Announcing Thomas Talks!

I am so excited to announce that ThomasTalks.net is live! This is the culmination of my life’s journey and working for 3 years with a ministry coach and a team of amazing women who God has brought into my life to help me on several projects — I’m so grateful they have continued alongside on this one!

Please, check it out! If there is anything you would like to see addressed there, or you would like to talk to me about contributing there, please let me know. There will be memes and voices and I hope it will be an encouragement to many of you as you navigate the journey of life and ask questions about how faith impacts who we are and what we do.

On Complementarianism . . . or, “But I know a marriage that . . . “

I’m excited that we have launched Thomas Talks and I’m moving some articles over there! http://thomastalks.net/2017/06/22/on-complimentarianism-or-but-i-know-a-marriage-that/

Thoughts on Shabbat

I’ve heard people argue that women weren’t expected to observe lots of Torah because it was sexist and they had to take care of children. it is true that women were excused from the obligation of certain things in Torah because of caring for the children, but it’s more that God views caring for the needs of children and the elderly as most important. God doesn’t consider these things work!

Everyone in Israel — Jew and the sojourner, the servants and the animals, was expected to rest. It isn’t just for Jewish people. In fact, Sabbath means “rest.” And it’s commanded, but it’s a gift and an invitation extended to us. God finished creation and then rested and invites us to rest with him in his completed work. I’ve most loved the analogy that it is like a date day with God. That God set aside a day to spend with us and invites us to join him in what he’s doing and we either show up or don’t.

Shabbat is a "date day" with God

Shabbat is a “date day” with God

Lots of people ask me “what is work that we have to avoid?” I tell them Scripture speaks of not engaging in buying and selling in the market, not lighting a fire, and not doing your every day work. And then I tell them, “You know when you’re working.” Sometimes I start something and then realize I’m working so I stop 😛 Jesus spoke about the acceptance that if your ox falls in a ditch on Sabbath you pull it out. A friend once shared that her father added, “If your ox falls in a ditch every Sabbath, fix the fence.” 😉

When we were able to faithfully observe Sabbath it was a wonderful time in our lives. Moves, pregnancies, near death experiences, life . . . honoring Sabbath changed a bit in what it looks like, but here’s what I learned . . . being able to really rest took planning. I cleaned the house over the week and kept to my routine and knew what we were eating on Sabbath and kept to fresh or crock pot meals so that I didn’t have to work at food prep. Some weeks now I just intentionally set aside work that didn’t get done in advance – if I couldn’t be bothered to do it over the last 6 days it will keep for one more 😉

I love that it’s forbidden to fast on Sabbath — it is a day of love – loving God, loving your family, loving your neighbor, loving yourself!

I love the quote from Abraham Joshua Heschel from “The Sabbath”:

“One who wants to enter the holiness of the day must first lay down the profanity of clattering commerce of being yoked to toil. He must go away from the screen of dissonant days, from the nervousness and fury of acquisitiveness and the betrayal in embezzling his own life. He must say farewell to manual work and learn to understand that the world has already been created and will survive without the help of man.”

One of the things that I love is that the New Moon celebration every month is also a Shabbat — for women only! Women aren’t allowed to work that day.

I think our culture has so completely abandoned the appreciation of rest in the shadow of the Protestant work ethic. We need to rest. We were created for it.

My Darned Life

One of the projects I’ve been working on for a little over a year is My Darned Life. I have set as a goal for myself the knitting/crocheting/sewing of a granny square for every person in my life.

Contemplative Knitting

Contemplative Knitting

There is a practice called Contemplative Knitting/fiber arts that involves praying for the person something is being made for. It’s done a lot with projects being made for the very sick, or newborn babies, or friends going through a rough time. There’s even a project right now called Welcome Blanket that involves knitting a welcome blanket for every refugee with a goal of creating blankets bigger than the size of the proposed wall for our Southern Border.

My project is a little different. It does involve praying for the person I’m creating the square for, and it is something I can return to as that person has prayer needs throughout life. A tangible reminder of who they are and how much I love them that I can hold as I pray for their needs.

It is also going to be a tangible picture of the people who are helping create the literal fiber of my life so that when I am old and my project is done I will be able to hold and be grateful for every person who has touched my life. Every person who has enriched me, challenged me, encouraged me, impacted me, shared my life in some way will be represented.

the diversity of life as seen in balls of yarn

the diversity of life as seen in balls of yarn

This project excites me!

It’s good to reject false images of God!

The problem with far too many theologies is that God is understood and presented as an abuser.

Some abusive men start by picking at you and telling you everything you do is wrong. One thing at a time. Today it’s how you dress, then it’s how you do your hair. He reminds you all the time that he loves you and only wants the best for you, but the best is never what you’re doing. It’s always something different. And because you want to please him you do your best — but it’s never good enough. And in the end he reminds you how lucky you are that he chose you and loves you . . . especially because you’re not worth the love he’s giving you.

Some abusers declare their love and shower you with good treatment, but it’s always with a catch. And, ultimately, the threat of them leaving you is subtly (or not so subtly) hanging over your head. They love you, but if you don’t love them back good enough or the right way, or you don’t live the way they tell you to, then they will punish you by leaving you and you will have to learn to live without them. Or they will make sure you know your place and you will suffer at their hand because that is all you are worthy of and it’s their job to teach you that truth.

"I'm doing this because I love you and it hurts me more than it hurts you."

“I’m doing this because I love you and it hurts me more than it hurts you.”

Some abusers make you feel special that they chose you and over time they isolate you from your family and friends because they aren’t good enough. You’re only allowed to have the family and friends that they say you can have and those people all think the same way so if you try to tell anyone that he’s abusing you they will deny it and correct you on how you’re thinking — explaining why it’s not abuse. Usually it’s about you having the wrong perspective or if you only trusted him enough or if you could have his perspective you would get it.

God IS love. God is not an abuser. God is not twisted but so many doctrines are. Rejecting these garbage doctrines — rejecting the idea that God is abusive and refusing to live with an abusive deity — is NOT rejecting the God who created you, loves you, died for you and redeemed you. It’s healthy to reject a false image of God.

Ephesians 5 . . . husbands/wives and Christ/Church

A human has a head with a brain and a body with a heart. If either is dead the person is dead. In Ephesians, Paul explains that, for the purposes of the analogy he is making — AFTER saying that all believers are to submit to one another — the man is the head of the person and the woman is the body. This fits with the idea held at his time that the man was closer to the mind of God and the woman closer to the heart of God . . . it also fits with the belief also held at his time that the heart was the ruling organ of the body and the Jewish belief that women intuitively understand things about God that men need to study to learn.

The human — who was one person until divided into two and then called to be Echad — a word that translates “one” but which is not “singular one” but is more like “one bunch of grapes” or a plural, multi-faceted one. I express it as plural unity because it is the word for the two shall become one AND the word used when Moses says, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” Just as Jesus said “I and the father are one” and he explains that he hasn’t do anything the hasn’t seen the Father doing. They function in plural unity.

One bunch of grapes

One bunch of grapes

And that’s important because Paul ends the section of Ephesians 5 with this statement “29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” (yes, there is one additional verse here but it’s a practical summary moving back from the analogy and it’s been twisted so much that it warrants it’s own discussion)

Jesus loves the church how? By sacrificing, laying down his life, redeeming, and loving us thoroughly! Men — imagine your wives are like your own body — imagine you have literally become one flesh with them. That’s the mystery and that’s the picture — as well as you do this, that’s the picture you are giving to the world about what the relationship between Christ and the Church looks like. Your picture will be imperfect, but that’s what you’re aiming for.

Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church

So Christ and the Church is NOT the analogy of husband and wife. Husband and wife is the analogy for Christ and the Church. And just as the church is supposed to strive for plural unity with Christ, that is intended to be expressed to the world when they see husband and wife functioning plural unity — the picture we give is what they will understand. And where we fail we destroy the picture . . . kind of like how Moses struck the rock and destroyed a picture of Messiah and the Jews know they needed and credit with their errors from that point on.

Thomas Talks about Contentment

There comes a time where you have to acknowledge your limitations and rely on the people who God has put around you to shore you up. When you cast the vision that God put in you and trust that the people it relies on are going to catch the vision and do what they need to do to see that vision realized.

In this case the vision is for something I’m so very excited about — Thomas Talks.

The people I need to rely on are the amazing team of women that God has brought into my life over the years who understand, much more than I do, what it’s going to take to get this going the right way. I’m so grateful they believe in the vision and see what God is doing — but of course they do, God brought us together to do this!

Thomas Talks is a Reconciliation ministry.

What does this mean?

1) Thomas Talks is purposed to make amends where people have been wounded and wronged by those who claimed to be representing God — whether institutions or individuals. If someone was wounded and wronged then the one(s) who came to them were not representing God — whether correctly or at all. We want to remove unnecessary obstacles to God that have been put in people’s lives. What comes of that we trust the Lord and the individual to work out and while we’d be honored to be a part of that, we believe it’s inappropriate to create goals for other people’s lives.

and

2) Thomas Talks is about open and inclusive dialogue about anything related to Biblical faith. In too many faith communities there isn’t a respect for questions and those who have them are deemed trouble makers, doubters, and, if they are women, Jezebels. This is wrong and God is bigger than our questions! We believe questions are valid and are often an expression of faith, rather than doubt. We say ask the questions — and then get good information as you seek out the answers. We also say that too many people have been arguing about the right answers to the wrong questions and we want to help you ask better questions!

We want to provide comprehensive answers to questions that include what is really found in Scripture (in context) as well as the history of how issues have been dealt with over time and encouragement for how to shine God’s love and truth into those situations today. Towards these ends we are committed to collaborating with amazing people and ministries who are addressing relevant and important issues — and doing it well.

We have a website that I’m so excited about! ThomasTalks.net As it turns out, to get us started correctly it’s going to take a lot more talent and skill set than I bring to the table. We opened up a membership chat room right after the election because we wanted to make our space available, and several people joined. In the end, it was easier to move that to a Facebook group, but right in the aftermath I was so grateful for that space! We’ll use it again. In the meantime we have put out information about a Pre-Inaugural Time of Meditation and Prayer that we co-hosted with Imagine Yoga in our local area. Eventually we want to provide resources and encouragement for similar types of meetings that people might want to hold to address various issues. Goodness knows there is no shortage of issues right now!

While I give my team the time they need to build the site in it’s entirety and correctly I’m focusing my energies on growing the community. As I mentioned, we’re on Facebook. We’re a closed group, but you can find us and we’d love to have you if you need this kind of space. I’m also going to be blogging here more while I wait. The goal will be to move the articles from here out onto the Thomas Talks site so many of them will be written with the goals of Thomas Talks in mind. Feel free to comment and engage with me. I keep the comments moderated but I really do approve them! Just want to keep out the very clever spammers and the people who troll around without good intentions. We don’t need that kind of negativity in our lives so I try to keep it out of yours.

In addition, if you have a ministry (blogging, books, speaking, music, whatever) and you think that your heart meshes with what we’re trying to do here, reach out to me. Post a comment or contact me through the group on Facebook. I want to know about you so I can let others know about you. When people want to find good resources I want them to be able to!

So there it is. We’re in the stage of moving towards and I’m accepting the things I cannot change and working on what is mine to do. In the end I am convinced that God’s timing is going to be perfect and what God has called us to do will be amazing. I don’t want to do it in my own strength anyway. I just want to put my strength towards what I can do today.

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Thoughts from the Sukkah 2016 Edition — Day 7

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6

Recap

Jacob was afraid to meet his brother Esau after all that had happened between them before he left home. He sent ahead of him an incredible amount of tribute, seeking to win his favor. He also helped his family cross over the river while he waited behind and wrestled with God. After wrestling he had a more humble walk (a dislocated hip-socket will do that to you) and he had kept good on his vow to make the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, His God.

Jacob raised his eyes and saw Esau

Because I believe Jacob was wrestling with God during Rosh Hashanah — possibly the whole time of the Days of Awe through Yom Kippur — it is important to note that these are Judgment days and on these days God determines the fate for individuals and the Jewish Nation. If he had not kept his vow, I believe Jacob would have met with a very different temperament from Esau.

As it was, he still feared him. When he saw his brother and his 400 men coming he divided the children with their mothers and sent them ahead of him in shifts. The handmaids and their children were sent out first, then Leah and her children, and finally Rachel and Joseph last. He went ahead of them and bowed to the ground before his brother seven times as he was approaching Esau.

Esau ran toward him and embraced him. He hugged him deeply, kissed him and wept.

Jacob had not considered that during his own travels his brother would have grown up as well.

Esau looked up and saw all of the women and children and asked who they were. Jacob responded, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.”

Everyone was introduced to Esau and then Esau asked why Jacob had sent ahead all of the tribute. Jacob answered, “To gain favor in my lord’s eyes.”

Esau informed Jacob that he had plenty and insisted that Jacob keep his tribute, as would be customary in an honor society. Jacob then insisted that if he had found favor in Esau’s eyes Esau should keep the tribute and Jacob would consider it a blessing that they were reunited and reconciled. Jacob insists that because God has been gracious and generous to him he wants to be generous toward Esau. Esau did not object again.

Let us travel on together

Esau encouraged Jacob to travel on together with Jacob’s family and men side by side.

Jacob objected and insisted that his children needed to rest and the nursing cattle needed tending. He did not want harm to come to them from being driven too hard. Jacob encouraged Esau to return ahead of him and assure him he would catch up. Jacob was going to let the herds and the children set the pace for his travels.

Esau suggested leaving some of his men to help them.

Jacob argued that he did not need Esau to go to that rouble and asked for favor in his brother’s eyes.

Despite the tearful reunion there is clearly distrust between the brothers. As it was, Jacob had no intention of taking his family to Seir. The Sages point out the conflict between his obvious plan and the lengths he had gone to in his life to not tell a blatant lie and suggest he may have been referring to the End of Days when Obadiah (Obadiah 1:21) declares that Jacob’s descendants will come to Mount Seir to render judgment against Esau’s descendants.

Esau started back that day on his way to Seir

If Jacob was referring prophetically to the time referred to by Obadiah, this could be an allusion to the fact that Esau has not changed completely and even though they are reconciled he is still the same person he was in character and intention before Jacob left.

Esau started back to Seir.

Jacob, instead, journeyed to Succoth (another spelling for Sukkot). He built himself a house and many shelters and called the place Succoth.

His Journey Ends

He then arrived with his whole family and all of his possessions at the City of Shechem, in the Land of Canaan. He camped outside the city and eventually bought a parcel of land, from the children of Hamor (Shechem’s father), where he pitched his tent. He bought the land for 100 kesitahs.

Jacob set up an altar on the land and it was there he proclaimed, “God, the God of Israel.”

Jacob's altar was stone but you get the idea

Jacob’s altar was stone but you get the idea

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2016 Edition — Day 6

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Recap

The important things to know for today’s portion are

1) Jacob loved Rachel, his second wife, more than Leah, his first wife. Rachel and Leah are sisters.
and
2) Jacob made a vow to God as he was leaving the Land that if God would keep all of his promises to Abraham and Isaac and return Jacob to the Land of his fathers safely and having prospered while away, then God would be his God too.
and
3) Esau’s plot was to kill Jacob when he had completed mourning his father’s death and Isaac, their father, is still alive.

Jacob sends angels to Esau

Jacob knew he was going home and knows that his brother Esau may still be angry with him.

I think most people who have left home for any period of time can relate to Jacob’s hesitation. While we are away from home we change and become different people through our experiences and our maturing. We return home, whether to live or just to visit, to people who only knew us in the before, not the after. They don’t know the way we’ve changed and may respond to us the way they did before we left. Sometimes we find ourselves responding as we did before we left because in all of our growing up we might not have dealt with the issues that are brought out when we’re with our family.

Sometimes we find that those in our family haven’t changed the way we have and that can be challenging.

There is debate in the Rabbinic commentaries over whether Jacob sent human emissaries (“angels” are messengers) or actual spiritual angels to his brother Esau to test how he would respond to Jacob’s return. Jacob’s message was this:

To my lord, to Esau, so said your servant Jacob: I have sojourned with Laban and have lingered until now. I have acquired oxen and donkeys, flocks , servants, and maidservants and I am sending to tell my lord to find favor in your eyes.

The angels returned to Jacob with news that they had given his message to Esau and Esau was heading towards him with 400 men.

Jacob became frightened.

Why 400 men?

Was Esau coming to exact revenge on him? Did Esau want to take everything he’d just told him he was bringing back with him? And we are reminded that we are still dealing with Jacob who is looking out for himself because his plan reveals what is most near and dear to his heart.

Jacob’s Plan

Jacob’s plan for how to deal with Esau involved dividing up his family and his property and sending them out in waves so that Esau would have several groups to get through before Jacob himself was at risk.

Jacob’s prayer as he divided them was this

God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac; Adonai who said to me, ‘Return to your land and to your relatives and I will do good with you — I have been diminished by all the kindnesses and by all the truth that You have doe Your servant; for with my staff I crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps. Rescue me, please, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him lest he come and strike me down, mother and children. And You had said, ‘I will surely do good with you ad I will make your offspring like the sand of the sea which is too numerous to count.’

The next day

Jacob stayed the night there and woke the next day to prepare a tribute for his brother to send ahead of him. He sent as tribute:

200 she-goats
20 he-goats
200 ewes
20 rams
30 nursing camels with their colts
40 cows and 10 bulls
20 she-donkeys
10 he-donkeys

He sent these off in droves, each with a different servant, and told them to stagger the droves and go ahead of him.

Each servant was told that when he encountered Esau and Esau asked who they belonged to and where they were going they were to say, “Your servant Jacob’s. It is a tribute set to my lord, to Esau, ad behold he himself is behind us.’

Jacob thought if he gave him enough tribute then Esau wouldn’t be as mad when they met and might forgive him.

The servants with the tribute left at intervals throughout the day.

That night he rose and took his wives, handmaidens and eleven sons, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. After them he sent over his possessions.

Jacob stayed behind.

Jacob Wrestled

That night, while alone, Jacob wrestled with a man until the break of dawn. When the man realized he couldn’t overcome Jacob he struck him and dislocated Jacob’s hip socket. The man told him to let him go for dawn had broken, but Jacob refused to let him go until he blessed him.

The man said to Jacob, “What is your name?”
He replied, “Jacob.”
He said, “No longer will it be said that your name is Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have overcome.”
Then Jacob inquired, and he said, “Divulge, if you please, your name.”
And he said, “Why then do you inquire of my name?” And he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel — ‘For I have see the Divine face to face, yet my life was spared.” The sun rose for him as he passed Penuel and he was limping on his hip.

And then there’s a note in the story that this is why Jews don’t eat the displaced sinew on a hip-socket.

What the what?

Jewish commentary acknowledges that this is one of the cosmic events in Jewish history. But just who is this man that Jacob wrestled with? And why did he acknowledge that he had seen the Divine?

Some Jewish scholars argue that he was fighting with Esau’s Guardian Angel. Some take this a step further and say that because Esau epitomized evil his Guardian Angel was Satan himself.

Christian scholars argue that this man was a pre-incarnate Jesus.

That is a huge difference and a lot of options.

All of these ideas also leave me with a ton of questions.

If the man is Satan then why does Jacob ask for a blessing? And why does he say he has seen the Divine?

If the man is Jesus then why is he worried about the sun coming up? He’s not a vampire who has to stay out of the sun — He is THE SON, the Light of the World.

And why wouldn’t Jesus be able to win in a fight with a mere man?

If the man is Esau’s Guardian Angel then how did he have the right to bless Jacob by changing his name?

I admit this story left me very confused for a very long time.

The High Holy Days

Then I studied the Fall Feasts and Festivals and some very fascinating things began to unravel for me.

As an overview, the Fall Holy Days begin approximately 30 days before Rosh Hashanah, during the month of Elul, when a call goes out daily to, “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!” Yes, this is what John the Baptizer was announcing, and this was no doubt when he was announcing it.

During this time people are encouraged to get right with God and with their fellow humans. Make amends if you have wronged someone, offer forgiveness if they have wronged you. Examine your heart, mind and soul and seek out any darkness that you know you have been harboring and take it to the Lord in earnest prayer and repentance. This is also a time for mikveh — ritual immersion to symbolize being returned to the mother’s womb and cleansed through the waters of life.

Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, but it is also a day of Judgment. It is the day that God sets the course of the year for His people. Three books are opened in heaven and they are examined. One is the Book of the Righteous. One is the Book of the Wicked. The third is the Book of the Undecided. These are all people who know God — those who have surrendered to him completely, those who have rejected him completely, and those who have not yet committed to one path or another. The Rabbi’s believe that most Jewish people — people who know God — are in the Book of the Undecided. At the close of Rosh Hashanah the Book of the Righteous and the Book of the Wicked are closed for their judgment has been given for the upcoming year. The Book of the Undecided stays open through the Days of Awe and is closed at the end of Yom Kippur.

The Book was opened

The Book was opened

Yom Kippur is a day of Judgment for the Jewish Nation and they stand corporately before God and confess their sins as a community, repenting of the wrong they have done over the last year and acknowledging the wrong they will do over the next year, while acknowledging that God is bigger than man and expressing gratitude that He will bring yeshua (salvation) and atonement. At the close of Yom Kippur the Book of the Undecided is closed and their judgment is set for the upcoming year.

Sukkot comes shortly after and is a week long Festival that is used as a remembrance for the Jewish Nation of what it was like for them to live in tents in the Wilderness. It is also the week long sacrifices that are offered by Israel for the Nations — those who don’t know God at all and aren’t expected to.

The Break of Dawn

What does the sunrise have to do with anything in this story?

That question was answered for me when I began to study the words being translated and found that the word used here does speak to the sunrise, but the ancient root word being used also can speak to enlightenment, or the sun coming on in a person’s understanding.

Remember the Vow

When God told Jacob it was time to return to his family and the Land of Canaan he reminded Jacob of the vow he had made.

When Jacob prayed seeking protection when he encountered Esau he reminded God of the vow that he had made.

The vow was made to God of his grandfather Abraham and God of his father Isaac and said that if God protected him and prospered him while he was away from home, and returned him safely to the Land of Canaan, then he would be Jacob’s God too.

A time of personal reckoning

I am putting forth that it was time for Jacob to make good on his vow.

Jacob’s return to the Land of Canaan is begun when God reminds him of his vow and says it’s time to return. Like the call that goes out at the beginning of the month of Elul to, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand,” Jacob was reminded of his vow and told it was time that God would be returning him and fulfilling the conditions of the vow. It was time for Jacob to get right with God.

It’s also time to get right with your fellow man and after 20 years of deceiving each other Jacob and Laban were able to make a covenant to keep a respectful distance and leave each other alone Not quite reconciling for deep and intimate friendship, but reconciling nonetheless.

Jacob asks God to help him reconcile with Esau, but before that can happen Jacob needs to reconcile with God.

Who is the man?

I do believe that the man is Yeshua — the Hebrew name for Jesus that is not quite as weighted down with cultural baggage. I believe this because of information given to us in Revelation 5:1-9.

I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a book written inside and on the back, sealed up with seven seals. And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the book and to break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the book or to look into it. Then I began to weep greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it; and one of the elders said to me, “Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”

And I saw between the throne (with the four living creatures) and the elders a Lamb standing, as if slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God, sent out into all the earth. And He came and took the book out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. 8 When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. 9 And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are You to take the [fn]book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.

“You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”

There is a lot more to unpack in this passage than fits within the purpose of this post, so let me stick with the relevant details.

In the Throneroom of God the one who was found worthy to open the book was the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, who has overcome in order to open the book. And the Lion appeared as a Lamb who after being slain sent the Seven Spirits of God out into the world.

The 4 Living Creatures are a reference to the standards of the camps of the Tribes of Israel as they were positioned around the Tabernacle during their time in the Wilderness.

What does any of this have to do with wrestling?

Some people need this story to speak to a physical wrestling. I believe it is speaking to a spiritual wrestling with the One who opens the books at the times of Judgment. I relate to this type of wrestling because it is how I wrestle with God, with ideas, with Truth. I won’t let go until I understand it. And even though it is mental and spiritual it is very physically exhausting. It involves my whole body, mind, soul, and spirit.

So what happened?

As with everything I am putting forth in this story, I am sharing how I have come to understand this story. I believe the text supports it. I believe it fits within the greater context of Scripture. By no means do I think I have it all figured out or do I believe that this understanding renders all others invalid.

What I propose occurred that night is this:

After the call to return to the Land and get right with God and his fellow men, Rosh Hashanah came and Jacob encountered the One who was worthy to open the Books and render Judgment from the Throneroom of God.

When the Book of the Righteous was opened, the One who opened it acknowledged that Abraham and Isaac were listed there, but Jacob was not. In order to fulfill his vow, Jacob needed to make God HIS God. It was time.

Jacob wrestled with this reality, the implications of what it all meant. What would happen to Rachel? How would it impact his family? His future? His children? Was it really important?

At times Jacob was strong in his flesh and refused to give in. This is what prompted the dislocation of the hip-socket. This act produced a more humble walk as he went forward in life. This is also what provoked the man to tell him to stop fighting because he had understanding — he had revelation and knew what he needed to do!

Finally Jacob was willing to surrender, but he insisted on receiving a blessing before he would let go. The man informed him that NOW his name was Israel. He now had the spiritual status to walk in the ways of his fathers and continue the covenant they made with God.

From this point forward in the story of Jacob, when the name Jacob is used it generally references something related to earthly experience and when the name Israel is used it generally references the spiritual status of the man and his descendants.

Jacob moved his name into the Book of the Righteous and then he stopped wrestling.

What happened next?

I will address this in the conclusion of this series tomorrow when we look at the impact this experience had on Jacob and the implications for his meeting with Esau and how that resolves.

Day 7

Thoughts from the Sukkah 2016 Edition — Day 5

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Recap

Jacob had stolen the blessing from his father and then fled to escape his twin brother Esau’s plan to kill him. He was sent by his mother to her brother Laban’s home to find a bride. Upon arrival he met Rachel and he agreed to work 7 years for his uncle in order to get permission to marry her. When the wedding week arrived, Laban tricked Jacob by getting him drunk and sending in to him his older daughter Leah. Jacob demanded to know why he had done that and Laban insisted the older daughter must marry first, but offered to let him marry Rachel the following week in exchange for 7 more years of labor. While he labored in the field his wives Leah, her handmaiden Zilpah, and Rachel’s handmaiden Bilhah were laboring in their tents producing 10 sons and 1 daughter for Jacob. Rachel, the wife he loved most, did not have any children until she finally gave birth to a son, Joseph.

After all of these children were born and the commitment to Laban for the total of 14 years labor was completed Jacob went to him to announce his intention to leave and return to his family.

Keep in mind

Jacob and Laban were living in an honor culture. This is a very strange thing to those who were raised their entire lives in a Western culture. I don’t yet understand all of the nuances in a way that I can explain them but I will do my best to point out some of the things that I see in the dialogues. Please also keep in mind that when Jacob left for Uncle Laban’s he made a deal with God that if God would keep all of his promises to bless him on behalf of his father and grandfather, then he would be his God too. What comes next involves strange practices that are more pagan than Hebrew and I believe it’s important to keep in mind where, when and who the people in this story are.

Please don’t go

Jacob went to Laban and sought his blessing to leave. He had the right to simply go but he was honoring Laban’s role as an elder, his father in law, his uncle, and his employer. He pointed out how rich he had made Laban and all he had done for him, and the fact that his contract for service was completed.

Laban responded by acknowledging how much he had been blessed financially because of Jacob’s hard work — he even admitted that through divination he understood that Jacob’s presence was the reason for his being blessed.

Laban asked Jacob to tell him what he would need to be paid to make staying worth it for him.

Jacob knew this man. Jacob hdd been tricked in the ultimate deception by this man. Jacob was not going to be caught off guard again.

Jacob reminded him of what his flocks were before he arrived and began working, and how much he had grown them. He reminded Laban that he did all of this for him and asked when it would be his turn to build something for himself and his household.

Laban asked what Jacob wanted him to give him and Jacob responded that he wanted nothing given to him. He only asked for one thing. Jacob would continue pasturing and guarding Laban’s flocks but first he would pass through the flocks and take for himself every speckled or spotted lamb, every brownish lamb, and every spotted or speckled goat. These sheep and goats would become Jacob’s wage. He even put his reputation and integrity on the line by saying that if he was found with any unspeckled or unspotted sheep or goats in his possession they would be acknowledged as stolen.

Laban agreed but added the statement, “If only it will be as you say.” He was no doubt looking for the catch, the trap.

Then Laban went about his own trickery. He went through the field before Jacob could and removed every ringed and spotted male goat and sheep and every speckled and spotted goat or sheep, and every goat or sheep that contained white or was brownish, and entrusted them to his own sons. After removing these animals from the genetic pool he put three days journey between them and Jacob. He left Jacob in charge of the rest of his flock.

Jacob gathered together fresh rods of poplar, hazel and chestnut. He peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the rods, and set them up in the watering receptacles where the flocks drank, facing them so they would become stimulated when they were drinking. When that happened they gave birth to sheep and goats that were ringed, spotted, and speckled and Jacob took those out from the flock and kept them for his own. He did not let his own sheep and goats mingle with Laban’s flocks.

Every early mating season Jacob would place the rods in the drinking troughs and the sheep and goats would produce kids that were ringed, spotted and speckled and he would take them for his own flocks. During the late mating season he would not do this and those kids would go to Laban.

Through this Jacob became “exceedingly prosperous” and he attained large flocks, maidservants and servants, camels and donkeys.

It’s time

Laban’s sons were watching their brother in law grow wealthy beyond belief and began to cry that he had taken all that belonged to Laban. Jacob heard about this and also noticed that Laban was no longer acting as a friend and was not positive toward him as he had once been.

At this point Adonai made it clear to Jacob that it was time to return to the land of his fathers and ensured Jacob that he would be with him.

Jacob gathers his wives

This time Jacob sent for Rachel and Leah to come to the field where he was with his flock. He told them that he had noticed their father’s change in how he treated him. He told them that Laban was not on his side, but the God of his father was with him. (note he does not say ‘my God’ at this point).

Jacob reminded his wives how hard he has worked, holding nothing back, in the service of their father. He also reminded them that Laban had mocked him and changed his wage 100 times, always seeking to keep them reliant on him. And yet God did not permit Laban to harm Jacob. If Laban said, “speckled ones shall be your wage,” then the entire flock would have speckled ones. If Laban said, spotted ones shall be your wage,” then the entire flock would have spotted ones. God did not allow Laban to succeed and over time transferred Laban’s livestock over to Jacob.

Jacob told his wives of a vision he had during mating season one year. He raised his eyes and saw in a dream

Behold! The he-goats that mounted the flock were ringed, speckled, and checkered. And an angel of God said to me in a dream, ‘Jacob!’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ And he said, ‘Raise your eyes, if you please, and see that all the he-goats mounting the flocks are ringed, speckled and checkered, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. I am the God of Beth-el where you anointed a pillar and where you made Me a vow. Now–arise, leave this land and return to your native land.’

SHEEP!

SHEEP!

When God spoke to him he reminded him of the vow he had made while also reminding him that God had kept his part of the bargain. God had protected him, prospered him, and was now calling him to return to the Land of his fathers.

His wives reaction

Jacob’s wives have lived through and seen all that their father has done to them over the years. They also see what God has done. They respond to him

Have we then still a share and an inheritance in our father’s house? are we not considered by him as strangers? for he has sold us and even totally consumed our money! But, all the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children; so now, whatever God has said to you, do.

so Jacob rose, put his children and wives on camels, and left with them, his flocks, his wealth and everything he had earned or purchased while in Paddan-aram. He set out to return to his father Isaac, to the land of Canaan.

A note

Before we move into the rest of the story I want to point out that this adventure began when Isaac wanted to bless Esau before he died. When Jacob tricked his father and took the blessing Esau declared that he would wait until he was finished mourning his father’s death before he killed Jacob in revenge for what he had done. Jewish Tradition teaches that Jacob was away from his parents for 36 years, and according to this story he was gone at least 20, and yet Isaac is still alive.

Laban learns they have left

Before they left, Laban had gone out to shear sheep and Rachel stole the idols that belonged to her father. These may have been the idols who informed him through divination that Jacob’s presence was why God was blessing him. Various commentary try to argue that Rachel stole the idols because she wanted to prevent Laban from worshipping them. I am not convinced.

We know that at this point Jacob did not have a personal relationship with God. He has been blessed because of God’s covenant with his father and grandfather. We also know that Rachel represented the earthly passions and love of Jacob, and gave birth to the earthly savior of their people, Joseph. I would suggest it is very likely that Rachel was still incorporating worship of the idols into her life. At the very least, she may have considered them powerful enough to not want her father using them to find out where they were or being enabled by them to trick them into returning. I suggest this because the details of the theft are partnered with the declaration that Jacob deceived Laban by not telling him they were leaving. Jacob did not just leave, he fled.

Three days into their journey Laban learned they had left. He took family with him and pursued Jacob for seven days before he caught up with them on Mount Gilead. God visited Laban in a dream and told him to be careful when he spoke with Jacob and not to go at him with good or bad. Laban caught up to them on the mountain where Jacob had pitched his tent, and Laban set up guards nearby.

Laban confronted Jacob

What have you done that you have deceived me and led my daughters away like captives of the sword? Why have you fled so stealthily, and cheated me? Nor did you tell me — for I would have sent you off with with gladness, with songs, with timbrel, and with lyre! And you did not even allow me to kiss my sons and daughters; now you have acted foolishly. It is in my power to do you all harm; but the God of your father addressed me last night, saying, ‘Beware of speaking with Jacob either good or bad.’ Now–you have left because you longed greatly for your father’s house; but why did you steal my gods?

Jacob and Laban resolve their differences

Jacob answered Laban very honestly and confessed that he fled because he was afraid that Laban would steal his daughters from him. But Jacob has not stolen anything from him. Trickery, sure. Deception, for the sake of his family, absolutely. Thievery, there is no history of stealing and he isn’t going to be accused now.

Jacob tells Laban to look for his gods and if he finds them with someone that person will die. The text is quick to tell us that Jacob did not realize they were with Rachel.

Laban began his search. He looked in Jacob’s tent, Leah’s, that of the two maidservants, and eventually Rachel’s. Rachel had put the gods into the camel’s packsaddle and sat on them. Her father searched her tent and when he had found nothing she spoke up and apologized for not getting up to show him honor. She told him that she was menstruating and he didn’t question her. He also didn’t look underneath her. He didn’t find his idols.

At this point Jacob’s angered flared. He called out Laban for all of his treachery. He reminded him of the 20 years he was with him. Fourteen of them he was with Laban in order to have his wives, and 6 that he worked for his sheep, and during all of that time the goats never miscarried and he never ate any of Laban’s flock. He did not give Laban mangled animals, he would bear the loss personally. As for the quality of life he endured, he was in the scorching heat all day long and the frost at night. He didn’t get a decent night’s sleep while he was there! (On this I will point out that the shepherds only stayed with the flocks at night if it was lambing season and they were giving birth, otherwise the reasons for his not getting a decent night’s sleep are likely more familial but even that was because of Laban’s deceptions).

Jacob reminded Laban that he had changed Jacob’s wages 100 times and if it wasn’t for God defending him Jacob knows that Laban would have sent him away empty handed a long time ago. Jacob pointed out that in the case between Laban and Jacob it was Laban God had warned in a vision the night before.

Laban’s arrogance was still great. He told Jacob

The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children and the flock is my flock, and all that you see is mine.

Laban then pretends that it is for the sake of his daughters and children that he won’t continue fighting for his rights. Instead of fighting Jacob, who Laban knew had God’s favor, Laban suggested a covenant between them.

Jacob took a stone and created a monument. He had his sons gather stones as well and they created a mound. Laban called the monument Jegar-sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. They both mean the same, but Jacob used Hebrew while Laban used Aramaic. Both names mean, “The mound is a witness.”

The terms of the covenant

The agreement that they made at the mound is this

May Adonai keep watch between me and you when we are out of each other’s sight. If you will ill-treat my daughters or if you will marry wives in addition to my daughters — though no man may be among us–but see! God is a witness between me and you. Here is this mound, and here is the monument which I have cast between me and you. This mound shall be witness and the monument shall be witness that I may not cross over to you past this mound, nor may you cross over to me past this mound and this monument for evil. May the God of Abraham and the god of Nachor judge between us — the god of their father.

They prepared and ate on the mound and sharing a meal with Laban and his men signified the mutual acceptance of the terms of the covenant.

In the morning Laban awoke early, kissed his sons and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban returned home.

Jacob continued toward home and angels of God encountered him. When he saw them Jacob declared the place a Godly camp and called the place Mahanaim.

Tomorrow we will continue with Jacob on his journey home and explore Jacob’s experience wrestling.