Season after Pentecost (Proper 11 [16]): The Old Testament Passage – Being called and inspired by the Lord God

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran.” (Genesis 28:10)

Last time with visited with Jacob and his family, Jacob had just cheated Esau out of his birth right. Then later he cheated Esau out of the blessing from their father, disguising himself as Esau. Isaac was pretty old by then, mostly deaf and mostly blind, so it was not to difficult to fool him. Esau was plenty upset, so Jacob fled.

“He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said, “I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring.” (Verses 11 – 14)

I sit here in wonderment, beloved reader, that Jacob liar and opportunist that he was, would be blessed by God and promised the same sort of things that his grandfather Abraham was promised. It just goes to show, I guess, that the Lord God can make use of all sorts of people.

“Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place–and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” (Verses 15 – 17)

One would hope that this dream scared Jacob straight. Or inspired him to be a better person. Or, gave him something to believe in and strive for. It is not uncommon to have an aimless feeling, not sure what life holds for you and not sure if you will accomplish much. Maybe Jacob felt that way as the younger brother. Maybe he did yearn for his father’s attention and approval. We read in scripture that Esau was the one who went out and accomplished things in hunting and providing food while Jacob stayed close to the encampment and the tents.

God very well might have known the dreams and hopes that Jacob had, to prove himself to his family. And prove that he could do things and accomplish things. Liar and trickster, yes. Opportunist, yes. But also called to be a man of God.

“So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel; but the name of the city was Luz at the first.” (Verses 18 – 19a)

We would do well to mark the places in our lives where we have been called by the Lord God. And remember them as holy places. To give thanks to the Lord God, and to commit to fulfilling the calling that the Lord God has for us. But, beloved reader, let us try to do that with a little more honesty and integrity. Selah!

PILLAR AS WITNESS: Establishing good boundaries

“This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me.” (Genesis 31:52 from Genesis 31:22-55)

In my line of work we talk about boundaries, boundary issues, and keeping our boundaries firm. It means knowing how to function in a situation, and what is right and wrong. We respect the people we are working with, and we expect them to respect us. The rules and parameters of the relationship are very important, and we if we do not keep to these rules and parameters the consequences can be devastating and the relationship ruined.

Jacob and Laban struggled with their boundaries issues for twenty years. Jacob was tied to Laban’s household and never had the chance to establish his own household and feel that he was the head of the household for his wives and children. Nothing that Jacob had felt like it was truly his. Laban had lost both of his daughters to marriage, and felt like he had lost his role as father and patriarch. He watched his flocks and land improve and grow in value, yet Laban knew it was not his skill but his son-in-law who had accomplished these things and might take it away from him. While family is good, when boundary lines in families are not strong and respected, no one feels like they know whose is whose.

And when boundaries are blurred, and no one is sure of the other, that is when family can turn into the enemy. Boundaries allow us to keep good relationships, not only between family and friends, but with geographic locations as well. That does not mean that friends and family cannot visit, going back and forth easily. (I say this so you do not think I am talking about immigration.) But respecting relationships and the places we call “home” means that we can be friendly and hospitable, welcoming the other and the assistance and help they bring.

May you gentle reader respect the boundaries that make your relationships healthy. Shalom!