Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Genesis 31:33-55

I’m going to try to finish off this chapter today - a tall order! Laban has caught up with Jacob and has accused him of kidnapping his daughters and grandchildren and of stealing his house hold “gods.” Jacob manages to keep it together as he invites Laban to search the premises (not knowing that Rachel has the “gods” stashed in her tent).

So Laban tears everything apart looking for the “gods,” but finds nothing. Finally he comes to Rachel’s tent. Rachel, her father’s daughter, hides the “gods” by sitting on them. Then she excuses herself from getting up, saying she’s on her period! Isn’t the Bible hysterical sometimes? We all know that men don’t want to talk about or deal with a woman’s period, so Rachel guesses correctly that her father will back off - and he does! As Beth Moore points out, this is surely not the first time a woman has used her period as an excuse for something to gain an advantage, eh? My father, who had four daughters, used to say he was a lone man sinking in a sea of Kotex! Poor man! Between that and leg shavings, he was pretty disgusted with us! :)

Now that Laban has had a fruitless search, Jacob explodes and unloads twenty years of suppress anger on him:

Jacob was angry and took Laban to task. “What is my crime?” he asked Laban. “What sin have I committed that you hunt me down? Now that you have searched through all my goods, what have you found that belongs to your household? Put it here in front of your relatives and mine, and let them judge between the two of us.

“I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times.If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.” (Gen 31:36-42)

The Bible doesn’t make a judgment on this outburst, but it seems they should have had this discussion before now, doesn’t it? Laban, who doesn’t get it at all, and who is certain Jacob has pulled a fast one, disputes Jacob’s version:

Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.” (vs.43-44)

So, not having his idols, Laban decides they should set up a makeshift heap of rocks to be a “witness” between them. In these verses we find the often-quoted and misapplied Mizpah, which means watchtower:

Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the LORD keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.” (vs. 48-50)

Don’t you find it interesting that Laban calls on God as a witness here? People who don’t truly believe, love to throw His name around when it suits. . . but we do that, too, sometimes, don’t we? You can see that the Mizpah was not originally intended to be a blessing, but a warning. Jon Courson paraphrases verse 49 this way: “You scoundrel. I don’t trust you as far as I can spit. But even though I can’t keep my eye on you, God will be watching you!”

So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.
Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home. (vs. 53-55)

No kisses for Jacob! And a twenty-year chapter in Jacob’s life is finally over. What had Jacob, the deceiver, learned from all of this? Surely the LORD was developing patience in Jacob, and proving HIS faithfulness to Him. Difficult people in our lives have a way of showing us so much about the LORD and about ourselves! If we’ve truly been receivers of God’s grace, we can learn to extend it to these people. But I love that there came a time to part! Sometimes that is God’s solution, as it was here. God is just beginning with Jacob. He is on his way home and about to reunite with his other difficult person, his brother, Esau, who had vowed to kill him 20 years earlier. Before he meets up with Esau, though, Jacob is going to have a life-changing encounter with his God!

I’m off to a conference in Chicago, so it may be a week before I’m back to our study! If you did not join us at the beginning of Genesis, take this time to go through the archives and start at the beginning! Thank you to all of you who have written to say you are praying for us. We already had one answer: Molly and Kevin were able to postpone their vacation for another week, which should allow her to be in a better place to enjoy it! God is amazing! I’m feeling the peace that passes all understanding!  Now, pray I'll be a strong witness for Christ in the midst of a very liberal, unbelieving crowd at the convention!


Monday, June 27, 2011

Personal note and prayer requests

This morning I did not get to blog, because my husband, Don, and I were out of the house early to visit his father, Frank, in his assisted living home. Late yesterday, while we were at a baby shower, we received a phone call from the home that Dad had fallen after dinner. So we headed over to check him out. He was in a lot of pain, and was bleeding from his shoulder, where he had a skin tear. It didn’t take us long to figure that we needed to get him to urgent care for x-rays. So, after three hours at the urgent care, they determined that he has a compression fracture in the thoracic region. However, it was not clear whether or not it was a new or old injury. Thankfully, they had an x-ray to compare from a couple of years ago, and it looks like an old injury. That is good news!

So, we took him home and put him to bed with some tylenol with codeine. We went back this morning to see how he is doing. The pain seems to have lessened a bit, but it still makes him wince. It hurts in the lower back and the left shoulder (which apparently took the brunt of the fall against a wall), but only when he is in certain positions, which makes us think he does not have any broken bones (they did not x-ray the shoulder area, because he wasn’t complaining about it last night, but they did dress the wound there). We spent the majority of the day there today trying to assess the situation, and we did talk with his doctor. The doctor advised us that he probably will get better within a few days, but, if not, he would order a bone scan. In the meantime, Don and I are leaving for a trip to Chicago on Wednesday for a week! It’s a working thing for me (teachers’ convention - I’ll be in meetings all day), but a vacation trip for Don (the only one we’ll have this year).

In addition, Molly, our elder daughter, is having her tonsils out this Wednesday (at age 36), while we’re in flight! I’m sick about not being here for her, but am grateful that her husband, Kevin, is home for the summer, and her sister is just down the street! Molly has a terrific church family, which I’m sure will meet her needs with meals for the family. She’ll be doing the ice cream thing. . . Those of us who have had our tonsils out know that the ice cream thing is NOT what it’s cut out to be!!

In the meantime, many of you know that my sister, Jodi, who lost her son Justin in March, is in isolation at the University of Illinois, Chicago Hospital, where she is undergoing autologous stem cell replacement for multiple myeloma, after several rounds of cancer treatments. Unfortunately, although I will be in Chicago, and staying not too far from the hospital, I will be unable to visit her, because she is so severely immune-suppressed that she cannot have visitors! My mind is spinning at this point and my heart is sick!  So many needs and complete inability to meet any of them! Thank goodness that is what God is for! He is more than able to meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus, eh?? (Phil 4:19)

So, I’m asking for your prayers to cover this whole situation. Here are the specific requests:

Pray that Frank will stabilize, that his pain will lessen, and that the assisted living place will be able to care for him completely.

Pray that he will NOT need to be transferred to a skilled nursing facility while we are gone for the week, as this would be a burden to Don’s brother, Dave, and his wife, Nancy, who are in San Diego. And, more importantly, I’m afraid it would send him into an emotional tailspin with a quick slide downhill.

Pray that Molly’s surgery will go smoothly, with little bleeding and miraculously little pain. Pray for Molly to have the peace that passes understanding, because she has been hearing horror stories from EVERYONE!!! (It's like the women who share pregnancy horror stories with the first-time mom as she waits in the obstetrician's waiting room).

Pray that Molly will recover quickly, as her family has an anniversary trip (10 years) planned for July 8-15 that they cannot get out of (and that I want her to enjoy). Seems we make our plans, and sometimes God leads us in a different direction!

Pray for the peace and safety of Molly’s darling kids, Colin and Lucy, as their mom is having surgery and they are staying with a friend.

And please pray for Jodi, as she is at her weakest point of immune-suppression. Pray that she will continue what has been a miraculous response to treatment with very few side effects and no pain! Pray that the LORD will continue to be merciful - and that somehow I will be able to see her while I’m there (that is my totally selfish prayer).

These seem like huge requests to me, but so simple for God. Finally, pray that we will all be submissive to His plan for us during this time, because He knows exactly what He is doing, and knew all about this before we were born. He has a plan that is for His glory and for our good, so pray that we will walk in it with joyful responses no matter what happens!

Back to Genesis tomorrow - forgive this personal side trip! I love you all!


Friday, June 24, 2011

Genesis 31:22-32

Jacob and his family have fled - but after three days Laban hears they are missing (he didn’t notice?) - and, with the rest of the clan, he pursues Jacob! However, while he’s on his way, he has a dream in which God speaks to him:

Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” (Gen 31:24)

Apparently there are better renderings of what God said to Laban, according to both Beth Moore, in The Patriarchs, and Jon Courson, in his commentary. Beth says it would be more correct to translate the Hebrew as either “Refrain from threatening Jacob with any harm,” or “Take care not to contradict Jacob.” Jon Courson suggests the following paraphrase: “Don’t greet Jacob warmly only to later turn on him as is your usual custom.”

When Laban finally catches up with Jacob, he and his crew (all of Jacob’s in-laws) camp alongside Jacob’s group. Think of all that would be going through Jacob’s mind - and certainly Rachel’s. After all, she has pilfered her father’s household “gods!” Laban says a LOT to Jacob, for someone who had just been told by God to stifle it:

Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters good-by. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s house. But why did you steal my gods?” (vs. 26-30)

“You deceived me. . .” Are you KIDDING me? This is one very black pot confronting this kettle!!! Why is it that we so often fail to see in ourselves the things we criticize others for??? The LORD has so graciously held up the mirror to me lately (as in this week) when I’ve been in the middle of complaining about someone else’s behavior! Thank you, LORD, that you don’t let your children get away with that!!!

“. . .you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war.” We saw in verses 14-16 that Rachel and Leah couldn’t get away from their father quickly enough!

“Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing. . .” REALLY??? How did he say this stuff with a straight face? Then he gets a little ugly: “You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you. . .” That’s a fairly direct threat! But he then remembers what the LORD said to him, and shifts to the accusation: “But why did you steal my gods?” Now, why doesn’t he see the irony in that question? Can real “gods” be stolen??? What good are these “gods” then? How can they protect Laban and his family, if they can’t even protect themselves from thieves? :) I’m thinking this has to be one of the most comical scenes in the Old Testament (right up there with Balaam and his talking donkey in Numbers 22).

Now, you’ll notice that Jacob doesn’t try to answer all of these ridiculous charges (nor does he sink to sarcasm the way I would and just did). He merely states why they went off without a goodbye: “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force.” (vs. 31) Not knowing that his beloved Rachel had taken the “gods,” he tells Laban to go ahead and search: “But if you find anyone who has your gods, he shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” (vs. 32)

We’ll see next time that Rachel knows how to play the deception game well! She learned from the master, her father!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Genesis 31:1-21

God is so faithful! He worked out the situation at work in a way that totally brought Him glory, so I’m so very thankful to be heading into summer vacation without the conflict hanging over our heads!

Today’s verses describe Jacob’s getaway from Laban. After getting the “go ahead” from God, Jacob does a remarkable thing for his culture: he has a family meeting with Rachel and Leah to explain his plan. Relationships with in-laws can be so very tricky (am I seeing you nodding your heads??), so he very respectfully and reasonably shares why it is time to go:

So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength,  yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me. If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. (Gen 31:4-9)

Then he reveals how God spoke to him in a dream to give him the plan to bless him with the speckled flocks:

“In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted.  The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’  And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you.  I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’” (vs.10-13)

Isn’t it encouraging to know that God sees the injustices we suffer? All those years Jacob had worked tirelessly for Laban. He patiently waited for the right moment, for God’s direction - and God gave it to him!

Jacob is asking his wives to leave their homeland and their family. You would think this would be a painful decision, but note how quickly they agree!

Then Rachel and Leah replied, “Do we still have any share in the inheritance of our father’s estate? Does he not regard us as foreigners? Not only has he sold us, but he has used up what was paid for us. Surely all the wealth that God took away from our father belongs to us and our children. So do whatever God has told you.” (vs.14-16)

Apparently there was no love lost between the girls and their father! They felt no loyalty whatsoever to the man who had used them and their husband! Laban is reaping what he’s sown! So they split - but not before Rachel steals Laban’s household gods - probably believing they provided some protection.

Do you see how Rachel easily mixes pagan superstition with faith in God? And don’t we see this all of the time? Whether reading the daily horoscope, or kissing a religious icon, or burying a statue of a saint upside down in our yards, or wearing a “lucky” t-shirt, we, too frequently exhibit a schizophrenic faith to the world. Not good! Where do people see our trust placed? God is so clear in his Word that these things are an abomination before Him - we should have a healthy fear of mixing superstition with our faith!! It is God, not the St. Christopher medal, who gives us safe travel. [When I was in junior high school, a St. Christopher medal was given to a girl by a boy when you were going steady - the longest I ever kept one before breaking up was for two weeks - and we were too embarrassed to speak with each other during the entire two weeks! Apparently, not such a lucky medal...]

So, with Laban’s household gods hidden in the baggage, the family of Jacob sneaks out of town:

Moreover, Jacob deceived Laban the Aramean by not telling him he was running away. So he fled with all he had, and crossing the River, he headed for the hill country of Gilead. (vs.20-21)

I’m not sure how you sneak out of town with four wives, a boatload of children, many servants, and a huge flock of sheep, camels, etc. :) We’ll look at Laban’s reaction tomorrow!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Genesis 31:1-3

Today’s lesson hits me right where I am today! I’m asking God to teach me, so I can teach you, because I’m hoping my lens is not too colored by my own personal experiences.

Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.” And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. (Gen 31:1-2)

I’m finding the troubles of this extended family to be so real it hurts! Notice that Jacob did not hear himself what Laban’s sons were saying - he got it third hand. Probably from some “well-intentioned friend” who just wanted to let Jacob know what was being said about him. In all likelihood this is exactly what they had said. They had exaggerated the scheme of Jacob’s with the spotted and speckled flocks to say that Jacob had taken EVERYTHING. Further, Laban had become noticeably cool toward Jacob. This is what comes from an atmosphere of deception and mistrust. It just seems so clear to me here that this is all-out spiritual warfare!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Eph 6:12)

Things had always been strained between Jacob and Laban, because both had been in a power struggle due to their patterns of deception. It’s possible that either one of them could have made amends somehow earlier. Certainly Jacob had held to his bargain and worked hard for Laban for all of those years, but we have no reason to believe that he ever tried to work out his relationship with his father-in-law. I believe they were at the point of no return - there was no way this relationship was ever going to be anything but destructive. And God promises that He will never give us more than we can bear, but will, indeed, provide a way out for us when things are too much. (I Cor 10:13) And He does just that for Jacob here:

Then the LORD said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” (vs. 3)

Oh, my gosh! Jacob must have been ecstatic to hear these words from God! God was not condoning Jacob’s behavior here - but He was extending the grace that Jacob so needed. Jacob had done nothing to deserve God’s favor; he was a miserable little sinner like the rest of us! But God had a plan for Jacob and his descendants - a plan of grace from beginning to end. And that is where I’m standing today: a miserable little sinner who needs God’s grace so desperately! I have seen God provide ways out for me before, and I see one now. I am so very thankful that HE is the one who is faithful!!!

More tomorrow. Tomorrow is the last day of school. That’s one of the ways of escape! :)


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Genesis 30:25-43

Today’s scene is a strange one - all about speckled lambs and goats! I had to read it a couple of times just to wrap my brain around it this early in the morning! :) Jacob has been working for his difficult father-in-law for 14years. He’s had enough! He now has a large family, that includes his new son, Joseph, and he’s ready to head home and start working for himself.

Laban, on the other hand, knows a good thing when he sees it, and he has totally prospered while Jacob has been working for him. He is not about to let go of his meal ticket! The interesting thing is that Laban, who is not a believer, realizes that God has been with Jacob. He truly wants the blessings of God, but not God Himself:

After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.”

But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the LORD has blessed me because of you.” He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.” (Gen.30:25-28)

Please remember that Laban is a deceiver through and through, so his attempt at humility in his plea doesn’t fool Jacob. Jacob very reasonably asks for release from his service to his father-in-law, but Laban wants to bargain to keep him. So he agrees to allow Jacob to walk through the flocks of sheep and goats and keep any that he finds that are spotted or speckled. Of course, first Laban, on the sly, separates them out himself and sends the spotted and speckled ones a three-day journey away with his sons. In this way, when Jacob goes through the herds, there are none for him.

However, you can’t con a con man! Jacob puts striped branches in the watering troughs where the flocks in heat come to drink, and they produce spotted and speckled lambs when they mate! Now, the blessing here is clearly God’s and has nothing to do with the branches! God had promised to prosper Jacob and he surely does here. We’ll see in chapter 31 how God was in this.

Beth Moore focuses on our need to find a formula for our successes with God. Does He answer our prayers because of the way we pray? Is it because of our fasting? Is it the people we ask to join us in the ministry? We want to know what it is that makes God bless our efforts, so we can replicate it the next time. The reality is that God is not tied to our formulas. He is the One who blesses. He delights in blessing any efforts we make for His glory! But He will not be put in a box by methods! God planned to bless Jacob and his family, and He made a covenant with Jacob to give him the land He had promised to Abraham and his descendants. It was time. So God blesses Jacob in his efforts and thwarts the plan of Laban:

In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and maidservants and menservants, and camels and donkeys. (vs. 43)

One of the many lessons that I’m seeing here is that there are many people who want the blessings of God (like Laban), but who do not want God Himself. Laban could see that Jacob was blessed by God, and he loved the way that benefitted him, too. Just like Laban, we all know people who are happy to be around those who seem to receive answers to their prayers - in fact they will often ask believers to pray for them - as if we have this magic connection to God. While we want people to see that God is with us, our goal is that they will want our God, not the stuff of blessings (whether material goods or good health or job success). God IS the blessing!

We’ll see in the next chapter that it took Jacob another six years of working for Laban to build his flock! Ye gads!

Off to a day at the beach with 127 fifth graders as we celebrate their graduation from elementary school and the end of a LONG school year (our last day is Thursday)!! Yesterday we played a softball game (5th grade vs. the teachers), and today I'm feeling it!  I got on base three times and made it home - lots of running for a sixty year old broad!!


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Genesis 30:1-24 PART 3

Before we move on from this chapter, I wanted to share with you some of the thoughts that Jon Courson has in his commentary on this passage. He writes of two mistakes Rachel made here: first, she looked to the wrong person to have her needs satisfied (she wanted Jacob to give her a child); second, she asked in the wrong way.

Rachel had the affection of Jacob, unlike her sister, Leah. But she lacked children. And what she lacked became her obsession. She was sure that having children would fill the void, but as we already saw, only God can fill up the emptiness in us.

Then, she didn’t really ask so much as she demanded her way: “Give me children or I’ll die.” When she did get her son, Joseph, she immediately wanted another, because she apparently felt she had to keep pace with her sister! And, as we know, she died giving birth to the second son. Here is what Jon Courson writes in his commentary (Application Commentary, OT, Vol !, Pgs.144-145):

As she was dying in childbirth, what did she say? Not, “Oh, praise God, another son;” not, “Oh, Lord, You’re awesome to give this barren woman two children.” No, as she was dying in childbirth, Rachel named her son Benoni, or “Son of my Sorrow.” The last word on beautiful Rachel’s lips was “sorrow” (Genesis 35:18).

Rachel demanded her way and it killed her.

Reading that is just so sad! Instead of trusting God with His plan, we often demand our own way - and sometimes He will give it to us! Even as Rebekah lost Jacob because she was trying so hard to control his life, now Rachel loses her life by insisting on her plan over trusting that God was working in her through her barrenness.

Courson shows how the birth of Rachel’s second son parallels the roles of Christ:

A broken Rachel names her son Benoni, “Son of my Sorrow.” But a wiser Jacob renamed him Benjamin, “Son of my right hand.” As the Son of Man, Jesus was called the “Man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3), but as the Son of God, He sits at the Father’s right hand (Colossians 3:1). And as He does, He prays for us. . . God says, “I am so in love with you, I’m not demanding something from you, but I’m dying for you. I love you to death. And the sins and mistakes you’ve made so foolishly, I will wash away completely in order that you can live with Me eternally.”

Courson then quotes one of my favorite verses here and breaks it down:

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5,6

  • Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; Don’t look to anyone else to fill the hole in your soul.
  • And lean not unto thine own understanding. Don’t demand God to do things your way.
  • In all thy ways acknowledge Him, Realize God alone is your Satisfaction, your Reason for living.
  • And He shall direct thy paths. He will fill every need.

Precious people, don’t trust in your own demands or desires, your own plans or perspectives. If you do, you’ll die with the word “sorrow” on your lips. Instead, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and He will direct you not to the place of Rachel’s sorrow - but to the place Leah found her ultimate satisfaction: He will direct your paths to Himself. (Courson, P. 145)

I could not have said it any better, so I didn’t try! :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Genesis 30:1-24 PART 2

Yesterday we were looking at Rachel’s demand for a child. Like Jacob’s grandmother, Sarah, she decides to work out the problem herself instead of waiting on God , and offers her maidservant, Bilhah, to Jacob as a surrogate. It was an accepted custom that the child of the maidservant would become the child of the master and mistress.

So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan.

Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali. (Gen 30:4-8)

Leah decides to get back in the game and gives Jacob HER maidservant, Zilpah, who bears Gad, meaning good fortune, then another son, names Asher, meaning happy. If it weren’t so tragic, this competition would be funny:

During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.”

But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?”

“Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.”

So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night.

God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my maidservant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar.

Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun.

Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah. (vs. 14-21)

What’s with the mandrakes? They were thought to be an aphrodisiac as well as a fertility aid. Here Rachel again is foiled by her own desperation! She gives Leah a night with Jacob in return for the mandrakes - then Leah, not Rachel, becomes pregnant! Note that Leah is still hoping to gain some respect, is not love, from Jacob. She has not yet learned to let God (and six sons and a daughter) be enough! Anyone seeing any joy in this family??? And yet, God continues to extend grace:

Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” She named him Joseph, and said, “May the LORD add to me another son.” (vs.22-24)

At last Rachel has her son! Is she satisfied? No. She names this baby Joseph, meaning may he add, as a prayer for MORE. She’s already thinking about the next one!

Tomorrow we’ll take one final look, because I want to share some perspective on this from Jon Courson, and we need to see what lessons God is trying to teach us from this family!


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Genesis 30:1-24

The competition is on! You need to read all of the verses in Gen 30:1-24 at one sitting to appreciate how bad it became, but I’ll just share two of them this morning.

When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!”

Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” (vs. 1-2)

Talk about desperation! Rachel is so needy here that Jacob gets mad at her! I’m assuming that this was not the first time he had heard her complaining about being barren. But now she has become obsessed to the point of complete despair. As Jon Courson points out in his commentary, the irony is that Rachel actually WILL die in childbirth with her second son, Benjamin. Courson also notes that Rachel has been the one who always had everything. She was the good looking sister who attracted all of the attention. But now, her older sister has everything she really wants and Rachel is consumed with envy. She does not want to go on if Jacob doesn’t give her children. She thinks that children will meet all of her needs (apparently Jacob isn’t enough, which may have been part of the reason he was fed up).

ALL of us have this same void in our hearts - we were purposely created with it so that we might seek God to fill it. Romans 8:20 says, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope. . .” God gave us this innate desire for Him. If we do not fill our lives with Him, we will spend years in frustration desperately trying to stuff that void in our hearts with something else: relationships, food, drugs, things, the praise of others, etc.

Rachel was sure that children would fill that longing within her - and as a woman I totally get that! Our children DO fill a great need within us to be needed and to love and be loved. We get such fulfillment in being a mother, yet like every other thing we do, mothering is temporary - if we’ve done our job right, anyway. These darling babies have the nerve to grow into adults who marry, move away, and have lives completely separate from our own! And that’s the way it is designed to be! But sometimes we make our children the center of our universe, to the point that they are almost idols in place of God (and believe me, I see it all the time as a teacher: the mother is so focused on her children’s lives, so overly involved in all they do, that the marriage suffers). And with infertile women, it’s the NOT having children that becomes the obsession as we see here with Rachel - and this, too, can destroy a marriage.

There’s so much more to this story and much to learn, so we’ll continue tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Genesis 29:31-35

You truly have to feel sorry for Leah! In pulling the switch on Jacob, Laban has set her up for a lot of heartache, and he has set both of his daughters against each other. We see here clearly, though, that God remains sovereign over all!

When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon.

Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi.

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the LORD.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. (Gen 29:31-35)

It is evident that God is in control of fertility! He opens and closes wombs, as we’ll see throughout this story. I think this must be the most difficult area in which to trust God if you are struggling with infertility. If this is your area of heartache, please know that God sees and understands your sorrow. While I never had this problem, I have watched so many beloved friends and my younger daughter, Emmy, go through this, so I know how very hard it is. However, I can tell you that Emmy, having finally adopted Penelope after seven years of wanting and waiting, would be the first to tell you that the wait was so worth it. She wouldn’t trade a minute of it, because she knows, without a doubt, that she was meant to be Penelope’s mother!

We can see in the above verses that what Leah is REALLY wanting is the love of Jacob. With each child, she hopes that she will finally have his affection. She names her firstborn Reuben, which means he has seen my misery, because she knows the LORD has heard her cries, and she breathes the hope, “Surely my husband will love me now.” Don’t you agonize with her?

Then, when the second son is born, she names him Simeon, meaning one who hears, because, she feels that, again, God has heard her. She seems to see this child as her consolation for not being loved. Is she becoming resigned to the fact that Jacob will not ever feel for her the way he does about Rachel?

When Levi (meaning attached), her third son, is born, she is seems ready to settle for Jacob feeling just some kind of attachment - and she sees her sons as that tether. But note the change when her fourth son is born: “This time I will praise the LORD.” Finally, she is looking to God for the joy and love Jacob will never give her! “Then she stopped having children.” PHEW!!! How much is enough? It took four sons before she finally realized her blessings! It seems to me that she was missing the joy of motherhood, because she was always focused on what she lacked (Jacob’s love), rather than what she had. Oh my! Can we relate to that at all? Don’t we all know someone like that? Haven’t we all been that person at one time or another?  Maybe even now you are struggling because you are lacking something you desperately want:  a spouse, a job, a grandchild, a house, a better weight, whatever...

This is the tyranny of discontentment! Paul said he had learned to be content in ALL circumstances. This was the secret of his joy in prison (Phil 4:10-12)!  In 1 Timothy 6:6 he says, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” When we are constantly looking for something else, we fail to appreciate what we currently have, and we deny the goodness of God in our lives. I am not judging Leah in this. Her situation was certainly a difficult one, but by keeping her focus on Jacob instead of God, she was robbed of joy and let a root of bitterness settle in. I’m guessing this also made her a fairly unpleasant person to be around.  Are people tired of hearing you whine?  Are YOU tired of hearing you whine???  Praise God in ALL things - things you have and things you don't have! And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7)

We’ll note tomorrow that Rachel, who had all of Jacob’s devotion and undying love, was nevertheless dissatisfied with her life. The grass is always greener...


Monday, June 13, 2011

Genesis 29:14-30

Before we move forward with this story I’m going to remind you what Laban said to Jacob in verse 14: “You are my own flesh and blood.” Now, while this was certainly true, since Laban was Jacob’s uncle, I think there is more to this statement. I think Laban senses a kinship with Jacob; he sees himself in Jacob - and this could have been a warning for Jacob!

I do believe that Laban was expecting the same gifts from Jacob that his family had received from Isaac, but apparently Jacob came without anything. After staying with his uncle for a month, during which time Jacob had apparently been working for Laban for free, Laban suggests a more equitable arrangement, and allows Jacob to name his wages. It must have been apparent to Laban that Jacob was head over heels for Rachel, and he was determined to get something from Jacob:

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful. Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”
Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. (Gen 29:16-20)

I looked up the meaning of the name Leah, and it can mean weary, grieved, or offended or psychological or physical weariness. The most negative meaning found is cow ! The positive meaning given is delicate. It seems clear that whatever was wrong with Leah’s eyes, whether they just lacked sparkle or life or were truly plain, they were nothing when compared to the beauty of her younger sister. In fairness to Jacob, he was already in love with Rachel before he ever saw Leah, so he had not made that comparison first.

So, Jacob eagerly works his seven years, then rightfully expects his reward. Unfortunately, Laban has another plan. Instead of the lovely Rachel, it turns out that, after his wedding night, Jacob learns he has married the wrong daughter!

So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and gave her to Jacob, and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpah to his daughter as her maidservant.

When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” (vs. 22-27)

Jacob must have been beside himself! He had to work another seven years for the love of his life! Beth Moore points out that when Laban mentioned the custom of taking care of the firstborn daughter before the younger, it is probable that Jacob was reminded of his own position compared to Esau, and how he had tricked Esau out of his birthright as firstborn. The tables had turned on him! Beth also reminds us that the facts of the polygamy practiced by Jacob does not imply God’s blessing on this practice. God’s Word is very clear that monogamy is His plan (Beth cites Gen. 2:24; Matt 19:4-6; and Eph. 5:31). In fact, we’ll see tomorrow how having four wives is anything but a blessing!

Jacob and Laban were the match made in heaven! God taught Jacob so much about himself by what he observed in Laban! Don’t you find that God often puts us with people who struggle with the same weaknesses we have in order to make a point with us? It’s almost like aversion therapy. Maybe if we see the obnoxious characteristics of ourselves in others, we will be moved to seek change!

Off to work - tomorrow we’ll see the sorrow brought on by these marriages. . .


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Genesis 29:2-14

Today’s story is a funny one! Jacob reached a place where there were three flocks of sheep with their shepherds shepherds gathered around a well. The opening of the well is covered by a large stone (probably to protect the water from pollution??). Jacob begins to question the shepherds - first about whether or not they know his uncle, Laban, then about their practices as a shepherds:

Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?”

“We’re from Haran,” they replied.

He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?”

“Yes, we know him,” they answered.

Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?”

“Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.”

“Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.”

“We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.”

While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherdess. When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. (Gen 29:4-10)

We are performing our class play this morning, and reading this section cracks me up, because it sounds just like a scene from a play: “Oh, look! Here comes the beautiful lady now!” :) Note that Jacob doesn’t suggest the moving of the stone until he sees Rachel. I’m wondering if he wanted to get the others out of the way quickly, so he could be alone with Rachel. . . Remember that Jacob was not the athletic jock of the family. In fact, having been the mama’s boy for so many years, he probably was fairly wimpy! And the three shepherds together had not been able to move the stone, which is why they were waiting for more shepherds before they had enough manpower to roll it away (or maybe they had been lollygagging waiting for the beautiful Rachel to show up). But one look at Rachel, and Jacob all of a sudden develops superhuman strength! The LORD had promised to be with Him, and here He gives Jacob the muscle power to show off for Rachel!

When Isaac had seen Rebekah at the well, SHE was the one who watered the sheep. But in this scene it is Jacob who does the watering! It seems he was smitten! And then he does something truly bold:

Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. (vs. 11-12)

Here’s a case of “kiss and tell!” Rachel races to tell her father about the strong stranger who turns out to be her cousin!

As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.” (vs. 13-14)

Now, Jacob must be thinking that surely the LORD is with him, and is about to grant him his heart’s desire on the spot. Laban seems excited to meet the young man - and why not? He remembers the last visit from this side of the family - he remembers the expensive gifts! This could be a bonanza for him! Jacob has just met his match in scheming! So, while Jacob’s expectation is for immediate answer to his prayers - he’s about to learn patience through a very long wait!! We’ll look at that next week.


Friday, June 10, 2011

Genesis 28:15 & Genesis 29:1

We’re going to go back and reflect on one verse from yesterday’s passage, verse 15:

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

This promise is one repeated throughout scripture. I was ready to move on to chapter 29, but, thanks to Beth Moore, when I reviewed my workbook on this passage from her study, The Patriarchs, I realized I needed to stay here a minute longer. Just like Jacob, it takes us a while to figure out that God is indeed with us! Just as Jacob spoke of God in third person throughout most of his vow, we seem to get stuck in that same mindset when we pray and even throughout our days. Even though we know in our heads that God has promised over and over to never leave us, we don’t always act like we believe it, do we?

Beth Moore reminded me that we have God’s promises in black and white! We have the benefit of flipping pages and finding them staring us in the face. Jacob had the memory of his encounter, but not a Bible to hold in his hand and continually read. A couple of the passages Beth refers to are these, which she says even exceed the promise made to Jacob:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matt 1:22-23)

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:19-20)

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim 4:18)

The last one reminds me that God has promised to take us through to the very end of our lives here on earth, then usher us safely into His kingdom. In other words, He will finish what He begins in us. This is the promise of one of my life verses, Phil 1:6.

. . . being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

God KNOWS where He’s taking us! He WILL finish the work He has started in us. Do we believe it? Then it should make a difference in how we walk through our days! We should be modeling the confidence that these promises bring. Be patient! Through all of our highs and lows, He is working in us and through us to make us ready to meet Him face to face! That’s an encounter I can’t wait for!

How did this promise affect the way Jacob walked? Well, as we look at the first verse in chapter 29, we’re going to look at the Amplified Bible version (not because I’m so smart, but because that’s what Beth Moore recommended!):

THEN JACOB went [briskly and cheerfully] on his way [400 miles] and came to the land of the people of the East.

I LOVE that!!! I need to walk briskly and cheerfully this morning, or I’m going to be late for work!! Love to you all!


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Genesis 28:16-22

In yesterday’s verses we read about Jacob’s dream, in which he saw a stairway to heaven (or “ladder” ). Angels were ascending and descending on it. In today’s verses we’ll see Jacob’s understanding of the vision of the stairway, and we’ll look at his reaction to this personal encounter with the God of Abraham and Isaac.

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”. . .Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (Gen 28:16-17,20-22)

Jacob awakens and is now in awe of this “random” place he chose as a stopping place on his journey. He recognizes that God was in this place, meeting him. Because of the vision of the stairway to heaven, Jacob decides this must be the “gate of heaven,” so he takes the stone he had been using as a pillow and sets up a memorial to God, anointing the rock with oil. (vs. 18-19) He calls the place Bethel, which means house of God. At this point in his new walk with God, Jacob seems limited in his understanding of God, but the new relationship is real. Jacob could not have known that the stairway was prophetic of Christ’s role as the one who bridges the gap between us and heaven, the One who even calls Himself the Gate (John 10:7)

Note that in Jacob’s vow there seems to be a slow transition of his awareness of God’s presence. Look at the many pronouns. At first there are lots of first person pronouns, as Jacob revels in the blessing God has promised him: “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s household, the the LORD will be my God...

Then, after speaking of the LORD in third person throughout that, he finally realizes that God is still with him, and he addresses God directly at the very end of this vow: “. . .and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” Look! There’s a model for tithing!

When Jacob speaks of his journey, I’m certain he is just thinking about this specific trip to find a bride (and to escape the wrath of Esau). But we know that he has only just begun his lifelong journey of faith in the God who will be called “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” In fact, the rest of Genesis is about Jacob and his family. I’m so grateful for this story of Jacob’s beginnings of faith, because it so encourages me! It will take many years to work out some of Jacob’s major issues, but he has begun the life of faith, and he has certainly found grace from a merciful God who loved this conniver just as he was - but who also loved him too much to let him stay that way! And so with us...

This morning was one of those when I woke up feeling so inadequate and overwhelmed - in fact, I had to really struggle to get into God’s Word this morning. Thank you, LORD, for drawing me here to be reminded that my worth comes from you alone. You use my inadequacies to show your strength and power and to demonstrate who YOU are to others around me!


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Genesis 28:10-15

Jacob set off to find himself a wife, but in this encounter we read about today he found God first. This passage is a familiar Bible story and the subject of a chorus you may have learned in Sunday School as a child, “We are climbing Jacob’s ladder. . .” I love looking at it with fresh eyes!

Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Gen 28:10-15)

Notice that Jacob stopped when he “reached a certain place.” According to Beth Moore, this word reached could be translated happened upon. There’s a randomness here - it could have been any old place. There was nothing special about it. She points out that often we think we’re in a random place, when actually we are there for a divinely scheduled appointment with God! Haven’t you found this to be true in your life? To me, it’s what makes the Christian life such an adventure! If you are constantly wondering, “Who are you putting in my path today, LORD?” or “Where are we going together today, LORD?” you will find there are many such encounters ahead of you!

I hate change! But I have learned over my last 35 years of walking with Christ that whenever someone is subtracted from my life (so many dear, dear friends have moved in and out of my immediate area) or whenever God has moved me to an uncomfortable place, it is always because He has a plan! I’ve learned that there is no such thing as “random!” Certainly, this place is about to become VERY special to Jacob.

As Jacob tucks in for the night he has a vey vivid dream in which the LORD speaks directly to him. Notice first how God introduces Himself to Jacob. He could have thundered, “I AM the Holy, Omnipotent, Sovereign, Almighty God, Creator of the Universe!” That would certainly have been awesome! Instead, He shows Himself as the God of personal relationship: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac.” He’s saying, “I know your grandfather, Abraham, and your father, Isaac really well. We are friends!”

Then, He affirms the covenant He made with both Abraham and Isaac to Jacob (just circle all of the “you” messages in these verses). Verse 15 is especially precious: I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to the land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” In other words, “Not only was I with your grandfather and your father, I am always going to be with YOU, Jacob!” And this is BEFORE Jacob has undergone ANY interior life changing. He’s in the middle of the run for his life, after having deceived his father! God’s promises are NOT contingent upon who WE are and what WE have done, they are contingent upon who HE is and what HE has done!!!

I love this encounter - that God revealed Himself and His purpose to Jacob through a dream when Jacob was not at all looking for God! This is how God first called me, through an amazing dream that was so vivid that I sat bolt upright in bed afterwards, filled with an overwhelming awareness of how much God loved me. And THEN I began my search for the Truth! I often pray that God will use a dream to reach someone I love who is NOT walking with or even wanting to walk with Him. Does anyone you know and love come to your mind who needs this kind of encounter?

Tomorrow we will see Jacob’s reaction!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Genesis 28:1-9

So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau. (Gen. 28:1-5)

At the end of chapter 27, Rebekah complained to Isaac about the Hittite wives of Esau, saying her life would not be worth living if Jacob also took a wife among pagan people. She knew exactly what Isaac would suggest: a trip to her brother Laban’s house to find a bride from among relatives. Sure enough, Isaac decides to send Jacob to look for a bride. Now, it’s interesting that Isaac sends Jacob himself, rather than sending a servant as his own father had done for him. I’m wondering if Isaac was hoping such a trip would toughen up Jacob. Whatever Isaac’s reasons, it is clear that God was in this plan, for He was going to meet Jacob in a very personal way on this journey.

I love that there never seems to be a particular way in which God deals with people. There isn’t a prescribed method of meeting God, anymore than there is a formula for healing or receiving a blessing. Everyone of us is unique and our faith walk with God is going to be completely different from those around us - even our children! We need to remember this when we watch our children struggling to come to their own place of faith. Their experience will not be the same as ours. It may be scary to watch them wander out from the safety of home, but God is with them as much as He was with us before we encountered Him personally. Our job is to teach them about God as children, model faith, both in success and failure, before them, and then to push them out the door to claim their own relationship with God. And we should do that with prayer and a blessing.

Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had. (vs. 6-9)

Here is an interesting picture of Esau, who remains clueless. He thinks that if he just takes a relative, instead of a Canaanite woman, as his wife, he will please his father and receive a blessing. He does not get that the problem is spiritual. So he tries to solve the problem by creating another one - he takes a THIRD wife! Yes, she is a relative, but through Ishmael, so not of the line of promise. In this case, three wrongs don’t make a right!

This reminds me of those who don’t know the LORD and who hunger for SOMETHING, but they don’t know what it is. They don’t understand that the void in their lives can only be filled by Jesus Christ. So they try to stuff it with other things: “Maybe I’m unhappy because of my wife - I’ll get a new one;” “If I just had a different job, my life would be perfect;” “I know I will finally be content when I buy that new house.” The problem is not that we need new things or people in our lives - we need the ONE Person who can change us from the inside out! WE need to be a new creation!

We’ll see tomorrow that this journey of Jacob’s will be the beginning of a new life for him!


Saturday, June 4, 2011

Genesis 27:42-46

“Anything we have to manipulate to get, we rarely get to keep.” I have this written in the margin of my workbook for Beth Moore’s study, The Patriarchs. I’m assuming it’s something she said in her video that struck me about the last verses in this chapter:

When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to avenge himself by killing you. Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Harran. Stay with him for a while until your brother’s fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I’ll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?”

Then Rebekah said to Isaac, “I’m disgusted with living because of these Hittite women. If Jacob takes a wife from among the women of this land, from Hittite women like these, my life will not be worth living.” (Gen 27:42-46)

This last scene in this chapter truly shows the consequences of the many dysfunctions in this family: favoritism, manipulation, deceit, a lack of spiritual discernment, enablement, unchecked anger and bitterness. The favoritism that Rebekah and Isaac each showed to their sons set the scene up for unhealthy competition between these brothers. Rebekah’s need to manipulate the outcomes “for God” thrust Jacob right into the middle of his largest deception. Isaac ignoring all of the warning signs that something was amiss and failing to lead these boys spiritually. Esau was allowed to go with his impulses, whether in his tendency to anger or in his choice of brides - the classic enablement by a dad who saw his son as a man’s man, the hunter, the jock superstar! And at the heart of it? Everyone wanted his own way over God’s way! Can we relate just a bit?

And look what happens in the end. Rebekah was told by someone (Isaac? A servant who overheard?) that Esau was plotting murder. So she told Jacob to “get out of Dodge” for a “awhile” until Esau could simmer down. That “awhile” lasted more than twenty years, and Rebekah died without ever seeing her son again! Note that nothing turned out as they had probably hoped, as she laments the women in Esau's life, who did not know or love God.  What a mess!

I’m right in the middle of this kind of situation at work right now that has just blown up. And as I’m reading God’s Word, which is always given at the absolute perfect time, I’m seeing how favoritism has created a competition that has lead us down all of these same paths! And the need to manipulate every detail (which really comes from that need to have our own way by hook or by crook), ends up with everyone losing in the end! As I said at the outset of this chapter, who needs a soap opera when we have these Bible stories? But the sad part is that I could now say, “Who needs a soap opera when you can be living one out yourself?” Yesterday I felt like I was a main character in “As the School Turns!” It was ugly - and feelings were hurt and people felt misunderstood and we all ended up guilty as sin! LORD, help us!!!

I am so thankful for this lesson today. I almost didn’t want to even open my Bible this morning, because I was feeling so discouraged. But, once again, God’s Word pointed out the heart of today’s problem! How thankful I am for the “sword of the Spirit” that cuts us to the quick and does exactly what God sends it forth to do!

Praying for peace!


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Genesis 27:36-41

Today we’ll look at some of the historical ramifications of the dysfunction of this family, as we look at the blessing that Isaac gives to Esau.

Esau said, “Isn’t he rightly named Jacob? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me: He took my birthright, and now he’s taken my blessing!” Then he asked, “Haven’t you reserved any blessing for me?”

Isaac answered Esau, “I have made him lord over you and have made all his relatives his servants, and I have sustained him with grain and new wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?”

Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept aloud.

His father Isaac answered him,“Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, 
away from the dew of heaven above. You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck.”

Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” (Gen 27:36-40)

You’ll note that I have highlighted Esau’s lamenting that Jacob “took” his birthright in addition to the blessing. Here is the convenient lapse of memory and the “victim” mentality of so many we all know who waste their lives wallowing in self-pity, never recognizing their part in the way their lives have turned out. Everyone else is to blame.

When I see this in students who are only 10 and 11 it scares me! My theme in my classroom is “Make Good Choices,” which is mainly about recognizing your personal responsibility for how your life turns out.

Blaming others for our woes is a way to feed bitterness and anger. And that never turns out well, as we’ll see today in Esau and his family line. Isaac prophesies that Esau “will live by the sword.” He would be a man of violence. Although he would serve his brother, there would come a point in history when he would “throw his yoke” off. I’m grateful for the help I received from Jon Courson, Beth Moore, and my Bible commentary here. I knew that the descendants of Esau were the Edomites, who were a constant source of trouble for the Jews. In fact, later, when the Babylonians carried Judah off into captivity, the Edomites not only applauded and gloated over it - they also went in behind and looted Judah. The book of Obadiah in the Old Testament is a book dedicated to the Edomites, specifically in condemnation of their treatment of their “brothers.”

When you look at the intensity of Esau’s anger toward his brother in verse 41, you wonder at such rage. Yet, we have seen over and over that the Jews have historically been the target of unnatural hatred. In the Old Testament book of Esther, we see the prototype of all antagonists toward the Jews in the Edomite, Haman. Haman plotted the complete annihilation of the Jews throughout the Medo-Persian Empire. Eventually the Edomites became known as the Idumeans, a people who converted to Judaism, but remained ethnically Edomites. Remember King Herod, the one who ordered the slaughter of every male child under the age of two after Jesus was born? He was an Idumean.

According to the historian, Josephus, in A.D. 70, when Titus was poised to invade and destroy Jerusalem, 20,000 Idumeans were allowed in the city gate of Jerusalem by the Jews, because they promised to help fight off the Romans. When they got inside the city gates, however, they turned on the Jews, slaughtering them. Do you see that these are a people who HATE Jews? This is an unnatural obsession that comes from Satan. It’s the spirit of antichrist that was also seen in Hitler, Stalin, and now in many Muslim leaders. Satan wants nothing less than the complete destruction of these chosen people, because he knows that God is not through with them yet. He wants to thwart God’s plan for the Second Coming. Jon Courson thinks that the prophecy about Esau throwing off the yoke of his brother refers to the future when the antichrist will assume power and set up his image in the temple in Jerusalem. It will be a short-lived “victory” for Satan!

Tomorrow we’ll see what the personal ramifications of the deception by Rebekah and Jacob were.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Genesis 27:29-41

There is so much in these next verses, that we are going to stay here for a while! I’m amazed at all that is in these few verses. Yesterday we read about the blessing that Jacob received. Did you all note the last verse in the blessing?

“May those who curse you be cursed 
   and those who bless you be blessed.” (Gen. 27:29b)

Don’t you wish our government leaders would get this verse? There is a blessing in blessing Israel and in being her friend. But turn away from Israel, ally yourself with her avowed enemies, and you will be cursed by God! There is no other political option than to be allied with Israel!

Okay, so we saw that Jacob made a hasty exit, just in time to miss the arrival of Esau, who was back from the hunt with his tasty game. Look carefully at both Isaac’s and Esau’s reactions:

After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. He too prepared some tasty food and brought it to his father. Then he said to him, “My father, please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?”

“I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn, Esau.”

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him—and indeed he will be blessed!”

When Esau heard his father’s words, he burst out with a loud and bitter cry and said to his father, “Bless me—me too, my father!”

But he said, “Your brother came deceitfully and took your blessing.”(vs. 30-35)

When Isaac realizes that he has been tricked, he shakes violently! Imagine his anger! He absolves himself of any blame, however, when he claims that Jacob “came deceitfully and took your blessing.” Certainly, Jacob hatched the plan with his mother and totally deceived his father, but, as we saw before, Isaac had plenty of signs that something was not right before he bestowed the blessing.

When it says that Esau “burst out with a loud and bitter cry,” we can imagine the wailing exploded from him. He finally realizes what he has lost because he “despised his birthright” (Gen 25:34). There is a the anger quickly descends into a bitterness that takes root here. When we look ahead to verse 41, we see the end result of this anger:

Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

The anger and bitterness become a grudge, to the point that Esau plots murder! Now this is clearly not normal anger! Certainly people can become bitter and hold tightly to their grudges, but MOST people do not go to the point of plotting murder! Premeditated murder comes from the heart of a psychopath. Beth Moore writes the following about Esau’s behavior:

Normal people don’t murder. Normal people get hurt and angry. They may insult others and even act unkindly, but they don’t premeditate a murder. (The Partiarchs, P.124)

This desire to murder comes straight from the pit of Satan. John 8:44 tells us that Satan “was murderer from the beginning.” In particular, Satan’s number one desire has been to kill off the chosen people from whom the Messiah would come. This is why the Jews have been continuously persecuted throughout their history. As Beth Moore writes, “The holocaust of God’s people has been the enemy’s plan all along.” (P.125)

We saw this kind of anger in Cain. When we give into our hurt and anger, and let the root of bitterness grow, we are giving Satan a foothold in our lives. (Eph 4:27) He comes to steal, kill, and destroy! There is nothing good that comes from anger that we hold onto, only destruction! It is so easy to nurse our hurts, especially when we truly have been wronged. But holding onto them and feeding them will surely destroy our relationships. The book of Ephesians is full of warnings about guarding our emotions. If you are wallowing in hurt and anger today, read that book! Ask God to help you let it go and replace your hurt heart with a heart full of compassion, grace, and mercy!