Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Weekly Bible Reading: Jan 24-30

My apologies. I forgot to get this up earlier this week. We'll go back to the Open Theism article next Wednesday.

January 24th

Reading: Genesis 25:1-34

Abraham remarries after Sarah died. He marries a woman named Keturah and they have several children. So, Abraham did have several other sons, but none of them displaced Isaac in God's plan. Isaac was the "child of promise" through whom God would raise a great nation and eventually bring forth one who would bless all nations. Knowing this promise, Abraham gave gifts to his other children and sent them away. But, to Isaac, he gave all that he had.

Abraham lives to be 175 years of age when he dies. This means he lived almost 40 years after Sarah passed away (She was 127 years old when she died). Abraham certainly was given a very full life by the Lord. When he died, it is said in Scripture that both Isaac and Ishmael buried Abraham. Isaac would have been 75 years old and Ishmael 88 when this happened. Ishmael had been sent away with his mother Hagar when he was 15 years old. It seems that he and Isaac did not have that much interaction from that point on. We don't know that for sure. But, like even today, funerals and weddings tend to be the events that bring family together. The two half-brothers set aside their differences in respect for their father.

In this chapter we see that God fulfills his promise concerning Ishmael as He gives Ishmael 12 sons. God had said that Ishmael would be the father of 12 princes and it came to pass. We also see in this chapter that God continues fulfilling the promise made to Abraham that would take place through Isaac. However, similar to the working of God's promise to Abraham, patience and trials are a part of Isaac and Rebekah's life. After 20 years of marriage Rebekah has not been able to become pregnant. After seeking God, the Lord answers and Rebekah conceives. She becomes pregnant with not only one child, but twins.

Through this pregnancy two very different nations would be brought forth and their differences were seen in the character and personalities of these two twins, Jacob and Esau. Jacob, the younger of the twins, will become the one through whom God will continue to work His special plan. Thus, it was said by God to Rebekah before their birth, "the elder shall serve the younger." We will talk more of what we learn about Jacob and Esau from this chapter the next time we pass by here when we read through the Bible a second and third time.

God continues to work out His plan in His sovereign way and time. We do not always feel like God is working, just as I am sure Isaac and Rebekah must have felt as they waited 20 years to have a child. But, God is always there and active in our lives, even when we do not feel like He is. Thank God for His continual presence and care for your life.

January 25th

Reading: Genesis 26:1-35

Abraham has died. The promises God gave to Abraham were to him and his descendants after him. Isaac, the child promised to Abraham and Sarah, has been designated the one to whom and through whom these blessings would proceed. In the last chapter we saw how Isaac and Rebekah had to wait 20 years before the Lord would bless them with children. As we begin this chapter, famine has struck the land of Canaan and Isaac is considering moving south, maybe into Egypt. But that is not God's plan for Isaac and so the Lord appears to Isaac and instructs him as well as assures him.

The Lord tells Isaac to not go to Egypt, but to continue to dwell in the land he is in. Then, the Lord tells Isaac some wonderful and reassuring things. The Lord begins telling Isaac all the wonderful things he is going to do for him and for his descendants. These are the promises that the Lord had given to Abraham and they are now being stated to Isaac. The Lord tells Isaac that He will give Isaac the land and He will make Isaac's descendants as numerous as the stars in heaven. Then, the Lord makes a statement that captures the heart of the whole story of Scripture. He says, "and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed." This was told to Abraham when God first came to him and called him from his people in Genesis chapter 12. It was said again to Abraham by the Lord in Genesis chapter 22 right after Abraham demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, if the Lord required this of him. Now the Gospel promise, as it will be called in the New Testament, is stated to Isaac as well - "in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed."

The record of this appearing of the Lord to Isaac ends with these words in verse 5, "Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws." This is the reason given by God as to why he will continue to visit Isaac and his descendants with the promised blessings to Abraham. In those words we see the nature of God to extend His blessings to the children of those who walk faithfully before Him. Are you the child of parents and/or grandparents who feared God, trusted in Christ, followed the teachings of Scripture, and taught you to do the same? Then thank God for that heritage. Are you a first generation Christian? Are you the only one in your family who believes in God and trusts Christ for your salvation? Then, pray that God would help you to walk obediently, not only so your life will be a model and an encouragement to others, but that God would bless your children because of the life you have lived.

January 26th

Reading: Genesis 27:1-23

What a mess of a situation. Isaac desires to bless the one he believes should receive the firstborn's blessing. That, of course, is Esau. This is a good thing in that it is special and thoughtful for a father to plan to pass on wisdom and direction in his old age to his children. In this case, Isaac desired to pass a special blessing to the child he believed should be the one to carry on the family legacy. The problem, however, is that Isaac's spiritual eyes seem to be as dim as his physical eyes have become. Before the children were born, God had determined that Jacob would be the one to carry on the special blessing. We read about that in chapter 25 verse 23 when the Lord said to Rebekah, "the elder shall serve the younger." Rebekah knew Jacob was the chosen child, but Isaac could not seem to see that or accept it.

Parents often fail to see the true spiritual condition in their children's lives as they focus on the external, rather than the internal. Isaac probably was caught up with Esau's "manliness", since Esau was an outdoorsman and loved to work the field and hunt. Jacob was too much of a homebody to please Isaac. Rebekah, though she had been told that Jacob was the chosen one of God, had likely developed an extra closeness to Jacob because of his interest in things around the home. Though she knew Jacob should receive the blessing from Isaac, she likely wanted him to receive it for all the wrong reasons. She wanted Jacob favored for personal reasons, not for Godly reasons.

The self-deception of Isaac by his own spiritual blindness and the deceptiveness of Rebekah because of her personal wants add to the messy situation. It is further complicated by Jacob's wimpyness and Esau's arrogance. Jacob knew the deception was wrong, but is not man enough to stand up for what is right. Esau, who has already greatly disappointed his parents by taking two Hittite wives, finds no problem in receiving the firstborn's blessing even though he sold his birthright to Jacob for a mess of pottage. Every one of the main characters in this story are not seeing with clear, straight vision.

Rebekah and Isaac were not in tune with God's design and plan. They were letting personal ambitions and self-interest rule their decisions. God allowed the deception to be carried out and Jacob received the blessing he had been ordained to receive, but God certainly did not need the designs of man to carry out His will.

Pray that the Lord would help us raise our eyes above the surrounding circumstances that can so easily seem hopeless and flowing against what we know to be the will of God. Keep your eyes on God's sovereignty and keep His will central in your heart and mind. Rest in the fact that obedience to His known will in Scripture is His calling on your life. The result is His to bring about, not yours to accomplish.

January 27th

Reading: Genesis 27:24-46

Isaac does give the firstborn blessing to Jacob as it is too late when the deception is discovered. And, like all sin, the aftermath goes well beyond the immediate people involved. In this case, it tears apart a family. Brother is turned against brother; the parents, I am sure, are not on the best of terms; and, Rebekah, knowing she has lost her son Esau, now fears she will lose Jacob as well. Either Jacob will be killed by Esau or he will, like Esau, take a wife from among the pagan nations around them. In desperation, she tells Jacob to go away to her family and wait a few days until Esau is over his anger. Additionally, Rebekah talks to Isaac about her fear that Jacob will look for a wife among the local pagans. This is a legitimate fear of Rebekah's, but she is also desperately attempting to get Isaac on her side as far as sending Jacob away.

Rebekah must be somewhat unrealistic about things if she thinks a few days will be sufficient for Esau's anger to subside. I know of people who have been angry with each other for years over far less than what Esau feels has been done to him. Well, we will be reading about how long Jacob is away from home in the next few chapters. If you don't know the story, it may surprise you. Anyway, Esau's anger, Isaac's bewilderment, and Rebekah's desperate plotting are all parts of this chapter that we will address when we re-read this story in the future. This time through I want you to carefully look at the blessing of Jacob. Notice how the blessing fulfills God's promise to Rebekah concerning the twins she was carrying when she was pregnant with Esau and Jacob and notice how the blessings Isaac bestows on Jacob agree with what his father Abraham had received from God.

The blessings expressed by Isaac upon Jacob were the following:

1) Abundant harvest (vs. 28)

2) Authority over peoples and nations, including his brother (vs. 29a). This is what God
said would be the case when He spoke to Rebekah during her pregnancy. At that time,
God said the "elder shall serve the younger."

3) Blessing and cursing upon others based on how they treat Jacob (vs. 29b). The words
Isaac used, "cursed be every one that curseth thee, and blessed be he that blesseth
thee," is very similar to what God told Abraham (Genesis 12:3).

Isaac, in blessing his first born, though he thought it was Esau, was marking Jacob the recipient of the blessing and purpose that had been designated by God to be upon Abraham and through Isaac. God had purposed that Jacob would be the one to receive this special blessing. And, despite the faults of man, God worked through their actions and had Isaac actually pass this blessing on to Jacob. God's purposes can never be thwarted by the actions and efforts of man.

January 28th

Reading: Genesis 28:1-22

At the end of the previous chapter, Rebekah had gone to Isaac and told him of her concern that Jacob would take a wife from the Canaanites. Isaac listened to this concern and sent Jacob away with his blessing to find a wife from the family of Rebekah's relatives. This time the blessing that Jacob receives is "above board" and "out in the open." No deception is involved. This blessing includes the passing on of the blessing of Abraham to inherit the land.

Jacob leaves for Haran to find a wife from the family of Laban, Rebekah's brother. Esau, upon seeing Jacob being blessed by Isaac and sent to find a wife outside the Canaanites, determines to improve his status in the eyes of his parents and goes to his uncle Ishmael. Esau takes one of Ishmael's daughters for a wife. We are not told if Isaac and Rebekah are pleased with this action of Esau or not. I have the feeling that a third wife for Esau did not sit well with his parents.

Jacob had now received the blessing of his father in a forthright manner and was on his way to Haran to find a wife. On this trip, the Lord comes to Jacob in a dream. In this dream the Lord confirms with Jacob that the covenant and promises made with Abraham are now his. These promises include the land, a multitude of descendants, and the Gospel ("in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed").

In addition, the Lord assures Jacob that He will be with Jacob during this time away from his family and that He will bring Jacob back to this land. The Lord tells Jacob He will be with him until all that has been promised is fulfilled.

I am sure that Jacob was overwhelmed by this dream. The Scriptures indicate this when they tell us that when Jacob woke up he pretty much was in shock. He called the place where he slept, "a dreadful place," "the house of God," and "the gate of heaven." He then sets up a monument to what has happened to him there by making his stone pillow a pillar and dedicating it with oil. But more importantly, Jacob makes a vow, a vow of commitment of his life to God. Unfortunately, it is a conditional vow ("If God will be with that I come again to my father's house in peace; then shall the Lord be my God"). It would have been best for Jacob to simply commit himself on the basis of the promises God had given him. But, still, Jacob has begun a personal relationship with the true God of Scripture. He then commits to give to the Lord a tenth of all that he receives.

Have you committed your life to God? Is the Lord your God or is He still the God of your parents? It's time to develop your personal relationship with God. As you continue to read and meditate upon God's Word, ask Him to make Himself more real in your life.

January 29th

Reading: Genesis 29:1-35

In this chapter, Jacob makes his way to the land of Haran where Laban and his family live. What occurs here is reminiscent of what took place when Abraham's servant came to this land looking for a wife for Isaac. In that situation, God providentially brought Abraham's servant to the very well to which Rebekah would come to draw water. In this story, Jacob, too, "happens" to arrive at the very well to which Rachel brings her father's flock to water. We know that this didn't happen just by chance. God had promised Jacob, when He spoke to him in the dream, that He would be with Him. God demonstrated that He was present as He guided Jacob to the very spot and at the very time that Rachel would arrive.

We need to increase our own awareness of God's presence and providence in our lives. Several years ago, I would drive 150 miles once a month to another town in our state to hold a meeting with home schooling parents. These evening meetings would often go well into the night. After the formal meeting it was not unusual for me to spend extra time visiting with the different families and hearing about their successes and struggles. Eventually, I would have to leave as I had a three hour drive to get back home. Leaving between 10 and 11 at night meant that I would not get home until one or two in the morning.

I was often amazed at what would happen most every night as I came near my home. Not far from my home was a four-way stop. At that time in the morning it would be pretty rare to see a car anywhere. Yet, time after time, as I approached the four-way stop, another car would pull up to the stop on the crossing street at the exact same time. I would often wonder. How is it that we have both arrived at this desolate place at the same time? What was it that person had been doing? Did they stay and visit longer than they had planned? Or, did they cut their visit short to get back on the road? What little things happened in their life that night to bring them to this stop sign at the exact time as I came here?

Whatever decisions they made and what ever decisions I made had somehow worked out to where we both ended up meeting at a four-way stop, on a lightly traveled road, in the dead of the night. These happenings would remind me of God's providence in our lives. They would remind me of how He so often quietly guides our lives and brings people across our path and brings us into the lives of others. Pray that you will stay sensitive to God's providential acts in your life. That you will be ready to be used of Him to bless others or to be taught by those He brings into your life.

January 30th

Reading: Genesis 30:1-21

Jacob certainly has his hands full with having two wives, and two wives who are sisters. There would be a natural tendency for two wives to have jealousy at times toward one another. We see this in Leah's and Rachel's relationship when Rachel demands the mandrakes from Leah's son Reuben. Leah responds, "Is it a small matter that thou hast taken my husband? And wouldest thou take away my son's mandrakes also?" In other words, Leah is saying to Rachel, "you took my husband, now you want to take my son's gift to me."

Besides the jealousy that can so easily come up in a situation like this, Jacob has to deal with sibling rivalry. Rachel and Leah are sisters after all, and family members tend to compete against one another. In this case, the rivalry is over having children. This rivalry is so intense, that Rachel is willing to give Jacob her handmaid to have children and count them as her own. Notice that Rachel does just that (counts Bilhah's children as her own) with what she says after each child that her handmaid, Bilhah, births.

After the first son, Dan is born, Rachel claims God has heard her voice "and hath given me a son." However, with the birth of a second son by Bilhah, Rachel's driving competitiveness with her sister burst forth. She, rather unashamedly, declares, "With great wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed." Rachel was engaged in a sibling rivalry and she was out to win.

People, young and old, can easily get drawn into foolish rivalries and competitions that they think they need to win. Somehow, we get the idea that we need to prove ourselves better than others, even in areas of little consequence. Now it is true that the culture of the Old Testament upheld in great esteem the bearing of children. In fact, the desire of Rachel and Leah to have children, and the recognition that God is the one who blesses us with our children, is far more Biblical than the view of children most modern cultures, including America, have today.

However, the Godly response for Rachel would have been to rejoice in the blessings received by her sister with each new birth, and to seek God's face in the matter of her own inability to have children. But, we like Rachel, often get "caught up in the moment" thinking we need to take matters into our own hands AND we certainly need to show up our sister or brother. Have you found yourself trying to "show up" a family member, friend, or co-worker? Ask God to give you the courage to do your best in whatever the situation might be, and to rejoice in the successes of others.

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