Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 38:27-30

27 And it came to pass in the time of her travail, that, behold, twins were in her womb. 

28 And it came to pass, when she travailed, that the one put out his hand: and the midwife took and bound upon his hand a scarlet thread, saying, This came out first.

29 And it came to pass, as he drew back his hand, that, behold, his brother came out: and she said, How hast thou broken forth? this breach be upon thee: therefore his name was called Pharez.

30 And afterward came out his brother, that had the scarlet thread upon his hand: and his name was called Zarah.

Tamar was not only successfully impregnated via her seduction of Judah, she ended up bearing twins! Now I’m far from an expert, but I do know that a baby trying to emerge hand-first is not the preferred method! Evidently this was a difficult and dangerous delivery, the culmination of a sordid and tumultuous family affair.

And, in fact, it led to another breach of the natural order. The child who first extended his hand then drew back inside and was surpassed by his brother. This story is very reminiscent of the birth of Esau and Jacob, who similarly competed with each other even during the moment of birth. We do not receive any further details about the lives of these two twins, Zarah and Pharez, so we do not know whether they continued to compete.

We do have one interesting detail about the breaching-brother Pharez, though. His descendant of nine generations would be none other than David, son of Jesse, the future king of Israel. And a future descendant of David, of course, was Jesus Christ.

It is notable to me that Jesus was therefore born of a branch that began in such an unorthodox manner. A union of a dishonest man seduced by his pagan daughter-in-law hardly sounds like the beginning of a great line. In fact, this is not the only abnormality that will appear in Jesus’s family line. He will also be the descendant of the Israelite-outsider Ruth. Jesus was a child born under less-than-ideal circumstances to a less-than-ideal heritage, but that only made him all the more relatable to us with our own family baggage.

Judah’s story is a strange and messy one. He chose a harder path and reaped difficult consequences and he didn’t have to. But through it all, he was never outside the reach of God’s plans. God was able to take an awkward situation and still weave into his tapestry of life.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 29:31-35

31 And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren.

32 And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the Lord hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me.

33 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon.

34 And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi.

35 And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the Lord: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing.

I imagine that Leah was in some way a willing party to Laban’s deception of Jacob, presumably she was careful not to reveal that it was her beneath the wedding veil instead of her sister. Even so, one can’t help to feel sorry for her, married to a man whom she knows loves her sister more than she.

God was not in favor of this situation, and he intervened in a subtle, yet effective, way. Leah was blessed with fertility, while Rachel remained barren. Jacob loved Rachel, but it was a love that literally could not bear fruit. Each sister had one blessing and one deprivation.

And in a strange way, this competition between sisters would end up serving God’s plans for the kingdom of Israel. If He was ever to raise a great nation as promised, sooner or later the pattern of one covenant-holder only fathering one more covenant-holder would have to change. By inciting this rivalry between Rachel and Leah, they aggressively sought childbirth, which multiplied the covenant lines twelvefold!

And also, it is worth noting that God’s consolation to Leah included a son named Judah, mentioned in verse 35, who was to be the forefather of Jesus Christ. I find it fitting that this portion of Christ’s ancestral line passed through one who was lonely and deprived of love, who welcomed a birth as a comfort to her soul.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:18-20

18 And he came unto his father, and said, My father: and he said, Here am I; who art thou, my son?

19 And Jacob said unto his father, I am Esau thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and eat of my venison, that thy soul may bless me.

20 And Isaac said unto his son, How is it that thou hast found it so quickly, my son? And he said, Because the Lord thy God brought it to me.

Yesterday I mentioned that Jacob going to his father in the guise of Esau might be a symbolism for how we are remade in the image of Christ. And in today’s verses, notice how Jacob’s words are almost a perfect fit for what our Savior might have said to his Heavenly Father.

“I am Jehovah thy firstborn; I have done according as thou badest me: arise, I pray thee, sit and receive of my sacrifice, that thy soul may bless me.”

And when each of us is introduced at the judgment seat, I expect we will be introduced in much the same way, having put on his name and image through the atonement. We will be received as God’s firstborn, who did according to how we were commanded, who brought glory to God, and who are now worthy of God’s blessing.

Scriptural Analysis- Genesis 27:11-13, 15-17

11 And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, Behold, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man:

12 My father peradventure will feel me, and I shall seem to him as a deceiver; and I shall bring a curse upon me, and not a blessing.

13 And his mother said unto him, Upon me be thy curse, my son: only obey my voice, and go fetch me them.

15 And Rebekah took goodly raiment of her eldest son Esau, which were with her in the house, and put them upon Jacob her younger son:

16 And she put the skins of the kids of the goats upon his hands, and upon the smooth of his neck:

17 And she gave the savoury meat and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

Yesterday I mentioned my ambition to read this chapter and consider whether it had more meaning than I had previously realized. And for the first time I noticed that these verses seem to be a symbolism for the gospel of Jesus Christ, something I had never seen before.

Recall these three passages:

Isaiah 53:6 "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Acts 4:12 "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."

Ephesians 4:22, 24 "That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness."

In summary, the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that we are all unworthy on our own, and salvation can only come through Christ. And so we put off our old self and put on the new man, meaning we put on the image of Christ. And when we come to the final judgment we do not stand in our own place, but we are invited to stand in the place of Jesus, the only one who is worthy to receive God’s blessings.

Now, is this there not a shadow of this transpiring in the story of Jacob and Esau? Jacob cannot receive the blessing on his own, so he puts on the trappings of his elder brother. He becomes the man to whom his father can bestow the choicest blessings. And Rebekah even says that any curse that applies to her son will be removed from him and laid on her instead, which is also symbolic of our curse being laid upon Christ so that we may go free.

Granted, I am sure that in the final judgment Jesus will not be dressing us up to try and deceive our Heavenly Father. We will not be sneaking our way into heaven under false pretenses. Yet there definitely seems to be a parallel here, and Rebekah and Jacob were led into this symbolism not knowing the significance of it.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 10:16-17, 22-23; 1 Samuel 8:7

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues;
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another: for verily I say unto you, Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel, till the Son of man be come.

And the Lord said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.

COMMENTARY

They will deliver you up to the councils, and ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake
But when they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another

Jesus did not mince words when he told his disciples what to expect when carrying his message into the world. And one of the points that he stressed in particular was that they were going to be rejected…a lot. Though the disciples would work miracles, though they would speak with power, though they would dedicate their lives to this work, though they would convince many of the truth, there would always remain those who would not accept their message.
Recall that even the master orator Paul, after he had borne a masterful testimony to King Agrippa, was only able to elicit a response of “almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”

For they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me
But is it any wonder that the disciples would be rejected when their master was as well? Jesus was turned away from cities, disputed against in the synagogues, and given up to death by his own people. Was it just because he didn’t know the right words to say, because he fumbled in his delivery, because he wasn’t skilled enough in the preaching his own message.
No, of course not. He and his disciples faced rejection for the simple reason that people have their freedom of choice, and some just choose to reject the gospel message and that’s all there is to it. It doesn’t have to be that the one proselyting did anything wrong. They might have said exactly what they needed to, but the person hearing the message just didn’t want to receive it.
And that is an important truth for us to remember whenever we try to champion the right. I have known those who believe that if they can just find the right, magical words they will be able to unlock anybody’s heart and that simply isn’t true. No one has to accept what you to say. Anyone is able to turn you down, no matter how perfect your reasoning is. If you feel that you spoke with the words that were given you, that the point was made, that the truth was evident to any who would see, then you have done your part. Anything after that, acceptance or rejection, is out of your control. Whatever the outcome is, you must just accept it and move along.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- John 8:32, 1 John 2:21

And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.

COMMENTARY

The truth shall make you free
Yesterday I considered how the truth wants to be spoken and urges us to utter it. However it is not the truth that needs us so much as it is we who need the truth.
Truth is not some fragile being that we must protect or else will fade away. It is not Tinkerbell who will die if we stop believing in it. Truth just is. It exists independently of our involvement. Truth does not need to be stated to be true.
So when we speak the truth, it is not for truth’s sake, but for humanity’s. As Jesus attests in this verse, it is the truth that makes us free. Thus to know the truth and to not say it is to leave your brother in chains.

Ye know it, that no lie is of the truth
And this is yet another reason why those that have found moral truth must speak up, even to a world that doesn’t want to hear it. Just as it is wrong to see someone walking into physical danger and not call out a warning, it is also wrong to not call out a warning of moral dangers.
When one has found the truth one knows the truth and one knows what is not of the truth. And when one knows that what they hear is not truth, it would be an act of abuse to leave one’s fellowman so blinded. Even if the other will not hear, the one that knows the truth is still obligated to speak it so that the other can have his chance for freedom.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Matthew 7:7-8, John 7:37, John 6:66-67

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

COMMENTARY

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth
If any man thirst, let him come unto me
We must always remember that this is a gospel of invitation, not of force. It is a gospel where the disciple is meant to seek after, not be pushed ahead. It is opt in, not opt out.
When we can share the truth we should do so with passion and commitment, we should leave no question about the importance of what we are saying. But never should we try to make someone accept it and never should we punish them for ignoring us.

From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.
Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?

Jesus boldly renounced sin. Jesus reproved his own disciples. Jesus chased away those who corrupted the place of worship. He was very clear and very firm in his declaration of truth. But the decision to follow him was always left to the disciple. If they wanted to leave then they could, and some of them did. But if they wanted to stay then they knew where to find him and they knew what he expected of them. It was just up to them to choose it.

Optimism in a Falling World- Summary

I think the studies that do me the most good are the ones that expand my understanding of what it even means to be a follower of Christ. The more I am able to redefine my paradigm to be like his the more I am able to walk in his footsteps. And this study absolutely made me take a long, hard look at what it really means to be a Christian. And along with that realization came another: I’m often not a very good one.
Which might sound like a self-condemning conclusion, but really it is not. Realizing how far one has yet to go is a sign that they are actually upon their way. One must first have a solid foundation in a subject before they can appreciate the full depth of their ignorance.
This isn’t what I expected to find when I began this study. I really wasn’t sure what the answer to my periodic cynicism towards the world would be, but I didn’t think it would be: the problem is in you, so become a better Christian. A sharp, yet loving reproof. An invitation to become more so that I can be more happy.
Here are three fundamental concepts that came up while conducting this study.

Cynicism is a Product of Despair)

Some of us are naturally more optimistic than others. Some see the glass as half full while others view it as half empty. Yet I am convinced that pervasive cynicism is not anyone’s natural state. Each of us begins this life as children, and children as a whole are far more believing and optimistic. They have to learn to see the world more darkly.
At some point each one of us has our brightness broken. To one degree or another each of us was mistreated while still innocent. At the very least, every small child comes astray of someone having a bad day sooner or later. But it isn’t just what others do to us that break us, either. There are also the times we violate our own conscience. Through each of these processes we feel guilty and dirty, our souls are distressed, and we cannot correlate the promise of eternal joy with how wrong we feel inside. In this we come to understand what it truly means to be in hell.
And so long as we cannot see our own way to brighter fields we’re never going to be able to see it for the world either. If forgiveness seems inaccessible for what we have done, if our wrongs are more than we can ever do, then surely it is the same for the world’s even greater evils. In short, it does not seem humanly possible for that which is broken to be made whole once more.
Moroni 10:22- And if ye have no hope ye must needs be in despair; and despair cometh because of iniquity.
Matthew 18:3- And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Believing in Others is a Product of Being Saved)

But of course there is a message of hope for those caught in such dire straits. When I began this study I really hadn’t intended to cap it off with yet another examination of Jesus Christ’s atonement, yet it found its way to the heart of my research even so. Because at the end of the day every worldly problem has its root in those fundamental problems of a fallen world and moral compromises. And those both have their solution in his atoning sacrifice.
If we ever want to have more hope in the world, then we first need to be able to have hope restored in ourselves. And if we want to have hope in ourselves, then we need to stop seeing our happy ending as being dependent on our own actions, and instead let it rely on the actions of one who has already succeeded. Then we start to see our triumph as a sure thing, and our hope becomes unshakeable.
When the reality of these facts truly sinks in for our own selves, then it is easy to see that the same sure triumph is available to all the rest of the world, too. We stop seeing other peoples’ problems as being their responsibility to solve. Just as with us, we know it has already been solved for them if they will just accept it. There no longer remains any question of whether they are now “too bad” or “too far gone” to make their way back. I mean, yes, they absolutely are too far gone to bring themselves back, but now we know that that doesn’t matter. What matters is that they are never too far gone for him to bring back.
1 Corinthians 15:56-57- The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Matthew 19:25-26- When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.

The Salvation of Self Must Come First)

Of course feeling reclaimed from our own guilt and despair isn’t just a one-time thing, either. We will feel the reality of Christ’s redeeming love once initially, be filled with hope for all mankind, but then need to refresh those feelings many times over throughout our lives. In my case the old pessimism comes over me gradually when I am not paying attention. I have thought that I was still in a good place, but then suddenly looked all about me and wondered how I had wandered once more into fields of despair.
I began this study by trying to focus on the despair and not on where I stood. I began by looking at the external and not the internal. But at least I was looking, and over the past couple weeks my focus has gradually shifted back to where it needs to be.
And this leads me to the final point of this study. If I ever look at the world, see naught but wrong, and cannot fathom of any way to correct it, then my first instinct should be to consider what is amiss in myself. I cannot help lift anyone until I first stand on firmer ground, just as Jesus could never have pulled Peter upwards if he had also been floundering in the Sea of Galilee.
Matthew 7:5- Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Luke 22:32- But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.

Optimism in a Falling World- Luke 9:52-56

And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him.
And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

COMMENTARY

And they did not receive him, and when James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
Yesterday I considered Jonah’s desire to destroy the wicked. Today we see an example from Jesus’s own disciples to do the same. Because Jesus and his followers were denied access to a city, James and John sought to kill all the inhabitants with fire.

But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
The Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.

James and John might have believed they were serving the spirit of justice, yet Jesus avowed that they were serving another. What they sought was simply vengeance, and Jesus’s purpose was not to bring vengeance, but salvation.
I believe that many of those who hope for the destruction of the wicked take their cues from the stories of the Old Testament. It is in those early books that we read accounts of the earth being flooded, of fire and brimstone consuming cities, of the armies of the Lord stamping out other nations. In these stories there is a definite immediacy between evil actions and divine retribution. One could not go to war against God without quickly enduring the consequences of that action. But what is forgotten is that this was the Old Testament and the earth was in a fundamentally different situation than it is now. Mankind had been expelled from the Garden of Eden and the atonement had not yet been made. Things were far stricter, and there was little to buffer between sinful acts and the holy justice administered in return.
But Jesus Christ had come to be that buffer. Jesus Christ had come so that the immediate justice for evil works could be born out in his own body instead. Divine justice still applies, even to this day, but now it is executed in him, while mankind is given a second chance.
Thus today we now live under the New Testament. And that means that if we look at the evil in the world today and crave punishment for the guilty, we are denying the fact that that punishment was already endured by our Savior. We are therefore looking for a double punishment, one carried out upon Christ and one carried out upon those he died to save. That isn’t justice at all. Like James and John, we are not comprehending what manner of spirit we are of. It is a cold, cruel, and evil spirit, one that has nothing to do with Christ.

The Epic Life- Matthew 16:21-23, Luke 14:26-27

From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be unto thee.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

COMMENTARY

Jesus began to shew unto his disciples, how he must suffer, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.
Then Peter began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from thee, Lord: this shall not be.
But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me.

If anyone has ever had a divine purpose to fulfill, certainly it was Jesus. He was born for a very specific cause and all the world depended upon his completion of it. Jesus needed to do what he was here to do or else all of us would be forever lost.
Of course one can see how Peter was well-meaning in his arguing against Jesus fulfilling that role. Peter’s perspective was limited. This was the death of his friend being talked about, and how could he be expected to approve of that? Peter was full of all manner of good intentions, but his suggestion that Jesus not go through with his calling would be the most heinous crime to humanity imaginable! Peter’s friend would be saved and the whole world would be damned.

If any man hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

As Jesus had testified earlier, it was essential for him to bear his cross and fulfill his role, regarding it higher than his brother Peter. And when Peter tried to dissuade him, Peter had to be reminded of the hierarchy of Jesus’s love. In the moment that Peter tried to pull Jesus off of his divinely-appointed path he was not a true friend.
Of course a disciple can have families and friends and love them. But Jesus’ point is that when we have found the wonderful, epic life that God has given us, when we have found the cross we must bear and the path we must follow, then friends and family must be made to understand that that is what we are going to do! And if they try to dissuade us in that, they must be made to understand that even if their intentions are good they are doing us no favors by trying to derail our destiny.