Monday, September 20, 2010


When do we begin yearning for MORE? I think it begins when we‘re children – as was evidenced by my own little cherubs. We started the Christmas tradition of advent boxes when our girls were in first grade and pre-school. Each day, from December 1-24, our family: 1) read a selected Scripture, 2) shared a short Christmas story, and 3) opened one 1"x 2"x 3" box containing a small gift. The gifts might be coins or pieces of candy, sometimes even a colored "pill" – the outer shell of which dissolved in warm water to reveal a little foam animal. At first each gift was met with wide-eyed enthusiasm, but as the girls grew older they searched for MORE. By the time they reached fourth grade and first grade, our little angels were scowling at the coins and tossing the pills aside. They wanted MORE. So the next year, we made advent a scavenger hunt, filling the advent boxes with clues as to where bigger gifts were hidden in the house. A few years later, our girls outsmarted us and found the gifts before the advent boxes were opened. So once again, we had to find a way to deliver MORE. We began placing wrapped gifts under the tree and numbering them in correlation with the advent box number. We tucked into the advent boxes snappy little poems that gave clues about the gift in the corresponding wrapped gift. This advent strategy has proven most effective and is still in use today – when our girls are in their mid twenties! (The above photo displaying some of our little silly gifts still in use and the fact that our new son-in-law also finds this tradition fascinating!) However, now that our kids are grown, we've all discovered there's just something missing about Christmas. We remember how special Christmas was when children's laughter rang out when they opened their gifts. Wouldn't it be nice to have some grand-kids around? Hmmm, maybe even grown-ups want MORE….

Gen. 35:1 – "Then God said to Jacob, 'Go up to Bethel and settle there…'"
  • Jacob went to Bethel. He built an altar, Rebekah's nurse (Deborah) died and God reaffirmed both His covenant and new name to Israel. But instead of obeying God's command to settle in Bethel…
Gen. 35:16-20 – "Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, 'Don't be afraid, for you have another son.' As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel's tomb."
  • Rachel's death was the first of three tragedies that befell Jacob after he left Bethel. I had always imagined Rachel's death as God's punishment for Jacob's sin. But perhaps she died simply because Jacob didn't heed God's practical directive to SETTLE in Bethel because his pregnant wife was on the verge of childbirth. Sometimes God's commands are purely practical in nature. Many Old Testament Laws (Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) were given to establish sanitation and health practices for a nomadic nation. When the Lord lays a command on our hearts, oftentimes His motive is not to squelch our fun or prove His power – but rather to protect us from all sorts of potential harm.
Gen. 35:21-26 – "Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father's concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it. Jacob had twelve sons: The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel's maidservant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah's maidservant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram." (emphasis added)
  • Consider the grief each person felt at Rachel's loss. Jacob had loved Rachel since the moment he saw her, and imagine Bilhah's grief at the death of her lifelong mistress. Rather than making camp at Ephrath (Bethlehem), Jacob pressed on, moving his family during their grief. Consider this. Would Reuben have slept with Bilhah if Jacob's clan had settled in Bethel as God commanded? Of course, we cannot know the exact circumstances that drew Reuben and Bilhah together, and they are responsible before God for their choice to sin; however, did Jacob's disobedience play a part in their liaison? Maybe Bilhah was despondent at Rachel's death and Jacob, because of his own grief, was insensitive to the needs of others. Perhaps Reuben had simply meant to comfort Bilhah, or maybe as Jacob's firstborn, Reuben saw the opportunity to gain MORE than the firstborn's share and take his father's wife. Sometimes one decision sets into motion a series of dire consequences. Notice Scripture records nothing of Jacob's reaction to the news of Reuben's infidelity. Only a recounting of Jacob's children punctuates the scene, affirming that his family remains – hurting and broken as it was.
Gen. 35:27-29 – "Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him."
  • It seems Jacob's search for MORE finally ended when he arrived at his father's side. But his satisfaction was fleeting. Isaac died shortly after Jacob arrived and left him face-to-face with his brother, Esau. Jacob had twelve sons, three wives and the wealth of his household, but at what cost? His father was gone, his beloved Rachel dead, and the brother he had deceived repeatedly stared at him over their father's grave. What MORE could fill Jacob's heart now? Where did he turn to seek new hope for the rest of his days? The desire for MORE must be focused beyond the temporal things of this world.
Lord, I yearn and search for MORE, and then when I reach the goal – it often feels hollow or only satisfies for a short time. Teach me the contentment of obedience, the utter satisfaction of living in perfect harmony with Your desire for me. Teach me to be still when You ask me to settle and to step out when you call me to action.

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