Tag Archives: Edom

Family is Family

 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way;
Numbers 21:4 (NIV)

My maternal grandfather, Claude Hendrickson had a particularly difficult childhood. Grandpa Spec’s father committed suicide after learning he had tuberculosis. It was assumed that Perry Hendrickson wanted to spare his family the medical costs and difficulties associated with a long, terminal illness. My grandfather, the eldest of three siblings, was farmed out to his maternal grandparents to be raised. His mother retained custody of the younger siblings.

“Spec,” as he was known this whole life, experienced a strict upbringing with his grandparents. There was, however, discipline and faith. He managed well, got married, worked hard, and made a decent life for his family. Meanwhile, his siblings suffered their own difficulties as their mother, Olive Hendrickson, went through a string of failed marriages. Spec’s brother Ralph, an alcoholic, came looking for a job from his older brother. Spec agreed to hire his brother, but explained that he would fire him the first time he found his brother drinking on the job. When that eventually happened, Ralph was fired and promptly returned family in Illinois where he spread malicious lies about Spec among the family there. Spec felt ostracized by much of his family from that point on.

Spec and Ralph remained estranged, yet when Ralph died Spec drove to Illinois to pay his respects and to face a family who thought the worst of him because of Ralph’s malicious stories. Imagine my grandfather’s horror when the funeral director handed him the bill for his brother’s funeral. As “next of kin” the family expected him to pay the bill for his estranged brother who had caused him so much trouble. My grandfather paid the bill, returned home to Iowa, and let it go.

Family is family,” I can hear my grandfather say from his rocker, chewing on a cigar.

This story came to mind as I read today’s chapter. There is a subtle, recurring theme through the story of the wilderness wanderings of the Hebrews. It appears again today when the nomad nation takes a circuitous route to avoid the land of Edom. Skirting Edom to the east meant living in an extremely desolate area east of the Dead Sea.

Back in Deuteronomy God had told Moses to leave Edom alone because the land of Edom had been settled by Esau, the twin brother of Jacob (aka Israel). The story of the twins is back in Genesis 25. Esau had been Jacob’s older twin, but Jacob had deceived Esau into giving him his birthright. The result was “bad blood” between the brothers and their descendants.

It has been some 600 years since the days of Jacob and Esau, and now the nation of Israelites are living in a desolate desert wilderness clawing out their survival because God had ordered, through Moses, that they leave Esau’s land alone. The people weren’t happy.

“Family is family.” There has always been an unwritten human principle about being faithful to family, to provide for family, to be true to family. In my life journey I believe I’ve seen the power of this sentiment slowly fade in our culture as families spread out over larger and larger geographical areas. Yet, I’m not sure it will ever fade completely. There’s something that’s built in our DNA. It’s why millions of people are doing DNA tests and searching out their roots to understand who their family is and “where I come from.” There is a part of us and our life journey that we realize is only understood in the context of the family from which we spring.

This morning I’m thinking about our human family and the things that connect us. I continue to marvel that modern genetics has definitively shown that all of us descend from what scientists refer to as “Genetic Eve.” We are all part of the same human family. Like the Hebrews, over time we feel less and less connection. Despite the fact that God reminded the Hebrews that the Edomites were “family” they didn’t think of the Edomites in those terms. They saw their distant cousins as enemies who refused to allow them to pass through the land. The Edomites didn’t see the Hebrews as distant cousins but as a threat to their very existence. Along the way our self-centered fears and desires turns human family members into mortal enemies.

Then there are those like Grandpa Spec. Despite having every reason to save his money and walk away angry from his brother’s funeral, he simply paid the funeral bill and let it go.

Family is family.

Indeed.

Transience

Thorns will overrun her citadels,
    nettles and brambles her strongholds.
She will become a haunt for jackals,
    a home for owls.
Isaiah 34:13 (NIV)

If you travel down by the Dead Sea today and look to the south you’ll be looking at the lands of the ancient kingdom of Edom. The Edomites were one of ancient Israel’s constant foes and in today’s chapter the prophet Isaiah predicts (with more than a hint of schadenfreude) that Edom would become a place of desolation, the home of desert animals.

I had the opportunity to stand on the southern shores of the Dead Sea and to look at the land. The featured photo of this post is one I took of the southern end of the Dead Sea. It is a very desolate place. Isaiah’s schadenfreude aside, his prophetic vision of Edom’s downfall was eventually realized. The Edomites slowly declined and the Kingdom of Edom did not survive the Babylonian invasion in the 6th century B.C..

One of the subtle lessons that was impressed on me while traveling in Israel was the transience of civilization. There are so many ruins, archaeological digs, and desolate places where great cities and kingdoms once thrived. It was a reminder to me of the breadth of human history and how each of us experience just a minute sliver of it.

I read Isaiah’s prophecy of doom for Edom and I can’t help but wonder if my quaint little hometown of Pella will be an archaeological site 1,000 years from now. It is so easy to think about our lives and world in such assured terms. A brief glance at history reminds me how silly such thinking can be.

This morning I’m thinking about the transience of kingdoms, nations, and empires. I’m reminded of the transience of my own life. Especially in this current season, I’m reminded that Jesus said He came that we might experience Life in abundance. A good reminder to enjoy all that this day holds.

chapter a day banner 2015

We are Family

Chapter-a-Day Genesis 36

This is the account of the descendants of Esau (also known as Edom). Genesis 36:1 (NLT)

As I read today’s chapter I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to “the rest of the story.” All of these descendants of Esau (also known as Edom) would become the Edomites who would live in constant conflict with the descendants of Israel. The prophet Obadiah’s message was against the Edomites. The conflict was between tribes who shared a common ancestor.

That is also true of the conflicts we read about on the internet and see on the television today. The nation of Israel trace their lineage back through Isaac to Abraham. The arab nations trace their lineage back through Ishmael to Abraham. They are all sons of Abraham.

We can cast the net even wider. DNA projects being carried on by National Geographic and other groups are tracing the common genetic strands of everyday people all over the world in order to learn more about how tribes and nations and peoples spread across the earth. What modern genetics has determined is [surprise!] we all, every person on this Earth can trace their genes back to the same woman.

I can also pull the net in close to find this theme played out around me each day. I live in a small Iowa town founded by a small handful of Dutch immigrant families. “Dutch Bingo” is what we call the game that locals play when they start conversationally tracing family trees in order to find a connection. If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard or witnessed casual friends or neighbors playing Dutch Bingo only to find that they are third or fourth cousins and never knew it, I could buy you a Starbucks Grande Latte in Oslo.

I don’t know what to make of it all. I scratch my head and mull it all over as I sip my morning coffee and watch the snow falling outside. The one thing that it does make me appreciate is that we are all connected. I can’t do much about world politics or global conflict, but I can choose each day how I treat my fellow human being family member. I can be a little more deferential to that jerk uptown who drives me nuts. I can choose to respond to a personal attack with grace. I can take that money I’d spend on your Oslo Grande Latte and feed a distant cousin on the other side of the world, help dig a well for a community of far off relatives who daily live without clean water, or help free someone with whom I’m genetically connected from human trafficking.

 

Chapter-a-Day Obadiah 1

But even if you soar as high as eagles
    and build your nest among the stars,
I will bring you crashing down,”
    says the Lord.
Obadiah 1:4 (NLT)

I am a lover of the underdog. I don’t know why it is that I have taken this scourge upon myself, but I have. In baseball season I cheer for MLB’s “loveable losers” the Chicago Cubs who have been cursed to have not one a World Series since 1908. During the football season I cheer for the Minnesota Vikings whom I watched lose four Super Bowls in my childhood and have never seen them return. Even in our own collegiate, in-state rivalry here in Iowa I tend to pull for the underdog Cyclones over the more popular and historically successful Hawkeyes. People will often ask me why I just don’t switch allegiances and go with a “winner.” It takes faith to cheer for the underdog. You gotta believe that the big victory is so much sweeter when it happens.

Of course, the corollary to cheering for the rare underdog victory is the sweetness of watching the mighty fall. I have always enjoyed watching the “sure thing” fall apart. I remember as a kid when the headline on the sports page proclaimed Houston as the winner of the NCAA basketball finals before the championship game was even played. That was before NC State pulled out one of the most improbable upsets in recent sports history. I love it when the “sure thing” proves not to be so sure.

That’s exactly the theme of Obadiah’s message. The nation of ancient Edom built their homes in a network of caves high in the cliffs of the local mountain range. An invading army had no good way of assailing them successfully. And so, the Edomites felt smug and secure in their cliff top caves. Survival was a “sure thing” because no one could reach them up there. Obadiah’s message was a reminder of a constant theme throughout God’s Message:  pride comes before the fall.

Today, I’m reminded to be grateful for all of my blessings. There is nothing that is a “sure thing” in this life. I pray I never get to the point of feeling a smug sense of security (at least I have both the Cubs and Vikings to remind me of that throughout the year).

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 49

tsunami

“Ah, Edom, I’m dropping you to last place among nations,
   the bottom of the heap, kicked around.
You think you’re so great—
   strutting across the stage of history,
Living high in the impregnable rocks,
   acting like king of the mountain.
You think you’re above it all, don’t you,
   like an eagle in its aerie?
Well, you’re headed for a fall.
   I’ll bring you crashing to the ground.” God’s Decree. Jeremiah 49:15-16 (MSG)

I, along with the rest of the world, watched with fascination over the weekend as Japan struggled with the aftermath of the strongest earthquake recorded in that country and the subsequent tsunami. I thought back to my post from Jeremiah 47. I guess I could add another bullet point to my list of doomsday predictions.

The events of the previous few days came to mind as I read this morning’s chapter. There’s a big difference between healthy skepticism when people are quick to proclaim “the end of the world” and blind arrogance about our own personal safety and well-being.

In Jeremiah’s day, the people of Edom lived in caves in tall cliffs. It was almost impossible for armies to successfully lay seige to the area. The people of Edom, therefore, felt a strong sense of security. “No one can touch us up here in our caves,” they said to themselves. Thus, Jeremiah’s prophesy reminded them that they should watch it with the big head. And, so should we. We may never live to the end of the world, but it quite possible that we’ll see the end of many things as we’ve known them.

I try not too worry too much about tomorrow. Today has plenty of worries of its own. Still, reading Jeremiah’s words and watching the news feed out of Japan remind me not to put too much security in the things of this world. A tsunami of events might just wash them all away on a moments notice.

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