Genesis 33

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Genesis 33

1 And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. And when Esau lifted up his eyes and saw the women and children, he said, “Who are these with you?” Jacob said, “The children whom God has graciously given your servant.” Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down. Esau said, “What do you mean by all this company that I met?” Jacob answered, “To find favor in the sight of my lord.” But Esau said, “I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.” 10 Jacob said, “No, please, if I have found favor in your sight, then accept my present from my hand. For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me. 11 Please accept my blessing that is brought to you, because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough.” Thus he urged him, and he took it. 12 Then Esau said, “Let us journey on our way, and I will go ahead of you.”13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are frail, and that the nursing flocks and herds are a care to me. If they are driven hard for one day, all the flocks will die. 14 Let my lord pass on ahead of his servant, and I will lead on slowly, at the pace of the livestock that are ahead of me and at the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.” 15 So Esau said, “Let me leave with you some of the people who are with me.” But he said, “What need is there? Let me find favor in the sight of my lord.” 16 So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. 17 But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth. 18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.

In all of life there are few things more beautiful, more touching, and more powerful than genuine reconciliation between aggrieved parties. Psalm 133 captures it so memorably when it says:

1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.

God is in reconciliation. God is in the reconciliation business. Jesus comes for precisely this reason. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. When it comes to human reconciliation, it is hard to imagine a sweeter picture than the one we find in Genesis 33: the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau.

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Matthew 8:23-27

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Matthew 8

23 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24 And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25 And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26 And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27 And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

In 2012 Pepsi Max introduced a commercial that would become a phenomenon and pave the way for a series of commercials then, eventually, a movie. I am talking about the Uncle Drew commercials. In the first commercial, NBA star Kyrie Irving had a professional makeup artist transform him into Uncle Drew, an old man in a grey sweatshirt. He starts playing in a pickup basketball game of young men who are obviously amused by the old man who cannot quite keep up.

Then something happened. Kyrie Irving, still dressed as Uncle Drew, begins to be Kyrie Irving. He talks trash. He hits three pointers. He puts on a stunning dribbling exhibition. He dunks the ball! All the while, the crowd, who was amused earlier, moves from being confused to being impressed to being downright amazed![1]

You can tell what questions they are asking simply by the expression on their faces: Who is this guy?!

It is a brilliant and entertaining concept: a superstar concealed in the guise of a regular old man who decides to give a glimpse of his true skills to the sheer, stunned amazement of the onlookers.

I thought of Uncle Drew while reading Matthew 8:23-27. Here, Jesus, who looked so very ordinary, revealed that there was much more underneath. He gave the disciples a glimpse of His true power which opened the door for amazed questions about His true identity. “What sort of man is this?” the disciples asked when they saw His true abilities.

Let us consider Jesus rebuking the Sea of Galilee. And let us consider in particular how Jesus’ actions in this scene reveal Him as one who is distinct from the rest of humanity.

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Genesis 32:13-32

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Genesis 32

13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp. 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and eveything else that he had. 24 And Jacob was left alone. And a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day. 25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched his hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. 26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day has broken.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” 28 Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” 29 Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. 30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been delivered.” 31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the people of Israel do not eat the sinew of the thigh that is on the hip socket, because he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip on the sinew of the thigh.

The late B.H. Carroll told a story about being inspired by the tenacious persistence and determination of the Greeks in the Battle of Marathon.

You have heard me state before, and I will restate it now, how that idea of persistence got hold of me when I was four years old. I slept with my eldest brother and he taught me history lessons in child stories. One night he told me the history of the Battle of Marathon, where one hundred thousand Persians were assailed by ten thousand Greeks under Miltiades; how the Greeks broke the ranks of the Persians, and followed them into the sea; how the Persians got into their boats, and the Greeks grabbed the boats with their hands until the Persians cut their hands off; and then how they caught hold with their teeth until the Persians cut their heads off. And when my brother got that far, I jumped up in the bed and yelled out, “Hurrah for the Greeks!” until I woke up the whole house.[1]

Well! That is probably a bit much for a bedtime story for a four-year-old, but apparently it did make an impression. The Greeks simply refused to let the Persians go. They clung to their boats with their hands, then with their teeth, then…well…then they let go.

People love stories about fierce, stubborn, dogged determination against all odds: a refusal to quit, an adamant refusal to let go, an unwilting desire to accomplish some great goal. But of course, this kind of behavior can be for noble or ignoble means. The Greeks showed this when they refused to let the Persians go. But lots of people today demonstrate this kind of tenacity when it comes to pursuing wealth or fame or comfort. However, in Genesis 32, Jacob showed this kind of unrelenting determination with God! He refused to let go of God until God blessed Him!

If the stubborn determination of the Greeks caused little four-year-old B.H. Carroll to hop up and yell, this should inspire us infinitely more. Let us consider what it looks like to take hold of God and refuse to let go.

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Matthew 8:18-22

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Matthew 8

18 Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19 And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” 20 And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” 21 Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” 22 And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have written about a sobering lesson and challenge to the church.

A few years ago a Christian group visited the Soviet Union before the fall of the Berlin wall.  When the guide who was showing the Christians around Leningrad came to a statue of Lenin, the guide paused and said reflectively, “You Christians have a great message, but we Communists will win the world.  Christ means something to you.  Communism means everything to us.”[1]

I wonder if that is so: Christ means something to us whereas other causes mean everything to their adherents. One is hesitant to generalize, but I will say this: that has certainly been true in my life at times and it would appear to be true of the church at large in the United States in certain ways as well.

It is a scandal.

Jesus calls us not to a fickle appreciation but to radical discipleship, to reckless abandon in our following of Jesus. “When Christ calls a man,” Bonhoeffer famously said, “he bids him come and die.” True. But He bids us come to die so that we might live, resurrected and transformed, in Him. This is made abundantly clear in the startling verses of Matthew 8:18-22.

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An interesting observation in Adam Harwood’s review of John MacArthur’s systematic theology

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I was given a copy of MacArthur and Mayhue’s book but have not read it yet. However, I just noted the following interesting observation in Adam Harwood’s review of it:

Who is the author? The cover lists two general editors, MacArthur and Mayhue. However, neither the table of contents nor the individual chapters provide the names of any authors. Instead, this sentence appears in the preface, “Our Master’s Seminary colleagues Dr. Bill Barrick, Dr. Nathan Busenitz, Dr. Jim Mook, Dr. Bryan Murphy, Dr. Michael Vlach, and Professor Michael Riccardi supported us by producing drafts of several sections” (27). It seems this volume is similar in composition to the 2003 publication by the Dallas Theological Seminary Faculty edited by Swindoll and Zuck titled Understanding Christian Theology. That volume, however, was comprised of chapters with named authors. It is somewhat confusing to see the names of two general editors listed on a volume with no other attestation of authorship. If MacArthur and Mayhue are the general editors, then why not list the authors? If the reason is that the work is attributed primarily to MacArthur and Mayhue, then why not refer to them as the authors, while including the line of thanks in the preface for the contributions of others?

This is curious indeed, is it not? I do not say that to suggest that there is anything underhanded about it, just simply that it seems odd. As a lover of books, things like this give me pause indeed.

That is all.

Carry on.

Genesis 32:1-23

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Genesis 32

Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them he said, “This is God’s camp!” So he called the name of that place Mahanaim.And Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom, instructing them, “Thus you shall say to my lord Esau: Thus says your servant Jacob, ‘I have sojourned with Laban and stayed until now. I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, in order that I may find favor in your sight.’”And the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he is coming to meet you, and there are four hundred men with him.” Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks and herds and camels, into two camps, thinking, “If Esau comes to the one camp and attacks it, then the camp that is left will escape.” And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O Lord who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’10 I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. 11 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12 But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” 13 So he stayed there that night, and from what he had with him he took a present for his brother Esau, 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 These he handed over to his servants, every drove by itself, and said to his servants, “Pass on ahead of me and put a space between drove and drove.” 17 He instructed the first, “When Esau my brother meets you and asks you, ‘To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?’ 18 then you shall say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a present sent to my lord Esau. And moreover, he is behind us.’” 19 He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, “You shall say the same thing to Esau when you find him, 20 and you shall say, ‘Moreover, your servant Jacob is behind us.’” For he thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face. Perhaps he will accept me.” 21 So the present passed on ahead of him, and he himself stayed that night in the camp. 22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two female servants, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and everything else that he had. 

I would like for us to consider the prayer of distress, that prayer that arises in moments of great fear, danger, and uncertainty. Dan Crawford has told the amazing story of Cindy Hartman and the power of prayer when she found herself in a dangerous situation.

            An Associated Press article showed a yes answer for Cindy Hartman’s prayer when she encountered a pistol-toting burglar in her home. Hartman, of Conway, Arkansas, said the burglar confronted her when she came in to answer the phone. He ripped the cord out of the wall and ordered her into a cramped bedroom closet. Then she dropped to her knees.

            “I asked if I could pray for him,” she said.

            Hartman said the man apologized, used a shirt to wipe his fingerprints

from the gun, and he even dropped to his knees to join Hartman in prayer. Then he yelled to a woman in a pickup truck, “We’ve got to unload all of this and return it. This is a Christian family. We can’t do this to them.”[1]

Fascinating. This is not to say, of course, that every prayer of distress results in the alleviation of danger. Sometimes it does not. But every prayer is heard and every prayer of distress is vitally important for the child of God.

Herbert Lockyer has concluded that “[e]xclusive of the Psalms, which form a prayer-book on their own, the Bible records no fewer than 650 definite prayers, of which no less than 450 have recorded answers.”[2] The Bible is a prayer-saturated book. So should our lives be as well. And, in times of danger and fear, the prayer of distress is a powerful source of comfort but, more than that, a powerful statement about who we are as God’s children and who God is as our God.

Jacob prays a prayer of distress in Genesis 32 and, in so doing, offers us a model for how to pray as well.

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Matthew 8:14-17

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Matthew 8

14 And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. 15 He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. 16 That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah: “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases.”

One of the coolest and most moving archaeological discoveries in Israel in recent times is the discovery of Simon Peter’s house in Capernaum, excavations of which began in 1968.

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Roni recently pulled out her photo album from her last trip to Israel (she has been twice) and showed me what it looks like. The Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary offers some fascinating information about this site.

The majority of scholars now believe that excavations undertaken in 1968 have basically confirmed the authenticity of this claim [i.e., that this is Peter’s house].

            The building was used as a typical home for an extended family from approximately 63 B.C. until A.D. 50. Peter and Andrew apparently moved the family fishing business from Bethsaida to Capernaum and established their residence in this house, large enough for an extended family. Mark tells us it was the home of both Peter and Andrew (cf. Mark 1:29).

            During the second half of the first century A.D. the use of the house changed. Domestic pottery ceased to be used and the walls of the large center room were plastered—quite unusual for the region except for where groups of people gathered. Graffiti that mention Jesus as “Lord” and “Christ” in Greek were found. These pieces of evidence indicate that during this time the house became a center of Christian worship.

            The house-church continued in existence for nearly three hundred years, as is evidenced from over a hundred Greek, Aramaic, Syriac, Latin, and Hebrew graffiti scratched on the plastered walls, along with numerous forms of crosses, a boat, and other letters. Among the graffiti are at least two possible occurrences of Peter’s name.

And later:

Pottery shards, oil lamps, and coins discovered in the ruins date back to the first century, along with artifacts that included several fishhooks in the earliest layers of the floor.

The commentary also quotes Princeton New Testament scholar James Charlesworth as saying, “The discovery is virtually unbelievable and sensational. Despite the sensational nature of the find, learned archaeologists and historians have slowly come to the same conclusion.”[1]

I love stuff like this, when major finds have so much evidence that they earn the acceptance of the oftentimes very skeptical field of archaeologists and historians. If Charlesworth finds the discovery of this house to be “virtually unbelievable and sensational,” I bet he must find what happened in this house to be off the charts! It is here, in the home of Peter and Andrew, that Jesus’ next miracle takes place.

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Will Willimon’s Accidental Preacher: A Memoir

41-B3hy3b8LMan, I just don’t know. Back in the day I considered Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon’s book Resident Aliens to be truly revolutionary. It had a counter-cultural ecclesiology that eschewed both Constantinianism and liberal enculturation. I have read more of Hauerwas than Willimon since then, but, based on this autobiography, Willimon has become as frustrating as Hauerwas has become in some regards.

Don’t get me wrong. The book is engaging and often laugh-out-loud funny. It is also often very insightful. Willimon’s take on the modern ministerial emphasis on self-care, for instance, was intriguing and most-welcome as was his righteous exasperation with, say, Robert Schuller. His recounting of his conversation with Schuller, by the way, was utterly fascinating.

A good friend recommended this book and, truly, I am glad he did. He thought that Willimon’s many references to South Carolina would interest me. They certainly did! Willimon grew up in the upstate whereas I grew up in the mid-state of South Carolina. We are of different generations, to be sure, but I truly did find his frequent allusions to South Carolina—the state, her history, her characteristics, and her foibles—familiar.

And I’ll say this: Willimon really is quite humorous and is a wit. There were some great turns of phrase and memorable lines, many of which are highlighted in my Kindle version of the book and will soon be catalogued in my database of quotes and quips and illustrations.

Also, I appreciated how Willimon was able to see the virtues of those with whom he would not normally be associated. Specifically, I thought that his handling of Billy Graham and his speaking at Duke Chapel was gracious and even appreciative.

So what’s my problem? My problem is that Willimon sometimes seems a bit too cute for his own good. Some of the provocating seemed a bit forced. Also, he takes some well-deserved swipes at ministerial ego while, sometimes quick on the heels of these swipes, demonstrating quite a robust ego himself. To be fair, he seems more than aware of his own struggles in this area and admits as much. And, to be even fairer, I myself struggle with this without the added benefit of having Willimon’s mind and accomplishments! Ha! So I should perhaps be careful. Even so, there are, at points, underlying currents of self-focus that were a bit jarring to me, perhaps because I understand these. So maybe these were cautionary for me as well.

But I suppose my main problem is the way in which Willimon (and Hauerwas) are so willing to betray their own brilliance and willingness to go against the liberal status quo when it comes to questions like homosexuality and gay marriage. Like Hauerwas, Willimon offers no attempt at a substantive biblical rationale for, say, allowing gay weddings at Duke Chapel or his disregard for conservative Methodism’s desire to remain orthodox on these questions and issues. His comments on these important issues (again, like Hauerwas’) seem so trite to me, so ill-formed, so very capitulatory.

Want an example? Here you go:

Same-sex marriage? Being in the fidelity-promoting, promise-keeping, forgiveness-receiving business, the church, you’d think, would be eager to find one more occasion to make people make promises, welcoming anyone who dared to put his or her life at the mercy of the future with another human being. Go figure. (Kindle Locations 2393-2396).

Yeah, go figure, Will. Surely those who agree with Willimon’s position here must admit that this kind of reasoning—with its utter lack of engagement with scripture, its avoidance of the fundamental issues involved with the question, and it’s quaint, shrug-of-the-shoulders dismissiveness of those who hold to the church’s view on this question (i.e., to what genders constitute a marriage biblically defined) as held for the greater majority of two millennia—is not the way forward. I anticipate the objection, “It’s a memoir, not an academic paper.” Yeah, I know, but this kind of thing is what I hear increasingly from guys like Willimon and Hauerwas who are hailed as fearless thinkers. It is because I appreciate their earlier work so much that I find this so very frustrating. Here’s another example:

Methodist political junkies predicted there was no way in God’s name the six hundred members of the 2004 Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference would elect me as bishop. No campus minister had been elected bishop.

I had been absent from my home conference, South Carolina, for twenty years.

I had allowed Duke Chapel to be used for same-sex unions.

I had never led a prestigious Methodist church.

My negative paper trail was miles long.

Some were still sore about my Christian Century article “My Dog the Methodist,” a spoof of UMC evangelism fiascoes.

I had ridiculed the alleged evangelicals of the Confessing Movement as having nothing to confess but “I believe in straight sex.”

Few bishops forgave me for calling the Council of Bishops “the bland leading the bland.” (Kindle Locations 2779-2788)

Will Willimon sounds in this memoir like somebody who is titillated with his own naughtiness, with his own acerbic wit. Same-sex unions at Duke Chapel?The Methodist Confessing Movement has nothing to confess but “I believe in straight sex”? Oh Will! You’re such a rascal.

[Sigh. Pause.]

I think, if I try to get behind my own irritation, that I regret that I cannot take Willimon seriously. His mocking reference to the Confessing Movement has helped me understand why, and the reason why is this: Tom Oden. Tom Oden, the Methodist theologian who broke with the theological and leftist faddishness of his youth and rediscovered the classical orthodox consensus of Christianity via the church fathers, has had a major impact on me. And to hear issues that Oden considered very serious shrugged off with such patently absurd tripe really disappoints me. And it disappoints me because this is coming from the author of Resident Aliens, a book that is so very very brilliant and biblical and insightful.

I am a Baptist, but were I a Methodist, I must say I would be an Oden Methodist and not a Willimon Methodist on these issues. (And, yes, I know that Oden listed Willimon appreciatively in Requiem. There is much to be appreciative about when it comes to Willimon. But note too how, in Willimon’s 1995 review of Oden’s Requiem, his major beef is that Oden is making too much of homosexuality as a problem.)

I grieve to see Willimon and Hauerwas fold with accommodationist compromise on issues of biblical sexual ethics. And to see them do so with such seeming ease and disregard for the real issues at stake saddens me.

95% of this book was fantastic. 5% of it saddened me. 95% is pretty good, right? However, that 5% is pretty important stuff.

Apparently even the rebels we love can be domesticated by the dominant culture. It is lamentable.

Stephen R. Haynes’ The Battle for Bonhoeffer: Debating Discipleship in the Age of Trump

417IQf5NqGLThere is a lot going on in Stephen Haynes’ The Battle for Bonhoeffer. As a blow against Bonhoeffer hagiography it is very effective, showing how Bonhoeffer was, like most people, complex, ever-evolving, and a person who sometimes fell quite short of his own ideals. This book will go a long way toward demolishing overly-simplistic and romantic depictions of Bonhoeffer while increasing the reader’s appreciation for Bonhoeffer in many ways as it shows that Bonhoeffer’s acts of great courage truly were committed by a real, flesh-and-blood, flawed human being. I appreciated the book’s assault on the kind of hagiography in which Christians across the spectrum oftentimes indulge when it comes to Bonhoeffer. (I have been guilty of the same!)

As an evaluation of the Bonhoeffer industry in the United States the book is also effective. Haynes does a good job of demonstrating how Bonhoeffer truly is a phenomenon in the United States by chronicling the various books, movies, plays, and other offerings that show no sign of slowing down. I really was not quite aware of just how big this phenomenon is, though I did know it existed and seemed to have picked up steam since the Metaxas biography.

As a take-down of Eric Metaxas and his Bonhoeffer biography, Haynes’ book is devastating. I must say that I have grown increasingly wary of Metaxas’ book even though I wrote, I now believe, a naive review of it nine years ago when I first read it. Metaxas’ biography of Bonhoeffer is very well-written and I think I was a bit caught up in it. I suspect one reason for this was I had spotted and still do spot liberal appropriations of Bonhoeffer that I think are absurd and appreciated that Metaxas’ was hitting back against such. But I am not trying to excuse my review. I see it now as too optimistic to say the least. I am leaving my review of it up but have added a caveat to it concerning my own changing views on the book.

Haynes does a masterful job of demonstrating what anybody who follows Metaxas on Twitter (as I did before I got off of Twitter) knows: that for a champion of Bonhoeffer Metaxas holds some shockingly non-Bonhoefferian views. I shan’t go into them now. Feel free to follow Metaxas then read Bonhoeffer. It should be evident pretty quickly. Anyway, yes, following Metaxas on Twitter will make one, retroactively, very cautious and curious about his book and will, upon further reflection and review (along with listening to Bonhoeffer scholars), lead one to be much less inclined to agree with Metaxas’ recasting of Bonhoeffer as essentially an American Evangelical in his sympathies.

That being said, one may (a) recoil at some of the musings of the post-Bonhoeffer-biography-Metaxas and (b) agree that the book is indeed hagiographic (contra my own regrettable assertion to the contrary when I first read and reviewed it) and yet (c) not necessarily go as far as Haynes goes in condemning the Metaxas book. I personally now believe, the more I read Bonhoeffer himself, that he is very difficult to categorize. I feel that Haynes, in his efforts to lampoon the Evangelical appropriation of Bonhoeffer, at points overstates his case, even though, as I said, his critique is devastating overall. (Does that make sense?). For example, while Haynes references a number of times, and seemingly dismissively, Evangelical appreciation for Bonhoeffer’s condemnation of abortion in his Ethics, he never actually explains why Evangelical appreciation of this aspect of Bonhoeffer’s thought and application of it to the modern scene is necessarily misguided or represents the same kind of crass appropriation of Bonhoeffer by Evangelicals in other areas. (By the way, I have long found the notes on Bonhoeffer’s abortion section in the Fortress Press English critical edition to be laughable.) What Bonhoeffer says about abortion in Ethics is damning indeed and one may argue that Evangelicals do read him rightly on this point while conceding that Evangelicals have read him wrongly on others. The efforts of more left-leaning Bonhoeffer scholars to argue that we must be careful not to draw any substantive equivalency between Bonhoeffer’s views of abortion in Ethics and the modern abortion scene ring, in my opinion, hollow and betray a tendency on the left to shape Bonhoeffer to their desired ends just as Evangelicals have been guilty of doing in other ways. (I do note that Haynes is indeed aware of the reality of the liberal appropriation of Bonhoeffer, and acknowledges this in his book.) But enough about all that.

This seems like a good way to segue: As an evaluation of how both the theological/ecclesiological left and right claim Bonhoeffer, Haynes evidence is helpful, though it is weighted very very heavily against the right’s baptizing of Bonhoeffer with much less (I do not say “no”) attention given to the left’s tendencies to do this. (And I consider the pass and even legitimacy that Haynes grants to Marsh’s theories about Bonhoeffer’s alleged homosexuality to be inconsistent. He admits that this view is held by a minority of Bonhoeffer scholars even as he uses it to swipe at Evangelical employment of Bonhoeffer for the cause of traditional marriage. This seemed strange to me.) To be clear, Haynes, a former Evangelical, for all of his admirable efforts to remain balanced, cannot help but grind some axes along the way.

As a commentary on the modern American political situation, the book is predictable though helpful to a point. One may largely agree with Haynes (I do) without completely agreeing with Haynes (I do not). One may find oneself saying (as I did), “True enough. Good point. Of course, on the left…” etc. etc. etc. I do not say this to relative and dismiss his argument. I essentially agree with the thrust of his argument. Bonhoeffer, I rather expect, would indeed have much to say about our President. How can one deny this? But if one honestly thinks, after reading Bonhoeffer, that he would not also be horrified by certain emphases on the left, one has done violence to the Bonhoeffer legacy from the other side. (Take a look, for instance, at Bonhoeffer’s letters to friends concerning the vacuousness of the liberal theological pursuits at Union when he was in America.)

It’s an interesting, if sometimes irritating book. I don’t regret reading it, though I did chafe a bit under the book’s indecision (again, it seemed to me) about what it wanted to be and also against some of the imbalances in it. Of course, in the book’s final section, Haynes makes it clear that his goal is not to be a dispassionate observer. He has a point to make, and he’s free to make it. I appreciate much of the point he made. Other aspects I found short-sighted.

Overall, I think the book is worth reading. See what you think.

Genesis 30:25-31:55

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Genesis 30

25 As soon as Rachel had borne Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, that I may go to my own home and country. 26 Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, that I may go, for you know the service that I have given you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your sight, I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you. 28 Name your wages, and I will give it.” 29 Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you, and how your livestock has fared with me. 30 For you had little before I came, and it has increased abundantly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now when shall I provide for my own household also?” 31 He said, “What shall I give you?” Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this for me, I will again pasture your flock and keep it: 32 let me pass through all your flock today, removing from it every speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats, and they shall be my wages. 33 So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come to look into my wages with you. Every one that is not speckled and spotted among the goats and black among the lambs, if found with me, shall be counted stolen.” 34 Laban said, “Good! Let it be as you have said.” 35 But that day Laban removed the male goats that were striped and spotted, and all the female goats that were speckled and spotted, every one that had white on it, and every lamb that was black, and put them in the charge of his sons.36 And he set a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob pastured the rest of Laban’s flock. 37 Then Jacob took fresh sticks of poplar and almond and plane trees, and peeled white streaks in them, exposing the white of the sticks. 38 He set the sticks that he had peeled in front of the flocks in the troughs, that is, the watering places, where the flocks came to drink. And since they bred when they came to drink, 39 the flocks bred in front of the sticks and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted. 40 And Jacob separated the lambs and set the faces of the flocks toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban. He put his own droves apart and did not put them with Laban’s flock. 41 Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding, Jacob would lay the sticks in the troughs before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the sticks, 42 but for the feebler of the flock he would not lay them there. So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.43 Thus the man increased greatly and had large flocks, female servants and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

Genesis 31

1 Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before.Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock wasand said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. You know that I have served your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me and changed my wages ten times. But God did not permit him to harm me. If he said, ‘The spotted shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore spotted; and if he said, ‘The striped shall be your wages,’ then all the flock bore striped. Thus God has taken away the livestock of your father and given them to me. 10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’” 14 Then Rachel and Leah answered and said to him, “Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. 16 All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do.” 17 So Jacob arose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 He drove away all his livestock, all his property that he had gained, the livestock in his possession that he had acquired in Paddan-aram, to go to the land of Canaan to his father Isaac. 19 Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. 20 And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee. 21 He fled with all that he had and arose and crossed the Euphrates, and set his face toward the hill country of Gilead. 22 When it was told Laban on the third day that Jacob had fled, 23 he took his kinsmen with him and pursued him for seven days and followed close after him into the hill country of Gilead. 24 But God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream by night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” 25 And Laban overtook Jacob. Now Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country, and Laban with his kinsmen pitched tents in the hill country of Gilead. 26 And Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done, that you have tricked me and driven away my daughters like captives of the sword? 27 Why did you flee secretly and trick me, and did not tell me, so that I might have sent you away with mirth and songs, with tambourine and lyre? 28 And why did you not permit me to kiss my sons and my daughters farewell? Now you have done foolishly. 29 It is in my power to do you harm. But the God of your[c] father spoke to me last night, saying, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ 30 And now you have gone away because you longed greatly for your father’s house, but why did you steal my gods?”31 Jacob answered and said to Laban, “Because I was afraid, for I thought that you would take your daughters from me by force. 32 Anyone with whom you find your gods shall not live. In the presence of our kinsmen point out what I have that is yours, and take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them. 33 So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he did not find them. And he went out of Leah’s tent and entered Rachel’s. 34 Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them in the camel’s saddle and sat on them. Laban felt all about the tent, but did not find them. 35 And she said to her father, “Let not my lord be angry that I cannot rise before you, for the way of women is upon me.” So he searched but did not find the household gods. 36 Then Jacob became angry and berated Laban. Jacob said to Laban, “What is my offense? What is my sin, that you have hotly pursued me? 37 For you have felt through all my goods; what have you found of all your household goods? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen, that they may decide between us two. 38 These twenty years I have been with you. Your ewes and your female goats have not miscarried, and I have not eaten the rams of your flocks. 39 What was torn by wild beasts I did not bring to you. I bore the loss of it myself. From my hand you required it, whether stolen by day or stolen by night. 40 There I was: by day the heat consumed me, and the cold by night, and my sleep fled from my eyes. 41 These twenty years I have been in your house. I served you fourteen years for your two daughters, and six years for your flock, and you have changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been on my side, surely now you would have sent me away empty-handed. God saw my affliction and the labor of my hands and rebuked you last night.” 43 Then Laban answered and said to Jacob, “The daughters are my daughters, the children are my children, the flocks are my flocks, and all that you see is mine. But what can I do this day for these my daughters or for their children whom they have borne? 44 Come now, let us make a covenant, you and I. And let it be a witness between you and me.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 And Jacob said to his kinsmen, “Gather stones.” And they took stones and made a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar-sahadutha, but Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” Therefore he named it Galeed, 49 and Mizpah, for he said, “The Lord watch between you and me, when we are out of one another’s sight. 50 If you oppress my daughters, or if you take wives besides my daughters, although no one is with us, see, God is witness between you and me.” 51 Then Laban said to Jacob, “See this heap and the pillar, which I have set between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and the pillar is a witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and you will not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, to do harm. 53 The God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob swore by the Fear of his father Isaac, 54 and Jacob offered a sacrifice in the hill country and called his kinsmen to eat bread. They ate bread and spent the night in the hill country. 55 Early in the morning Laban arose and kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then Laban departed and returned home.

In the early 90s there was a Christian rock band named “Big Tent Revival.” They were great and they lasted around a decade producing a number of award-winning albums. They also happened to be one of the few bands that ever actually came through my hometown of Sumter, SC! Their big hit was a song called “Two Sets of Joneses.” It is a really catchy song that compares and contrasts two different young couples and the different paths they took in their lives.

This here’s a song about two sets of Joneses
Rothchild, Evelyn, Rueben, and Sue

And just for discussion through random selection
We’ve chosen two couples who haven’t a clue

Rothchild was lucky to marry so wealthy,
Evelyn bought him a house on the beach.

Rueben and Sue, they had nothing but Jesus
And at night they would pray that he would care for them each

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
And one set of Joneses, was standing that day

Evelyn’s daddy was proud of young Rothchild,
He worked the late hours to be number one

Just newlyweds and their marriage got rocky,
He’s flying to Dallas, she’s having a son.

Rueben was holding a Gideon’s Bible,
And he screamed “it’s a boy” so that everyone heard

And the guys at the factory took a collection,
And again God provided for bills he incured

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away
And one set of Joneses, was standing that day

So what is the point of this story,
What am I trying to say
Well is your life built on the rock of Christ Jesus
Or a sandy foundation you’ve managed to lay

Well needless to say Evelyn left her husband
N’ sued him for every penny he had
But I truly wish that those two would find Jesus
Before things get worse than they already have

And the rain, came down,
And it blew the four walls down
And the clouds they rolled away

There’s two sets of Joneses
Which ones will you be?

Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di
Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di
Li de di. li de di, li de di, li de di di di di[1]

It was a cool song, especially that closing Li de di, li de di, li de di, li de di part! Ha! A lot of early 90s evangelical youth group kids were singing those li de di’s!

I thought about “Two Sets of Joneses” earlier this week when studying Genesis 30 and 31. Moses seems to be clearly “Two Sets of Jones-ing” Laban and Jacob. As these chapters unfold the contrast becomes greater and great, with Laban taking one path (the path of control, manipulation, and self-centeredness) and Jacob taking another (the path of trust and faithfulness). We have already seen that both Laban and Jacob, his nephew, are flawed people, like us all. They were both capable of deceit, for instance. Even so, as these verses progress, we see that Jacob has matured and is taking a different path, whereas Laban had built his life on a “sandy foundation he managed to lay.”

Let us “Two Sets of Joneses” our text and consider the contrast between these two men.

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