Updated: Jan 30
Raise your hand if you married your first cousin.
<look for any raised hands>
That is what Jacob did. Laban was Rebekah’s brother, making Rachel his first cousin.
Jerry Lee Lewis, of course, did marry his first cousin once removed; meaning one their grandparents was the great grandparent of the other. Maybe Jerry Lee Lewis’s grandfather was also the great grandfather of Myra Gayle Brown; but maybe the grandmother was not the same great grandmother?
Whatever the details, that marriage did not go over very well for “the Killer,” whereas it was okay for Jacob to not only marry cousin Rachel … but also cousin Leah.
We have already read about Abraham sending his servant to Ur to find a wife for Isaac. Laban brought back Rebekah, the daughter of Abraham’s brother, so Isaac also married his first cousin.
Abraham did not want Isaac to marry one of those Canaanite women. That had nothing to do with the Canaanite women being uglier or more demanding. Instead, it had everything to do with pedigree. Abraham wanted Isaac to produce children through a woman of similar blood.
As they say, “Blood is thicker than water.” That means, “family ties (blood) are always more important (thicker) than the ties you make among friends (water). It generally means that the bonds of family and common ancestry are stronger than the bonds between unrelated people (such as what friendships represent).” [from an Wikipedia article on the subject]
Abraham wanted a wife for Isaac that would maintain a holy bloodline. He wanted to keep everything “in the family tree.”
These days we worry about the problems that might occur from “in-breeding.” There are laws against marrying a first cousin in most states (25), with Mississippi one of them. Still, marriages of that nature are allowed in 19 states, plus the District of Columbia. It is allowed under certain conditions in seven other states, generally being when offspring will not result.
In the days of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the same potential genetic problems might have existed, but we don’t know about any such problems, because that has no bearing on the purpose of the books we read from the Holy Bible. We only know that which is relative to the history of our religion.
One problem that might have resulted, however, is a difficulty for the women to get pregnant. That is a common element repeated in that history.
It took a miracle for Sarah to have Isaac, after she had been “barren” for the first 90 years of her life. Rebekah was barren too, for the first 20 years of her marriage to Isaac. That led to Isaac asking God for some help having a child.
When you read a little further in Genesis (in chapter 35), you find out that Rachel not only had a difficult time conceiving, but she died after giving birth to Benjamin, the last of Jacob’s 12 children, her second.
With all these stories of the women in the family tree of Adam having difficulty getting pregnant, you would think someone would have figured out, “Maybe we do need to look for one of those Canaanite women as brides for our sons?”
God was speaking to them back then, and He never told them to go outside their family tree – their blood – “their kinsman,” as Laban called Jacob – to find wives. God only said, “I will give this land to your descendants.”
That family tree would lead to Jesus, and there are some who believe, one way or another, that the family tree was continued in Europe, after Jesus Ascended. That bloodline explanation is what the royal families of Europe have held dear, as it was what gave those of the last 1,600 years their birthrights to lead nations.
The way that system worked for a long time was simple: royalty had to marry royalty … their blood – “their kin” – in order to maintain the purity that made them worthy of being born to rule. They did not let their princes marry some pretty young commoner. They had arranged marriages, where marriage meant having children. It was the same reasoning that had Abraham say, “I don’t want my son to marry one of those Canaanite women.”
Regardless of how you think about that concept of royalty, the “family tree” of us “ordinary “ human beings is a mess. It has evolved and devolved over the ages.
They say that in a short time down the road of America’s future, “There will no longer be found physical traits in the populace that distinguish one race from another.” Americans will have crossbred all of the unique features of its grandparents … Europeans, Africans, Chinese, Mexicans, Hawaiians, Eskimos, Cherokees, Mohicans, et al, into one generic composite, into a yet to be named breed. We call dogs of that mixture “Heinz 57’s.” In that sense, us Americans are losing any pedigree we had, making us mongrels and curs.
I imagine it will still be a preference among devout Jews to marry within their race. After all, their disdain of Samaritans was largely due to the Jews of Samaria having intermingled with their foreigner occupiers.
In the first parable we hear Jesus tell the crowd, he spoke of a specific seed … a mustard seed … which had a uniqueness that was understood by all who heard. A mustard seed is a very small seed.
I imagine if God wanted all seeds to be alike … as a generic “seed” for a generic “plant,” bearing some generic “fruit” … then He would have changed everything at the Creation. Had God done that, the mention of a “mustard seed” would have gone over everyone’s head.
“Mustard seed, what’s that? I don’t get the analogy.”
By Jesus being able to specifically name one type of seed, he was able to create a clear picture in everyone’s mind. A mustard seed was known to be very tiny.
As seemingly small and insignificant as a mustard seed is in appearance, if properly planted in good soil it can turn into a mighty tree. It can then live up to its special purpose. That special purpose is not only to produce more seeds, so more mustard trees can be grown, but it also has the purpose of spreading out many branches that allow the birds of the air to make their nests there.
That analogy was intended to touch each one who was listening, individually. Alone, outside of a crowd, as one of a whole race of people who “all look alike,” everyone is important in the kingdom of heaven, even as one tiny seed of humanity.
Jacob was a tiny seed when he dreamed of a ladder to heaven. He was a tiny seed when he met his uncle Laban. So, being just one little seed of many does not mean you have no importance.
Then Jesus told of yeast, which is a unique microorganism. It is said to be “one of the earliest domesticated organisms.” [Wikipedia] There are at least 1,500 species of yeast identified. Some yeast is used in the fermentation of fruit juices into wine, and grain juice into ales and beers. In measures of flour, especially those mixed with milk, eggs, and sugar, they produce gasses that make dough swell into large spongy loaves.
Yeast is tiny too!
Just as the small mustard seed grows into a mighty tree, so too does a little dough become leavened and rise to greater capacities by mixing in a little yeast.
The mustard seed symbolizes us being planted into good soil, where the right environment allows us to draw the proper nutrients into us, allowing maximum growth potential. Yeast symbolizes an agent introduced into us, which raises us to greater proportions. Both good soil and yeast symbolizes the Holy Spirit. Without that agent, we only amount to a tiny seed or a measure of flour.
Now in the Genesis story we read how Laban let Jacob state what his wages for service would be. Jacob was the one who came up with his wage being a wife. Because Jacob so loved Rachel, he set the number of years of service for her hand in marriage at seven.
Laban asked, “What shall your wages be?” “Wages” come from as a justification for work and service. We work for pay. “The laborers deserve their pay.” We are rewarded by wages; but the rewards only come after we have put in the required effort.
Jesus told the parable of “treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid.” He then told of “a merchant in search of fine pearls finding one pearl of great value.” We are told of the individual rewards each man had earned for work done, for services rendered. Both had amassed “everything they owned,” from lifetimes of working for wages, and using wages to buy what they needed and wanted.
In the parables, one man joyfully sells everything he owns to buy the field with the hidden treasure, which he KNOWS is there. The merchant also “sold all that he had,” so he could buy the “one pearl of great value.” They had worked and served for all that they had, but they worked in a different way when they sold everything in order to get a greater reward.
Jacob worked to get Rachel. His personally set term of seven years earned him a wife – Leah. Laban told Jacob that traditions had greater value than personal wants. Thus, we work a lifetime to get rewarded by traditional means. Our efforts bring us wages to buy things. When Laban offered that Jacob could put in another seven years of service to get what he loved – Rachel – Jacob took up that challenge.
The first seven years went by quickly. That is how fast life passes us by, while we work to earn things to surround us … things we need, and things we want. The second seven years was probably harder work. Still, Jacob did what it took to get the greater reward of Rachel. He did it because the wage was fair. The man sold everything for a field of promised riches, which was a fair cost. The merchant sold all he had to buy the perfect pearl, which was also a fair cost.
Selling everything you have to get what you love is a fair expense. Otherwise, what you thought was love was just infatuation.
Now Jesus then told a parable about fish caught in a net. The catch included “fish of every kind.” This means there were different species of creatures that dwelled in water, with each recognized by a specific name. They were identified as “edible” and “inedible.” They were sorted on the shore as “good fish” or “bad fish,” where a “good fish” would be like a Tilapia, and a “bad fish” would be like eels and barbels (catfish).
The “good fish” get put in a basket for keeping, while the “bad fish” are thrown away.
This was an analogy of what happens to “good people” and “bad people” at “the end of an age.” All of the parables were relative to attaining the “kingdom of heaven.” So, either you plant yourself in the good soil of Christianity, become risen by the Holy Spirit of God, realize there is a treasure hidden for you in heaven, which is like a pearl of great value that you know about, so you work however long it may take to make sure you have earned the wage of the kingdom of heaven … or you get tossed in the furnace of fire, where all the “bad fish” go.
Of course, we all know that. After all, we are 21st century human beings, with big brains. We are confirmed Christians that, in the species of human fish, are called Westernus episcopalyanis … or something like that. So, we like to consider ourselves “good fish.” We think we should go into the basket, not get thrown away.
So, Jesus asked the crowd who had just heard him tell a string of parables, “Have you understood all this?” They said, “Yes.”
We say the same. “Sure, we get your point Jesus.”
Jesus then heard that answer and said, “Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”
“Every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven” is every prophet who has ever written a book in what we know as the Old Testament or the New Testament.
The word translated as “trained” is “mathéteuó,” which in Greek also means, “made a disciple of” or “instructed.” Those instructions come from God, through the Holy Spirit, to the disciples. The “scribes” wrote what the Holy Spirit filled them to write; and that is what we should understand. Being filled with the Holy Spirit is what actually makes anyone be “trained for the kingdom of heaven.”
When we listen to Jesus, we must become disciples likewise trained. Understanding comes from being filled with the Holy Spirit. Understanding means doing what you understand must be done.
Then we need to realize that “the master of a household” is the same as God being the King of Heaven. He is the master over all his treasures … all his catches … all the fish in the seas.
When God “brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old,” this is a reference only to the “good fish” sorted into the basket of the kingdom of heaven. There are the “old” treasures to be found, like those of the blood of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, who served God with all their hearts, selling everything they had, to earn that wage of Heaven.
Then there are the “new” treasures, who are those of the blood of Christ, who also serve God with all their hearts, selling everything to earn the same wage of heaven. We, just like the crowd that was listening to Jesus tell them parables, are not bloodline descendants of Jesus, so we all have to become descendants through his spiritual body and blood.
That means hard work, because we are not born into royalty, as instant residents of the kingdom of heaven. Still, our hard work becomes such a labor of love, through the Holy Spirit, that the time spent working passes quickly … like seven years seeming like a few days, or hours, or minutes.
Even if we think we have already earned the right to the kingdom of heaven, we might find out we still have work to do. Just like Jacob found out his reward was on the earthly plane, not the spiritual plane. When faced with more service, you do the work … joyfully.
Paul wrote to the Christians of Rome, “All things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Each of us is called to become “the firstborn of a large family,” with the purpose of us individually “to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
We are not asked to be a seed … small and tiny. We are called to be a tree for Christ, as the resurrected Jesus. For that to happen, we have to remember what Jesus said, “The seed must die for it to take root.” Just as Jesus died, we are called upon to let go of our petty selves and take root in the Holy Spirit and grow so that our branches can provide a home for the angels of God.
The wages of work have to be accepted as being what they are. Work is not play, although you can love the work you do. You receive a reward that is much greater than any “hardship, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, or sword” can threaten.
“We are not accounted as sheep to be slaughtered,” because we willingly sacrifice all that we have earned in this world, for a hidden treasure in the next. We are to be accounted as true disciples trained for the kingdom of heaven.
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