Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 37:12-14

12 And his brethren went to feed their father’s flock in Shechem.

13 And Israel said unto Joseph, Do not thy brethren feed the flock in Shechem? come, and I will send thee unto them. And he said to him, Here am I.

14 And he said to him, Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

So begins the great journey of Joseph. An innocuous errand will lead to his entire life being changed. Unlike his father and great-grandfather, Joseph didn’t know that he was about to leave his home. He had no bag packed and had said no goodbyes. He was plucked out mid-stride and against his will.

I also am noticing in these verses how the story of Joseph is representative of the savior. A father sends his favored son as a representative to his other children. The son comes to see whether his brothers have properly cared for their flocks, or have gone astray, and the brothers respond by trying to destroy him. But their attempt is in vain, for in both cases the favored son is led through the tragedy to fulfilling his great purpose.

So no, Joseph was not anticipating the detour that awaited him, but as terrible as his fate may have seemed for a time, God was in it, and it all worked out for the greater good.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:6-8

6 And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.

7 And Bilhah Rachel’s maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son.

8 And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali.

Rachel may have been prevented from having children directly, but God did allow her backup plan to work. Bilhah was able to conceive, and Rachel was as joyous to welcome her handmaid’s sons as if they had been her very own. What a turnaround from when she despaired to Jacob that she would die if she could not have any children!

Rachel despaired because she had been fighting for something that just wasn’t going to work out. In each of our lives there are these matters that don’t go according to plan, losses that have to be accepted. So long as Rachel persisted in her original path, she was only going to make herself more and more frustrated. Rachel instructing Jacob to take Bilhah to wife shows that she was finally surrendering those original plans and accepting things as they really were. It was only then, after being humbled and reformed, that she was able to find success.

And so it is with each of us. We all have times of trying to fit our square-peg dreams into our round-hole realities. We have our agenda, and we relentlessly pursue it, even when things stubbornly refuse to work out how we want. Eventually we have to be broken enough to let the old dream go and find out what divine role we were actually meant to fulfill.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 28:6-9

6 When Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob, and sent him away to Padan-aram, to take him a wife from thence; and that as he blessed him he gave him a charge, saying, Thou shalt not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan;

7 And that Jacob obeyed his father and his mother, and was gone to Padan-aram;

8 And Esau seeing that the daughters of Canaan pleased not Isaac his father;

9 Then went Esau unto Ishmael, and took unto the wives which he had Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebajoth, to be his wife.

Esau witnessed the blessing and charge that Isaac gave to Jacob, and he realized how his own marriage choices had distressed his parents. He therefore married his cousin Mahalath, daughter of Ishmael, Isaac’s brother.

But Esau’s motivation here was to appease his parents. Not an evil desire, of course, but hardly the best reason for following commandments. Esau’s chief concern was not obedience to God or to overcome his base impulses, but to find a quick solution to return himself to the good graces of other people.

But then, that is most often the case with each of us. Most of us try to do good things to appease some worldly influence, and then get frustrated that we can’t keep up that game for long. If we want to change, to truly change, it has to be founded in something more real.

The Epic Life- Romans 7:14-15, Acts 9:1, 4-6

For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest,
And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?
And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.

COMMENTARY

For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord
And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks
Yesterday I mentioned that we might be kept from our great life only by a decision that we are unwilling to make. I suggested that we come across an action that is essential for us to do, but which feels like it would break us to make.
I believe Paul’s words describe that situation very aptly. “What I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” These sentiments apply both ways between our spirit and carnal natures. These sides of us are in constant conflict, despising the actions of the other, doing the things that the other forbids.
Saul had a life as a persecutor of saints. He hated the gospel of Jesus, he spent all of his energy to destroy it. But through it all he “kicked against the pricks,” wounding his spirit, denying the epic life that he was meant to live.
For him to live that great life would require him cross that fundamental divide and break the man he was. He must become the very thing he hated: a disciple of Jesus. Amazingly he did it, and Saul (the part that hated Jesus and would not follow him) had to die along the way. Saul ended, and now began the great and epic life of Paul.

The Epic Life- Daniel 6:6-7, 9-10

Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him, King Darius, live for ever.
All the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counsellors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions.
Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.

COMMENTARY

Whosoever shall ask a petition of any God or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions
Yesterday we considered how David answered the call to live his great life. Today we’ll consider Daniel, who found his purpose under very different circumstances. Daniel watched as his people fell into the hands of the Babylonians, who were then defeated by the Medes. Thus he spent his time in the courts of two foreign nations, and he had to deal with laws and customs that defied his morals, such as this one prohibiting prayer to God.

Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house, he kneeled upon his knees, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime
And what did Daniel do in this delicate circumstance? He ignored the king’s mandate and did what was right. He didn’t have to go to court and fight against the king’s presidents and princes, he didn’t make a public campaign, he didn’t raise armies to fight against the injustice. In a world that constantly shifted around him, Daniel’s great calling was to just remain constant. When all the world is breaking against us, the greatest of quests can be to simply hold still.
This same steadiness defines the key moments of Daniel’s epic life. He was steady in turning down the food that God had proclaimed to be unclean (Daniel 1:8). His cohorts Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego steadfastly rejected another king’s demands that they worship golden idols (Daniel 3:14). And here again Daniel steadily maintained his prayers in spite of a law that forbade it. Daniel and his friends had lost their nation but they would not give up their covenants. It would have been easy to. They could have said “our commitments were lost with Israel.” But they didn’t. It was their great life work just to steadily hold to their promises to God. In simply doing that they sent powerful ripples throughout all the kings’ courts they graced.

Calloused Hearts- Ezekiel 36:26

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

COMMENTARY

A new heart also will I give you, I will take away the stony heart, and give you an heart of flesh
I believe this verse captures exactly the difference I was describing when I wrote of a “calloused heart” and a “heart that was made alive.” Describing the unfeeling, spiritually cut-off, cynical heart as “stony” is perfectly fitting. Cold and hard and dead and unmalleable.
And this verse seems to make clear that a “heart of flesh” is something that is given of God as a sort of miracle. We don’t tenderize our heart into submission, we ask Him to replace it within us. God designed the first people and he designed them to dwell directly in His presence. But then humanity fell and now our hearts are formed within that fallen sphere. So we must ask Him to redo His act of creation in us. We need to stop trying to make our fallen heart into something it cannot be and have Him replace it for us entirely.

Leading to Water- Genesis 29:9-11, 18, 20

And while he yet spake with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep: for she kept them.
And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.
And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept.
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve thee seven years for Rachel thy younger daughter.
And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her.

COMMENTARY

When Jacob saw Rachel, Jacob went near, and kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept
And Jacob loved Rachel; and said, I will serve seven years for Rachel
With yesterday’s passage we read Jacob’s plea to “come again to my father’s house in peace.” At the time, all he wanted was to go back home to exactly what he had before. But at that point he had not yet met Rachel. For as soon as he did meet her he stopped speaking of a hasty return to his father and instead committed to seven years of labor in a strange land so that he could marry her!
And when that dowry was doubled to fourteen years he prolonged his absence from home without hesitation! In fact, Jacob’s relationship to his childhood home becomes so unimportant that his story doesn’t recount anything more of it until he and Esau are burying their father after his passing (Genesis 35:29).

And Jacob served seven years for Rachel; and they seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her
Jacob had a love of his own now. And through that love he found a new vocation and a new home. While his father and grandfather had been well-diggers, he became an accomplished herdsman. While his father and grandfather set their roots in Canaan, Jacob took an extended leave of absence to Padan-Aram. In short, Jacob had become his own person. It was a hard thing for him to leave the nest, but truly it led him to spread his wings.

Give Thanks- Passion

I am grateful for passion.

People have an amazing capacity for doing extremely difficult things, so long as they are motivated by a pure desire. While having a hardship imposed on us by another is a terrible thing to bear, imposing our own hardships to accomplish something we are passionate for is a privilege!

Our greatest desires are a joyful irritant, they constantly discontent us with things as they are and convince us that they should be made better. From this restless desire for improvement has come the idea that a country could be run by a democracy, that a better painting material could be derived from oils, and that people could fly in machines. And while these accomplishments were the greatest revelation anyone could hope for in their day, the next generations were restless again to improve on them.

And so democracy is extended to people of every race, hospitals develop better sanitation, and technology connects more and more people together. We take the good that we already have and are driven to push it farther. Just because we want to. Just for our own personal satisfaction. What a wonderful system has been written into each of us, that we make the world a better place just by pursuing the most genuine desires of our hearts.

#givethanks

Dealing With Failure- Mosiah 4:27, Isaiah 28:10

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little:

COMMENTARY

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order
It is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength
Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little
I greatly appreciate the pragmatism in these verses. There is sincerely committing to improving ourselves one step at a time, and there is overextending ourselves with unrealistic promises.
When we start to feel the reality of God manifesting in us it is a very exciting experience, and we can easily get carried away with all the good things we intend to do. In a moment of rapture we might very well promise God everything. We will be His perfect, faithful child now, never to stray again. And in that moment we fully believe we can deliver on such a promise. To be fair, if we were to maintain that same state of rapture forever, we probably really could keep that promise, too!
But we don’t…and we don’t.
No, after each spiritual awakening there follows an awakening back to the old us. And it is that old us that needs to be changed. And that change is not accomplished by demanding perfection at once, but by line upon line. Yes, demand change of yourself, but also be practical about it!