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Friday, March 5, 2010

Footnotes

Gen. 28
Do you ever stop to check the footnotes when reading your Bible?  Sometimes one little word makes a huge difference.  Take Gen. 28: 20-21 "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God." 

This is Jacob talking...Jacob who's running for his life from an angry brother.  He stops for the night, puts a rock under his head for a pillow, and has a weird dream.  First of all, a ROCK for a pillow?  Who does that??  And second, wouldn't you expect weird dreams if you had a rock under your head all night?

But I think the point of the rock is to illustrate just how hastily Jacob fled from home.  There wasn't time to pack, time to say goodbyes to family or friends, time to run a loving hand over treasures or take a last look back at home.  He is out in the wild with nothing.  Imagine you run out of gas in the middle of Nevada.  There is no gas station, no restaurant, no water, no nothin' to be seen.  You have nothing but the clothes on your back; no suitcase, no snacks, no nothin'.  The sun scorches by day and the temperature drops radically when the sun goes down.  Somehow, you have to walk through this unfamiliar territory until you find help.

Are you scared yet?

Jacob is.  He lies down to rest, perhaps not knowing if he will be eaten by wild animals or attacked by a band of roving theives.  But he is so exhausted he no longer cares.  So exhausted a rock works as a pillow.

And God comes to him in a dream, Jacob's Ladder we often call it, but it is really God's ladder.  God comes to a frightened, exhausted man certain he will be dead soon and says, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.  I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."

Jacob takes the rock he used for a pillow and makes a monument and says, "If God will be with me...(and do all these things I want Him to do)...then the LORD will be my God."  Okay, admit it, you're as bugged as I am about this.  Why would Jacob bother to build a monument, express his confidence that "Surely the Lord is in this place...how awesome is this place" and then say IF God...?

This is where it pays to read the footnotes.  Apparently, the word "if" can also be translated "since".  Let's try that verse again with this substitution.  "Since God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God."  Makes a huge difference, doesn't it?


So here's another thing that bugs me.  If the translators know the word "since" could go here, why did they choose "if" instead?  Doesn't it make more sense, express more confidence in God, and sound more righteous with the word "since" in there?  But the translator's still chose "if".
 
Could it be because, despite the promises of God for His care and provision, we still want to make sure He follows through before we will really trust Him?  In essence, we say, "I'll make you a deal, God.  As long as you make sure I'm 100% okay and no harm ever comes to me, then and only then will I trust you to be LORD."  If I'm honest, that's where I live...in the "Let's Make a Deal" studio. 
 
This journey, though, is all about learning to live in the place where I have confidence in God and let go of my imagined control or manipulative power to get God to do what I want.  To live in the "since" and not in the "if".
 
To live in the footnote.
 
Until next time,
Becca

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