Psalm 18:25-29; Genesis 30:25-31:21; Matthew 11:11-24

Great to hear from you, Dennis.  I get exhausted just thinking about being in New York City, much less navigating via the subways.  You guys are the adventurous ones!  The streets are wet here this morning following what can only be described as a heavy mist.  But wet enough to slow down the commute, which I am so glad not to be a part of…  I think it’s snowing in the Sierras, though, which is where we need the water the most.

 Psalm 18:25-29  David continues his description of what I’m tempted to call a “quid pro quo relationship” with God.  If I’m good, God will be good back to me: “And the Lord requited me for my merit,/ for my cleanness of hands in His eyes,” (v25)  and “With the faithful You deal faithfully,…with the pure one you deal purely.” (v26, 27).

The converse is also true: “”with the perverse man, [You] deal in twists.”  I take the “dealing in twists” to mean that if we deal with others in a convoluted fashion with a malevolent intent in mind, God will do the same to us, usually (to mix metaphors) hoisting us on our own petard.  Once again, it’s easy to see where the Pharisees were coming from when Jesus turns all of this “quid-pro-quoness” of our relationship to God inside out and upside down.

The verse that stands out to me, though, is “For You light up my lamp, O Lord,/ my God illumines my darkness.”  This not only finds its detailed fulfillment in Psalm 119, but it also reads directly forward to Jesus making the point that we, too, can be lights to the world if we allow the Holy Spirit to “light up our lamps.”

Genesis 30:25-31:21  Now that Joseph is born and Jacob’s family, shall we say, complete, he seeks permission from Laban to move on to his own land.  After a bit of hesitation, Laban agrees and offers to pay Jacob his wages.  Ever the bargainer, Jacob replies, “You need give me nothing,” (30:29), making it sound as if he desires nothing, which is what it seems like when he asks only for the speckled sheep and goats from Laban’s herds.  Since those are a minority of the flocks, Laban can hardly turn down such a good deal.  Then, in what is a surprisingly detailed description of animal breeding, clever Jacob ends up with the strongest herds by not breeding the weak ones. and leaving those for hapless Laban: “…and so the feeble ones went to Laban and the vigorous ones to Jacob.” (30:42)  I have to say that this is where David’s statement that “with the perverse man, [You] deal in twists.” does not seem to apply…  At this point, Jacob’s cunning seems to be succeeding nicely.

In the process, Jacob, not surprisingly, antagonizes Laban and his sons, who are outraged that Jacob has wound up with the prime livestock. After conferring with Rachel and Leah out in the fields, far from earshot of Laban or his sons, Jacob hatches the plot to escape Laban’s grasp during a sheep-shearing exercise, which they do.  Once again, Jacob, having deceived someone, ” fled, he and all that was his,…and he set his face toward the high country of Gilead.” (31:22) Laban pursues and catches up with Jacob.  But Laban is warned in an interventional dream, “Watch yourself, lest you speak to Jacob either good or evil.” (31:24).  Reminds me of another interventional dream: the warning to Joseph not to divorce Mary.

Given Jacob’s general duplicity and overly-clever behavior, we could wonder why Laban didn’t just take Jacob out. There certainly seems to be some justification.  But God had made a promise to Jacob’s grandfather and his father–and to Jacob. Jacob was clearly working under God’s protection and Laban’s protestation, “Oh, you have played the fool!” (31:29) notwithstanding, God has bigger plans for Jacob than for Laban.  Such are the often inexplicable ways of God, and why it’s pointless to assume God’s logic operates the same way as our logic.


Matthew 11:11-24  Jesus’ continues his explanation of John the Baptist’s position vis a vis his own.  John is the messenger of which “all the prophets and the law prophesied…he is Elijah who is to come.” (11:13-14).  But Jesus knows that logic and consistency is not people’s strong suit, and that regardless of his explanation, they will simply not “get it.” Jesus points out our inconsistency.  John abstains from food and drink and people accuse him of being demon-possessed; Jesus eats and drinks and people accuse him of being “a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” (11:18b).  Here, in a nutshell, is our inconstancy and, worse, our ability to always take the darkest possible interpretation of another’s words.

This is the same negative energy that motivates modern political “discourse,” such as the talking heads on cable TV always accusing their opponents of the worst possible intentions.  But not just politicians; it’s me, too–and my ability to take words and polarize them against someone else, failing so often to just listen and give the other person the benefit of the doubt. Jesus is right, as always: “wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (11:18)  We talk a good game; we accuse others of their faults, but in the end, it is our actions that reveal our wisdom–or lack thereof.

I’m praying for energy, safety and warmth for you, Dennis, as you embark on your insanely full schedule. You are resting always in God’s peace–even when you’re running form place to place and having to be nice to all those people!