Tuesday, April 11, 2017

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry

The Word for today:
Genesis 31:1-32:2
Jacob's story is the single richest repository of humor in the Bible.
Much of the humor stems from Jacob's role as the trickster. When he gets together with Uncle Laban, a trickster at least the equal to Jacob, the comedy ensues.
One of the funniest scenes in literature (according to my warped sense of humor) is the madcap breeding scene that occupies chapters 30 and 31 of Genesis.
There we read about black sheep; about striped, spotted, and speckled goats; and about whittled sticks.
When we get to the point where Jacob has the cattle face the whittled poplar sticks while in the act of breeding…well, we have entered the realm of sheer comic madness, written by a sheer comic genius. Materialism has run amok, and the Holy Spirit is there to mock it!
It's a bit of a stretch for some of us (it was for me) to acclimate ourselves to the comedy in the Holy Bible, and to think about the Holy Spirit (the Bible's author) as a prankster of sorts.
But God made the light of a smile and the music of laughter. He even made the sense of humor (except, my wife will tell you, for mine).  Comedy occupies the space between who we are and who we could/should be. It is related to the fall of man, as in the expression, "I didn't know whether to laugh or cry."
"We all fall short" is the definition of sin and the essence of slapstick--all at the same time!
Anyhow, when I first read about the stripes and spots, the ringstraked and the speckled animals, the striped poplar branches and the cattle who, somehow or another, delivered in accordance with whatever it was that they perceived while they conceived, I thought I'd need a biology/genetics textbook to understand this portion of scripture.
Slowly, however, it dawned on me that what I really needed was a sense of humor! God was putting one over on Laban, the con of cons; and on Jacob, the flim of flams. These dueling tricksters don't realize, as they attempt to out-connive each other, that the prank is being pulled on them!
What effect the poplar rods in the water troughs had is hard to say, but Jacob and Laban thought it had effect. The real answer, however, is that God did it!
The angel of God spoke to me in the dream and said, "Jacob!' "Yes," I answered.
"Look," he continued, "all the male goats that are mating are striped, spotted, and speckled. I am making this happen because I have seen all that Laban is doing to you." (Genesis 31:11-12/GNT)
And just when you thought that God would have to settle down and get serious, think again. The very next incident in Scripture--the story of Rachel hiding the household idols from Laban as she sat on them--is comic farce at its best, or worst (or whatever the 'superlative' is in this case). The details of the story tend to be a little indelicate, so I leave the reading to you. But don't forget to bring along your God-given sense of humor. You'll need it to fully appreciate God's Holy, funny, Bible!

No comments:

Post a Comment