Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weekly Bible Reading: Jan 31 - Feb 5

January 31st

Reading: Genesis 30:22-43

Rachel, the one Jacob had originally desired for his wife, the one who has struggled with the success of her older sister in having children, finally gets pregnant. When she gives birth to a son, whom she names Joseph, Rachel acknowledges that it is God who has brought this about. She said at that time, "God hath taken away my reproach." And, in hope she declared, "The Lord shall add to me another son."

As we have read through the Scriptures, and especially as we have dealt with the marriages of Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob with both Leah and Rachel, great emphasis has been made in Scripture to recognize that it is God who gives us children. In this section that we read today, it began with these words, "And God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her, and opened her womb." That means that God changed her situation from not being able to become pregnant to being able to become pregnant.

Children are a great blessing and they are given to us from the Lord. Many people today do not view them as a blessing as they should. And, many people today do not recognize the overruling hand of God in bringing children into this world as the Scriptures declare. From early in our lives, we need to cultivate and develop the proper Biblical view toward children.

February 1st

Reading: Genesis 31:1-27

God has continued to bless Jacob and increase his flock. We find out in this reading that Laban has continually tried to "out smart God" and changed the wages of Jacob ten times. That is, Laban has told Jacob at one time that he only gets to keep the spotted newborns. And God would make all the newborns spotted. So, Laban then said to Jacob, he only got to keep the colored newborns. So God caused all the newborns to be brown instead of white.

Laban should have recognized the hand of God on Jacob's life and in all that was happening. Instead, Laban listened to the murmurings of his sons who spoke of Jacob as taking all his wealth. Laban seems to be what we would call a "convenient believer." That is, he acknowledges God only when it is convenient and to his best advantage. Remember in yesterday's reading, Laban told Jacob that he had been blessed by God because Jacob was with him. This recognition of God was short lived. As soon as God's continued blessing of Jacob began to reduce Laban's herds and flocks through the payment agreement Laban made with Jacob, then Laban had no thought of God. Instead, he only thought of himself.

In the latter part of today's reading we read of Rachel stealing her father's images. Apparently, Laban was as unprincipled in his worship as he was in his living. He would change from one position to another in relation to Jacob and he, evidently, would change from god to god in his worship. Laban would be and do whatever seemed best for him at the time. Internally, he lacked conviction for what was right and Godly. So, externally, he was inconsistent in his dealing with Jacob and even his daughters. Unfortunately, this instability in his character was modeled in his children as we have seen in Leah, Rachel and his sons.

All of us need to continue growing and maturing in our personal character development. When we find ourselves behaving selfishly or unkindly, we need to realize that this is because of what is in our hearts. Ask God to help you worship Him and Him alone.

February 2nd

Reading: Genesis 31:28-55

The story of Jacob and Laban reaches a dramatic climax in this portion of Scripture. Laban has overtaken Jacob after seven days of pursuit and, although he does not show it at first, is extremely angry over the loss of his images or gods that Rachel has taken. This clash between Jacob and Laban has long been coming. They have had conflicts, big and small, from the first when Laban gave Jacob Leah for his wife instead of Rachel. Most of the conflicts, if not all of them, have been because of Laban's lack of character. Jacob has attempted to deal uprightly with Laban each time. Now that Jacob has left secretly and apparently stolen his father-in-laws idols, then Laban thinks he has Jacob in a position where he can embarrass Jacob or worse.

When accused of taking the idols, Jacob, who is ignorant of what Rachel has done, innocently tells Laban to freely search his camp. Jacob adds, that if the idols are found, then the one who has them will be put to death. Oh no! That must have put a scare into Rachel. What would have happened if Laban had found his images in Rachel's possession? Well, we will never know. By Rachel's deceitfulness and God's providence, she is not discovered with the idols. God had other plans for Laban's life. Laban wanted to embarrass and "expose" Jacob, God used this situation to embarrass and expose Laban.

We do learn some very helpful information when Jacob berates (scolds) Laban. While reading through chapters 29 and 30, it is hard to envision how much time has passed. Jacob, in telling Laban of what he has done for him, lets us know that he had served Laban for 20 years. Jacob worked seven years for Rachel and was given Leah. He, then, worked seven more years for Rachel, though he was given her as his wife after the first week. After 14 years he asked Laban if he could leave. That is when they negotiated the payment by way of the speckled, striped, and colored offspring. This apparently went on for six more years. Finally, after 20 years of service and several acts of deceptiveness on Laban's part, Jacob packed up and headed toward his homeland.

Do you remember when Rebekah sent Jacob away? She said she would send for him in a few days. Those few days have now turned into 20 years. We often make our plans for the future and it does not always work the way we plan. It is a good lesson to learn now that the events of our life are in the hands of God. Ask God to teach you to trust Him for what will come in your future.

February 3rd

Reading: Genesis 32:1-32

Jacob is finally returning to his homeland and his family. He has been away for 20 years and I am sure a lot has changed. Jacob is probably wondering what has changed as well. He may wonder if his father and mother are still alive. Typically, during his era, a messenger would have sought him out to inform him of the death of his father or mother. As far as we can tell, this has not occurred so Jacob probably figures that Isaac and Rebekah are still living. Future readings will probably answer that question for us.

What Jacob is most troubled with as he approaches home, is his brother Esau. I am sure that with each day that past as Jacob traveled toward Canaan, he would replay his boyhood and young adulthood at home. He would especially consider those last days before he left and how he deceived his father and stole the blessing from Esau. Jacob was replaying in his mind his deceit, Esau's anger and threats against his life, and his mother and father sending him away thinking it would only be a few days. Now, 20 years later, Jacob is returning. Has anything changed? Is Esau still burning with rage? Jacob wishes he knew.

As he approaches the land of Edom where Esau lives, Jacob sends messengers to Esau to not only announce that he is coming, but to discover if Esau will accept him as a brother. The message that comes back to Jacob is that Esau is coming with 400 men to meet him. That news puts tremendous fear in Jacob who immediately makes plans to protect what he can by splitting his company into two groups. He also puts together gifts of various animals to send ahead of him to Esau in hopes of appeasing Esau.

Jacob, however, does not rely on just his own devices and plans. Jacob realizes that God has promised to be with him, and to bless him and his children. Jacob knows that God is the ultimate one over all and the only one who can actually protect him from Esau's wrath. So, Jacob prays to God reminding Him of His promises, recognizing his own unworthiness to receive such blessings, and appealing to God to "Deliver me.from the hand of my brother.Esau" (vs. 11).

You probably have not faced a situation where someone was so angry with you that he wanted to kill you, but I am sure you have had situations where friends and relatives were mad at you for something you did. Maybe, even right now, you can think of someone who is angry with you and would not want you around. God is the One who can help you repair that relationship. Do as Jacob did. Seek God in prayer to soften your friend's or brother's heart. Pray that, with God's help, you and your friend, or you and your family member, can be reconciled to each other.

February 4th

Reading: Genesis 33:1-20

The climax of the meeting between Jacob and Esau finally comes. The question as to how Esau will act toward Jacob is answered as we read this chapter. By the grace of God, Esau seems to have matured and overcome his bitterness toward Jacob. As we have read in this passage, Esau is overwhelmed with joy at seeing Jacob. Jacob, who also has matured and grown in Godly character, purposely approached Esau in a most humble manner. He had no desire of trying to prove himself right and his brother wrong. Jacob had no desire of "saving face" and appearing self-righteous. In fact, Jacob willingly presented himself to Esau as a servant and one who was completely at his mercy. His hope was that Esau would accept him as he was.

We can learn a lot from Jacob's attitude toward Esau and Esau's attitude toward Jacob. Jacob may have received what was rightfully his when he was given the blessing from Isaac, but he had taken it in the wrong way, by deception. Jacob could have argued for his rights and for his position, but he didn't. He recognized the hurt he had caused Esau and how he had wronged Esau. Jacob willingly brought himself to Esau as one who deserved a punishment, but hoped for forgiveness.

Esau, on the other hand, had bitterness to deal with. He had become so angry at what Jacob had done that he had thought of murdering Jacob. It was his angry reaction that had caused the family to ultimately split up for the next twenty years. We are not given as much insight into Esau's heart and mind as we are into Jacob's. But, there definitely has been a change in his life. Maybe the years that have passed and the prosperity that Esau has enjoyed have helped to soften him toward Jacob. We don't know what the cause is for sure, but we do know that Esau welcomed Jacob as his brother.

Do you have bitterness toward someone who you think has treated you wrong? Ask God for the strength and grace to see past those hurtful actions and words and look to the importance of the relationship with that person. Simply praying to God will not always take the bitterness or hard feelings away. You may need to go and talk to that person directly. You might need another individual, maybe an adult or parent, to go with you to help you and your friend resolve your issues. No matter what the situation is, seek God first and use the guidance of other important Godly people in your life to help restore your relationship with your friend, brother, or sister.

February 5th

Reading: Genesis 34:1-31

The Bible does not hide the evil and sinful behaviors of mankind. One of the purposes of Scripture is to show us what we are as human beings. Because of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden, all people have been affected with a sinful nature. That is, each one of us have a propensity, or natural desire, to do evil and sinful behavior. Only by relying on God can we ever begin to overcome our desire to sin. This chapter exposes a variety of very specific sinful activities: pre-marital sex, murder, and stealing.

Dinah goes out from her home and away from her father to see what "the daughters of the land" are like. In doing so, she separates herself from the guidance and protection God had naturally provided for her. That protection was with her father and family. As a result, she finds herself in a culture she is not prepared to face. Tragically, she ends up being seduced and made to lay with a man, Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite. When the Bible says Shechem "took her, and lay with her, and defiled her" (vs. 2), it is talking about the sin of pre-marital sex. Shechem treated Dinah and behaved with her in a way that God has said only a married man and woman can treat each other. Shechem sinned against Dinah and all of Dinah's family. That is why Jacob's sons, especially Dinah's brothers Simeon and Levi, were so angry with Shechem.

This anger was not controlled by Simeon and Levi and they end up murdering Shechem. As horrible as that was, they did not stop there. They murdered Shechem's father and all the men in the city. Then, they took the women and children as captives and all the animals and possessions from their houses.

What terrible things people are capable of doing. Let this reading be a lesson to you about how wicked each of our hearts can be. Ask God to help you guard your heart and your thoughts that you would not fall into such wicked, sinful behavior.

No comments:

Post a Comment