These people, those we herald as the “heroes of the faith” were not perfect: they had very real flaws, made very real (and often disastrous) mistakes, and did not follow God perfectly.
This is something that I have noticed throughout Scripture, but it really stood out to me in today’s reading. Honestly, it’s one of the most comforting themes I see in Scripture: that those extolled for their faith were not perfect.
In this reading, Jacob does not trust that God will take care of him. God has promised Jacob blessings and descendants, and tells Jacob he will be with him as he returns to the land of his father (21:3). But despite this, Jacob is fearful of Laban, and so flees from him in secret. Later, he is afraid of his brother Esau, so afraid he splits his camp so if one half is attacked, the other can flee!
One perspective of this can be that he was simply planning for any possibility. While I see this, it also speaks to me that he does not fully trust God to take care of him and his family. He’s worried for his children’s lives, but how else is he going to have descendants if his children die, and isn’t that what God promised him?
This isn’t a total rejection and distrust of God, but it does show doubt. The same kind of doubt as the incredulous Abraham asking God “how?” when told he would have a son in his old age (15:3), and then asking for assurance that God would give Abraham the land he was promised (15:8). Abraham’s faith does not mean he has no questions and doubts. (This is the faith I mention in The Faith of Abram)
It’s comforting to know my questions and doubts don’t mean my faith is meaningless.
Like I talked about yesterday, it’s neat to see how God continually reminds his people of the covenant, as he does again with Jacob in Chapter 35. I believe it’s so important to be reminded regularly of our faith and why we do what we do. I have been through multiple points in my life when I have begun to lose sight of who I am in Christ, or why I am living the life of a disciple. But then a friend says something that encourages me, or the worship or a message at church renews my spirit, or God speaks to my heart through a life experience or the wonder of creation, and I remember. I think God understands humanity (which he should, as he created us!), and knows that we are forgetful people (cf. Judges and the nation of Israel), but he works with our frailties and failings, continually drawing us to him.
Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” – Genesis 32:26
Firstly, this account of Jacob’s wrestling match with God seems to indicate Jacob bested God. Don’t know about you, but that is rather odd to me. Secondly, Jacob is seemingly demanding a blessing from God. Should we be demanding blessings from God? Are we just not persistent enough when we ask? I don’t know.
Why does Esau go to meet Jacob with 400 men. Was he as scared of Jacob as Jacob was of him? (32:6)
What do we do with the defilement of Dinah in Chapter 34? How do we interpret this when the author gives no definitive value statement, and we get conflicting responses from our characters? (Reading Biblical Narrative)
Jacob asks God for a blessing, and God changes his name (32:28). Names were incredibly important in this culture for the meaning they held. Today we usually choose names we like, and meaning is secondary (if referenced at all!). For them, meaning was everything. (otherwise, who would name their kid Mahershalalhashbaz (Is. 8:1.3)?) Amazing when you realize God changed more than his name, but changed his identity; from “supplanter” or “He cheats” to one who strives with God.
Who would have thought the day would come when a woman would be happy about menstruation (31:35).
Both Esau and Jacob bury their father (35:29). Two brothers who were in conflict had been reconciled and joined in the burial of their father. Interesting correlation to Isaac and Ishmael (25:9).