Genesis 28:10-19a • Isaiah 44:6-8 • Romans 8:12-25 • Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
‘Jacob is characterized, using the fundamental feature of the Hebrew narrative (the way the Old Testament is written), using the practice of ‘Show but Don’t Tell.’ So, you see a character do something, or not do something, and behave in a certain way that tells you about the action but the text usually will not comment about the action in the way that modern literature will so often do……Jacob is a profoundly gray character, morally, ethically, in terms of how he treats other people, in terms of how he treats his daughter Dinah…..in the way he treats his sons. He gets mad at his sons who are full brothers of Dinah when they avenge her rape, because he, Jacob, is concerned how their actions will reflect on him. Jacob takes advantage of his brother, taking his birthright, he also abuses his mother’s favoritism and fathers ill health to steal he brother’s (first born) blessing’Rolf Jacobson, Professor of Old Testament, Luther Seminary
In our Bible Project on Tuesday nights, Mitch has instituted an opening discussion question in which we are to name the ‘Heroes’ and ‘Villains” of the passage we are looking at. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes if is difficult. Passages with Jacob alway present a challenge, how do you classify a very questionable person? A man who acts in ways that would, at best, be classified as ‘shady.’
The basic context of our passage for this week is that Jacob is on the run, primarily from his brother Esau who has every reason to seek revenge on this brother who has now treated him in a very unbrotherly manner, Jacob has stolen Esau’s birthright and the blessing he was to receive from his dying father.
This passage begins as Jacob is on the tun and on his way to Haran, which is the city Abraham was living in when God called him to move, so, there are bound to be relatives there that will welcome him in, and, hopefully shelter him for as long as he needs to stay away from home, for as long as it takes to stay hidden and from his brother Esau.
To give us reference, Isaiah 44 takes place 84 years before the prophet Jeremiah begins his similar prophetic ministry, and, roughly 125 years before Judah and Jerusalem are conquered with most of the remaining Israelites taken to Babylon to be slaves. This means that, at this time as Isaiah is warning the people to return to God, there will still be over a century before his prophecies will take place. You can imagine the fatigue of the people continually hearing his doomsday message while life just keeps going on as usual. You can also image the frustration and questions of Isaiah, as he continues to preach a message that can not be envisioned by anyone because there is nothing they can see in reality to even begin to back up the proclamations being made by Isaiah. There as surely a great amount of belittling of Isaiah from the people, it was a brutal time to be a prophet..…as it usually was.
Beginning in chapter 40, until the end of the book, Isaiah turns his focus to two things:
- The coming catastrophe that will take place when they are conquered.
- The restoration of the Hebrews that will ultimately take place decades after the exile and slavery.
It is a message of pain and promise, despair and hope. It is a message of hope, and a call to hold onto that hope.
In this short section we are looking at this week, God is identifying himself uniquely with the Israelites and, at the same time, identifying himself as the only, true, God.
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.Isaiah 44:7
Even though it is past our assigned reading, it is worth the time to go to the end of the chapter, verse 28, where Isaiah says:
Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please;he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’Isaiah 44:28
This is a prophesy voiced by Isaiah almost two centuries before the Persian King Cyrus, would actually conquer Babylon – long before Cyrus would be made King, and an even longer time before he would be born. When Cyrus conquered the Babylonians, it was the pivotal moment in the release of the Israelites allowing them to return home….as well as the help, given by King Cyrus, to support the rebuilding of Judah, Jerusalem, the wall, and even the temple.
In our readings in the Paul’s letter to the churches at Rome, a great deal of his writings have dealt with the tension of sin and the law. ‘Sin works in us bearing fruit that is death’ he explains. As we began reading chapter 8 last week, we saw Paul’s tone change from one of doom and gloom to an attitude of hope and affirmation.
‘There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ has set you free from the law of sin and death.’Romans 8:1-2
In verses 12-25 there are two things to be aware of as you read:
- When Paul uses the word ‘Flesh’ here, he is speaking to something far greater than just the actions of a person, he uses this word as a reference to the power of the total impact of all of flesh throughout the world. He is speaking to the manner in which evil has taken the creation by God which was good and the flesh has made it bad. That is the evil he calls us to be freed from.
- The second is Paul’s use of the term ‘suffering.’ While this is a reference to a sharing in the physical sufferings of Jesus, that we, followers of Christ will experience, it actually means much more. This suffering has more to do with our understanding of how things were meant to be in God’s perfect creation and the waiting on that to be the case again, while we live a a world that has perverted and damaged God’s perfection, and now has the power that inflicts and hurts all of humanity. This fact may have already been on the mind of Christ when he instructed that we pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.’
It is, in a very lesser sense, this longing could be compared to taking a trip to the mountains of Colorado. You cannot wait to get there, where the air is cool and crisp, hiking allows you to see sights foreign to your Oklahoma home, and, while there, you will not be melting in the humidity. You finally leave Kansas on I-70 West crossing the state line into Colorado – you know that you are so very close. Shortly after you pass Limon, CO, you begin to see the shapes and shadows of the mountains. You crane your neck and head, you squint your eyes, it feels like you are there, but you are not, the waiting is now excruciating. You suffer until you finally step out of the vehicle and – you are there.
This is a large portion of what Paul is talking about when he refers to suffering. We know how life is meant to be, we can see it, but it is still hours, days, months, years, decades, centuries away, probably even longer than we will live. Although knowing what is right, and close, can cause the living in the now imperfect world unbearable, knowing how things are meant to be frees us know the power we have to resist and to not be crushed by this imperfect world.
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Matthew 13:14-30, 36-43 is the quintessential Matthew parable. It has anxiety, counterfeits, a call to wait, and a comment on judgement.Pastor Matt Skinner
Known as the parable of the weeds and wheat takes place with the same context as our sower parable from last week. The eight parable that are included in chapter 13 all come on the heals of Jesus sending our his disciples on a mission of mercy, a confrontation of Jesus generation for failing to seek and search for truth, and, it is a time where there is deep, deep, division among the Israelites, the Jews.
Polarization is a context that we, in the United States as well as being a part of the church in America, understand. We live in a very divisive time politically, religious, socially, economically, and academically.
Polarization usually comes because certain people will align themself with a political philosophy, a faith practice, as well as many other alignments, that lead to an inability to cooperate with, live among, it divides us. For followers of Christ, times of polarization is particularly damaging as the first and second greatest commandments are impossible. You cannot love God and despise those he created, and loving others that wear certain labels are completely off your radar.
The parable of the weeds and wheat is possibly one of the most applicable to our current situation and environments.