1 And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.
Pharaoh is given his first chance to free the Israelites. Moses and Aaron don’t waste any time in lengthy preamble, they get straight to the point, and they don’t show any special reverence to the Pharaoh, either. It is also worth noting that they do not speak on their own authority, it is clear right from the beginning that this demand is from “the Lord God of Israel.”
Something that I never noticed in my previous readings was that they were approaching Pharaoh under false pretenses. They told Pharaoh that they simply meant to have a feast in the wilderness, after which they would return, but clearly they didn’t intend to ever come back! Further on in the story it will become apparent that Pharaoh was perfectly aware of what their real purpose was, so it wouldn’t be accurate to say that he was actually tricked, but it was false pretenses still the same.
My understanding of this is that the Lord was not content to just free captive Israel, He was here to repay the many crimes that the Israelites had suffered at the hands of the Egyptians, and He would do so by cursing them, by plundering their wealth, and by slaying all their firstborn. Pushing the Pharaoh to agree to something that he knew was a trick was the final step for the Lord’s utter demoralization of the Egyptian people. It was a recompense for the earlier generations that had welcomed the Israelites with open arms, but then turned that gift into a punishment. Frankly, this is a side of God we don’t often consider, but the fact is He is a jealous God, and He does demand equal retribution for our crimes.
Thus far I have shown an example of those who live in the full light of the truth and are more fulfilled as a result, I have also demonstrated how building our science and technology on physical truths resulted in far greater accomplishments than could be achieved in any other way, and I have also illustrated the chaos that arises by accepting untruth. I have presented each of these as demonstrations of how being founded upon truth brings about greater growth and fulfillment and knowledge than any other course.
There is another way that we can strengthen the argument for living a life founded on truth, and that is by refuting its alternative. Let us consider an opposite philosophy, such as “sometimes a person will flourish more if they believe a lie.” If we can provide evidence that this is false, then that leaves as the only other option that we should live in the truth.
And this philosophy we will seek to discredit is no mere imagined thing. There really is an idea in our society that people will be happier if they don’t have to deal with certain unpleasant realities. It isn’t only suggested that they are better of living in ignorance of a truth, but that they should actively believe something that is opposite to that truth. One example is that a husband shouldn’t tell his wife about an affair, and another is that a child should be led to believe that his parents are biological, when in reality he is adopted.
We will examine both of these, and point out the damage, not comfort, that is inherent in each. Today we will cover the first example, that of whether infidelity should be concealed from a spouse.
The reason typically given for hiding a betrayal of marriage is that it only causes the innocent spouse to feel pain and anguish that she doesn’t deserve, better to let her remain happy with her home and family life. It is the burden of the unfaithful spouse to carry his transgression himself, not hurting those that did nothing wrong themselves. This is his penance.
There is much that is initially appealing in this line of reasoning, but it is extremely condescending to the faithful spouse, and also it sets her upon a treacherous trajectory. By the husband doing one thing, and then allowing his wife to believe that he didn’t, he has rotated her alignment away from reality, and worse, done so without her consent. Falsely aligned, the wife is now put in the awkward position where she might now be the instrument of her own continuing harm. She might willingly take on debt with her husband for a large purchase, such as a new home, only to be hurt financially when he announces his intention to divorce, and the property must be divided. She might unknowingly abet her own betrayal by encouraging a friendly relationship with the very person her husband is sleeping with, or even just by staying at home and watching the children while he goes out for another liaison. She might burn bridges with people that cast aspersions against her husband, even though they are the ones genuinely acting in her favor. She will continue to invest care and warmth in a man who can only offer shallow counterfeits in return, which means wasting more and more of her time and energy. She will lose years that might have been spent with a more faithful partner.
There are numerous ways that a deceived wife is likely to dig the foundation out from under herself, totally oblivious until the ledge she is standing upon suddenly breaks and she falls and hurts herself. When one is first told a lie there is a separation between their reality and true reality. As time continues that gap can only expand. Breaking the ledge and falling from perspective to reality is a painful experience. The higher the drop, the more injury incurred.
Even in the case that the wife never does catch on to the truth, it is still morally wrong to leave someone in danger of that fall, especially when the distance of that potential fall is growing greater with every passing day. Yes, she would be hurt by the truth, but then the wound could heal and there would be no threat of continuing harm. To instead leave the spouse in a place of constant and increasing danger is an act of criminal negligence.
Of course, most of us know that a spouse who decides to shield the other from the truth is almost certainly doing it more out of self-preservation, no matter what noble motivations they might pretend to. Yet even if we were to find a case where the intent really and truly was only to spare the heart of the betrayed spouse, good intentions alone do not make an action moral. One of the key things that makes an action moral is whether it creates good, or at least the potential for good in the life of the other. One of the key things that makes an action immoral is whether it creates evil, or even just the potential for it in the life of the other. In the long term, deception can only foster evil, not good, and so it is immoral.
11 And Shechem said unto her father and unto her brethren, Let me find grace in your eyes, and what ye shall say unto me I will give.
12 Ask me never so much dowry and gift, and I will give according as ye shall say unto me: but give me the damsel to wife.
13 And the sons of Jacob answered Shechem and Hamor his father deceitfully, and said, because he had defiled Dinah their sister:
14 And they said unto them, We cannot do this thing, to give our sister to one that is uncircumcised; for that were a reproach unto us:
15 But in this will we consent unto you: If ye will be as we be, that every male of you be circumcised;
16 Then will we give our daughters unto you, and we will take your daughters to us, and we will dwell with you, and we will become one people.
Shechem tells Jacob and his sons to name their price. Whatever they ask he will give it as a wedding dowry. Once again, this only goes to show how unrepentant he is, thinking that he can pay a lofty enough sum and then all his immorality will be excused. He doesn’t seem to realize that suggesting Dinah’s lost innocence can be compensated for with money is only heaping fresh insults on top of his prior ones.
In answer, Jacob’s sons insist that Shechem and all the people of that land must be circumcised. They promise that if the men subject themselves to this, then the blending of the two cultures they have desired will occur. This, of course, is a lie and a trick, but because of their failure to comprehend the magnitude of their offense, the men of this land don’t think twice about agreeing to these terms.
30 And now, though thou wouldest needs be gone, because thou sore longedst after thy father’s house, yet wherefore hast thou stolen my gods?
32 With whomsoever thou findest thy gods, let him not live: before our brethren discern thou what is thine with me, and take it to thee. For Jacob knew not that Rachel had stolen them.
33 And Laban went into Jacob’s tent, and into Leah’s tent, and into the two maidservants’ tents; but he found them not. Then went he out of Leah’s tent, and entered into Rachel’s tent.
34 Now Rachel had taken the images, and put them in the camel’s furniture, and sat upon them. And Laban searched all the tent, but found them not.
35 And she said to her father, Let it not displease my lord that I cannot rise up before thee; for the custom of women is upon me. And he searched, but found not the images.
Laban demanded why Jacob had stolen his idols, which Jacob obviously denied. His pledge to put to death anyone who stole the idols seems a very bold oath to make. Obviously, Jacob knew that he had not taken them, I wonder what made him so mistakenly sure that no one in his household did either. Who knows how they would have resolved things if Rachel had been discovered as the culprit.
As for her sake, Rachel adds lying to her theft. I do not mean this as an excuse for her deceitful practices, but it is worth noting that Laban was also a deceitful father. After Jacob completed his first seven years of service, she had been robbed of her intended wedding by Laban’s lies, and now she is robbing him of his gods with hers. Two wrongs do not make a right, but it is a fact of life that the wrong things we do set an example to others that are usually used against us later on. Though it may be indirect and years in the making, we are often the authors of our own harm.
22 And Laban gathered together all the men of the place, and made a feast.
23 And it came to pass in the evening, that he took Leah his daughter, and brought her to him; and he went in unto her.
25 And it came to pass, that in the morning, behold, it was Leah: and he said to Laban, What is this thou hast done unto me? did not I serve with thee for Rachel? wherefore then hast thou beguiled me?
26 And Laban said, It must not be so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.
Thus far in the story Laban has treated Jacob with dignity and respect. It is interesting, then, to see this deceptive turn from him. Tricking a man into marrying a woman he did not intend is a very egregious offense. The explanation that Laban gives, that in their country the first daughter must be married before the second, in no way accounts for the fact that he did not tell this to Jacob beforehand. One would assume that he knew he would play this trick on Jacob all the seven years that his nephew labored for him, making him a liar for all of those 2,500 days!
However, I cannot help but see this as a sort of karma balancing out in Jacob’s life. He had deceived his own father and stolen the place of honor from his brother. He had done this by pretending to be someone that he was not, and now he gets to be on the receiving end of a very similar trick. Life has a way of holding up a mirror to each of us, causing us to collect the same sort of payment we have given out.
Better for Jacob to balance the cosmic scales here and now, and be clear for the rest of his life. And, as it would turn out, Leah was to become a key part of his growing heritage. So even this setback was ultimately meant for his own good.
21 And Isaac said unto Jacob, Come near, I pray thee, that I may feel thee, my son, whether thou be my very son Esau or not.
22 And Jacob went near unto Isaac his father; and he felt him, and said, The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
24 And he said, Art thou my very son Esau? And he said, I am.
26 And his father Isaac said unto him, Come near now, and kiss me, my son.
27 And he came near, and kissed him: and he smelled the smell of his raiment, and blessed him, and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field which the Lord hath blessed:
Isaac is showing strong skepticism that this is, in fact, Esau before him. He is surprised that his son would be back so quickly with the venison and the voice sounds more like Jacob’s. And so he attempts to settle his mind, testing Jacob by feeling him, smelling him, and asking him questions.
Later, when the real Esau arrives for his blessing, Isaac immediately realizes what Jacob has done, showing that he still had misgivings, even after giving the blessing. But in truth, it didn’t matter. For God was not fooled, and the blessing was God’s to give. Isaac was merely the mouthpiece.
This chapter is full of charade and drama, and frankly I think it is nothing more than human theater. We like to think that we determine the hand of fate in our own lives, but all of our antics are only a façade, flashy but ultimately weightless. All we really choose is what sort of person we want to be, and everything that follows is determined by God. Jacob had chosen his identity, Esau had chosen his, and then God chose their according fates. And if Jacob had not fooled his father or if Isaac had figured out the trickery earlier…nothing would have changed, God would have still worked things out just as He intended.
And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God Previously we examined the notion that we cannot follow God and indulge in our vices as well. The philosophy that we can leads to all manner of self-contradictions, not least of which is the Bible’s specific condemnation of it! Some people try to get around this dilemma, though, by compartmentalizing their life. For them religion is an ornament on the shelf, something to add depth and dimension to the collage of their broader identity. It is a garnish to the main dish. It is living with an at-church-religious-self but also an ambitious-career-self. And because the two are separate, the ambitious-career-self does not have to answer to the expectations of the other. The appeal of such an approach is obvious, but the simple truth is that none of us make it very long by trying to live good-ish. The above verse clearly condemns the notion of committing to God on Sunday, then looking away from Him on Monday. It is true that we play many different roles in life, but the gospel was meant to permeate them all. We should be trying to be Christ-like in how we interact with our community and our career and our friendships and our family and our side-interests, etc.
All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell Imagine a castle wall made up of a strongly-fortified-bulwark-part, but also a gaping-hole-part. That is the effect of a compartmentalized discipleship. Are we going to hope that the enemy is kind enough to attack the strong area only? As the above verse suggests, I believe the reason why we even think that the gospel can be taken up and put back down stems from the notion that there is no enemy at all. Why bother patching the hole if there is no risk? Once again, though, which is the one entity who would be trying to convince us that there was no need to be protected?
No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.
For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
No man can serve two masters A double minded man is unstable in all his ways There are many that are prepared to follow God…with caveats. Perhaps they wish to be His disciple, but still nurse a vice on the side. I myself have lived under the mindset that there was a cosmic set of scales in heaven, and I just needed to do enough good things to balance out all the bad things that I was doing, too. It is an alluring philosophy, one that would permit willful indulgences while only making token good offerings now and again. However this notion is not supported in any passage of scripture. While on my mission I met quite a few people who said of their vices: “well, like the Bible says, ‘do, but don’t overdo.'” Which quotation…flummoxed me to say the least! You can open a search engine if you don’t believe me, but nowhere does the Bible say any such thing. Obviously it is unrealistic to expect total perfection while we live in this fallen state. For sure we are going to fall short and continually depend on grace. But accepting that we need grace is not the same as condoning sin. Though this philosophy of willful indulgence may come in many different forms and compelling arguments, the source of them is always the same. There is the only being that would teach a philosophy which indulges doing things that you know are wrong. And that being does not do this to be a nice guy, his intent is strictly malicious. He is no friend of ours.