A couple of things jumped out at me when I read this story. First, was all of the deception going on. Jacob deceiving his brother and father. Laban deceiving Jacob. Laban and Jacob deceiving each other.
The other thing was the favoritism. Rebekah loved Jacob. Isaac loved Esau. Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, and later on in the story, loved Rachel's children more than his other children.
I started writing the poem about a week ago — even before my last blog was published. I had only written versions of the third and fourth (current) verses and didn't know my next move. The third line of each verse contained an internal rhyme and that was how I thought it was going to be.
I decided that the poem needed a little introduction before jumping into the story portion so I came up with the first two verses. As I proceeded, it got harder and harder to keep the third line of each verse with that internal rhyming scheme.
After working on it all weekend and not nearing the finish line, finally late Sunday night I had the epiphany that I didn't need to keep up with that scheme. How much easier it would be to write something where only the 2nd and 4th lines rhymed! In short order I was able to rewrite much of it, filling in several gaps, and essentially wrapping it up.
But, in the end I still left some of the "3rd line internal rhymes" in there just because I hated to lose them. So, this might be the first poem I've ever written that didn't keep within a fairly-defined structure throughout.
Why was Jacob such a deceiver? Was it just for personal gain? Or, did his mother tell him what God told her concerning his future? I started to wonder if Jacob (as well as Esau) knew of God's covenants with Abraham and Isaac. Was he just trying to move things along — helping God out?
I wonder if Isaac knew about his own miraculous birth and God's promise to his father concerning his descendants being more numerous than the stars. Likewise, would Isaac's children know all of that history plus newer stuff, like the story of Abraham nearly sacrificing their father on an altar?
Jacob, the Deceiver
There's Jacob, son of Isaac,
whose twin is on the run;
his time is spent within the tent
for he's his mother's son.
Yet, Esau is the eldest,
and Isaac loves him so;
he loves to taste the game he's chased
and hunted with his bow.
But, Jacob swindled Esau —
as brothers sometimes do;
a weakened, famished Esau sold
his birthright for some stew.
When Jacob tricked his father —
his mother did the rest:
with hairy arms and Esau's clothes,
the younger son was blessed.
Escaping to his uncle's,
where Laban changed his life:
exchanging Rachel, Jacob's love,
for Leah as his wife.
For years thereafter Jacob
and Laban vied for flocks:
they schemed for goats and sheep with coats
with speckles, streaks and spots.
Once Jacob, son of Isaac,
the son of Abraham,
thought he could help God's covenant
by lending God a hand.
Then Jacob, the Deceiver,
met God, who changed his name:
he strove against both God and men
and Israel overcame.
Then the man said, Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.
So, my journey has brought me to the story of Abraham and Isaac. And, oh, what a story it is!
Concerning stories in the Bible, this is one of the biggies. Most every church-attending kid knows how Abraham took his son up a mountain as an offering but was saved by an angel and a lamb.
And that's just about where I was at. After years attending a Christian school, a lifetime of church, and a few years at Christian college — I had the basics.
That is not a condemnation of my educators, but rather my intake. So, this slower, more intentional walk through the Bible is opening up some interesting things for me.
The story begins with God telling Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah — a name that is only mentioned twice in the entirety of the Bible.
Then God said, ‘Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac – and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain that I will show you.’
Then Solomon began to build the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David. It was on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite, the place provided by David.
2 Chronicles 3:1
Many commentators say that Isaac was a type of Christ. A type is a symbol of something in the future, as an Old Testament event serving as a prefiguration of a New Testament event.
And then there were the parallels between Isaac and Christ (there are MANY more than are listed here):
I wrote the first verse of this poem and sat on it for a day or so — not knowing where it was going. It was untitled at first and I was really at a loss as to its direction. I sat down at my computer around 10p one night and started banging away until it was essentially done around 1a. (When I tell people that I feel I am using God's gift with my writing, it isn't like I sit down and simply take dictation.)
One of the problems (I thought I had) was Abraham's 3-syllable name. If he had still been named "Abram", then the poem might have taken a totally different direction. I had similar quandaries when writing my poems concerning Sim-e-on and Jon-a-than. A 3-syllabled name just throws my timing off.
Halfway through writing this, I finally realized the title of the poem was right there in verse 14, as well as what I needed for the final stanza. And suddenly, the poem was done. And the way the final line aligns with the first verse makes it seem like the whole thing was planned.
But it wasn't.
At least, not on my part.
The Lord will Provide
Father, tell me, where's the lamb?
The flame and wood have been supplied.
Issac, answered Abraham,
the lamb will God himself provide.
Abba! Father! Take this cup,
I'm begging, as your only son;
but if I must — I lift it up,
not my will but your will be done.
Abraham! an angel called,
Stop, Abraham! Release your knife!
For now I know you fear your God
by sparing not your own son's life.
My God, My God, in grief he cries,
Why have you forsaken me?
It is finished! Jesus dies:
the Lamb of God on Calvary.
Isaac left with Abraham,
returning down the mountainside;
behind them lay the smoking ram
the Lord had chosen to provide.
So Abraham called that place The Lord Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the Lord it will be provided.”
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.
Then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.
From the outset, this may not seem like much for us as Christians. But it really is. The children of Israel could not speak directly to God to have their sins forgiven. Rather, several times every year, they brought their sacrifices and offerings to the high priests for them to be sacrificed. And, even then, their sins were not forgiven. Redemption would only come through Jesus Christ many years later.
With the death and resurrection of Jesus and the introduction of the New Covenant, we have been empowered and have the freedom to do so many more things than did the people living under the Old Covenant of Moses. But do we take full advantage of these things?
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
Again, this poem and sermonette were written nearly 20 years ago; it is the 19th in the Yahweh series with just 3 to go. I'm eager to wrap up this series so will be sharing the rest of them fairly quickly. The final one might be the best of the bunch.
Kinda funny that I was "preaching" about the end of the Jewish daily sacrifices two decades ago and I'm still at it — as recent as last year's Christmas poem, Agnus Dei, as well as the one written last Easter, The Final Sacrifice.
God of Freedom
I am the God of freedom —
Abolishing old rules:
No longer must you back your trust
With blood of goats and bulls.
The saving blood of Jesus
Has, once for all, been shed.
One sacrifice that paid the price
For all the sins ahead.
But, offer Me your praises,
Do good things, as you should;
And share, indeed, with those in need —
Such sacrifice is good.
I am the God of freedom —
Where liberty begins;
No longer shall high priests use fowl
And beasts to purge your sins.
Yet, could they ever purge them?
For sin — man can’t erase.
Throughout the year, they met Me here
Within this holy place.
But, you can meet Me daily
As they could not before.
When you confess your sinfulness,
I’ll keep your sin no more.
I'm introducing a new series called, Journey thru the Bible. It will be based on, well, my personal journey through the Bible. I've yet to get through it cover-to-cover without falling by the wayside. So, this is the year! And, this new series will (hopefully) keep me on the straight and narrow.
Going through Genesis (AGAIN!) I was reminded of how action-packed the first few chapters really are. And the poem highlights three of the main stories — as I found them sprinkled with a murder and a bunch of genealogy (more on that later).
As I ride this wave of sudden creativity (this is the fifth new poem from my last six blog posts — before that, I last wrote one in May), I feel more attuned to what I am reading and more open to God's leading.
I'd feel a little embarrassed if this was the only poem I'd ever written. It was written with a very simple structure and seems somewhat child-like. No punctuation. Small words. But this is what popped into my head after reading the first few chapters of Genesis — and I went with it. Most of the first two verses were written in a few minutes.
Along with my Bible reading, I'm also reading another book: Learn the Bible in 24 Hours by Chuck Missler. He talks about the genealogy from Adam to Noah in this way:
Adam had a son named Seth, Seth had a son named Enoch, and so on. The problem with Genesis 5 is that these proper names are not translated for the reader from their Hebrew meanings, so you have to unravel these by digging into the meaning of the Hebrew roots that make up the names.
We now can look at the genealogy with more insight. The sequence—Adam—Seth—Enosh—Kenan—Mahalaleel—Jared—Enoch—Methusaleh—Lamech—Noah—reads, in English, “Man [is] appointed mortal sorrow; [but] the blessed God shall come down teaching [that His] death shall bring [the] despairing rest.”
There are several profound lessons here. First, here is a summary of the New Testament Gospel tucked away in a genealogy in the Torah. This demonstrates something we will encounter throughout all the Scripture: every detail is there by design. It also tells us that God’s plan of redemption was not a knee-jerk reaction to chapter 3. God had ordained it before the foundation of the world.
Missler, Chuck. Learn the Bible in 24 Hours (pp. 24-25). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition. Emphasis mine.
Well, that was interesting.
Today is Tuesday, and I would normally post something this coming weekend. But, yesterday I made the final changes to the poem and thought, Why wait for the weekend? I've been posting every two weeks for a year on a self-imposed deadline just to keep things fresh, but I'll step back from that and let inspiration determine the schedule for a while.
In the beginning
I am the creator
it is what I do
I made earth and heaven
right out of the blue
the birds and the bees and
the animals too
the fish in the seas then
I finally made you
I am the destroyer
it is what I do
I drowned all the world
except for a few
the birds and the beasts have
been saved two by two
my handful of friends on
a big floating zoo
I am the confuser
it is what I do
confounding your language
to something brand new
your city is finished
your tower is through
now settle the earth like
I've wanted you to
It is nearly midnight as I begin writing this and I am still changing some of the words to the poem. I "finished" it earlier this week and words — even, whole lines — have been changed nearly every time that it has been subsequently re-read.
I always have such high hopes each new year. Last year, I discovered Daily Audio Bible and I thought, This is great! I'll get on the treadmill every morning and listen to the Bible being read to me. Then came the mornings when I overslept, or needed to go in to work early, or the recordings weren't ready on the app, or whatever else came along. And I got behinder and behinder and finally quit — before Easter. NOTE: Being a night-owl is NOT conducive to being an early-bird!
Yes, I realize that behinder may not be a word — yet. Lewis Carroll made up words all the time! I've caught myself saying (aloud!) noon-thirty instead of 12:30.
So, this is a short blog. No sermonette. No soapbox. Just a poem that I was blessed to write — the third one in December! I haven't been this productive in a long time. But, I'll be happy to ride this wave of creativity into next year and see what the Lord has in store for me.
Turn the Page
Our calendars have reached the end,
and, soon, we'll turn the page;
a new year will begin again —
time doesn't stop or age.
We may have tried to read each day
God's Word without a miss;
but found that we were — back in May —
still in Leviticus!
We may regret those pounds not lost,
or books we never read;
or grieve that bridge we may have crossed
with words we may have said.
And we may feel we can't go on
without a loved one there;
whose shoulder, smile or laugh are gone —
yet present everywhere.
But next year, by the grace of God,
we all can make amends
by tearing down our proud facade
erected for our friends;
forgive the slights of others just
as Christ forgives our own;
lay down our all and wholly trust
on Jesus' name — alone.
You need not wait for New Year's Eve
to turn the page anew;
if you don't ask, you won't receive
the things God has for you.
So, may the joy of Christ be in
your life as next year starts;
and may his love and peace begin
to mend your broken hearts.
A week or so ago, I wondered what I would blog about this week. After all, I had already shared this year's Christmas poem in my last blog. I settled on recycling one of my favorite Christmas poems from a dozen years ago; but, for whatever reason, decided to read the Christmas story from the second chapter of Luke once more.
Let's see, the census . . . Jesus . . . swaddling . . . shepherds . . . Mary treasures the events in her heart. Check. This is where I would typically stop reading. Again, for whatever reason, I read a little further and reconnected with . . . the story of Simeon.
I went to bed struggling with an opening line. I wasn't happy that Simeon had a 3-syllable name!
I was thinking on it at work the next day (Friday) and not getting anywhere with it when all of the sudden something clicked at noon. By the time I hit the microwave in the lunch room I had the first two lines. By the time I got back to my desk I had another two lines.
By the time lunch was over I had written the first and third stanzas. My initial idea was to have those two verses of questions/answers back-to-back and then have two more verses containing Simeon's words. I couldn't wait to get some quiet time to finish it off! I thought, this will be done tonight!
Sadly, I had four more hours of work. Beyond that, my wife and I were in the midst of a little bathroom remodel (wallpaper removal/painting) with a deadline of finishing up by Sunday night. So, I had that to look forward to after work. Ugh!
FINALLY, late Friday night I returned my attention to Simeon once more.
When I got back to writing (and reading), I realized that Simeon really had two different "songs" — one for God and the other for Mary. So, it wouldn't work to have them back-to-back without causing some confusion. Rearranging the verses was another big "click".
I really thought it would have been finished Friday night, and went to bed a little disappointed that it wasn't. All the lines were there, but it had issues. Saturday morning, after a few tweaks, I was surprised that it was "finished". I say "finished" because I struggled until Tuesday night before it was really done.
On the weekend, in between the patching and painting, I realized a potential issue. You see, I had copied the NIV version of the story as my main guideline but had consulted other versions as well and thought everything was fine. But, I finally noticed that the NIV was different from most of the other versions!
As I see it, there are four main points to Simeon's words to Mary, and I wrote my poem around them in that order: 1-2-3-4. But, I found that most other versions had them written as 1-2-4-3. So I rewrote most of the last verse in order to comply with the majority. But as I reread them over and over (and over), I realized that the two lines concerning "Mary's pierced soul" was much better as the final two lines rather than having them elsewhere.
As a reminder, this is Simeon's story:
Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
For my eyes have seen your salvation,
which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.
The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.
Luke 2:25-35 [NIV]
I contemplated saving this poem until next year and presenting it as my 2019 Christmas poem. But, I don't have the "pass" that Simeon had — a promise from God that I won't die before a certain event in my life. Both of these last two Christmas poems (almost) wrote themselves and are among the fastest that I've ever written; so if God wanted to bless me (and hopefully, you) with two Christmas poems for 2018, then who am I to hold one back?
The Song of Simeon
Simeon, where have you been?
I've been to the temple to pray.
Simeon, what have you seen?
I've seen the Messiah today.
Simeon, how did you know?
The Spirit of God told me so.
O Sovereign Lord, as you have vowed,
now let me rest in peace and grace.
For all my years that you've allowed
to finally see the Savior's face:
whose light reveals the world's needs;
whose glory is what Israel bleeds.
Simeon, tell us again.
A child was brought to be blessed.
Simeon, what happened then?
I cradled the boy to my chest.
Simeon, what did you say?
I blessed them and sent them away.
This child will cause the fall and rise
of many people, great and small;
a sign rebuffed and much despised,
with many hearts revealed for all.
But, Mary, as his mother — you
will have your very soul pierced through.
A month or so ago was the first time I ever heard of the lambs of Bethlehem. Apparently, the lambs that were sacrificed on a daily basis in Jerusalem were born and raised in Bethlehem. Consider the following excerpts:
Migdal Eder, the Tower of the Flock, was the place where lambs destined for the Temple were born and raised. Every firstborn male lamb from the area around Bethlehem was considered holy, set aside for sacrifice in Jerusalem.
Although obscure and often overlooked, Micah [Micah 4:8] disclosed that the Messiah, who embodied the hope of the Kingdom of Israel, "was to be revealed from Migdal Eder - 'the Tower of the Flock'." Close by where the shepherds were camped that night, in the northern part of Bethlehem on the road to Jerusalem (less than an hour's journey by foot), was the tower known as Migdal Eder, the "watch-tower of the flock." This was the station where shepherds brought their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple. For animals found as far from Jerusalem to the north of Bethlehem and within that circuit on every side, the males were offered as burnt-offerings, the females as peace-offerings.
Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place two lambs in the double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as "the manger" and "wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling clothes," preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves "until they had calmed down" so they could be inspected for the quality of being "without spot or blemish"
The second article goes on to explain that the language in Luke 2 that says "in a manger" should have been translated "in the manger". And further: When the angelic announcement came, they knew exactly where to go, as Luke 2 indicates, for the sign of the manger could only mean the manger at the base of the Tower of the Flock.
Well, after digesting this information, I thought this year's Christmas poem would sort of head in this general direction.
This poem started off being entitled, The Christmas Lamb. Then I changed it to The Lamb of God — before I remembered that I had already written another poem by that name. The image used in this blog is a painting, called Agnus Dei — Latin for Lamb of God.
Last Easter I wrote a poem, The Final Sacrifice, based on the teachings of Ray Vander Laan when he came to town. It was a little shorter than I had intended it to be and I felt that it had missed the mark of what I really wanted to say.
With this Christmas poem, I feel that I came a little closer — but still may have missed it. I'm already thinking of next Easter's poem, possibly calling it, Lamb Selection Day, that will hopefully get to the parallels of Jesus as the Lamb of God.
O Bethlehem, of olden days,
where temple lambs were born and raised;
could these unblemished sheep have grazed
in fields where David played?
Where shepherds, with their pastured flocks,
try keeping them from jutting rocks;
protecting them from wolves and hawks —
or bear like David slayed.
Once born, selected from the rest —
whose coats and features were the best;
the lambs were swaddled tightly, lest
an injury caused scars.
These year-old lambs from Bethlehem
on altars in Jerusalem;
the blood of every one of them
was spilled instead of ours.
Behold, God's plan was unconcealed
to awe-struck shepherds in the field:
the promised Lamb of God revealed
and in the manger lay.
This swaddled babe was born divine —
for he'd change water into wine
and raise the dead and heal the blind
and save the world one day.
Those sacrificial laws are done!
The final sacrifice has come;
the Lamb of God — his only son
was born for you and I.
From Nazareth to Galilee,
from manger to Gethsemane,
from Bethlehem to Calvary —
this Lamb was born to die.