This week’s scripture text is heart-wrenching. It is the long hoped for reunion of Joseph with the brothers who betrayed him. There are lots of tears and expressions here as the brothers listen with awe to Joseph retelling the story of how God redeemed his journey. Listen in for the conversation with Jack and Tommy and reflect on the mercy of God and how meaning is made in the worst of times.
After the reconciliation with Esau (his brother), Jacob settles in Canaan with his family. On this week's podcast, we trace the stories of the many sons of Jacob, including his youngest son, Joseph (Genesis 37). The story is rife with favoritism, jealousy, violence and estrangement. However, listen especially for the sub-plot with Joseph's brother, Reuben, who is a “glimmer of grace,” according to Dr. Jack Levison.
In this week's text, Genesis 32:22-31, Dr. Levison ponders the mysterious person with whom Jacob wrestles. Is it a man? Is it an angel? Is it God? "One of the important things about being a person of faith is discerning God's presence in apparent absence," he says.
Later, Rev. Williams emphasizes Jacob's persistence in prayer: "I will not let you go, unless you bless me" (v. 26). And in the course of intense wrestling through the night, we find Jacob at daybreak, both bruised and blessed. He greets the new day by naming the place Peniel, meaning "face of God."
- "Come, O Thou Traveler Unknown" by Charles Wesley (UMH 386)
- The Elusive Presence: Toward a New Biblical Theology by Samuel Terrien
Lectionary text from Genesis 29
The Genesis drama intensifies as Jacob falls in love with Rachel, but is tricked by his father-in-law and marries Leah (Rachel's sister) instead. Jacob, who once deceived his father to steal his brother's blessing, now falls victim to being deceived himself. As Dr. Levison and Rev. Williams discuss, in the midst of relationship upheaval and what starts to sound like a modern-day soap opera, somehow the promise of God remains steadfast and continues to be fulfilled.
Rev. Williams and Dr. Levison dig into this week's passage from Genesis 28:10-19.
Jacob dreams of a ladder stretching from earth to heaven. Through the dream, we hear God repeat the promise of how his descendants will multiply and be a blessing to all peoples.
"...And all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring." (v. 14b)
As Dr. Levison notes, "The sign of a great nation is not whether it [thinks itself] great, but whether the earth is blessed by that nation." Rev. Williams adds that often it takes the perspective of others to reveal what is true.
Wherever you may be this summer, listen in to engage in this Bible study discussion with Rev. Tommy Williams and Dr. Jack Levison. "Summer Together" follows the lectionary passages in Genesis, week by week. This week's scripture takes us to the story of Jacob and Esau, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. It's an account of struggle, competition and deception.
"And the LORD said to [Rebekah]: 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples born of you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the elder shall serve the younger.'” – Genesis 25:23
Read the full lectionary passage: Genesis 25:19–34
Turning to Chapter 24 in Genesis, we find the story of Rebekah and Isaac. Dr. Levison and Rev. Williams remark how--even within the patriarchal constraints of the ancient world--Rebekah is an active figure who exercises agency in her own way. "Watch for the women embedded in the story," Dr. Levison remarks.
Wherever you are this summer, we hope you enjoy the easy pace of engaging these lectionary texts week by week. As Dr. Levison encourages us, we are reading scripture slowly so we can pay attention to the remarkable details.
- The Art of Biblical Narrative by Robert Alter
Following along with the summer's lectionary texts, we enter into a particularly difficult passage of scripture this week in Genesis 22. Rev. Williams and Dr. Levison candidly discuss the raw emotion and anguish of this account where God puts before Abraham a test, telling him to sacrifice his son Isaac, whom he loves.
There are no easy answers here. Dr. Levison encourages us, the readers, not to rush to the end too soon and reassure ourselves that God halts the sacrifice of Isaac. He also recommends for us not to try to find "the moral of the story" and tie everything up neatly. In this complex passage (as so much of scripture so often is) there is simply not a way to fully understand it, yet we still engage it together.
This week, Rev. Williams and Dr. Levison continue the conversation around Abraham and Sarah as the couple grapples with believing God’s promise to make a great nation through them.
"Is there anything too wonderful for God?" or put another way, "Is there anything too difficult for God?" (Genesis 18:14) Dr. Levison remarks on how the difficult and the wonderful often go together.
New characters emerge in Hagar and Ishmael adding layers of complexity and opportunity to realize God's provision and protection. We see how God stays steadfast in keeping old promises and making new ones.
Listen in and let us know your thoughts in the comments section.
This is a beginning overview of the Book of Genesis. In the Q&A, Dr. Jack Levison names Genesis as a book that holds the promises of God and the threats to God’s promise. One promise is “to be fruitful and multiply.” This week’s readings (Genesis 18: 1-15) recount the visitation to Abraham and Sarah by three strangers who bring a promise from God.