Today’s chapters, Genesis 35-37, start to conclude Jacob’s story and move on to Joseph.
This portion of scripture starts off on a good note in chapter 35. God speaks to Jacob and tells him to return to Bethel to settle and build an altar to Him (Genesis 35:1-14). Jacob appears to respond promptly with obedience—possibly because God reminds him that He was with him when he was fleeing Esau and that was kind of a big deal (Genesis 35:1).
Not only does he move to Bethel to settle there, but he gets rid of the presence of any idols from his family and their servants and makes offerings to God (35:2-5, 14-15). Once again, God blesses him and tells him that his name is no longer Jacob, but Israel (35:9-10). God also reminds him of the covenant that he is a part of (35:11-13). So, overall, the first part of 35 is positive. Jacob honors God and God blesses him. But with the death of Rachel, and Reuben sinning against his father, it seems to go slightly downhill in the latter part of the chapter (35:16-22). It concludes with a list of Jacob’s sons and the death of his father Isaac (35:23-29).
Chapter 36 is devoted to Esau’s descendants. Clearly God meant what He said when He told Rebekah that there were two nations in her womb while she was pregnant with Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:23). Both Jacob and Esau have large families, who have large families, who have large families, and so on.
Finally, in Chapter 37, we get to Joseph. When I think of Joseph, sometimes I focus on the fact that he was seriously wronged and how his brothers were absolutely awful to him. On the other hand, I wonder just how frustrating seventeen-year-old Joseph was. I have a brother who’s a couple years younger than me, and he can be extremely frustrating at times, but I’ve never wanted to throw him in a cistern and then sell him to a caravan of Ishmaelites headed to Egypt (37:25-28). Considering that he was his father’s favorite, he had dreams (which he boasted about) that his family would bow down to him, he even had an “ornate robe,” and he was also a teenager—most people this age seem especially not great about controlling their tongue—he had several things working against him (Genesis 37:3-10).
Regardless, what his brothers did was not right. Only Reuben stands up for him and prevents his brothers from killing Joseph (37:21-22). However, Reuben still goes along with lying to his father about what actually happened to Joseph (37:29-35).
I think one thing these passages show is that mankind has a tendency towards evil and hate. Throughout Genesis, story after story, there is so much evil. At one point, it gets so bad that God floods the entire earth except for eight people (Genesis 6-9)! We live in a fallen world, and every person on the earth stands in need of God’s grace and mercy. (These are some passages that talk about this: Psalm 51:5; Romans 5:12-21; Isaiah 53:61; Romans 3:10-26).
From my ‘Intro to astronomy’ class my freshman year of college, we talked about how the universe is “lazy” and (I think…?) has a tendency towards “chaos.” This can also apply to our lives. We want to exert the least amount of energy possible, often in every category. We want to “work smarter not harder,” we try to develop new technology that will make our lives more comfortable and easy, to some degree I feel that the issue of obesity is related to the fact that it requires more energy to get up and work out or make changes to our diet; and, honestly, it is easier to hate than it is to love.
Because of all the things that are happening in our country right now (and across the world), there are a lot of people talking about ‘love.’ I feel bombarded with all the articles in the media that talk about ‘love.’ I’ve recently read some headlines about how people have a ‘natural ability to love’ and that hate is a ‘learned behavior,’ etc. But, I respectfully disagree.
While I acknowledge the fact that people have the emotional capacity to love and feel attachment, which seems to be an inborn quality (probably even beginning with our time in the womb), I don’t think that hate is necessarily a ‘learned behavior.’ Now, who we hate can certainly be influenced by upbringing and the culture around us, but the ability to hate seems just as natural as the ability to love (maybe that’s just stating the obvious). Similarly, I believe that our ability to love is so far from where it needs to be. We cannot love if we don’t know real Love (1 John 3:16; 1 John 4:7-19).
Does anyone remember when they first told a lie? I don’t really remember, but I’m sure my parents could give me some idea. The weird thing? No one has to tell us how to lie, but we do have to be taught/held accountable to tell the truth. No one has to tell us how to love people who are nice to us, or do things for us that we like, but we do have to be taught to love when it’s not convenient. It’s easier to love people who are nice to us, to hate people who are mean to us, to lie when it can get us out of trouble or make us look better. It’s hard when loving someone costs us something or when telling the truth can get us into trouble (Matthew 5:43-48). Truth and Love are things that cost us dearly.
And, the kind of love that everyone is after, the kind we really need? We can only find it in Jesus. Sure, we can find love for a while in other people apart from God. We can maybe find it in a romantic relationship where someone loves us for “who we are,” but we will never know perfect, unfailing love anywhere else but in God.
God’s love surpasses all understanding and it never changes with the way we act—whether we mess up or we do what is right.
Perfect love is patient, it is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud, it does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs, it does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes always perseveres. It never fails. (1 Corinthians 13; Romans 8; Psalms 136; Psalm 100; Psalm 57:10; Ephesians 2:4; Romans 8:38-39; and so many more).
It is impossible for people to have that kind of love on their own because we are imperfect. If we do not surrender our hearts to God and experience His love, we cannot possibly give that kind of love to others.
It can be kind of difficult to explain, but imagine this:
Let’s say everyone is created with a craving for ice cream. The good sugar filled, super fattening, amazing kind of ice cream. But, all we are able to get from ‘Food World’ (or, what we can get on Earth by human means) is sugar free. Now, ‘Food World’ has some pretty good sugar substitutes—they even have good sugar free frozen yogurt—and it all still tastes good; but, it’s still missing the sugar. And we crave sugar!
So, a divine Heavenly Ice Cream Man says, “I’ve got the only means to real sugar ice cream that people need, so I have to make a way for them to get it.” Thus, He sends His Son to bring the real deal ice cream to Earth. He gives us perfect ice cream, and once you’ve tasted it you cannot go back to the ‘Food World’ imitation stuff. The people who have tasted it? They cannot shut up about it. It’s amazing ice cream, and it’s what everyone is craving, right? Everyone probably wants to hear about it, yeah?
Maybe not. Some people don’t believe it. For whatever reason, they continue to try to make ‘Food World’ ice cream fill the craving only Heavenly ice cream can fill. Some people reject it outright. “There’s no way there can be perfect ice cream with sugar. It’s just a fairy tale.” Some people fear how the ice cream will change their lives. Some don’t realize, or haven’t been told, that it’s possible to do better, and they settle for the sugar free stuff. These people have never experienced the real thing and all they can do is advertise the imperfect kind.
That’s sort of the way it is with love in this world. I realize that ice cream is probably a poor analogy, but I think this makes my point.
If you’ve tasted the real thing, don’t shut up about it. There is a world full of people who crave the real thing, but all they know is the imperfect kind of love. They need the real thing. Share the real thing because that’s exactly what God has called us to as Christians!