Genesis 29:15-28

 

Reflecting and Doing

We will make a ‘stained-glass’ lantern to remind us that God has given us light to live by.

You will need:

  • A4 Black paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue sticks
  • Dark markers
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • LED tea light

 

 

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  1. Start by folding a 1 cm crease along on a short end of your A4 black paper. We will use this to join the lantern together at the end.
  2. Divide the rest of the paper into four equal sections with creases. (You don’t have to do four sections; you could make a three, five or six-section lantern if you prefer.)
  3. Unfold your paper and fold the two long edges together. You should now have eight large sections and a narrow strip at one side.
  4. With the paper folded in two, and the crease at the bottom, make another crease about 3cm from the open edges. This upper section will form the roof of your lantern, and the squarish sections below will be the sides.
  5. Use a pencil to draw designs in the four squarish lower sections and then cut them out through both layers. To make them easy to cut, you can make the designs reach down to the fold at the bottom. You could cut the letters of your name, an outline of you or symbols that suit you.
  6. When you have cut your designs, open out the paper and you should have eight cut-outs, which will be joined in the middle if you took your designs to the fold.
  7. Cut or tear tissue paper strips and lay them over the holes, gluing them at the edges. You can let the strips overlap, and you don’t have to worry about being neat because this will not be seen. Make sure you fill in all the gaps.
  8. Fold your black paper in half again, and you should find a beautiful stained-glass effect as the colours from the two layers of tissue paper blend and combine. If you want to add any details, such as faces or the middles of letters, you can do that with the marker pen.
  9. To form the roof, we need to make some angled creases where the sections join. Fold the first section on top of the second and make a crease in the top part, as shown. The exact angle does not matter, but try to make them all match. Bend the crease both ways.
  10. Repeat this for the fold between second and third, and the fold between third and fourth. Finally make matching creases at the ends.
  11. Now to assemble your lantern. Put glue on the narrow strip you folded right at the beginning, and glue it to the opposite end to form your lantern into a square tube.
  12. Now push inwards on the angled creases you made, and the upper section should fold inwards, giving you an angled roof. Put glue on the sections that are folded in and pinch them together.
  13. Place an LED tealight inside your lantern and see the light shine!

Pondering

Haven’t we read this before? A journey to find a wife from among his relatives? Finding a real smasher and falling head-over-heels?

Well, sort of. But this story is a bit different from Isaac and Rebecca. Let’s look at what’s changed.

The first thing I notice is that God is entirely absent from this story. That’s a huge change from chapter 24 when the servant asks God to pick out Rebecca for him. This time it is all Jacob’s doing. Neither Jacob nor Laban even reference God. Now it’s not a problem, wanting to marry the girl you fancy, (we don’t have to have divine guidance for every decision), but it’s worth noting the change.

Second thing, (and this one makes me chuckle), the trickster is tricked, the cheater is cheated, Mr There’s-a-sucker-born-every-minute is suckered himself. Perhaps we should have expected that from someone who is sharp as Jacob when it comes to making a bit of cash on the side.

Look back to chapter 24 when we first meet Laban. He’s Abraham’s great-nephew, Rebecca’s brother and head of his branch of the family. He’s pretty fast off the mark when he sees the expensive gifts that some dude is showering on his sister. By verse 53 there are i-phones and 4D TVs being given our right, left and centre, and Laban is none too keen to let his ridiculously rich guest depart. So wind forward a generation, and when Rebecca’s son arrives, again looking for a wife, perhaps Laban is keen to get another helping of goodies from his rich relations.

But it’s the third difference that I want to think about today. Isaac bagged himself one wife. Jacob ended up with two. And sisters at that. And later their maids too! It’s the kind of thing we would read about today under 3” red block letters on a supermarket tabloid. JACO BAGS A BUNCHA BEAUTIES!

Now before we throw up our hands and say, “Oh, for shame!”, let’s just remember that our way of doing things is not the only way there ever has been, nor ever shall be. Just as we look back on the habits of our forebears and say “Eeeeww! Wiping their bums with a sponge on a stick – Gross!”, so will our – aftbears? Is that what we’d call them? – look back at us and squeal “Eeeeww! Wiping their bums with a piece of paper in their hand – Gross!” It’s all a matter of perspective.

God’s perspective is the one that matters, not ours.

God is not a 21st century white European-American. He’s not a Bronze Age Eastern-Mediterranean Hebrew either. Our ethical standards are not identical with God’s. The ethical standards of the people in the Bible are not God’s either. Read that last sentence again because it is important.

Now hopefully, if we are followers of God, then we’d like to think that we model our morality on that of our Lord, and presumably Moses, David et al. thought the same. But note which way round it is. Our version of right and wrong is based on what we perceive God’s version to be, filtered through the inevitable lens of our culture and sub-culture. God does not base his version of right and wrong on what we think it should be. (And that’s just as well because through the centuries God’s children have had some wildly differing ideas.)

God does not have to share our principles, and he does not have to share the ones we read of in the Bible. Unless it is Jesus doing something, we cannot take a passage from the Bible and say, ”So-and-so did such-and-such in the Bible, so that means I should do it too.”  Nope. Na-hah. No way.

There are plenty of places in the Bible where I read a passage and think “How could God approve of that!” And I don’t just mean the war stuff in the Old Testament. What about the parable of the vineyard workers ? Was it fair to pay the lazy layabouts the same as the hard-working, faithful labourers? No. Not at all. Does that matter? No. Not at all.

Who says God has to be fair according to our measure? In fact, I’m very glad the God is not fair, because I certainly don’t want to get what I deserve – I’ll grab grace with both hands, thank you very much! God does not have to conform to our 21st century sensibilities any more than he had to conform to 1st century sensibilities or will have to conform to 40th century sensibilities (should we still be around then).

How then can we know what is right and wrong? If my culture’s rules are not eternal, what about the Bible? Surely, I can just take the morality I find in the Bible and apply that. It is inspired after all. The trouble with that is, which morality? In the Old Testament, polygamy is not just condoned, but instructed in some cases (See Deut 25), while The New Testament letters, such as 1 Tim 3, seem to take an opposite view. Has God changed his mind?

No, I don’t think that God has changed his mind. I don’t think that he told people to do things that were wrong but then later started enforcing rules that he’d not mentioned earlier. I don’t think that God changes, but I’m certain that we do.

The story of the Bible is the story of people gradually coming to know the Living God. Some knew him better than others – Moses, David, Samuel on the one hand; Jacob, King Saul, Judas on the other. I figure it’s a bit like Strictly Come Dancing. In the first few rounds the judges are not expecting much because they know the contestants are only just beginning, and they will praise an attempt at a ‘Fleckerl’ no matter how inexpertly executed.

However, come the final they will be expecting much more, because they know that much more is possible. And I think God is like that. He knows who we are and what we know, and judges us accordingly. This is not a standardised test like a GCSE, where everyone, from a PhD nuclear physicist to a child learning her ABCs, has to sit the same test. Instead the child has to trace over some letters and the physicist has to explain quantum entanglement. Sometimes, in order to be fair, we have to be unfair.

We are judged according to the light we have. Jesus did not hold the Roman centurion in Luke 7 to the same standard of behaviour as the rich young ruler of Luke 18. The Centurion would have had to worship the Roman emperor as a god, but there is no record of Jesus rebuking him for this. He expected more from the rich young ruler because he had more light. As Paul said in Romans 2:12 “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.”

Jesus illustrated the same principle with his parable of the talents in Matt 25. It’s interesting that the homographs of talent = 60Kg or talent = ability, both work in this parable. We are back in to the world of Laban and Jacob – the wheeler-dealer with his five bars of gold, the ordinary guy with two, and the Baldrick of the bunch with one.

The servant who gained a large fortune received exactly the same praise as the servant who gained a little, despite having made so much more money. They were assessed on different scales because of their different abilities. The only one criticised was the one who had failed to live up to the little light that he had.

Responding

Let us thank God that we are judged
according to what we have, not what we have not,
according to what we can, not what we cannot,
according to what we know, not what we know not.
But let that be for us a spur as well as a balm.

Reading

Genesis 29:15-28 New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised

Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?’ Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, ‘I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.’ Laban said, ‘It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.’ So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, ‘Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.’ So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, ‘What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?’ Laban said, ‘This is not done in our country—giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me for another seven years.’ Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised (NRSVA)

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Credits

Guido Cagnacci – Jacob between Leah and Rachel. ca. 1655


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