes conversations between Ishmael and Esau.

Remember Ishmael was rejected by Abraham and Sarah. God promised Hagar, Ishmaels's mother, that Ismael would be the father of a great nation and that twelve princes would come from him. Now we find Esau and Ishmael living in the land that would become known as the Arabian Peninsula.

In the middle of this family dysfunction God appears to Jacob. During the night, while Jacob is asleep, God appears to him in a dream. A ladder, or staircase, descends from heaven and angelic creatures go back and forth from heaven and earth. At the top of the staircase Jacob hears the voice of God. The Lord repeats, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give to you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendant will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the east, to the north, and to the south. All peoples on the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring."

After a period of time we find the marriage of Jacob to Leah and Rachel. Jacob worked for Laban for fourteen years in order to marry Leah and Rachel. He worked six additional years to gain ownership of the flocks he had been tending. Fearing Laban, Jacob departed in the night with his wives and possessions.

Jacob has twelve sons by his two wives and their handmaidens. In time Jacob prepares to meet Esau, his brother. He is afraid  that Esau is still filled with hatred so he plans a meeting strategy. Jacob will send multiple gifts to Esau and each party will tell Esau that Jacob is coming behind them. He spends the night by himself and has a wrestling match with an angel. The angel reminds Jacob of the blessing God has for him and Jacob insists on another blessing. The name of Jacob is changed to, Israel.

Genesis 33- The meeting with Esau goes better than Jacob had even wished. The two brother embrace and weep. Jacob feared for his life for years and Esau dealt with his hatred for years as well. Jacob needed to be reminded by God that his life was in God's hands and that there was a plan that had been put into place and that man was not going to thwart the plan.

God instructs Jacob to return to Bethel and again the covenant is reinforced. In  this setting, Genesis 35, the narrative is a bit different. And God said to him, "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 that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you."

Comments- God is using very imperfect people for His purposes. Abraham disgraced Sarah. Isaac disgraced Rachel and the dysfunction flourished. Deception and deceit seemed to be the norm in the relationships. But still, God chose Abraham to be the father of many nations and that the entire world would be blessed on account of him. Time and time again God reminds and reinforces the truth of the covenant He first made with Abraham. The covenant relationship centered on the Jews worshipping only Jehovah and Jehovah blessing them with posterity and property.

We must decide whether or not we believe in the God of the Old Testament and his plan for the people of Israel.

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