Season after Pentecost (Proper 17 [22]): The Old Testament Passage – Called out by the Great “I AM”

Moses had discovered in his early adult life that he was not cut out to be the adopted son of the Pharaoh’s daughter. The story of his realization and departure from Egypt comes before this passage.

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. (Exodus 3:1)

But neither was he, it was about to become clear, cut out for being a simple shepherd or herder.

“There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.”(Verses 2 – 3)

Ponder with me, beloved reader, the fact that God knew Moses well enough to know he would not be afraid and run off but would be curious and investigate. Moses may not have known himself well, or known his own strengths and abilities well, but the Lord God did.

“When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” (Verses 4 – 5)

Remember that while Moses grew to manhood in the palace of the Pharaoh, his early years were spent in his home with his Jewish parents and siblings. There he must have absorbed the stories of the Lord God who had been the God of his forebearers many years ago.

“He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Verse 6) 

I will address a little further on my thoughts on this identification of the Lord God.

“Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them.” (Verses 7 – 9)

I am sure there were years and years in Egypt when the descendants of Joseph were remembered by the Pharaoh and treated well. Their wants and needs taken care of because of the service that Joseph had rendered to the Egyptians. But that time had passed a long while ago.

It is interesting to consider that the Israelites/Hebrews did not cry out to the Lord God in the good years and in the plenty, to keep them and bless them. But when times were tough and oppression was all around them and consumed them, then they cried out to God. It is a pattern that the astute reader will see again and again.

“So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.” But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Verses 10 – 13)

The years in Egypt had been long, and the gods of the Pharaohs were more familiar and had names and attributes that defined them. Worship of them was set and prescribed. Idols and images of the Egyptian gods were numerous, I am sure. The God from history was now an unknown.

“God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’: This is my name forever, and this my title for all generations.” (Verses 14 – 15)

It is clear to me beloved reader, having checked it several different ways, that the Great “I AM” identified the God-self as the God of the three early establishers of God’s called people. Not the God of Joseph. Not that Joseph was slighted, but Joseph was put into service for Pharaoh. Joseph had an important role to play but not as the gather and the one established God’s people. And not, interestingly, the God of Israel but the God of Jacob. Joseph and his brothers became the tribes that made up God’s people. But the men who God called were included into the name of the Lord God.

It is interesting too, that the God of Abraham/Isaac/Jacob is one aspect of the Divine. Nomenclature is “the devising or choosing of names for things, especially in a science or other disciplines”, and that is what is going on here. Under the broader term of the “Divine” is the Jewish/Christian God. That does not mean the Divine and the God of Abraham/ Isaac/ Jacob are different and distinct from one another. It simply clarifies how one’s perspective on the Divine shapes the name that one gives to the Divine. This is an issue I have long felt needs to be addressed.

What do you call the Divine, beloved reader? It is good to know who is calling you – calling you to act in the world and to journey a certain path. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob simply followed the Divine who became intimately known to them. Joseph trusted the Lord God taught to him by his father Jacob/Israel. Now, Moses is the conduit for that God to reform God’s called and chosen people. But as we read before, it is a hard task to call and form a people. Let us continue to read about their journey, how it impacts our life journey, and how we might be called also. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 16 [21]): The Psalm Passage – The fates turn on the Israelites

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.”(Exodus 1:8)

We now start down another long road of the story of God’s called and chosen people. It has often been joked by Jews that they sometimes wish God would chose someone else! It is bitter humor. The sentiment has at times been shared by other people called out by God. Because being called out by God can often mean the powers and principalities are set against one. I do have to wonder however, why God’s chosen people were allowed lead into such trying circumstances.

“He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we.
Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites.” (Verses 9 – 12)

Overlords and rulers being ruthless over those who are helpless to defend themselves. It is a story told over and over, in differing places and at differing times. And in different cultures. It is tragedy that branches from ancient times to modern times. One people oppressing and subjugating another. Just tell me when it sounds familiar to you, beloved reader, and I will stop pounding it into your minds.


“The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.” (Verses 13 – 14)

Many terrible things are done out of fear, and misunderstanding. Once we see people as “things” instead of kindred souls and spirits deserving of respect, dignity, and acceptance . . . a great many things are tolerated and condoned.

“The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?”
The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families.” (Verses 15 – 21)

As I am sitting here and thinking about these things, I can’t help but remember all the times in the Old Testaments that the Israelites, the Hebrews, and the Jews were told to recall their time in Egypt as a reason to do a thing or an obey a law. I have often thought of the Old Testament as the story of a people learning what it means to be called by God. Not a fully formed and realized people, but learning what it means to follow the One God. Mighty lessons needed to be learned, and the people seemed at times to be slow to learn the lessons.

“Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”(Verse 22)

Did you notice, beloved reader, that the Israelites are now called the Hebrews. I do not know how many years it was until the new king of Egypt “did not know Joseph.” It must have been several generations for the family of Israel (Jacob) to become a nation. The Israelites – now Hebrews – still remembered the families they were from.

“Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.” (Chapter 2, verses 1 – 4)

This was Moses. Proof that the Lord God has not forgetting the called and chosen people. That they were still chosen by God, and still under the Divine Eye. A lesson to us, beloved reader, that even in our trials and tribulations that we are still under the Divine Eye, and still within the Lord’s heart.

“The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother.” (Verses 5 – 8)

You may be thinking lucky Moses and lucky Moses’ mother, and sharp thinking Moses’ sister. But let me remind you, beloved reader, this happened because the Pharaoh’s daughter also thought of Moses as a “thing”, something to be cared for but it did not matter to get Moses back to the correct family. Any family and nurse would due.

“Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” (Verses 9 – 10)

Grown up does not mean an adult, but weaned and capable of eating solid food. The Pharaoh’s daughter took another woman’s young child for her own. That is not to say she did not have compassion on the infant child, saving it from the river and insuring its welfare. Surely she was aware of her father’s edict about male Hebrew children. And she evidently did want to save the child from an uncertain future. But neither did she let Moses grow up with his own people but took him as her own son, turning her back on his heritage.

But if Moses was poorly used by the Egyptians, he was never far from the Lord God . . . as his story will show.

We too, beloved reader, are never far from the Lord God. And I am reminded again that this lectionary year has the theme of new believers. As the Hebrews were new to being God’s people (as the extended story will show) new Christian believers are new to Christian faith too. There is many stories of difficult times amongst new Christians. Trust that none of them are far from God’s concern. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 15 [20]): The Old Testament Passage – The very beginning of the journey of the Hebrews

Then Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers.” (Genesis 45:1)

We have conveniently skipped over the part where Joseph made it tough for his brothers, and tested them to see if they were the same unfeeling young men that they were during Joseph’s youth. Joseph’s brothers had matured and were now seasoned and accountable men.

Joseph had grown and matured also – mostly. I think what he did to his brothers in hiding the golden cup in their sacks of grain was sort of extreme. But when it came to extremes of behavior, it ran in the family. So it was no secret that he was extremely moved in revealing himself to his brothers.

“And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it.” (Verse 2)

What must the Egyptians thought when they heard Joseph cry like that? Scripture does not tell us. It reminds me of another man called by God, who had to go through great turmoil in the Egyptian palace before his discovered his destiny. Moses was also a man of extreme emotions. But back to the story.

“Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (Verses 3 – 5)

I hope Joseph truly believed that; for the sake of his brothers and because, in a way, Joseph was sentencing his people to many years of servitude. Read the following verses with that in mind.

“For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, ‘Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay.” (Verses 6 – 9)

It could very well be true that Joseph and his family would not have survived if they had stayed where they were. And being in Egypt, the people who would become the Hebrews/Israelites multiplied, and became a nation within the borders of Egypt.

“You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there–since there are five more years of famine to come–so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty. And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.” (Verses 10 – 15)

I had not previously considered that the saving of Joseph’s family and their possessions lead directly (or maybe indirectly) to the Israelites becoming slaves, and in need of being set free. And thinking about it, many generations and nations of people called by God have needed to be set free from circumstances both of their making and things being done to them.

When you consider what all of the people from Abraham through King David to Joseph the earthly father of Jesus have been through, it seems like a practically impossible journey filled with moments where it came close to not working out. And yet it did, culminating in Jesus. And then the outbound journey started again – to all nations!

The other thing I have learned anew from this story of Joseph is that there is no assured safety in this live for believers of God. A very stark fact. Our true home is not this world, but the world to come. We are all “outbound” until we return “home” to the Divine. But what stories we have to tell! And what things we have learned!

May the Lord God watch over your outbound journey, beloved reader, and welcome you home when the time comes! Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 14 [19]): The Old Testament Passage – Moves

When I sat down to write this, I had just gotten done posting the unofficial announcement (that may be turning more official as time goes by) that I plan on moving “operations” over to my other blog, “Pondering From the Pacific”. Of course, beloved reader, you are reading this a week and a day after the fact (yes, writers can “use” time machines) so you may have already absorbed the news. This posting will also be appearing on my other blog. But context and background aside, I was thinking which of the Revised Common Lectionary passages for this week I should start with. And it just seems right to start with a story of moving to a new place.


“Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan.
This is the story of the family of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father.” (Genesis 37:1 – 2)

Yes, we have come to the story of Joseph; the next stage of the Lord God establishing a called people. Now you would think with twelve brothers, it would be enough to start a small nation. But the Lord God had something bigger planned. And a very long term plan. And, a plan that would be challenging for everyone involved. It would turn out to be a very “bitter” plan. Regret and drama. But that is so often the case with human free will.

“Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.” (Verses 3 – 4)

Israel, if you did not know, was Jacob all grown up and blessed by God. Seems though that dysfunctional family relationships are part of their family heritage.

“Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.”So he sent him from the valley of Hebron. He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, ‘Let us go to Dothan.'” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer.” (Verses 12 – 19)

Yes, we skipped over that part, where Joseph had dreams where he was mightier and more powerful than his brothers, and even his parents. Having a favored “kid brother” is hard enough, but one that walks around with an attitude in a fancy cloak was just too much!

“Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” (Verses 20 – 21)

I guess big brothers do look out for their younger brothers . . . . up to a point.

“Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” –that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it. Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.” ( Verses 22 – 28)

I’m not sure if selling your brother to some traveling strangers is much better than killing him. It seems to me they wanted to be rid of him, and did not care about his fate. They still ended up making their father believe Joseph was dead, and as far as they knew he might have ended up dying anyway. But dreams and dreamers do not die easily, and oft times survive after taking some interesting paths to fruition. And all of the offspring of those blessed by God have a part and purpose. What we think are plans that have a definite end and assured resolution may not turn out the way we thought at all. That is one of the reasons the journey I am on now, moving “operations” to a different site, may prove to be a very interesting one; NOT I hope, as “interesting” as Joseph’s!

May you, beloved reader, have journeys and plans that are blessed by the Lord God! Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 13 [18]): The Old Testament Passage – Jacob on the road to a new life

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.” (Genesis 32: 22 -23)

Jacob was going home. He had wives and children, livestock and possessions. He had spent 14 years making Laban a wealthy man, but he also made himself wealthy as well. Or maybe it was the Lord who blessed both men. In any case, he was finally going home to the family he left behind. And that was the problem. When he left, he had angered his brother and fooled his father. And he had left his mother alone to deal with it all. His brother’s messengers said his brother wanted to see him. But they also said he has 400 men. And Jacob was scared for his livestock, his possessions, and his wives and children. Scared for himself too. He knew they were safe, so it was his own self that he thought was yet in danger.

Thinking about it, Jacob was pretty brave to face his brother, considering what he thought the reunion of the two would be like. Jacob feared for his life. And, he was alone.

“Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” (Verses 24 – 27)

One could say that Jacob was wrestling with himself – his demons, his past, and his actions of the past. Maybe he was wrestling with his conscience. But it was a physical wrestle, an opponent with skin and sinew; one that was almost a match for Jacob, and Jacob almost a match for this unnamed stranger. And why did Jacob think this stranger would, could, and should give him a blessing? Maybe Jacob realized that the blessing from his father was never really his to begin with. And the dream he had on his way to Laban was so far in the past, and being on the cusp of facing that past, he wanted some reassurance.

“Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” (Verse 28)

Striven with God – fulfilling his destiny? Or creating one with his own efforts? Striven with humans – overcoming the trick Laban has pulled? Or besting Laban at raising flocks? Or agreeing to finally confront what his need to his family of origin? In all these things he had prevailed. And because of this the legacy of creating a new people has been manifested in him.

“Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.” (Verses 29 – 31)

I recently thought and considered what it would be like to come to faith again. Not anew, as if faith was deepened, but coming to faith as if faith in God had not been there before. That faith was fresh and untarnished. And the discovering of what living in faith would be like. That is the theme of this lectionary year; discovering faith and living in faith as a new being. That is what was given to Jacob, now Israel. A new beginning. A new way of living . . . . . with all the benefits and rewards that had been accumulated in the past life. What is a limp compared to all that?!?!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 12 [17]): The Old Testament Passage – Lessons to be learned and legacies to be established

We pick up the story of Jacob when he had reached the ancestral home of his grandfather and his mother. His uncle Laban, now married himself and and with daughters, has agreed to employ Jacob to tend his flocks. But wants Jacob to earn more than just his room and board. Jacob has an idea of how he would like to be paid though.

“Then Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful.” (Genesis 29:15 – 17)

Now you will have to believe me that Leah and Rachel were not that much different, and maybe not that much far apart in age and looks. The reason why I believe this strongly will become apparent. Remember too that Jacob is his mother’s son, and Laban is her brother. Family resemblance and traits are important here, so remember what Jacob is like also.

“Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her. Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.”(Verses 18 – 21)

So Jacob is an eager young bridegroom who has been waiting for the woman of his dreams. Seven years, enough time for a young girl to grow into a woman.

“So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.)” (Verses 22 – 24)

Well . . . . what do you know? Uncle Laban is a bit of a trickster himself! And Jacob has been as smoothly outsmarted as Esau was back home!

“When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” (Verse 25)

Ah yes, beloved reader. Only in the light of morning does Jacob realize what he has longed for those seven years is not what he got. Perhaps it would help your incredulity to know that most probably Jacob had not seen much of Leah or Rachel – that is, they were wearing concealing clothing. Remember Leah had beautiful eyes, and Rachel was graceful and of lovely form. Jacob would not have spent much time alone with her, nor might have he known how exactly she changed over the seven years. Laban pulled off a smooth transfer to be sure.

“Laban said, “This is not done in our country–giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.” (Verses 26 – 28)

Jacob subbed himself in for Esau with his father getting the family blessing, as well as fooling Esau into giving away something very valuable for a meager return. Laban subbed in Leah for Rachel as well as fooling Jacob into working for him a total of fourteen years. Jacob went along with taking Leah as his wife, since he got Rachel. Seems to me that no one is exactly operating on the up and up. And what of Leah and Rachel? How might have they felt being traded around by their father, and ending up with the same husband? Seems to me, beloved reader, there are some legacies being established. Think too of grandpa Abraham who used Hagar to get a son, and yet was okay with tossing them out of the camp when Isaac was born. Abraham also did some other fancy maneuvering with the truth when it suited his purpose. I have a feeling, beloved reader, we are not done seeing the shenanigans in this family!

Yet, these are people of God. People who are charged with carrying out God’s establishing of a new nation, and a people called by God. One of the points of the Old Testament is that the people of God were far from perfect, and God called them to task on it. Yet the Lord God was faithful in establishing a nation from these people, these men and women who looked out from themselves almost more than they looked out for following the Lord’s guidance.

So do not despair, beloved reader, if you have fallen short in anyway. The Lord God is bound to use you for a Divine purpose – whether you cooperate or not! Selah!

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!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 10 [15]) : The Old Testament Passages – Tying together two themes; tying two lineages together

I have chosen to use the alternate set of Old Testament and Psalm passages this week – not sure of my reasoning but I felt at the time the Gospel and Epistle passages were better suited to the second set. However, I wanted to give you a little update on Isaac’s wife, Rebekah. She is with child after many years of marriage to Isaac. She came to him as a young woman, but her youth is spent. Isaac had prayed to God for a child and the Lord broke her barrenness. But it was not an easy pregnancy, so she herself prayed to God to inquire why it was so difficult. The Lord answered her saying, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.” When her time to give birth was at hand, there were twins in her womb.” (Genesis 25:23b-24)

And as I sit here and ponder that, it occurs to me it is a perfect lead in to the other Old Testament passage.

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11)

The Lord had promised Abraham that he would be a father of a nation. And what better way to start a nation then by having twin grandchildren. Ah! The Lord said, however, there are two nations in Rebekah’s womb. So, was Abraham the father of one nation or two nations? The fraternal twins were Esau and Jacob. And it was through Jacob that the lineage was passed down. Esau was the older and the stronger, but it was Jacob who received the inheritance.

Let us reflect back on the first two verses from the Isaiah passage that I selected for today. The Word of the Lord goes out and does not return empty but accomplishes that which the Lord intended. What was the intent of the Lord? Esau was the stronger and the older, but his nature was not what the Lord intended to build on. Jacob was younger and not as robust. He stayed close to “home”. He was also sneaky, but met his match in sneaky from his uncle Laban. He fled from home and the wrath of his brother, but found the Lord God and confirmation of his inheritance. He was worthy of the Lord God to wrestle with and Jacob also demanded a blessing from the Divine. And this actually ties to the verses that follow in this passage from Isaiah.

“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” (Verses 12 – 13)

Esau, if you allow, was the thorn – rough and hearty. Jacob was the cypress – growing strong in time and useful in worship. Esau was the brier – wild and impulisive. Jacob the myrtle – sweetly scented and even useful when crushed. But do not let me lead to believe that those who are “rough and hearty”, “wild and impulsive” are not also God’s children. I want to make that abundantly clear. Each of us has our use in the Lord’s kingdom. Esau had a part to play, and Jacob had a part to play. While Jacob’s lineage might have been that which is traced down to Jesus, Esau was also a nation. Two nations, the Lord said to Rebekah. Just as Hagar’s son also had his own part to play in the story of the people of God. Those who came from Esau also have a place at the Lord’s table. Just as we can intertwine scripture passages, the children of the Lord God can also intertwine, bringing glory and honor to our Lord. Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 9 [14]) : The Old Testament Passages – Following the Lord God’s Tide

From the play Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare:
There is a tide in the affairs of men [humankind],
Which, taken at the flood,
leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life,
Is bound in shallows and miseries”

I am leading off, not with a citation from scripture, but a quote that I read in my morning meditations. It is used in the cycle of scripture not for this week, but the week before. As I read it, it seemed to me that it is applicable for today also. This quote was used to support the idea that one should not tarry in coming to faith, but express belief in the Lord God and Jesus Christ when presented with that truth, and to put that faith and belief into action. This idea is in line with the theme of this lectionary year, coming to new and renewed faith.

In today’s passage you will read about several people who took good advantage of the “tide” that came about in their lives and affairs.

So he said, “I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys.
And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, ‘You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’ ” (Genesis 24:34-38)

The Lord had helped Abraham prosper. While he made some missteps, for the most part he was faithful to God, and so God was faithful to Abraham. Abraham saw the “tide” that God had set before him, and he waded full in. Now Abraham again, “goes with the tide” and determines to pick a wife for Isaac who would most likely be faithful to God’s intent. Rather than simply settle for one of the ‘local’ girls, he instructs his servant to find a special girl. And Abraham’s servant also goes with the tide that his master has set for him. Consider what they could have missed out on if they had not heeded God’s tide.


“I came today to the spring, and said, ‘O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” –let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’ “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’” (Verses 42 – 45)

The servant does not wish to take any chances, and so seeks to place himself in the tide that is the Lord. He does not wish to depend on his own eye and judgment, but gives over to God to pick the correct girl for Isaac’s wife. Consider what he could have missed out on if he had not heeded God’s tide.

She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, ‘Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, ‘Whose daughter are you?’ She said, ‘The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son.” (Verses 46 – 48)

Rebekah also places herself in God’s tide by helping the stranger and foreigner, and being hospitable and gracious to him. She could have thought of only herself and her household, and not extended graciousness to the stranger. Consider what she could have missed out on if she had not heeded God’s tide.

Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.” And they called Rebekah, and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” She said, “I will.” So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her, “May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.” Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way.” (Verses 49, 58 – 61)

Laban also took a chance with his sister, and stepped into God’s tide. And, if you will remember other biblical stories, you will remember that by stepping into God’s tide, he made this place, and a second place for himself and his family in God’s plan. Consider what he now and latter on could have missed out on if he had not heeded God’s tide.

Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant, “Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.” (Verses 62 – 67)

Isaac could have insisted on marrying a girl close at hand. He could have insisted on going along and approving of the girl he was to marry. But instead he trusted in his father and his father’s servant, and by extension trusted in God. By all accounts Rebekah was quite beautiful and we know she was compassionate, caring, and giving. Consider what he could have missed out on if he had not heeded God’s tide.

We are all free, beloved reader, to step into God’s tide and go where we are directed. We can refuse to go, resist God, and take our own chances. As William Shakespeare pointed however, are lives will be much less than if we had followed God. Consider Shakespeare himself, writing truths into his plays. Consider how much the world has benefited from his writings. Consider too my heeding this quote, and the writer of the book that I read it in. Consider all these things, beloved reader. Consider all of us – Abraham, his servant, Rebekah, Laban, Isaac, Shakespeare, the writer of the book, and myself – how we have sought out and followed God’s plan and guidance. Now, consider yourself; what will you chose to do? Selah!

Season after Pentecost (Proper 8 [13]) : The Old Testament Passages – In faith I say, “The Lord will Provide”

After these things God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Genesis 22:1)

Trust me, beloved reader, when the Lord calls your name, you may as well answer. But do not doubt that answering the Lord will lead to things you never imagined!

“He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown him. On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.”(Verses 2 – 5)

Now we know this story well enough to know what happened in the short term and in the long term. So let us glean other aspects of this story as Abraham and Isaac make their way to the mountain where they do not know what will happen.

Abraham did not want the young men that he brought with him to know what the Lord expected him to do. He had not even told Isaac, which I totally understand. But just what did Abraham think would happen when he came back WITHOUT his son?! What sort of story would he tell the two young men who must have known how much his son meant to him. And what did Abraham think he was going to tell his wife Sarah about what happened to he beloved son that she did not believe would come, and for whom she sent away Hagar and her son? So often we rush to the end of this story, or knowing how it would end, we are loathe to consider what the consequences could have been! And what of Abraham himself, who must have seen how his legacy would soon be at an end!

“Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together.” (Verse 6)

Abraham must have been fairly old to not be able to carry the wood that was to be used; and Isaac must have been more than just a young tot to carry the wood. And if Abraham was that old, he must have thought that he would never have another child. And if Isaac was hold enough to carry wood, how did Abraham think he would manage if Isaac resisted?

“Isaac said to his father Abraham, “Father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” (Verse 7)

Notice how Isaac calls to his father, and his father answers him – as the Lord called Abraham and he answered in complete faith and trust.

“Abraham said, “God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together. When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order. He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.” (Verses 8 – 10)

So here we are, at the moment. I have read other versions and paraphrases that strongly indicate that Isaac put his complete trust in his father, as much as Abraham put his trust in the Lord. Have we ever held back, beloved reader, because did not put our complete trust in the Lord God? When the Lord God calls us, have we ever held back because we suspected we would be called on to do things we would rather not? It reminds me of when the Lord God called for Adam & Eve in the Garden of Eden, and they hid because they knew that had done counter to the Lord’s wishes.

“But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” (Verse 11)

And here, beloved reader, is the payoff for answering the Lord God swiftly and completely.

“He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its horns. Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” (Verses 12 – 14)

“The Lord will provide.” If it is not a reminder to you, beloved reader, it is certainly a reminder to me. I am still in the midst of a job search, as I write this, and wondering mightily what and how the Lord will provide. Just as Abraham had to trust, so must I. I have not been asked to place anything on an altar to sacrifice . . . . except my hope for the future. Not like sacrificing a child, but still, I am hopeful that something will come soon that will answer my needs.

Until then I journey on, knowing the Lord is with me. May it be so for you too beloved reader. Selah!