Today's Devotions

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Showcase: Facets of Faith

  • Paradigm Shift by Randy Russell +

    Be not conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your minds; then you will know the Read More
  • The Many Facets of Spirituality +

              The finished diamond is one of the most beautiful and desirable gems.  Yet, in the Read More
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Don  CarsonGenesis 30;

Mark 1; Esther 6; Romans 1

WHEN I WAS A CHILD IN SUNDAY SCHOOL, I learned the names of the twelve tribes of Israel by singing a simple chorus: "These are the names of Jacob's sons: Gad and Asher and Simeon, Reuben, Issachar, Levi, Judah, Dan, and Naphtali – Twelve in all, but never a twin – Zebulun, Joseph, and Benjamin."

But many more years passed before I grasped how important are the twelve tribes in the Bible's storyline. Many of the dynamics of the rest of Genesis turn on their relationships. The organization of the nation of Israel depends on setting aside one tribe, the Levites, as priests. From another son, Judah, springs the Davidic dynasty that leads to the Messiah. Over the centuries, the tribe of Joseph would be divided into Ephraim and Manasseh; in substantial measure, Benjamin would merge with Judah. By the last book in the Bible, Revelation, the twelve tribes of the old covenant constitute the counterpoint to the twelve apostles of the new covenant: this twelve by twelve matrix (i.e., 144, in the symbolism of this apocalyptic literature) embracing in principle the whole people of God.

But what tawdry beginnings they have in Genesis 30. The deceit of Laban in Genesis 29, which resulted in Jacob's marrying both Leah and Rachel, now issues in one of the most unhealthy instances of sibling rivalry in holy Scripture. Each of these women from this family is so eager to outshine the other that she gives her handmaid to her husband rather than allow the other to get ahead in the race to bear children. So self-centered and impetuous are the relationships that another time Rachel is prepared to sell her husband's sex time to her sister Leah for a few mandrakes. Polygamy has taken hold, and with it a mess of distorted relationships.

From these painful and frankly dysfunctional family relationships spring eleven sons and one daughter (the birth of the last son, Benjamin, is reported in chap. 35). Here are the origins of the twelve tribes of Israel, the foundation of the Israelite nation. Their origins are not worse than those of others; they are merely typical. But already it is becoming clear that God does not deal with this family because they are consistently a cut above other families. No, he uses them to keep his covenantal promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He graciously perseveres with them to bring about his grand, redemptive purposes. The tawdry family dynamics, the sort of thing that might generate a B-grade movie, cannot possibly prevent the universe's Sovereign from keeping his covenantal vows.
Genesis 30; Mark 1; Esther 6; Romans 1

Reflections to Consider

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Publications

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Music

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Audio & Video

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Favorites

  • Eugene Peterson was one of America’s most beloved preachers. Let’s not miss his last sermon. +

    Eugene Peterson, the internationally best-selling Christian author who passed into the great unknown this week, Read More
  • Eugene Peterson: 2009 Book of Faith Jubilee +

    Peterson discussed a wide range of topics with Diane Jacobson, Read More
  • Eugene Peterson: Journey with Jonah: Part 1 +

    This is part 1 of a 3 part series of lectures Eugene Peterson Read More
  • Eugene Peterson: Journey with Jonah: Part 2 +

    This is part 2 of Eugene Peterson's 1991 Simpson lecture Read More
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Hidden Blessings

  • Process +

      The finished diamond is one of the most beautiful and desirable gems. Read More
  • Not a Conscientious Objector +

    As we abide in him and he abides in us, we are receiving his life rather than creating our own Read More
  • Falling in Love With God +

    “falling in love with God,” as Boa’s subtitle for the facet explains. In this approach we attempt to enter into Read More
  • God's Dimension +

    We experience a great sense of the wonder, boldness, and overwhelming awe of God through our relationship with the Holy Read More
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