Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 33:5-7

5 And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.

6 Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.

7 And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.

Waiting behind Jacob were all of his family, and Esau was anxious to meet them. Originally, I had thought that he had staggered them in order to give the ones in the rear a chance to escape if things went very badly, but it seems they were already much too near for that to have been Jacob’s strategy. Instead, it seems that he had been preparing them for presentation in the event that things went very well. Which, thankfully, they did.

So now Jacob introduces his household, one branch at a time, showing Esau that he has not only grown in age and servants and flock and wealth, but also in family ties. The boy who had left their father’s tent had had nothing and nobody, but he had made his way, and had had come into his own. Evidently Esau had grown as well, able to marshal hundreds of men, a veritable army. Yet he also seems to have grown in his capacity for tenderness of feeling. The two boys had become men.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 30:22-24

22 And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb.

23 And she conceived, and bare a son; and said, God hath taken away my reproach:

24 And she called his name Joseph; and said, The Lord shall add to me another son.

At long last the Lord saw fit for Rachel to conceive a child of her very own. After watching her sister and the two handmaids be able to what she could not, miraculously her womb was opened, and she gave birth to a son.

And Joseph is to become a mighty man, the greatest of all his brethren. Of course, it will be a long road before he realizes that, and first his brethren will despise and betray him. And it has occurred to me that Joseph might have always been the odd-one out because of his unique heritage. There were six sons born of Leah, two of Zilpah, and two of Bilhah. Thus, every one of the boys had at least one blood brother, except for Joseph.

Joseph would be the one and only son of Rachel until many years later. And having been born after all the other ten, he was surely much younger than the first ones. And that’s not all, there is also the fact that he was the favorite son, born of the favorite wife. Thus, there were many factors to isolate Joseph and make him despised of by his brethren, and it is little wonder that he ended up in such a complicated situation with them later on.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 22:20-23

20 And it came to pass after these things, that it was told Abraham, saying, Behold, Milcah, she hath also born children unto thy brother Nahor;

21 Huz his firstborn, and Buz his brother, and Kemuel the father of Aram,

22 And Chesed, and Hazo, and Pildash, and Jidlaph, and Bethuel.

23 And Bethuel begat Rebekah: these eight Milcah did bear to Nahor, Abraham’s brother.

Previously we learned about Abraham’s family, which had included his father Terah, brothers Nahor and Haran, and nephew Lot. Terah, Abraham, and Lot had left the land of the Chaldees for Canaan, but Haran died and Nahor had stayed behind. In today’s verses we learn that Nahor had become a father to eight sons of his own, the youngest of which was Bethuel.

These verses may seem like a random aside, but in a couple chapters this information will become very relevant when Abraham’s servant seeks a suitable wife for Isaac, and finds her in Bethuel’s daughter, Rebekah.

It is interesting that Isaac and his cousin Bethuel presumably never met one another. Their fathers parted ways long before they were even born. Yet one’s heritage and kin remain of great importance in the Biblical narratives, and distance and time do not dim the connections one has to their family.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 11:26-31

26 And Terah lived seventy years, and begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran.

27 Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.

28 And Haran died before his father Terah in the land of his nativity, in Ur of the Chaldees.

29 And Abram and Nahor took them wives: the name of Abram’s wife was Sarai; and the name of Nahor’s wife, Milcah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milcah, and the father of Iscah.

30 But Sarai was barren; she had no child.

31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abram’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

The genealogical verses aren’t the most exciting passages of scripture to me, and I usually skim past them to get to the actual stories. But this time I at least paid attention to the relationships around Abraham, and it was fascinating to gain some context for his story.

Here we meet Terah, who has three sons: Abram (later Abraham), Nahor, and Haran. Haran died earlier than the rest, but he had a son named Lot, who became a sort of stand-in for his father. Throughout the rest of the record we hear about him as if he was the third brother: Abram, Nahor, and Lot.

Haran also had a daughter before he died, named Milcah, who married Abram’s other brother, Nahor. Nahor and Milcah later had a grand-daughter named Rebekah, who would become the wife of Abram’s son Isaac. In later chapters we will also have revealed to us that Sarai was actually Abram’s half-sister, the daughter of his father Terah, but not of his mother.

I’ve never before given so much consideration to Abram’s family before. I didn’t reflect on the fact that he was a son and a brother, and that those ties affected him throughout the rest of his tale. In fact, his story begins as that family splits up. Terah, the father, leaves for Canaan with Abram and Lot, but Nahor stays behind.

At this point a place called Canaan may not sound very significant, but we’ll be hearing a lot about it later on. It is to be the home of the Israelite kingdom after they flee Egypt, and the majority of the Biblical narrative takes place there. For now, though, the family doesn’t quite make it to Canaan. They stop instead at the nearby city of Haran, which has the same name as Abram’s deceased brother, but I don’t know whether the two are connected.

The Epic Life- Jacob 4:14

But behold, the Jews were a stiffnecked people; and they despised the words of plainness, and killed the prophets, and sought for things that they could not understand. Wherefore, because of their blindness, which blindness came by looking beyond the mark, they must needs fall; for God hath taken away his plainness from them, and delivered unto them many things which they cannot understand, because they desired it. And because they desired it God hath done it, that they may stumble.


But behold, they despised the words of plainness, and sought for things that they could not understand. Their blindness came by looking beyond the mark.
I have already mentioned how we make the mistake of seeking greatness through worldly possessions and fame, usually because that path seems more accessible than the overcoming of self necessary for spiritual enlightenment. There is yet another way that our desire for greatness can become misaligned, though.
As we see in today’s verse, that way is to “look beyond the mark.” I have known those that were caught up trying to achieve some great and important thing, even a spiritual thing, all while leaving the fundamental things that mattered most undone. There was a funeral for a man whose church members came to attest what a volunteering and sacrificing person he had been, how he had always been willing to pitch in and help wherever another member of the congregation needed it. The family of the man responded by saying that was nice, but they had never known such a person in their own home. In their life he had been an entirely absent figure, too busy taking care of things that were “more important” than his own family.
We must be careful that we do not become so obsessed with finding greatness that we fail to see the opportunities for it right in front of us. Continuing with the example of one’s own family, it is all too easy to say “many people in this world have their family, so there isn’t anything particularly noteworthy about that.” Then we might take that sector of life for granted, and look for something more unique to satiate our desire for greatness, forgetting how rare a truly happy family is in this world, and how long-reaching an investment in the home is to the lives of those that were blessed there.
As each of us seeks our own personal greatness, we ought to pause several times to consider if there is any greatness already before us that we have been overlooking because of our vanity.

The Need for Refreshing- 2 Timothy 1:16, 2 Corinthians 7:13

The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain:

Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all.


The Lord give mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus; for he oft refreshed me
Therefore we were comforted in your comfort: yea, and exceedingly the more joyed we for the joy of Titus, because his spirit was refreshed by you all
There are three people that live in my home, and I have learned how the mood of one can quickly affect the mood of all! Fortunately, it does not have to be that if one person is having a bad day that everyone else is dragged down. Instead it can be that if one person is having a good day that they lift everyone else up. It takes a little conscious effort to push the flow in a positive way, but each of us knows that this is our duty to do.
In other words we know that we must use our peaceful tranquility to refresh one another. When my wife was struggling through her first trimester my son and I tried to give her rest and peace. When I was struggling with a project at work my wife and son tried to make home a joyful respite. When our son was overwhelmed with fears of death my wife and I tried to soothe him with pledges of eternal love.
Even outside of the home I have a friend that has been through many of the same trials that I have. When I was feeling weighed down and hopeless he listened to my every fear and encouraged me. Later when it was his turn to feel broken I did the same for him.
As disciples, when we are in a good place we must bolster up those that are not. Then, we need to let them do the same for us later. We refresh each other, we save each other, we come to God together.

Sacrifice and Consecration- Genesis 17:7, 18:19; Matthew 16:25

And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.

For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.


And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee
For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord
God viewed the children of Abraham as set apart. God made a special covenant with them, and He expected Abraham to raise them in a particular manner. These covenant children were to be taught to follow the Lord, to maintain covenant marriages, and to be circumcised. The Bible carefully notes that Abraham faithfully adhered to each of these details with his own son. Even though Abraham did not end up sacrificing Isaac, by this obedience he consecrated Isaac to God.
Consecrated means to set apart for a holy purpose.
And if Abraham hadn’t consecrated Isaac to the Lord, then he would have lost his promise and eventually his son. Sooner or later death would have separated them and they would have no assurances in the afterlife. That is the way of the world. Each of us is given family relationships, but without some divine intervention all of them would be taken away by the grave.
The promise of heaven, though, is that we can forever dwell with those we love. The power of the grave is therefore defeated in the resurrection…but only if we are willing to turn ourselves and those we love over to the Lord.

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
This, I believe, is the central lesson that the Lord was teaching Abraham when he asked him to sacrifice Isaac. Because Abraham did not try to withhold Isaac from God, God would preserve Isaac and return him to his father. Not just in that one moment, but in eternity.
I am a father myself, and right now my wife and I are the most important people in my young son’s life. I want to be with my son forever, though, and that means I need to raise him so that he will move from my embrace and into God’s. It will hurt when he matures and comes to rely upon God more than me, but that is how it has to be.
If we love something, our natural tendency is to keep it for ourselves. But if we do this we will literally love it to death, and then we will have it no more. We have to surrender that which we love to God. When we do, it is not lost, it is found in the hands of the only one who can preserve it to us forever.

The Family of God- Revelation 22:8-9, Hebrews 13:2, Matthew 17:3

And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.
Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.


For I am thy fellowservant
Some have entertained angels unawares
There appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him

I wanted in this study to look at our brothers and sisters beyond the veil, to consider how they are included in our family unit. And really there isn’t too much to find. We really know very little about the work of angels, I suppose we have enough to worry about on this side.
What we do know is that they are the souls of those that once lived on the earth, that they are still among us today, and that they are concerned with our affairs. All of which means that the notion of death separating us from the cares of this world is deeply misguided. The living and the dead are still very much kin to one another, caught up in the same war between good and evil, and each called to support one another in that struggle.
My suspicion is that when we get to the other side we will be surprised at how integral our angel brothers and sisters have been to everyday life. I am sure their work is not only limited to those rare moments of miraculous manifestation, but rather that their time is filled with many invisible efforts that we have never noticed.

The Family of God- 3 Nephi 11: 29-32, John 17:21-23

For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.


That they may be made perfect in one
All good principles are in harmony with one another. Love, kindness, peace, wisdom, patience, understanding, justice, mercy…all of these are able to coexist in full measure and never undo one another. They are a complementary set.
To that unity we can add God. God is a perfect being in harmony with all that is good. Also to that unity we can Jesus Christ. Christ is a perfected being that is in perfect harmony with his Father, and so he must also be in perfect harmony with all that is good. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is united in this perfect harmony as well.

Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us
Having acknowledged this unity between God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all good principles; now let us ask what is the purpose of the gospel we have received of them? What is its objective? What is the end result that it attains? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the author of that gospel has already told us for what purpose it was given.
And that purpose is so that the unity between those perfect beings and forces can be ours as well. Our supreme destiny is to come in perfect harmony with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and every good principle. The gospel is the process by which this is accomplished.
Not only do we come into harmony with those perfections, but by extension we also come into harmony with every other brother and sister that strives for this same unity as well. We will have total harmony with saints, angels, the prophets, and nature after it has been perfected. By all of us converging on one perfect goal, we will converge with one another as well. And yes, we will all still be our own individuals, but we will be individuals in harmony.

The Family of God- Matthew 18:20-22

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?
Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.


For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?

Before today I was already quite familiar with both of these accounts: the one where Jesus promises to be in the midst of a group gathered in his name, and the other where Peter wonders how many times he is expected to forgive another. But until now I had never contemplated that these moments are placed one immediately after the another.
It makes for a fascinating contrast, one where Christ is calling for unity, and then we have Peter trying to find out when he is allowed to create a division. It is as if Peter is asking “at what point can I not be expected to gather with a particular other?”
And Jesus’s answer is, essentially, never. We must not forget that Christ made his own company among sinners. Not only repentant sinners either, remember that he did some of his most beautiful work shoulder-to-shoulder with the man that would ultimately betray him. The world around him was rotten at times, but he still stayed a part of it.
In the end, we are all we have. God isn’t giving you a backup planet with new brothers and sisters if you can’t work things out with the current set. As such, we should stop looking for opportunities to write off a particular brother or sister as a lost cause, and instead start gathering together.