True Famine {gn43}

Photo © Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

Photo © Unsplash/Patrick Hendry

There was no food to be found
growing in the land
but there was
a bumper crop of fear.

Jacob was afraid
he was going to starve to death
or lose Benjamin
trying not to.

Jacob's sons were afraid
of being overpowered
and forced into slavery
     in other words
     exactly what
     they had done
     to Joseph.

Fear, fear everywhere
as if there was
no God of our fathers
no Yahweh-Elohim
no Jehovah-Jireh.

What would it have mattered
if Israel had no shortage of food
when there was such a
famine of faith?


The Blessed Burden {gn36}

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Photo © Unsplash/Jenn Evelyn-Ann

Esau is known as the one
who sold his birthright
and forfeited his blessing—
not the one "favored" by God,
not the one destined to be in that family tree,
not one of the "children of promise."

As between him and his brother Jacob,
Esau was not the "blessed" one,
but have you ever read a more blessed genealogy
in the entire Bible?

No barren women,
no tragedies,
no hardships,
no scandals,
no poverty—in fact, the opposite—
so much wealth the family had to move to a larger land.

By contrast, those "blessed" of God
met frequent hardship and troubles—
their genealogies littered with innumerable obstacles:
barrenness, injustice, illness, death.

It was after, after!  Jacob decided to
fulfill his vow to God
commit his life to the Lord and
return to the sacred place of his Creator
that his family was besieged by
sickness and unexpected death—
burying, in rapid succession,
first Deborah, then Rachel, then Isaac.

Is burden a blessing?
Is blessing a burden?

How is it they stroll together so comfortably
hand in hand
like lovers on a Sunday afternoon
in the park?

when What If comes too late {gn34}

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

Photo © Unsplash/Claudia Soraya

"An eye for an eye" doesn't normally smack of grace,
but it would have been exceedingly merciful
compared to the revenge exacted by Dinah's brothers:
an entire community destroyed
because one person was brutally assaulted.

Some wonder
why they didn't choose
a different response—
something non-violent,
something conciliatory.
I wonder why they had to choose at all.

What was Jacob doing in Shechem?

He promised Esau a rendezvous in Seir;
instead, he traveled in the opposite direction.
He promised God an altar and a tithe at Bethel;
instead, he built that altar in a heathen place.

It's so easy to only ask
What If
when the Big Tragedy hits.

What if Jacob had kept his word?
What if he'd taken his family in the opposite direction?
What if he hadn't built his house in a dangerous and foreign land?

What if Genesis 34 tragedies
are always preceded by
Genesis 33 choices?

It's easy to say
Dinah shouldn't have been raped
Dinah's brothers shouldn't have retaliated
but I say
Dinah shouldn't have been there in the first place.


Change of Heart {gn33:4}

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Photo © Robert T. Garrett

Esau, Esau,
what happened to you?
The last time we heard from you,
you were muttering under your breath
about killing your brother,
having been "cheated"
(so you claimed)
out of your "blessing."

How is it, then,
that you garnered
the very best blessing of all?

When did you surrender to the
Transformer of Hearts?

Esau, Esau,
you may not have received the birthright,
but you did not escape the blessing
of a contented heart
at peace with What Is in the world.


Struggle {gn32:24-32}

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Photo © Unsplash/Jason Strull

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to hold tightly
refuse to let go
and demand blessings?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to live each day
locked up in Your embrace
engaged so deeply
that it changes my identity?

Could I ask for anything more
than to struggle
with You—
to be breathed on by Your glory
to be blessed by Your presence
and to limp away from Your mighty touch?

O Sovereign God,
may our encounters
forever change the way I walk.


Minimum Wage {gn31:4-9}

Photo © Unsplash/Rod Long

Photo © Unsplash/Rod Long

Now Jacob undoubtedly was a wise guy
who'd certainly crafted a few clever crimes,
yet Laban still planned to leave him high and dry,
proceeding to alter his earnings ten times.

But there was a Witness who saw all these things,
and He had a masterful plan up his sleeve—
to stealthily, secretly pull a few strings
and give Jacob more wealth than he could believe.

Poor Laban was waging an ill-fated war:
Whatever he gained, Jacob always had more.


A Nove Otto on Jealousy {gn30}

Photo © Unsplash/Will O

Photo © Unsplash/Will O

Jacob wanted Rachel to wed.
Laban gave him Leah instead—
Makings of a Gordian Knot.

Of the two, Leah's working womb
Had Rachel spending days in gloom,
Though she had the love Leah sought.

We don't esteem our position,
Chained, as we are, by ambition:
We always want what we ain't got.


*Nove Otto: A poem with nine lines, eight syllables per line, and a rhyming scheme of aacbbcddc.

Jacob's If-fy Reply {gn28:20}

Photo © Unsplash/Yoann Boyer

Photo © Unsplash/Yoann Boyer

God said
I am your God, and I am with you.

Jacob replied
If God will be with me, then he will be my God.

This, this!
is the human problem—

Always adding doubt to God's steadfast recipes.
Always placing conditions on God's unconditional offers.
Always suggesting a coalitional approach to God's unilateral operations.


The Fed-Up Consumer {gn27:36}


Esau walked into
Jacob's restaurant
and ordered the special—
rustic lentil stew and bread.

The bill came before the meal:
Esau's birthright
guaranteed with an oath.

Esau was pleased, or so it seemed.
He slurped up every morsel without complaint—
no fly in the stew,
no hair on the plate,
no "this is too cold"
or "that needs more salt."

Some time later,
the hunger pangs he foolishly assuaged
became pangs of remorse he couldn't stomach.

He regretted the cost
of that hasty meal
and published a nasty (and untrue) review:
"The chef in that joint stole my dough with his bread!"


God roots for the underdog.

God roots for the underdog.


So, we come to the story of Jacob blessing the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim. And as he goes to bless the grandkids, Joseph gets upset because his right hand (apparently the hand of "greatest blessings") is on the wrong boy’s head. He is getting ready to give Ephraim (the younger and, consequently, the lesser) the better blessing.

God is like no other.

God is like no other.


Perhaps a short one, but a good one, for today. There is no other god like God. Of course, the further you read the Scripture, the more declarations you find to that effect. But this is something we can learn about God without reading the declarations. Genesis 46 is a good example. First, God calls to Jacob in the night, telling him not to be afraid to go down to Egypt. God renews His promise to make Jacob (Israel) into a great nation there.

God gives tears for fears.

God gives tears for fears.


One of the things this chapter does so well is draw a big distinction between the way our mind works and the way God’s mind works. I see an awful lot of God in Joseph, particularly in this point in the story. He knows now that his older brothers and father are still alive. He’s not so sure about his younger brother. Certainly, he hasn’t forgotten about being sold into slavery. Yet, Joseph never harbors any ill will toward his brothers for what they have done to him. He treats them kindly, though he must wonder if they have tried to get rid of Benjamin (Rachel’s other child) as they had gotten rid of him.

God fulfills promises creatively.

God fulfills promises creatively.


The land of Canaan had been promised to Jacob and the future Israelites. It was the Promised Land, the land that God planned to give to the descendants of Abraham. However, the rivalry between Jacob and Esau could have put a wrench in things. Instead of trusting God to fulfill His promises in His own time, Jacob devised a way to get what he thought was rightfully his (the birthright and his father’s blessing). Esau was initially jealous and angry and even sought to kill his brother.

God's blessings are constant in changing situations.

God's blessings are constant in changing situations.


In this chapter, Jacob complains that Laban has changed his wages ten times. "However," Jacob said, "God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, 'The speckled ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, 'The streaked ones will be your wages,' then all the flocks bore streaked young." (vs 7-8)

God blesses without condition.

God blesses without condition.


There is something so interesting in this chapter, and it is the comparison between God’s promises and our promises.

As Jacob is journeying to find a wife, God renews His promise to make a great nation from Jacob’s descendants. He says, "I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying.