God is not named the Wonderful Counselor

Why is it every time this season comes around, we get to butchering the text of Isaiah 9:6?  For the sake of traditions of men, we continually perpetuate the concept that God’s name is called Wonderful Counselor.  To the contrary, his name is not Wonderful Counselor, but rather Wonderful and, seperately, His name is Counselor.  We like to have this habit of overlooking during the Xmas season, overlooking the concept of giving, overlooking the concept of reading Scripture for all it’s worth, and overlooking the meaning of His names.

In so conjoining Wonderful and Counselor, we forget the meaning of both.

What does it mean to say God is Wonderful?
God is the Wonderful.  For this, consider that God manifested Himself to Moses and delivered Israel’s offspring from the hand of Mizraim (Egypt).  We forget that He, appropriate to the birth of the Messiah, showed Pharaoh His wonders.  This passage and account of Israel’s deliverance is appropriate to the account of the birth of Christ, since God called His son out of Egypt, and during the time of Moses, called His people Israel out of the Egyptian wilderness.  

For He is full of wonders.

He is not some trite part Xmas cantata.  A fixture or decoration of the tree idol we seek to set up in our homes, but rather, He and His wonders are the heart and heartbeat of the Xmas season.  

Moreover, He is the Counselor, the Paraclete, the one who comes alongside and encourages and exhorts.  He is the Baptizer with fire and the near present Immanuel, the God in, with, and among us.

He is the one who gives comfort and counsel to the abandoned, orphan, widow, fatherless, sufferers of neuroses and psychoses, far more effectively than any therapist, psychiatrist, or scrip for antidepressants.  He speaks and influences and, if, by His very words the heavens and earth were formed (Heb 11), then surely His speaking into our individual lives is that much more effective and…wonderful.

Jacob and Esau's Birthright

Okay, so, I have heard this story a zillion times before and only four years ago did I ever hear someone challenge the traditional interpretation of it (you know, from the perspective of Esau, that Jacob deceived Esau of his birthright).  The challenger was my wife, Kresha, and the comment was “Jacob was not being a deceiver.  He was just being a good businessman.”  Jacob’s name means literally “he who grabs the heel.”  He was named for the incident in which he grabbed Esau’s heel as Esau was coming out of Rebekah’s womb.


Since we in the church seem to so frequently have a socialistic interpretation on Scripture that God be fair, though God never purported or confessed to be fair.  He seems to occasionally behave, from our POV, much like a benevolent dictator, which, since He is God, befits Him.


And then we come to Esau’s assessment in Gen  27:36.

Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

And we mindlessly agree with that perspective and move along, because after all, it’s written in the Bible.  Everything that is said by someone in the Bible is exactly in agreement and in line with God’s thinking, and needs no other interpretation.

However, this time, when I heard the comment, it got me thinking, is there any evidence of Jacob’s being just a good businessman or a deciever?

Let’s look at the passage together recounting the birth of the twins and the birthright issue.  God says the following:


23 And the LORD said to her:

      “Two nations are in your womb,
      Two peoples shall be separated from your body;
      One people shall be stronger than the other,
      And the older shall serve the younger.”
24 So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25 And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau.<sup class="footnote" value="[a]”>[a] 26 Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau’s heel; so his name was called Jacob.<sup class="footnote" value="[b]”>[b] Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them.
27 So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.
29 Now Jacob cooked a stew; and Esau came in from the field, and he was weary. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Please feed me with that same red stew, for I am weary.” Therefore his name was called Edom.<sup class="footnote" value="[c]”>[c]
31 But Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright as of this day.”
32 And Esau said, “Look, I am about to die; so what is this birthright to me?”
33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me as of this day.”
So he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 And Jacob gave Esau bread and stew of lentils; then he ate and drank, arose, and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.



So, Esau was a skilled hunter who could have found his own food and roasted it over the fire that Jacob had prepared for his soup or made a fire for himself in the wilderness, if Jacob did not have a fire (we are not told Jacob has a fire, but perhaps we may assume a fire is present for soup to be warmed).  But instead, Esau wants soup.  Jacob wants the birthright, and did not steal it away as by stealth.  Esau SOLD the birthright.  Moreover, for us to say that Esau despised his birthright (v. 34) only to turn around and agree tacitly with Esau that Jacob “deceived” him of his birthright, is contradictory.  Esau, who could have shot that tasty venison that he got two chapters later for his father Isaac, instead was feeling lazy and the soup was smelling nice.  It would be nice to sit on his can and get a bowl of chow without having to work for it.

So, no, church, Jacob did not deceive Esau, unless you consider a broad daylight sale and trade in full knowledge and complete competence and sanity to be deception.  Moreover, when the writer says Esau despised his birthright, that means that Esau did not care about his birthright and was willing to give it in exchange.  

Why should we pitch sound exegesis out the window just because someone pitches a fit in the Bible, the way Esau did?

Now as for the blessing, we know that Jacob did dress himself up, and Isaac was blind, so that can be considered legitimate deception.  However, Rebekah had received a prophecy that the “older [would] serve the younger,” (v. 23) though we are not told that Isaac knew of the prophecy.  Given Rebekah’s favor of Jacob and her help in deceiving of Isaac, it is possible she held this secret and did not tell Isaac, in case it would work to Jacob’s advantage.  However, it was God’s plan to make Jacob greater than Isaac.  So, this deception could have been orchestrated as part of God’s plan to make Jacob into the nation of Israel, since He would have known the heart of Jacob as different from Esau.  Esau, as the lesson with the stew illustrates, could have had a Saul-like quality of arrogance or pride that would have kept God from choosing him.

Moreover, God, in His foreknowledge also says in Malachi that “He loved Jacob and hated Esau.”  It may be because of this incident that revealed Esau’s heart to us, that caused Malachi to pen God’s words about Jacob and Esau.

Consider this well, and know that Jacob’s work in obtaining the birthright and the blessing was permitted by God, and was used to accomplish His ends, which meant Israel was blessed.


Thoughts?




Dr. Mark Hausfeld, a mentor, friend, and former teacher from seminary, wrote and presented the following from Lausanne, a big world evangelization convention that is meeting this year in South Africa.

Dr. Mark Hausfeld on “Missional Greeting”

by richardbrogden
This morning I was impressed by Dr. Michael Herbst’s presentation
“Making the Case for the Truth of Christ in a Pluralistic Globalized
World.”  Herbst is from the former East Germany.  In his presentation
he recounted how one generation, the post World War II generation that
was under the domination of Soviet Communism, was forced to look to
the State as their provider instead of God.  That generation waned in
Biblical faith.  The result was their children, the second generation
post-World War II grew up totally without the Scriptures, prayer, the
Church and thus, faith in the God of the Bible.  The Communist Party
of the East German Republic was the sole entity to look to for
provision.  The second generation gave birth to the third post World
War II generation and by this generation dissatisfaction with the
State as the sole provider created change in that in this generation
the Communist government capitulated.  Perhaps logic would lead we
believers to think that the failed concept of the State as the sole
provider would led this German generation back to God.  The actuality
is that the opposite has took place.  As the saying goes, “The Church
is only one generation from extinction” in type can be exemplified in
what was East Germany.
The failed concept that the sole provider be a government  carries
over in the mindset of the Eastern German when told of a God who is
proclaimed by the Church to be humankind’s provision.  Jaded by past
lies such a God is rejected as well.  Why?  In the mind of the post-
Christian Eastern German he government failed and such a God wold fail
therefore neither can be trusted for provision.  How does the Body of
Christ communicate the Truth of the gospel in such a context?  Here’s
the answer.
“Missional greetings.”  Herbst told the story of three German
believers who rented an apartment in an old gray Communist era
building in a city in Eastern Germany.  There people isolated
themselves, personal contact with others was  limited and relationship
had to be fostered intentionally.  It is an example of life across
Eastern Germany.  These three people felt led of the Spirit to start
“missional greetings.”  They began to greet men, women, young people
and children with simple greetings of kindness to people.  This action
reminded me of Mother Teresa’s words when she said, “The first step of
love is to show kindness.”
The result is incarnational mission taking place as these believers
become the presence of Jesus to those in their apartment complex.
With each missional greeting the Person and work of Christ  becomes
real as the “Iron Curtain” of unbelief begins to rust and collapse.
Faith in Christ begins to fill the horizon of such a life.  The Truth
of the gospel is understood through people building relationships over
coffee, walks in the apartment complex yard and in living rooms where
friendships are solidified.  It all started with a kind missional
greeting.
Peter said, “Give reason for the hope that you have.”  The “missional
greeting” is not an argument, a theological discussion, or a new
missiology.  It is simply making Jesus known through being kind and
loving.  The result is people coming to know the way, the Truth and
the life because gospel Truth is being modeled through the life of the
Church.
This is not brain surgery.  What would happen if each of us as
followers of Jesus Christ intentionally extended a missional greeting
to our neighbors?  Those we work with in the marketplace the person we
pass on the street, the immigrant Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or post-
Christian we have in our presence each day each receive missional
greetings and we become a true priesthood of believers.  A bridge to
the Truth-less.  I believe the result would be what is happening in
post-Christian Eastern Germany.  Relationships would grow, coffee and
tea would be shared, unbelievers who become friends would visit our
living rooms and Christ-less friends would become sisters and brothers
in Christ as the gospel is seen and proclaimed as the reason for the
hope that is had.
Who will you give a missional greeting today?

Anger

I struggle with anger.

Not just the kind where I cussed my Father, my dad, and pastors for every four letter word in the book.  But the kind that took those offenses and defended them militantly.

I think I am starting to understand that part from Ephesians 4:26ish that says, “Be angry but do not sin, and do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  Or as the other translations say “In your anger do not sin.”  I would like to think Paul was saying “do not sin by the way of/the avenue/the means of anger.”  That is, sin done through anger has a murderous dimension that makes it especially vile, and brings the sinner to a place of blindness and enablement to do things he would otherwise not do in his right mind.

I have been there.  IN the place where I was empowered to to the wrong thing.  It’s a pitiful place to be.  It’s nothing but a dead end, or as Paul comments in another place, as fruitful as “boxing the air.” 

Reminds me of “Madea Goes to Jail” and a comment Madea makes during one of the prison meetings.  In that scene we hear that forgiveness is not for the other person.  It’s for you.  It’s for the one who has been offended, so that they can be liberated.  Madea, in this scene says to one of the embittered inmates.  “Your dad is somewhere living his life, and you’re on lockdown.”  That line just struck me between the eyes when I first heard it and it has stayed with me ever since.

I say that to say this.  Anger is the key to liberty or jail.  Anger and offense, that is, are the keys to getting in and out of jail.  In other words, if you let go of your anger and forgive the other person, then you will experience true freedom, and on the converse, if you choose to take up anger (which is always a choice for us, and yes, we can help the way we feel, bonafide chemical imbalances notwithstanding) then you will go into a place of solitude, where everyone you know will desert you.  The only way we can let this go is to give it to the Lord.  Not something else or someone else.  The Lord is the only one who has enough resources and patience to handle the fullness of our anger.

Allow me to illustrate

John and Sarah are some friends of ours from Florida.  One day John called me up to tell me that Sarah had just introduced him to Chuck and Laura, two of her old friends from youth group.  During the conversation, Chuck mentioned that he stayed at home and cleaned.  Sarah related that Chuck should teach John how to clean properly.  This made John angry, because it cast him in a lazy light in front of people he had never met.  Later, Sarah came up to John and apologized to her for saying what she said.  So John asked me what I thought.  I told him it might be best to let patience take the lead on this so that he did not say something out of anger he might regret.  I also suggested that Sarah might apologize to Chuck and Laura for saying hurtful things about him to people he does not know, since that might give them a negative first impression.

I use this illustration to make the following points about handling anger.  If your spouse/friend/parent “throws you under the bus,” you will still need to do the following

1. Forgive them. The Father has forgiven us our sins so we in turn must forgive others.  Not only does the security of our salvation depend on it, but our ability to hear from God with a soft heart hinges on our willingness to forgive others, as well as the personal freedom we experience.

2. Practice patience.  Patience is one of the major facets of love, and it is an antivenom for the poison of anger.  While anger shortens our fuse, patience lengthens our fuse, stops us, forces us to take a breath, and causes us to think over the situation before we speak.  The Proverbs prolifically espouse the benefits to the patient man of being slow to speak.  Patience is the best solution when the emotions of our prideful hearts have charged the atmosphere.

3.  Speaking of emotions, consider the following verses, since emotions flow from the heart (Proverbs label these the issues of life-Proverbs 4:23).  Place a guard over your heart according to Proverbs 4:23, and remember the verse out of Jeremiah 17:9.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  If our hearts, being the seat of our emotions, are deceitful, and thus capable of deceiving us, then it is up to us to lead our hearts according to the Scriptures, and not letting our emotions and hearts lead us, mistaking those emotions for the voice of the Holy Spirit. 

Do not let your heart govern you, not for one second, because it will lead you down an undiscerned path.