Reading Through The Bible in 2011, Part 11

What I Read Today: Genesis 33-36.

What Stood Out: Genesis 33: 6-9. The female servants came forward with their children and bowed down. Then Leah came forward with her children and they bowed down. Finally Joseph and Rachel came forward and bowed down. Esau then asked, ‘What did you intend by sending all these herds to meet me?’ Jacob replied, ‘To find favor in your sight, my lord.’ But Esau said, ‘I have plenty, my brother. Keep what belongs to you.’”

Random Thoughts About What I Read:

I have a tattoo on my left wrist that is extremely symbolic of the way my life has been changed by God.

Stick with that phrase “by God.” Not by simply gaining a few insights over the years and outgrowing things. But transformation by the God of the Universe.

See, in my first year of teenage life, my father died. Outwardly I was “taking it about as well as you can.” Inwardly, I was furious. My rage was really only seen in the music I listened to. My pre-teen years were Beatles, The Who, The Rolling Stones and such…until Kiss came along (but that was really more fun). After my dad’s death those gateway bands lead to the hard stuff: Ramones, Sex Pistols. Clash. The deeper my anger got, my music got even more aggressive if you can believe that. Fear. X. The Germs. Bad Religion. And, my personal favorite, Black Flag.

And Black Flag’s logo was simply four black bars that resembled a waving flag. It was easily drawn on notebook covers or the inside of lockers or whatever.

My tattoo has that logo…only I thought having it in green would signify “life.”

Which was given to me by the shedding of innocent blood…signified by a set of baby footprints splattered with blood. Gross. I know.

Anyway, it also has a smiley face, a heart and a peace sign that show that I’m now joyful, loving and peaceful…with the Hebrew marking for Micah 6:8 which implores us to live our faith out loud by a lifestyle of justice, mercy and walking humbly with God.

Life change. Permanently symbolized on my wrist. It’s a conversation piece and people ask me about it on planes or in waiting rooms or whatever. Sometimes they’re glad they asked…others not so much.

But it reminds me of where I was and where I am.

And that’s what I get when I read this passage. See, I look at Jacob. The heel grabber. The deceiver. The stealer of the birthright.

The years have given him a new relationship with God that transforms him. He’s now the type of person who builds altars to God for His faithfulness to him. Jacob has wrestled with God and lived to tell. He’s been prosperous and life/God has been good to him. And when he hears Esau is coming, he easily understands that his brother could be livid. I mean, Esau’s last words involving Jacob were likely ringing in his ears: I will kill him.

So Jacob prepares for escape by putting his family in a particular order…one that put his least favorites in harm’s way first (this would cause issues later, but that’s a digression here). And he paves the way with gifts.

Esau runs to meet him. This is an undignified act for a grown man in that culture. Instead of war and death, Esau is changed, too. He hugs the man who stole his birthright. Murder and revenge is the last thing on his mind here. He’s emotional about seeing his lost brother. He’s happy to meet his new family members.

He asks Jacob why he sent gifts. He’s not too concerned about the money.

Honestly. He’s changed. Esau, who never really cared about the covenant promises of God for the birthright, only the money, tells Jacob to keep the herds and flocks. He’s got plenty.

Granted, Esau’s transformation isn’t based in some encounter with God. All he wanted was money from his dad’s inheritance and now he is doing fine financially on his very own. Jacob lovingly urges him to take it because God has blessed him…to which he does. Instead of killing his brother, he now offers to protect him from invaders.

See, when we look at the big picture of their lives, we see growth. Jacob has gone from someone who deceives from someone who is forthright and striving for peace. Esau has moved from violence to protector…even if it isn’t necessarily because of his relationship with God.

And that’s what I’m thinking about today…

…the work of God over the long haul.

On my kitchen table are some letters my daughters wrote at a meeting our high school girls have at the beginning of every year. They write letters each year they’re in high school about where they are in life with goals and answering questions about where they are in life in all sorts of areas. They read the one they wrote last year at this meeting, too. If they stay involved for 4 years they all have quite a few laughs about the letter they wrote their freshman year.

They’re kind of embarrassed by those letters.

But I always tell them not to be. Honestly. They show how much they’ve grown in that period of time.

So, today, take some time and think about how you’ve grown over the years…and whether or not it’s because God is at work or because you’ve simply “got plenty.”

(Tomorrow’s Reading: Genesis 37-41)