Isaac apparently listened to his wife, and told Jacob that he needed to marry in the family to avoid any more distress. So Jacob is sent to Haran to marry one of Laban's daughters. Esau, upon learning the news that his mom and dad are not a big fan of his Canaanite wives, goes and marries Ishmael's daughter, Mahalath.
On the way to Haran, Jacob has an encounter with God, where the promises made to his father and grandfather is renewed, and Jacob responds by setting up a pillar and anointing it, calling it God's house, and pledging to give his tithe to God.
In Haran, he meets his future wife, and is so taken by her that he up and offers to work seven years. His love for her is so strong, that we are told that the seven years seemed like only a few days to him. How poetically lovely. Of course, he gets gypped by Laban, who passes off his older daughter, Leah, on him. Seems Laban forgot to mention that he wouldn't marry off his younger daughter until the eldest was married. So Jacob winds up taking both of them as his wives, and serving Laban for another seven years. When I think about fourteen years of salary for a dowry (minus room and board, of course)...wow...that's love...
I feel badly for Leah, a little. It isn't her fault that her father married her off to Jacob. It is important to remember, though, that when it says "Leah was hated," it doesn't mean that she was hated in the sense of completely despised...rather it meant that she was loved less, or in comparison to Jacob's love for Rachel, she was hated. Obviously Jacob still cared for her, and must have continued relations with her (since she bore him four sons.) We see language like later in the new testament (hating mother and father etc.), and should bear this in mind.
Here we have a Psalm without any doom and gloom or calling down destruction on foes...but just plain good-old praise and worship. It's a nice change of pace. The first part of this Psalm is often cited when starting an argument for the existence of God from design: "The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork..." We need only look to the world around us for evidence of an everlasting God, if we have eyes to see. I am baffled by people who can look at the world as I once did, saying that this is all brought about by random chance. Yes, that means I am baffled by my younger self...and yet, even at the height of my own atheism/agnosticism, I knew deep down what the truth was. I suspect many who make atheistic claims today do as well.
Jesus continues to shake things up to prove a point - He can break the Sabbath because He made it. He starts out picking and eating grain, and finishes by healing a man's withered hand as well as healing other people. "I desire mercy, and not sacrifice," he says, invoking Hosea yet again, as he did back in Chapter 9.
Matthew again points out the fulfillment of Isaiah at the end of this passage. The bruised reed and smoldering wick are symbols of the weak, the poor, the lost. Jesus does not cast these out, but ministers to them. Incidentally, here is another use of the word "until" that does not imply something occurring afterward. Are we to think that after Jesus brings victory, he will then break the weak and put out their light? Rather, he strengthens the weak and enriches the poor, gathers the lost and makes them his own...
Six very profound paragraphs. We are not forced into our faith...Jesus does not coerce, but invites. Yet faith is necessary...without it we can not please God and have no foundation to build upon. And our faith must persevere...we can certainly lose it (though certain protestants of the "once saved, always saved" school of thought would disagree with me) and "make a shipwreck of our faith" through a loss of conscience. We must always seek to grow in our faith.
Living our faith will always be a challenge, for we are called to be light in a darkened world. We experience "evil and suffering, injustice, and death," which "seem to contradict the Good News." Indeed, the best argument against God is the existence of these things. But when we turn toward our faith in spite of this adversity, we find our faith strengthened. This is no accident, and when we look to those who have witnessed to our faith in the last two thousand years and see how they have persevered, we know that we, too, can "run with perseverance the race that is set before us."
And forgive me a little "Thank God it's Friday" prayer as I wish you all a wonderful weekend!