Genesis 35 & The Motifs of a Sojourner

You know you’re getting old when your generation gets its own radio station.  Yes, Tulsa now has a Gen X radio station, 106.1, and yes I listen to it being reminded of some of  the music I unfortunately liked, some which I still do, and some why I wonder why it still exists in any format.  So I am driving to church listening to aforementioned radio station and hear “One Week” by… um… I hesitate, The Barenaked Ladies.  It’s a fun, up tempo little ditty, of which the chorus makes sense to me but the verses seem to be a discombobulation full of pop-culture references.

Some critics think this chapter to be something like “One Week”.  Little more than slightly organized chaos.  They use it to question the inspiration of Genesis, or at least to argue for different authors contributing to the whole over a period covering up to the deportation to Babylon.  After all, Jacob’s life has consisted of meal size portions so far, why did we go bite size all of the sudden?

I rather think this is some excellent story telling on Moses’ part, weaving together all the motifs that have appeared throughout Jacob’s life bringing this section (25:19-35:29) to a close.  They are the themes of the sojourner’s life.  They are the themes that will unite all of Abraham’s offspring together as we traverse this world.  What are they?

1.   God’s initiating grace (Genesis 35:1).  Yes, repentance once again is called for in Jacob’s life but it is preceded by God’s speaking and commanding.

 

2.  Repentance and obedience(Genesis 35:2).  Purity is a prerequisite for worship.  This putting away of idols is a repeated event throughout Israel’s history.  It will be a recurring one in our lives as well for idols always creep in.  If God is to be our God, He will have all, no other gods allowed.

 

3.  Protection (Genesis 35:1)  As Robert Robinson wrote:

Here I raise mine Ebenezer;

Hither by Thy help I’m come;

And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,

Safely to arrive at home.

 

4.  God reminding us who we are in Him (Genesis 35:9).  In Christ we are sons of God, children of Abraham, joint heirs with Christ, temples of the Holy Spirit, slaves of Christ, and saints.

 

5.   God reminding us of His promises (Genesis 35:11-12).  O, how easy we forget and distrust.

6.  Death and life, joy and sorrow, laughter and weeping (Genesis 35:18).  The Lord gives the Lord takes away.  God’s covenant presence does not mean the absence of distress (Genesis 35:3), but His presence in it, sustaining us through it, and hearing us when we cry.

This is the life of a sojourner.  The promises made to Jacob in Genesis 28:13-15 are the glue that binds all these vignettes together.  All these promises are at least partially fulfilled here.  As sojourners we taste of heave now, but we are not there yet.  The kingdom of God is in-breaking, but yet to come.  We live in the tension between the here now and the not yet.  And so we journey as these recurring motifs sound throughout our lives until one day, we too, fade from the narrative and are gathered with our people, like Isaac. And thus that biggest and greatest and eternal chapter will begin.

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