What exactly are we supposed to do with stories? Sometimes all they do is tell us about something that happened.
(And since I can’t figure out how to work it into my intro, here is the link to Genesis 28.)
This is how I feel reading through Genesis. I originally thought I could find golden nuggets in each chapter and walk away from this project with over a thousand sermons just waiting to be preached.
I feel less and less like that with each chapter because I am reading a story. And today the story was about a God who wants to bless the whole world through the life and family of a lone, cheating, wanderer in the wilderness.
What are you supposed to do with that?
While it seems Isaac has made peace with blessing the wrong son, Esau has not. I can’t blame him. I would be just as pissed as he is.
So to get back in his father’s good graces and potentially receive his blessing, Esau marries another wife. Only this time, instead of being a Canaanite, she is his half-cousin on Ismael’s side.
So now Esau has three wives and one of them was just to make his parents happy. There is no way this is going to end well for him. What would it be like to be Mahalath? She is nothing more than an attempt to win Isaac’s approval.
And that makes me sad for her and for Esau.
“Dreams are when you sleep.”
That is true. But I bet you Jacob wasn’t expecting to dream that dream!
He falls asleep on a rock (a feat so difficult I think it should have had its own chapter!) and dreams a sort of “anti-Tower of Babel.”
- Instead of a huge tower for all to see, there is an invisible ladder.
- Instead of people going up and down, it is God’s angels. I like to think they are doing super secret angel spy missions.
- Instead of humans making a name for themselves, God promises to make Jacob great and bless the world through him.
- Instead of people being honored, God is.
And Jacob’s response is beautiful.
“Surely the LORD is in this place – and I did not know it!”
The story has led us to a moment where a main character encounters God in a place and circumstance that he never expected. His reaction? Fear and awe.
But rather than letting the fear and awe drive him away, he embraces it. He builds a pillar, he names the place (even though it already has one. Woops!), and he makes a vow to God.
What do we do with Stories?
I think it is fair to say that Genesis is not trying to tell us to model our lives after the men and women in the stories, even though they may make good choices along the way.
Maybe the point is to tell us about God. Maybe Genesis 28 is about the God who shows up where we least expect and blesses the person who least deserves it.
So what do we do with that?!
Where is the strangest place you have encountered the divine? What was your response?