Genesis 28 ~ Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him, and charged him, ‘You shall not marry one of the Canaanite women. Go at once to Paddan-aram to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father; and take as wife from there one of the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and numerous, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give to you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your offspring with you, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien—land that God gave to Abraham.’ Thus Isaac sent Jacob away; and he went to Paddan-aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, Jacob’s and Esau’s mother...
Jacob is on his way back to his grandfather Abraham's homeland. Currently they're living as aliens in the land that God swore to give to Abraham and his descendants. I wonder what life has been like for Isaac and then for Jacob - having arrived at the promised land but the promise has not yet been fulfilled. There's something about Jacob having to leave the promised land in order to find a worthy wife that won't let me go on.
It's the promised land, right? But the inhabitants of the promised land are not worthy to mingle with. How long had Isaac had to live in isolation like this? And how did they raise their children in isolation like this? Jacob is a product of isolationism. Clear boundaries of where to play. Clear guidelines for learning. Clear rules for dinnertime. Clear expectations for taking a wife.
It's not surprising then that Jacob would be surprised to find the presence of God somewhere he wasn't looking for it. He was after all, not with his family, not in their sacred home, not where he had always found God or experienced God. He was in a new place - a place where "others" reside. He and his family were strangers and they worshiped a strange God. How then was God in this other place?
I was raised Baptist and Pentecostal. While a college student, I went looking for a church to call my own and I thought I would try something very different - an historic downtown Methodist church. The architecture was stunning, and vast with its grew stone walls and high peeked ceilings. I climbed the stairs to the balcony where I could have a bird's eye view, and maybe could hide lest someone find out I was an imposter, a stranger to this foreign land of Methodism. I saw people finding their seats, dressed impeccably. I saw a big Bible on the communion table and I saw a kneeling rail around the altar.
Within moments, I could sense the presence of God in this place. I was stunned by it. How is God already here? We had not sung a song. We had not prayed a prayer. No one had said "Good morning" yet. We had not begun worship and yet God was clearly in this place.
It seems so silly to me now but at the time I was so surprised to find a familiar God in a strange place.
Search this blog for a specific text or story:
I am grateful for