****It is my intention to post on my progress in project 4:4 on Sundays. I wrote most of this blog yesterday but didn't quite get it finished in time to post on Sunday. I would apologize to those who were waiting, but since the weekly 4:4 post on Sundays plan was only in my head, I doubt any of you were waiting on this, but here it is--finally.****
I had a very unusual, off-schedule week. I only worked two days before heading to Kentucky to be with my moma and Grams. Grams is doing heaps better, finally. She's alert and more mobile and got released from the hospital today to go to a rehab facility for ten days or so, which is a big load off the minds of my nearest and dearest.
Here's the part where I brag on myself that despite my unusual, off-schedule week, I stayed completely on-schedule with project 4:4 and the Daily Bible. I've stuck with closing my day with the reading, and the rhythm of it is working for me now. Since I was still in Kentucky until Monday, I missed out on Chuck's sermons and our class Sunday that tied up the readings for me, so I'll tie them up for myself this time.
We're still in Genesis. This week's readings cover chapters 24-36: Abraham, our great man of faith, is gathered to his people (I'm going to start using this expression about people who die). Esau and Jacob keep Biblical sibling rivalry alive. Jacob works for fourteen years to become a polygamist and eventually fathers thirteen kids by four women. Jacob and Esau make amends and bury their father. Jacob's daughter Dinah is raped by Shechem, and her brothers prove that two wrongs don't make a right. Jacob's name is changed to Israel, and we end the week's readings with a fairly repetitive genealogical record of Esau's descendants.
Here's the bottom-line of Genesis 24-36: Everyone lies. Isaac lies (and follows in Abraham's footsteps) to Abimelech about the identity of his wife Rebekah. Rebekah conspires with Jacob to lie to Isaac in order to receive the blessing he intends for Esau. Laban lies to Jacob, pulling the ol' bait and switch and marrying him to Leah instead of Rachel. Jacob and Laban continue to lie to each other in several dealings with each other concerning their flocks. Rachel steals Laban's household gods and lies about it. The sons of Jacob lie when they give their consent to Dinah marrying Shechem.
I guess it's no surprise that God changes Jacob's name. According to the NIV footnotes, figuratively Jacob means "he deceives," and for much of his story, he lives down to that name. I'm not sure "he struggles with God" (Israel's meaning) is that much better, but I do think it was possibly a step to get Jacob away from that deceiving moniker.
Two years ago this weekend, I read The Red Tent by Anita Diamant and wrote about it here. The Red Tent is a fictionalized account of the life of Dinah, Jacob's only daughter, and chronicles the lives and relationships of Jacob's four wives. In the book, Dinah's rape by Shechem isn't a rape, and Dinah's brothers are even less admirable in defending her honor than the deception and massacre in the Genesis account suggests. I think this is the first time I've read Dinah's story since reading the book a couple years ago, and it was a challenge to read Genesis 34 without that context. Either way, Simeon and Levi are definitely following in the family tradition of deceit.
So I come out of this reading reminded that God uses the imperfect. He tells Rebekah before the birth of Jacob and Esau that the older will serve the younger. It makes me wonder whether he intended to fulfill the promise through Jacob all along or just knew that various acts of selfishness and deceit would lead to Jacob receiving the birthright and blessing, despite being the younger son. However it came about, Jacob is the son of the promise, just as Isaac was, and his twelve flawed sons will be the foundation for the nation of imperfect people that will teach me through countless stories and mistakes for the next several months how loving and patient my God is . . . and long about October, Jacob's fourth son's great-great-great-great-great-etc. grandsomething will teach me about perfection. Stay tuned for that.