Archive for January, 2019

Emails from Moses – Postscript. Image created by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 36 – EMAILS FROM MOSES – Postscript 

To your majesty, King Hadar, 

Recently I have been searching the NET (National Edomite Transcripts) to find references to the history of the kings of Edom. I came across a few letters and e-mails between Jacob and Esau describing the beginnings of the fascinating history of your nation, but it mentions only clan leaders, not the kings.  

With your permission, I was wondering, since we have a common Ancestor in Abraham, if you or your secretaries would be able to help me find out what happened after Esau’s grandchildren died and specifically about the kings of Edom.  

As you know Israel has no kings, but Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were promised by God that kings would come from their descendants. It hasn’t happened yet for Jacob’s descendants, but I understand your nation has had kings for many years. 

Yours ancestrally, 

Moses,  

Servant of God most high, 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Moses, leader of the hordes of Israel, 

I am not compelled in any way to share anything with you, Moses. You and your God are nothing to us. But since we have a common ancestor in Abraham and Isaac, I will share briefly some the historical information of our great nation.  

In summary, there are 7 kings. Firstly, Bela, Jobab, and Husham.  

Then there’s Hadad (not me). You wouldn’t like this Hadad much. He killed Midian in the field of Moab, son of our common ancestor, Abraham, by his wife Keturah. I understand you have some Midianite connections also.  

Then there’s Samlah, Shaul, Baal-hanan and now I, king Hadad, am king. All kings ruled from different cities in Edom and I rule from the city of Pau. 

Yours historically, 

Hadad, King of Edom, 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Your Royal Highness, King Hadad, 

Your information has been helpful. Thankyou so much for the list of your kings. This allows me the opportunity to record the family tree of our common ancestors, Abraham and Isaac, through Esau.  

Yes, I had heard of the other King Hadad who killed Midian. His passing was grieved by Abraham and his wife, no doubt, and all the Midianites then and since. I lived in the district of Midian for 40 years after I left Egypt. Jethro, my father-in-law is also a Midianite priest to God most highHis daughter, my wife, is Zipporah.  

I am fascinated by your kings ruling from different cities. I thought each son would rule from their father’s city. I have never heard of this practice. Is there a reason for why this happens? 

Yours with curiosity, 

Moses,  

friend of God. 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Moses,  

I think you have misunderstood me in thinking that our Edomite kings come from a family dynasty of rulers. This is not so. 

Many years ago, Esau wrote into the very fabric of our society that none of us can presume clan leadership on the basis of birthright or a father’s blessing. Each leader must earn his leadership by power of force and strategy 

There are no favorites in Edomite rulership, no family dynasties, no kings anointed by God in our clans. We fight for the right of the throne and keep it by the power of the sword, knowing that our sons will not be the next kings. 

6 kings have come and gone, all from different families and now I am king. No-one will usurp my kingdom, though there have been those who have tried 

The leaders of clans give their names to their districts. Those leaders are governed by my rulershipSome kings, including me, have had cities of our own but we have no capital cities. They are merely places to live, fortresses, some built into the very rocks of Petra. Edom is a country of narrow canyons and is easily defended.  

By the way, we don’t allow strangers into our lands and, despite our common ancestors, we are not allies. Jacob gave up that right when he stole Esau’s blessing. Esau we have loved and Jacob we have hated. Think twice before planning to travel this way into Canaan.  

Yours militarily, 

Hadad,  

High king of Edom 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

To Your Highness, King Hadad, King of all Edom, 

God has certainly been good to your people, putting you in possession of your land much sooner than us Israelites. Although you have made it clear that you do not regard us as allies, be assured that we are not a threat to your kingdom.  

God has made it clear that to us that you feel threatened by our presence in your territory, so we will be careful not to bother you, for we understand that He has given you all the hill country around Mount Seir as your property, and we do not want even one square foot of your land.  

If we need food to eat or water to drink, we will pay you for it. God has been with us in our journey from Egypt and each step through this great wilderness. We have lacked nothing. We will avoid the road through the Arabah Valley that comes up from Elath and Ezion-geber (Deuteronomy 2:2-8).  

We will bypass your territory because we respect you as the descendants of Esau.  

One day we will see kings over our people. From our descendants, we will see the Messiah, King of all kings. The promise to Abraham that all the nations of the world will be blessed through him will be fulfilled (Genesis 12:1-3). 

You have said that you have hated Jacob and love Esau. Be careful that one day God does not say of you, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” (Malachi 1:2-3) 

Yours respectfully, 

Moses,  

Friend and servant of God most high 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dake reminds me that “the rock-hewn city, Petra, later the capital of Edom, was an ancient stronghold. The temples and houses cut in the sides of the mountains surrounding Petra still exist and look freshly made.  

Edom had everything in wealth and power but no real faith in God and only the prospect of judgment to realize (Obadiah 1). In contrast, Israel had little in material wealth and power, but a struggling faith in God and all of God’s promises yet to be realised in the coming Christ.  

Christ followers are invited to live by faith not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:7) just as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived (Hebrews 11).  

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 36 – EMAILS TO ESAU – Part 3 

Hi Esau, 

Thanks for all the information about your grandsons. You really have got quite a crowd to lead.  

Tell me, how did you originally come to live in Mt Seir? I’ve heard of an old hillbilly named Seir who pioneered that region and settled there.  

He was still around when we were young. The stories go that he had 7 sons who were prominent clan leaders called the Horites? Dad always told us to keep away from them. They had a reputation of being mercenaries, thugs and thieves. So how did you end up in Seir which you now call Edom? 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

We ended up in Mt Seir because I have an even greater group of mercenaries, thugs and thieves than Seirs seven sons. We dispossessed them of everything and occupied their land. They were a bunch of cave dwellers, used to living rough, but they were a pretty wiley bunch and good fighters. They weren’t expecting to be routed, but they are actually better off now than they were.  

We took some of their women to be our wives. My wife Oholibamah is the daughter of one of Seir’s sons, Anah. My son Eliphaz has a Horite concubine named Timna. She is the last daughter of Seir. He was pretty old when she was born, but she is still older than Eliphaz. Eliphaz gained some points with the Horites when he married her. 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

So do I choose quick results of material gain and power or learn to be patient and believe in the promises of God? Esau’s philosophy: Who needs to depend on God for things when you can take care of it yourself? Pursue the self-centered advantage. Jacobs philosophy: Struggle with obeying God, but learn eventually to patiently wait for His promises to be fulfilled.   

God humbles those like Jacob, while others, like Esau, gain the whole world. … But lose their own soul. 

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 36 – EMAILS TO ESAU – Part 2 

Emails to Esau 2 © Image Created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

Happy birthday to us! 120! Can you believe another decade has past. A lot of water under the bridge and bridges burned (I hope). I hope you have a great day. 

Your homeland sounds fascinating. I guess the name Edom will always remind me of our past also, and if you don’t mind, I won’t inflame enmity by attempting to come. I hope we can still keep in contact, however.  

I can’t say I have particularly represented God very well over the years, yet at significant times in my life, He has spoken clearly to me. I have struggled with Him. But He has always been with me. I am sad to hear you have abandoned faith in Him. I hope it’s not because of me, but I fear I had a lot to do with it, although I cannot take final responsibility for your decisions. 

I am still interested in getting our family tree in order, as I now take over that responsibility from Dad. I have been married for over 40 years. You must have been married for around 80 years, so there must be quite a few children. 

Yours, 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Thanks for the Birthday wishes. I had forgotten. You were the only one who remembered.  

Since you don’t look like you are going to stop with this family tree thing, I’ll give you some details. 

Like you, brother, I’m a polygamist. I have three wives:  First is Judith (now known as Aholibamah), the daughter of Beeri, the Hittite, a total heathen in your eyes, brother. And Bashemath (now known as Adah), the daughter of Elon the Hittite (Genesis 36:2). 

Mum and Dad were not too impressed with my choices of wives when I told them (Genesis 26:34), so to appease them, I married my cousin, another Bashemath (now known as Mahalath), the daughter of Ishmael. It didn’t make much difference. She doesn’t believe in your God either (Genesis 28:6-9).  

If you are wondering about the name changes, in Edomite culture we change the names of our women when they are married. 

My family has prospered greatly despite our rejection of God and despite living outside of Canaan. I now have many servants and cattle.  

I have broken free from the yoke, like Dad’s blessing said.  

Since it is only my sons that interest you for your records, you can list 5.  

Adah gave birth to Eliphaz. Eliphaz strangely enough believes in God (a bit of a disappointment really). Probably influenced by his friend Job. I have to admit he’s a good tribal leader, though 

Basemath gave birth to Reuel.  Reuel is also a tribal leader.  

Oholibamah gave birth to JeushJalam, and Korah. They were all born in Canaan (Genesis 36:2-3).  

I didn’t want my kids growing up with all the God talk of my parents. So I moved to Edom some time ago, but like you came back when I heard Dad was dying. I became quite wealthy while I was in Canaan, but I could not call this my home because it is promised to you, so I packed up for good. I have no desire to live in your shadow, Jacob (Genesis 36:6). There’s not enough land to support us both because of all our livestock and possessions anyway. 

Now Dad’s gone I have moved everything to Mt Seir in Edom. You don’t need to worry. I won’t get in your way. 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Dear Esau, 

You and I are very different and so I guess your decision to move was wise. Nevertheless, it seems strange that your sons were born in Canaan only to move out. My sons were born out of Canaan only to move in. You acquired wealth in Canaan only to move to Edom. I acquired wealth in Padan-aram only to move to Canaan. I ran away from you after stealing your blessing. Now you move away from me in order for me to enter into that same blessing. What a strange set of circumstances. 

Tell me. Do you have any grandsons? 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

Let’s make one thing clear, brother. I didn’t move from Canaan because of my love for you. I moved because I already have a life and own my land, which is more than you can say about Canaan. All you have is a promise and promises don’t mean anything. Get real, Jacob.  

As for Grandsons. Yes, I have 10 grandsons. I am getting old. All of them now are clan leaders of around 1000 families. 

Eliphaz has 5 children. Teman is his eldest son. Teman is a great leader. He already has a district and town named after him in Edom.  

Eliphaz also lives in Teman. Great man of wisdom. Eliphaz the Temanite. Can’t tell him anything. The whole place gives me the creeps. They’re all a lot of philosophers and know-it-alls and all they do is sit around and talk and read. A bit too cerebral for me.  

 Eliphaz has other sons, Omar, ZephoGatam and Kenaz 

I suppose you need to add another son also. Eliphaz took a concubine, just to continue the family tradition, named Timna, a local girl, and they had a son called Amalek (Genesis 36:12). He’s a tough kid. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of him. He’s not well accepted by the rest of the family. So he has moved his clan to the West of Edom. I don’t see him much 

Eliphaz also has a son-in-law, Korah, also a great leader.   

I don’t have time for other details, so here’s a quick rundown. My son Reuelm through my wife Basemath, has 4 sons: Nahath, Zerah, Shammah, and Mizzah. (Genesis 36:12-13). 

I’m going on a 3 day hunting trip through the mountains so I’ll write to you again when I get time. Might even prepare some red stew when I get back. Pity you aren’t here to cook it.   

Esau. 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Esau is a very successful, wealthy, powerful man. Famous. The best example of a successful Atheist the world has to offer. Who says God won’t allow Atheists to succeed in life? But at what cost. Alienation from family and constant tension with the world around him. Arrogance with defying God.   

Pastor Ross 

Ancient E-mails to Esau © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 36 – E-MAILS TO ESAU – Part 1 

Hi Esau, 

It was great that you and I were there when our Dad died. So strange to think we won’t see him or Mum again. I feel a little like an orphan.  

I appreciated spending a bit of time with you after all these years, but I realised that I don’t have any real idea of who is in your family. You spoke of some of your children but I really don’t know much more. I have been compiling our family history and wondered if you would mind letting me know about your side. 

Your brother, 

Jacob (now Israel) 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Jacob, 

So, you’ve changed your name. Sorry, but you’ll always be Jacob to me (the deceiver). I’m not really into family histories and you might not like my tribe. My parents certainly didn’t. I married Canaanite wives, outside the family of faith. 

I called our tribe the tribe of Edom, partly because of my red skin colour at birth (Genesis 25:25) and partly to never forget the pot of red stew that I exchanged for my birthright. After you stole my blessing from my father, the name Edom fed my desire to kill you if I ever saw you again. But then time got in the way and it didn’t matter anymore. 

Esau  

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Esau, 

I’m glad that we were able to reconcile our differences. You have certainly done well for yourself. I was wondering if I could come and visit you and perhaps further heal old wounds and get this family tree thing in order. 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

I wouldn’t come here to visit if I were you. It not exactly a safe area for strangers. But it’s your call.  

I call the country where we live Edom, South East of the Dead Sea. It’s a mountainous area, good for hunting and we are starting to build a rock hewn city, unlike any you have ever seen.  

Seriously, I wouldn’t attempt coming here any time soon. You wouldn’t be welcome. My people don’t like strangers. They think I should have killed you when you returned to Canaan. We are an independent people with no need for God. I am building a nation that doesn’t need birthrights or blessings to survive. 

Keep writing, however, brother, and when I have time, I’ll give you a rundown of the black sheep side of the family. Your side of the family tree must be the white goat side. Do you still like wearing goat skins on your arms and neck (just joking Jacob. Relax). 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Esau is the firstborn of twins, a hunter, Isaac’s favorite son. He sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of red stew, loses his father’s blessing through Jacob’s deception, marries Canaanite women to the displeasure of his parents.

An independent man, Esau hated Jacob for a time but then reconciled after 20 years of being apart. He is proud and rejects God. His success is temporary. 

Genesis 36 invites me to choose long-term commitment to God and His purposes for my life over short-term gain without Him. There will be a cost, but it is the cost of choosing to be patient for the promises of God to be fulfilled.

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 35:16-28 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 5  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Ross, 

I have devastating news. Rachel, my beloved wife, has died in childbirth. I am grief-stricken 

On leaving Bethel, the clan and I moved on toward Ephraththe region around Bethlehem. But Rachel went into labor while we were still some distance away. Her labor pains were intense. (Genesis 35:16 NLT) 

As you know, after so many years of not being able to conceive, Rachel gave birth to Joseph before we left Laban. She asked that God would give her another son. That was 15 years ago, but she continued to pray and now finally God has answered her prayer but sent such grief to my soul.  

My twelfth son was premature. The birth was incredibly difficult. After a very hard delivery, the midwife finally exclaimed, “Don’t be afraid—you have another son!”  

Rachel was about to die, but with her last breath she named the baby Ben-oni (which means “son of my sorrow”). Such a name would have been an unbearable burden for him and all of us to bear, so I called him Benjamin instead (which means “son of my right hand”).   

His name replaces the sorrow I feel at losing Rachel. No longer will he be associated with grief but with honour in our family. He is a blessing that issued forth from sadness.  

I buried Rachel on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). I set up a stone monument over her grave, a lasting tribute to her memory. (Genesis 35:17-20 NLT).  

Yours in grief once again, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

 Rachel has shared with you the destiny God has woven into your life. Fruit from hard ground, my friend. I am so sorry for your loss and yet amazed by the promises of God which will be fulfilled through your sons. 

For you, Bethlehem is a place of loss. A memory of someone gone. An acknowledgement of a life of sorrow and joy.  Your monument leaves a legacy for future generations to wonder.  

You renamed your son from Benoni (Son of my sorrow) to Benjamin (Son of my right hand). Perhaps you will find some consolation in that your monument will also mark the place where the Messiah will be born who will also be known as both a man of sorrows and One who sits at the Right Hand of God in heaven.  

The love of your life was buried in the place where the Savior will be born. When He will be born, angels will announce “Good news of great Joy”. Your descendants will be the ancestors of the Son of God. 

The prophet Micah in Micah 5:2 says, “But you, O Bethlehem, Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.”  

I pray, Jacob, for you and for me, that with our last breath, let us not see the sorrow, but the grace of what the Lord has accomplished in our lives and the legacy He gives us to leave behind. 

Isaiah 41:10 (NLT) says, Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand. 

God’s strength, 

Ross. 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Thankyou for your words of encouragement and prophetic insight. At the moment however I am faced with yet a new challenge and great disappointment. 

After Rachel died, I travelled on to see my father. We camped beyond Migdal-eder, the watchtower of the shepherds near Jerusalem. While I was living there, I heard some disturbing reports. My eldest son, Reuben, had intercourse with Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Genesis 35:21-22 NLT).  

You may not understand the significance of this in your culture, but in Canaan, this is seen as a way of showing disrespect for the leader of the tribe or family, a challenge to say that he is unfit. It is described as “making yourself strong”. I know I have not been there when my sons and daughter needed me the most, but I thought we had all made a new start. 

I deserve the scorn of my sons for my lack of leadership. I don’t really know what I will do, but Reuben will not be excused. He is my firstborn but he will never have the leadership of our family 

I have experienced more fear, grief, disappointment and heartache with my sons than ever before in my life. These ongoing attacks, however, have only served to strengthen my resolve to obey God.  

At present, I am taking no action against Reuben. I have twelve sons and God has promised that from my family will come the blessing given originally to Abraham, that through them all the nations of the world will be blessed. How He can use us to do that I really don’t know, but I trust Him. 

God alone can fulfil His promises to me. In the meantime, I am returning to my father, Isaac, in MamreIt is a place of rich historyIt is near Kiriath-arba (now called Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac both lived. Abraham and Isaac lived there as foreigners but this land was promised to them and to us as their family forever.  

My father is blind but meeting his grandsons may give him some pleasure in seeing God’s promises being unfolded before he dies. 

Still trusting in God’s promises, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

Your letter reminds me that neither sin nor death can frustrate God’s purposes for His people. By faith, you have been blessed concerning things to come. 

Isaac must be well over 150 years old by now. He has lived an incredibly long life. (Genesis 35:28 NLT). I don’t want to live that long, but I do want my life to count for something. 

You have gone through so much of late, and you have overcome by your trust in God. You remind me that none of us are exempt from the trials of life; including the deaths of those we love, and the disappointments and stresses of family life.  

When the time comes for your father to die, you will be the great patriarch of the faith, the mantle of responsibility will be placed upon your shoulders to carry to the next generation. 

 Isaac will die in the faith, not having received the promises directlybut having seen it all from a distance and welcomed it. Abraham and Isaac were foreigners and nomads here on earth, looking forward to a country they could call their own. Like you, they have trusted in promises of God being fulfilled in generations to come. God is not ashamed to be called your God, and He has prepared you for a great purpose and blessing on the earth. You too, Jacob have received it by faith (Hebrews 11:13-20 NLT).  

In days to come at Migdal-eder, where you now reside, I prophesy that shepherds will hear of the Saviour who will come directly through your line.  

Thanks for being a friend, Jacob. I have to admit, there have been times when I have not particularly liked you or the way you have done things, but who I am to judge. I have equally not liked myself or my actions at times in my life. Nevertheless, you have always given me an example, especially of late, of someone who holds onto the promises of God in certain hope of seeing His purposes fulfilled. Only the gracious purposes of God will ensure the survival of our families during the perilous times in which we live. 

I will catch up with you again soon, my friend, 

Inspired to trust in the promises of God and His Word, 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Much has happened since last I wrote to you and one day I will tell you about my son Joseph, but for now I am writing to let you know that my father, Isaac, breathed his last and died at a ripe old age, joining his ancestors in death. Esau and I buried him (Genesis 35:29 NLT). 

Once again Esau and I were reconciled, only this time in our grief. My grandfather, Abraham, bought the cave of Machpelah, near Mamrefrom Ephron the Hittite as a permanent burial site. Abraham buried his wife Sarah there and he was buried thereNow my father joins them. My mother, Rebekah, is also buried there. One day Leah and I will be buried there as well (Genesis 49:29-32 NLT). 

As you said in your last letter, I am now the patriarch of the family, heir of the promises and blessings of God, not only Isaac’s wealth. May the Lord help me to honour the heritage He has given me.  

May God be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________

Pastor Ross

Genesis 35:11-16 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 4

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

From Last letter,… 

Dear Jacob, 

… How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter…. 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross 

I am still getting my head around all that God said to me. Sorry if I didn’t tell you the full story. Let me fill in some details. 

I didn’t tell you that God said to me, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply. You will become a great nation, even many nations. Kings will be among your descendants! (Genesis 35:11 NLT).   

I can’t help but think that I am a blessed man beyond what deserve. Not only has God assured me through my new name that He fights for mebut through His Name, He reveals more of Himself to meEl-Shaddai is a name that speaks His great provision and sufficiency.  

Apparently, kings will come from my descendants. How amazing is that? The Lord is omnipotent. Nothing is impossible for Him. He can turn someone like me into someone who is great, simply because He is great.  

My prayer is that He blesses my children and their children with the kind of greatness that comes from acknowledging that He is God Almighty in their lives. 

But God didn’t stop there. He spoke about the promises He made to my ancestors. He said, “I will give you the land I once gave to Abraham and Isaac. Yes, I will give it to you and your descendants after you” (Genesis 35:12 NLT). 

I trust Him to fulfil in me all that I am created for and that many people in the future will be blessed and that my descendants will be blessed. 

And that’s the full story. After that God went up from the place where He had spoken to me (Genesis 35:13 NLT). 

Your utterly amazed friend, 

Jacob 

P.S. Loved the quote you gave from Ephesians? (Sounds like a good book). 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

I am as utterly amazed as you are by your encounter with God. How incredible and awesome! 

2 Peter 1:4 (NLT2) says, “And because of His glory and excellence, He has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share His divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires.”  

You may not fully understand what I am going to say to you next, Jacob, but God has spoken to other servants also through His Word about you.  

Not only will kings come from your descendants but also the Messiah, the King of kings and Lord of lords.  

1 Timothy 6:15 says, “For, at just the right time Christ will be revealed from heaven by the blessed and only almighty God, the King of all kings and Lord of all lords.”  

Thankyou for sharing your amazing story, but Jacob, you are the master of understatement! … 

I am still dumbfounded that you wrapped up your last letter with the words that God “went up” from the place He had spoken to you. What does that mean?  Jacob, where you speaking to God in the form of a person? Was this a bodily presence? A visible person? Face to face with God? Was this a vision? A dream? Did you see Jesus, Himself, a Theophany of the Christ? Or was it just an impression? Please be more specific!  

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

My apologies for not being specific. Let me tell you specifically. I saw God face to face, in bodily form. It was not a vision or a dream and He ascended into heaven after He spoke with me. This may well be a manifestation of the One you speak about in your letter as the King of kings and Lord of lords. 

The experience stirred my heart so much that I set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to me. Then I poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.  

This was the only way I knew to show my respect for the place where I had met with God, face to face.  This place will always be a very special place of worship to me. 

As you know I originally named the place Bethel (which means “house of God”), because God spoke to me there. (Genesis 35:14 NLT) 

Strange, when He met with me, I somehow felt that He was like the purest of lambs sacrificed for sin on the altar, and He was the drink offering I poured out before Him in worship. Bethel, the house of God cannot contain Him and although He went up from that place, He still remains with me. I am His house and I am overcome with worship within. I am filled with His presence even now. 

Tomorrow we are leaving Bethel and moving toward Ephrath (Genesis 35:16 NLT). From there we will travel to meet up with my Father. Where ever I tread, this land is my inheritance, promised from time immemorial to my ancestors, and now to me.  

Heir of promise, 

Jacob 

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Pastor Ross

Genesis 35:8-10 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 3

From the last letter… 

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

…. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Your questions are a little personal and sensitive. I can’t answer for my sons or my daughter.  I cannot control the choices of my children. They know that God is central to my life. You will have to write to them to find your answers.

Soon after my last letter, My Mother’s old nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried beneath the oak tree in the valley below Bethel. Ever since, we have called the tree Allon-bacuth (which means “oak of weeping”) (Genesis 35:8 NLT). 

She helped my mother in raising me so many years ago. She had been staying with my father Isaac until she heard about my return. She gave me the news about my Mother’s death and stayed on to live with us until her own death. I grieve deeply over her loss. 

Deborah nursed me when my name was Jacob; thief of Esau’s blessing, and now I bury her as a new person; heir to God’s promises. I wrote a poem which I spoke over her grave. 

DEBORAH  

“Thou too, Deborah, whose indulgent cares 

Nursed great thief, and formed my tender years, 

Expiring here, an ever-honoured name! 

Adorn El-Bethel with immortal fame: 

Thy name survives, to prompt our pensive hearts; 

As sacred lessons grace to us imparts. 

Soon as thy funeral rites are fully paid, 

Beneath the oak in honour of the dead; 

The sins and tempests of the past now o’er, 

turn, as heir of paths yet to explore.  

(based on a poem by Virgil) 

The things of my past are falling away in so many ways and I have new spiritual pursuits.   

Yours in grief, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

What a beautiful tribute in poetry in your last letter. In a time when things are beginning to be going so well for you, you have now experienced great grief. Christmas and the new year aren’t exempt from grief. Bethlehem experienced the rage of a tyrant and the deaths of innocents, but you don’t know about that yet. 

So sorry to hear about your Mum’s death and that of Deborah, your nurse. Tell me, did you ever meet up with your Mum again before she died? Deborah was obviously well-respected. I love the way you expressed your grief by naming the tree nearby, “the oak of weeping. 

May the Lord help you and me to grieve the losses of our past and bury them each with the thoughtful reflection you have given Deborah. 

God bless you as you grieve, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about losing my Mum. It’s all too painful. What I can tell you is that in the midst of all my grief, God appeared to me. 

I have come full circle. 20 years ago, I escaped to Paddan-aram and on the way God appeared to me at Bethel. Now I have returned from Paddan-aram, and God has appeared to me again at Bethel. God has blessed me. God has never given up on me. He said to me, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed me Israel” (Genesis 35:9 NLT). This is very significant for me. 

Israel means either “the man who prevails with God” or “God prevails and rules over the man.” For me, both are true. The reason I limp is because I prevailed upon God to bless me and God has certainly prevailed over me in that I want to serve Him as my King.   

I may limp, but I am learning that blessing comes from cursing when you finally obey God. I feel as if I have finally entered into my destiny as the man God intended me to be, no longer Jacob the deceiver but Israel the authentic.  

My life has been anything but problem-free. I have experienced much pain, most of it brought about by my own actions, yet in my many fights with God, He has allowed me to prevail as Israel, to prevail not over God, but with Him, to enter into my destiny having grown through the ordeal. 

He also gave me a number of other promises for the future. 

Yours, limping but moving ahead, 

Jacob  

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

I understand your reluctance to talk about your Mum. Sorry for asking.  

How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter.  

Nevertheless, after reading your last, very moving letter, I found myself praying that God would continually return me to the place of promise and blessing, no matter what pain life may hold in getting there.  

I want Him to change any accoutrements of my past that suggest a lie, and to lead me into my destiny, and to fight for me to be authentic also. I want Him to help me not fight against Him but with Him.  

Thanks for all your inspiring letters this week. So pleased to be in correspondence and reading about your journey. 

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Pastor Ross

Dear Jacob (from last letter), 

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

… By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. Despite these horrific events, I’m glad you are moving. I am praying for your protection. 

Ross 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross,

I must admit I was afraid that the nearby towns might bring violence to us in retaliation and revenge, but as we set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked our family. (Genesis 35:5 NLT). The horrible thing is that they probably feared being murdered too. I suppose it is no wonder they felt fear, after a whole town of men was wiped out by my sons, but this fear somehow seemed different. Terrifying and ominous! 

We do not deserve God’s grace. Now, I leave justice in God’s hands alone for the horrific actions of my sons and my lack of leadership. Only He knows what future awaits us. In the meantime, we have been spared.  

I once built an altar to God near Shechem. Now, however, that altar is associated with the massacre. It stands there as a silent witness, but an undesirable one. People from the towns near Shechem will blame God and be afraid of Him. I know that the “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey His commandments will grow in wisdom” (Psalm 11:10 NLT), but this has not been a healthy fear, but dread. I can only hope their terror turns to reverence and God will bring something good out of all this. 

With sadness, 

Jacob 

P.S. The women and children that were captured are the responsibility of my sons, so you had better ask them about that. 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

So pleased to hear that you have been spared any more bloodshed. It made me realise that as I set out on this new part of my life this year, my prayer also needs to be that God will spare me and let no evil befall me or my family. 

God has been faithful to you, Jacob. What He promises, He will fulfil. All the best for your journey to Bethel.  

I wonder why you didn’t visit Bethel earlier. Afterall it is only 15 kms from Shechem and surely you journeyed to Hebron to see your father. Bethel is in between. Why did you avoid Bethel?  

Curious, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Your right. I have been avoiding coming here for 10 years and now, finally, we have arrived at Bethel (also called Luz) in Canaan. (Genesis 35:6 NLT). This is the place where God first spoke to me so uniquely from a stairway to heaven.  

You have to realise that I allowed idols into my household and I haven’t exactly obeyed what God told me to do. Avoiding Bethel was an intentionally rebellious thing to do and has proved to be a big mistake. I have compromised along the way and it took tragedy in my family to get my act together.   

I made a choice to stay in Shechem. I now find myself asking“What have I got to show for it all?” My daughter was raped and I did nothing about it. My sons have massacred all the Shechemite males in retaliation and taken the women and children as slaves. They have sacked and looted the village including the pagan idols and still I did nothing.  

I am ashamed to say that all I did was complain that wouldn’t be able to live there any longer for fear of revenge. It doesn’t get much worse. 

But all this has brought me to my knees and to my senses. We are rid of idols and now I am in Bethel as God commanded me. I built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (which means “God of Bethel”), because God appeared to me there when I was fleeing from my brother, Esau (Genesis 35:7 NLT). 

Back on track, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

Thanks for your very candid letter. You have now done what God called you to do. It is apparent that you are back in touch with God and recognise God’s presence in your life. You marked the spot where God had spoken to you many years ago with an altar. I like this. Your about 10 years late but you got there (Sorry. Couldn’t help taking a dig at you). 

I like the way you changed the name of the place to El-Bethel – God of the House of God. It emphasises God and not the place. That says something to me about your relationship with Him. Bethel was already a place which held great meaning for you but you renamed it so you don’t have to live in the past. You have placed emphasis on God, the One who led you from your past experiences into the present.  

Building an altar is nothing without God. Building a house of God is nothing without worshiping God. It looks like you finally get it – God is now central to all things that have transpired in your life. 

When I read about how you emphasized the Name of God, I found myself praying more for God’s presence in my own life. What will it take to make sure I obey God?  

Of course, building an altar and actually worshiping God alone are two different things. I can’t help thinking of the healing needed in the lives of your children. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

Genesis 35:3-4 – LETTERS TO JACOB  

Letters to Jacob © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

I hear you are moving away from Shechem.  I’ve got to admit that I feel relieved. Shechem may be a good place for trade but it is a morally corrupt place and dangerous for your family. You know this of course, from the recent events that have transpired. I honestly don’t know how you will manage. You will need God’s help. 

I am concerned about you. Jacob, I feel I know you well enough now to be able to encourage you to find God’s plan and follow it. God answered your prayers during a stressful time in your life many years ago. Remember. He will do it again. 

I have also been experiencing a little stress recently. Nothing in comparison with you, but I also need motivation to go to the Bethel that God wants for me and honour Him in that place. I can declare that He has never left me, or forsaken me, even in my lowest moments when I haven’t been listening to him. He remains faithful always. 

All the best with your move, 

Ross  

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Ross, 

Just a quick note. You have heard right. We are moving. “We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” (Genesis 35:3 NLT) 

I have collected all pagan idols and earrings from my family and household, and buried them under the great tree near Shechem(Genesis 35:4 NLT) 

My family and household servants paraded their connections with false religion on their bodies, but at least they gave them up willingly to me. Burying them under the great oak was a good idea. I was trying to indicate that Shechem and its pagan ways are finished? We are dead to the world and alive to God. As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord. 

My grandfather Abram built an altar at Shechem near this great oak TreeSo buried the remnants of our idolatrous living in the shadow of his altar as a sign to God that I mean business? It’s not going to be easy. 

Respectfully, 

Jacob 

____________________oOo______________________ 

Dear Jacob, 

I am impressed and inspired by your letter. Like you, I want to bury what is past and enter into new pathways that God has designed for me. May God help us bury all that stands in our way of serving Him.  

Acts 3:19 (NASB) says, “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” 

This letter will probably get to you while you are traveling.

By the way, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but what did you do with the women and children that your sons took captive after the massacre? You mention nothing of them. I am just hoping that they were not buried also.  

You must be afraid of retaliation from the towns around you. I’m glad you are moving and I am praying for your protection. 

Looking forward to your next letter.  

Praying for your protection, 

Ross 

Pastor Ross