Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Genesis 27:28-30

I hope you all enjoyed a restful Memorial Day as you gave thanks for all who have served and continue to serve this nation with great sacrifice! Today I am celebrating the 36th birthday of my firstborn, Molly! I remember the day of her birth with such clarity, it seems impossible that all this time has passed!! Happy Birthday, angel child!

Today we are just going to look at the blessing that Isaac gave to Jacob, thinking he was giving it to Esau:

“May God give you heaven’s dew 
   and earth’s richness— 
   an abundance of grain and new wine. 
May nations serve you 
   and peoples bow down to you. 
Be lord over your brothers, 
   and may the sons of your mother bow down to you. 
May those who curse you be cursed 
   and those who bless you be blessed.” (Gen 27:28-29)

Once a blessing was given, it was impossible to take it back. Here, thinking he’s blessing Esau, Isaac prophecies that “Esau” would be lord over his brothers, that they would bow down to him. Yet, he certainly knew that God had already pronounced that Jacob would be over Esau (Gen 25:23). Here we see an interesting thing about the Hebrew culture - words are not spoken lightly! Beth Moore writes the following on this passage:

“Words are powerful. . . We speak words hastily and think we can simply take them back at a moment’s notice without consequences. Sometimes there are simply no ‘take backs.’ Genesis 27 is one of those times.

“Our consolation is the sovereignty of God. Though the players in these. . . scenes proved manipulative, hasty, deceptive, and foolish, a sovereign purpose trumped every play. In a very real sense, Isaac couldn’t take back his blessing because it really wasn’t his to give in the first place.” (The Patriarchs, P. 121)

God did not fulfill this blessing out of obligation to the words spoken by Isaac here, but because He Himself had already spoken them - this was part of his sovereign plan for this family and for the line of the Messiah. There were definite consequences to this family because of the way they had behaved here. We’ll see how Rebekah and Jacob suffered due to their deception. No, God had this all covered, and in His grace and sovereignty, He overcame the folly and sin of this family for their ultimate good and ours (Romans 8:28).

How easily we speak the multitude of words that flow from our mouths! So often we give our words very little thought. In fact, this is my biggest weakness! I have struggled all my life with the ability to say exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time. When we speak reactively, we are bound to say something that has terrible ramifications. I want to be an encourager, and, yet, often my careless words can discourage. It’s why I ask God to control my tongue EVERY day! Anyone else struggle with this? :)

Finally, Jacob makes a quick departure after this blessing, and in fact escapes just in the nick of time:

After Isaac finished blessing him, and Jacob had scarcely left his father’s presence, his brother Esau came in from hunting. (Gen 27:30)

Here’s an amazing picture! Jacob has just barely left the room, dressed in his brother’s clothing, when here comes Esau! They just missed each other! Isn’t this something out of “Days of Our Lives?” Esau is about to explode! Tomorrow we are going to look at the response of Esau, and the ramifications of his own choices. Stay tuned, it just gets better!


Saturday, May 28, 2011

Genesis 27:14-29

Having entered into a scheme to deceive Isaac, Rebekah and Jacob now carry it out. Jacob gets the goats and Rebekah starts preparing a great meal. She dresses Jacob in Esau’s best clothes and covers his hands and neck in goat fur, so he’ll feel as hairy as his brother, which gives you a better understanding of what Esau must have looked like! :) Finally, she sends Jacob in to see his father.

He went to his father and said, “My father.”

“Yes, my son,” he answered. “Who is it?”

 Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.”

 Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”

“The LORD your God gave me success,” he replied.

Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”

Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.” He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he proceeded to bless him. “Are you really my son Esau?” he asked.

“I am,” he replied.

Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”
Jacob brought it to him and he ate; and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”

So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him . . . (Gen 27:18-27)

I’ve included the whole scene here, because it is such a great lesson in discernment. You can see from this exchange that Isaac is suspicious from the start. First, he is surprised by the speedy return from the hunt. Then, the voice doesn’t sound like Esau, so the skeptical Isaac has his son come closer so he can feel him. The hands feel like Esau, but Isaac is still unconvinced. He has his son move closer and asks him outright, “Are you really my son Esau?” It isn’t until Jacob moves close enough to kiss his father that Isaac is finally convinced by the smell of Esau’s clothing.

Isaac had plenty of warning signs that something was amiss - I’m sure his spiritual antennae were twitching! Yet, he ignored the clear warning signs and gave in to what he could understand with his physical sense of smell. Isaac should have slowed down and thought this through. He could have asked some probing questions. I’m sure, since Esau was his favorite, that Isaac had some shared memories with Esau that only he and Esau would know that he could have used as a further test, like, “Retell the story of our first hunt together.” Instead, Isaac plows ahead with the giving of the blessing.

Beth Moore writes, “The moral of the story thus far might be this: pay attention to your suspicions . . . even if everything smells right.”(The Patriarchs, P. 121)

And did you catch how Jacob invoked God’s name in this deception? “The LORD your God gave me success.” Hmm. . . it wasn’t “The LORD my God” but “your God.” I wonder if those words pricked Jacob’s heart. To boldly lie using God’s name is a scary thing to do! Yet, how many schemes are promoted in God’s name? The television is full of those who use God’s name to further their own. How careful we have to be when we attempt to serve God that we are truly doing it in His name and not our own.

The whole ugly truth about this family is included in God’s Word for a reason. Not because God didn’t love these people - He commends them for their faith in the New Testament. But, He wants us to see our sinful nature for what it is. If we don’t understand our need for a Savior, we will miss the point of Jesus’s work on the cross. He came to save ALL of us, including this particular dysfunctional family, from our sins! And they are many!

We’ll look at the blessing specifically next time. Have a restful Memorial Day weekend!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Genesis 27:11-13

Today as we continue with the “soap opera” that is Genesis 27, we return to the plotting between Jacob and Rebekah.

Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.”

His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” (Gen 27:11-13)

Rebekah’s willingness to take on a curse astounded me when I first read it. Possibly, she just meant, “I’ll take the wrath of your father if I need to, just to be sure that you get that blessing that God promised!” But the really telling phrase here is “Just do what I say!” Oh, my goodness! Here is the heart of the problem - what EVERY woman utters at one time or another - Just do what I say! Isn’t this the picture of the woman who wants to control every outcome in her household? This is such a “motherly” tendency! We are so sure that we know what is best for our husbands and our children, that we don’t think twice about manipulating circumstances in order to get our own way. We even dress that desire up as selfless. “I’ll do whatever it takes to help my family!” It could be something as simple as what everyone will wear to church on Sunday, or what car we’ll buy, or something more consequential, like where the children will go to college and whom they’ll marry.

Beth Moore points out that she also uses the phrase, “...go and get them for me.” Again, the Bible is almost brutal in opening up our sinful hearts! There is nothing to wink at with sin! Our primary problem is that “I” is in the middle of S-I-N! Rebekah knows that God has declared that “the older will serve the younger.” No doubt this has colored the way she viewed these boys from the beginning. And she knows without a doubt that this IS God’s will. However, her mistake here is in not letting God be God. She feels the need to help Him out. And because Jacob is the one she loves, this is as much about her as it is about Jacob’s destiny.

No matter how much we want the best for our children, there is always a little bit about us in there... I don’t think we can fully separate that self-interest on this side of heaven, but we certainly must be aware of it and guard against it, and be prayerful about letting God have HIS way in us. One of the things I pray every morning as I get out of bed is Psalm 19:14:

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.

I so don’t trust my thoughts and I so desperately need to control my tongue, so I try to give them to God every morning. The Bible tells me that my heart is desperately wicked, so I need to give it to God, or I will be following my own self-interest all day long! I’m feeling much more empathetic with Rebekah now. But the ramifications of this deception will be long-lasting. LORD, help us learn these lessons deep within our hearts!!!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Genesis 27:1-12

Who needs soap operas when we have the Bible?? This chapter of Genesis is filled with intrigue and deception and betrayal - and is reminiscent of an episode of “Dallas,” in which Bobby and JR fight over the rights to the Ewing fortune (and if you understand that analogy, you are old)!

When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.”
“Here I am,” he answered.
Isaac said, “I am now an old man and don’t know the day of my death. Now then, get your equipment—your quiver and bow—and go out to the open country to hunt some wild game for me. Prepare me the kind of tasty food I like and bring it to me to eat, so that I may give you my blessing before I die.” (Gen.27:1-4)

Certainly Isaac is failing in health here, at the age of about 137, but the reality is he lived 43 more years! However, he knows how to manipulate his son into getting him his favorite meal! And Esau? According to Jon Courson’s commentary he was about 77 years old at this point. I think in those days, “seventy was the new twenty!” So Isaac is ready to give his deathbed blessing to his favorite son, Esau. Rebekah, in the meantime, who prefers Jacob over Esau, hears this conversation and comes up with a way to change the outcome.

Now Rebekah was listening as Isaac spoke to his son Esau. When Esau left for the open country to hunt game and bring it back, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “Look, I overheard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game and prepare me some tasty food to eat, so that I may give you my blessing in the presence of the LORD before I die.’ Now, my son, listen carefully and do what I tell you: Go out to the flock and bring me two choice young goats, so I can prepare some tasty food for your father, just the way he likes it. Then take it to your father to eat, so that he may give you his blessing before he dies.” (vs. 5-10)

In fairness to Rebekah, God had told her while she was still pregnant that Jacob would be the son of blessing (Gen. 25:23), so she may have just been trying to help God out here. Courson points out that she knew God’s Word, and may have thought she was doing God’s work. But you’ll notice that she does not pray and seek God’s will or help. She goes full steam ahead with her plot. How many times do we do this? We are anxious to do something “for God,” so we plow right on with our plans, not seeking anything more than God’s name attached to the project - “LORD, please bless this ministry I’m devoting to You,” instead of “LORD, show me what You want me to do, even if it means waiting and just being still.” Could the sovereign LORD of the universe have somehow intervened or turned around the situation? Of course He could have! But in a panic, Rebekah proceeds with her plan. Note that she invoked God’s name when she misquoted Isaac! Isaac had not said, “in the presence of the LORD...” - Rebekah added that. Let’s look at how Jacob reacts:

Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “But my brother Esau is a hairy man while I have smooth skin. What if my father touches me? I would appear to be tricking him and would bring down a curse on myself rather than a blessing.” (vs. 11-12)

At first glance it may seem that Jacob is attempting to stop his mother here. But Jon Courson points out that Jacob is really more concerned with his reputation rather than his actual character here. He doesn’t want his father to believe he’s deceptive, even though he clearly is deceptive, because he quickly goes along with her without any further objections. He’s not worried about what God will know about him - he’s worried about what man will think about him! Ouch! LORD, show us where we have that same mindset!

And I’m just going to be cogitating on that one for the rest of the day!


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Genesis 26:23-35

Yesterday we saw how Isaac increasingly showed the faith of his father as he continued to move from well to well, until finally he found a spot where he could settle in peace.

From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.”

Isaac built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. There he pitched his tent, and there his servants dug a well. (Gen 26:23-25)

Of all of the things that Abraham handed down to Isaac, it was his relationship with his God that was the most important. Even though Abraham was not the perfect example, he relied on the Perfect God! So, Abraham’s God confirms the promise to Isaac that He made with Abraham. God would be with Isaac, and He would bless him! And this not only happened, but God made sure that others noticed it! Abimelech and his top advisor and his military commander paid Isaac a visit. When Isaac asked them why they had come, they answered:

“We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, ‘There ought to be a sworn agreement between us’—between us and you. Let us make a treaty with you that you will do us no harm, just as we did not harm you but always treated you well and sent you away peacefully. And now you are blessed by the LORD.” (vs. 28-29)

Even though Isaac had not been a good witness to these men earlier, God vindicated Isaac before them to show His power and His goodness. In spite of Isaac’s weakness, they could see that the LORD was with him! I love how God can overcome our times of blowing it!! He does this for HIS name’s sake, so that HE will be glorified. In our weakness, He is made strong! (2 Cor 12:5-10) So, after celebrating their pledge of peace, the men went on their way, and immediately God gave Isaac another blessing - his men found another well, which he named Beersheba, which means well of the oath.

The last two verses of this chapter could be easy to overlook, but they tell a sad story:

When Esau was forty years old, he married Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and also Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. They were a source of grief to Isaac and Rebekah. (vs. 34-35)

It should not surprise us that Esau impulsively took TWO pagan wives from the Hittiites. A man used to instant gratification would give little thought to such an important decision! What a heartache this was for Isaac and Rebekah, who had entered into their own marriage with the guidance of God and a commitment to His choice in their lives. They had experienced the best God had for them in marriage, so it would have broken their hearts to see Esau so casually throw aside any thought to God’s perfect plan. I would imagine that everything about these women (their laughter, their cooking, their language, their clothing, their housekeeping) drove Rebekah crazy. But worse would have been the worship of idols that they would have brought with them!

We aren’t told what Rebekah and Isaac had done, if anything, prior to Esau’s 40th birthday to lead him in the right direction. I’m guessing they tried to do all of the right things, including pray. But sometimes, in spite of our best efforts, our children will choose to rebel. So, what do you do if your child marries outside the faith? You bathe that relationship in prayer and do your best to show God’s love to the unbelieving spouse, so that you might somehow show them the truth! Tomorrow we come to a pivotal chapter in the life of this family, where we’ll see some strange family dynamics!

Have a wonderful day!


Monday, May 23, 2011

Genesis 26:10-22

Then Abimelech said, “What is this you have done to us? One of the men might well have slept with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” (Gen 26:10)

After rereading this morning about Isaac repeating the exact deception that Abraham had used, I wondered if Isaac had a big “Aha!” moment when Abimelech chastised him for nearly bringing ruin on his people, just as Abraham had done with Abimelech’s father. I wonder if Isaac thought to himself, “Oh no! I’ve become my father!”

Have you ever thought that? One of the things that I want to talk about this morning is that while we certainly need to guard against repeating the sins of our parents, we also need to learn to reject the specific sins, without rejecting the person. We can become so angry with some of the failures of our parents, that we become blind to the good traits that we would want to inherit, and inevitably we will fall back on those very traits we despise! There are surely many good traits we can find in our parents that we want to emulate. And in today’s passage, we’ll see Isaac moving beyond the negative to capitalize on the blessings of Abraham.

So Abimelech gave orders to all the people: “Anyone who harms this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.”

Isaac planted crops in that land and the same year reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. The man became rich, and his wealth continued to grow until he became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. (vs. 11-14)

I find it astounding that Abimelech, the pagan, is so fair with Isaac. He orders his people to leave Isaac in peace. I’m certain Isaac was humbled by this experience, for the LORD blessed him in the same way He had blessed Abraham: he became so wealthy that those around him took notice and even envied him - to the point that Abimelech asks him to move away.

So Isaac moved away from there and encamped in the Valley of Gerar, where he settled. Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them. (vs. 17-18)

Isaac didn’t argue with Abimelech, but humbly obeyed his request. And then we see Isaac reopening the wells of blessing that his father had used. Now that’s the right thing to do! Unfortunately, the herdsmen around him did not like that idea, so they hassled Isaac, stopping up wells. Each time that happened, instead of demanding his rights to the water, Isaac quietly moved on until he finally came to a spot where they left him alone, according to verse 22:

He moved on from there and dug another well, and no one quarreled over it. He named it Rehoboth saying, “Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land.

Do you remember what Abraham had done when his herdsmen quarreled with Lot’s herdsmen over the land in chapter 13? He let Lot choose first which land he would take. Here Isaac is showing that same generosity and humility of his father, which is a by product of the faith he had also inherited from his father. He was trusting God to bring them to a land of blessing and provision. He knew that if he would just let go of what he had, God would give him so much more. This is such an important principle of the Bible - letting go instead of clinging to worldly possessions- losing to gain. This was something great that Abraham had modeled over and over to his son. And to make sure that Isaac didn’t miss this quality of his father, we’ll see tomorrow that God confirms it to Isaac.

If you have been hurt or angered by the failures of your parents - maybe nearly destroyed by some big sins in their lives - don’t hang on to that hurt. Give it up to God and ask Him to heal you. Then acknowledge something good that your parent passed on and focus on that! Unfortunately, we all seem to hand off some kind of baggage. In speaking of what she and her husband passed down to her girls, Beth Moore writes, “If we managed not to pass down an oversized suitcase, we at least handed them a carry-on.” That cracks me up! Sorry, Molly and Emmy! I know your father and I have given you enough that you would have trouble getting it into the overhead bin on a plane!


Friday, May 20, 2011

Genesis 26:1-9

Right in the middle of learning about Jacob and Esau, the Bible turns back to Isaac. Talk about a “chip off the old block!” Today’s story about Isaac is a great warning about the legacy a parent passes on to his children, both for good and for bad. If you didn’t pay attention, you would think you had just somehow wandered back to chapters 12 and 20 with Abraham.

In verses 1-6 we see there is famine in the land, so Isaac heads toward Egypt, stopping in the border town of Gerar, just outside of Egypt. The LORD warns him not to go “down to Egypt,” because Egypt is the symbol of everything worldly and pagan. He reminds Isaac of the promise that He made to Abraham, and confirms that Isaac is heir to this same promise:

I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and will give them all these lands, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because Abraham obeyed me and did everything I required of him, keeping my commands, my decrees and my instructions.” So Isaac stayed in Gerar. (vs 4-6)

Now, he obeyed and did not go into Egypt, but he certainly camped just outside of it! Isn’t that typical of us, too? We know God has forbidden certain things - for our own good - but we will get as close as possible without crossing the line! With teens it might be that they are not actually having sex, but they are doing everything but the actual act. How close can we get without crossing that boundary? I’ll just have two drinks, and that’s my limit... I’ll just flirt with my co-worker, but nothing more... Do you see how that is just playing with fire, and actually shows an attitude of disobedience? So Isaac stayed in Gerar.

Well, then in verses 7-9 we see a very familiar scene:

When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, “She is my sister,” because he was afraid to say, “She is my wife.” He thought, “The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is beautiful.”

When Isaac had been there a long time, Abimelek king of the Philistines looked down from a window and saw Isaac caressing his wife Rebekah. So Abimelek summoned Isaac and said, “She is really your wife! Why did you say, ‘She is my sister’?”

Isaac answered him, “Because I thought I might lose my life on account of her.”

Oh, for heaven’s sake!!! Why is it that we don’t learn the lesson by just watching others suffer and we, instead, have to actually touch the stove to see for ourselves if it’s hot??? Here Isaac demonstrates the same cowardice and deception that his father had shown - in the same town, even! The name, Abimilech, is a dynasty name, so this is most likely the son of the Abimelech that Abraham deceived. Jon Courson, in his commentary on this chapter, points out that Isaac admits he was afraid he’d lose his life on account of Rebekah, which is the total opposite commitment he should have toward protecting her, even at the risk of his own life. In Ephesians 5:25, Paul exhorts men to love their wives as Christ loved the church, to the point of dying for her! Instead, both Abraham and Isaac hid behind their wives’ skirts!

I can’t really judge here, because several years ago, when I was working with a teaching partner, Lisa, who was the same age as my younger daughter, she and I were attacked by a dog who came on our school campus after school (he actually bit me, drew blood, and caused me to have to get a tetanus shot). Anyway, instead of protecting Lisa, by pushing her behind me, I grabbed her and pushed her in front!!! Lisa, being deathly afraid of spiders, was only too happy to push me behind her, because there was a spider web behind us!!! Both of us totally went into self-preservation mode. Afterwards we howled over that humbling picture, because, as teachers, we should have gone into an automatic protector role! :) Good thing Lisa was not one of my students!!!

Back to Isaac! The thing that is so scary about this passage is that Isaac had totally picked up his father’s traits - both good and bad. We’ll see tomorrow that he also showed his father’s faith in God after this, but he definitely had inherited some weak genes as well. I love what Beth Moore says about this :

Parents were meant to impact their children’s lives, otherwise their job would be finished in the delivery room. Instead, their impact powerfully reaches past their funerals and grows faster than the grass on their graves... Let’s put it this way: sometimes our parents leave us more than a china cabinet... One reason we want to be careful and deliberate about what we agree to inherit is that we too will pass on multiple characteristics and much character. Or lack of it. We don’t want to judge our parents lest God and the next generation judge us by the scorecard we kept. (The Patriarchs, page 113).

We know what our parents’ good and bad traits are. We need to be so careful what we continue to pass on! It’s bad enough that Emmy has my curly hair (which I received from my father), and that I have passed to both girls my family’s sarcastic sense of humor! They don’t need anything more in the negative from my side of the family!!!

More on Isaac next week! Have a terrific weekend!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Genesis 25:27-34

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (Gen. 25:27-28)

If you have siblings or if you are the parent of more than one child, you already know that every child comes out of the womb with certain traits. Their differences are quickly evident! Children raised in the same home can be polar opposites. Frankly, I LIKE that! I LOVE that both of my girls are so different in personality. The blessing is that they are the same in their spiritual bent: they both love the LORD. However, because their personalities are so different, they have their unique way of serving the LORD. I can’t imagine loving one more than the other, but as a teacher I have frequently observed parents favoring one child over others. Some have actually praised one while putting down the other in front of me!

In today’s passage, we have Esau, the jock, the hunter, who appealed to Isaac’s need for a manly son - not to mention his appetite for game! Rebekah, on the other hand loves that Jacob was a homebody - the contemplative type, who apparently preferred being in the kitchen to supplying it. The fact that the Bible is so upfront about the preferential treatment each boy received indicates that it actually contributed to the poor relationship between these two and caused them to work against each other. Isaac seems to have certainly encouraged the independent spirit of Esau, who was guided by fleshly appetites, rather than spiritual discernment:

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom). (vs.29-30)

Esau appears so crass here, that you can almost see him charging in, scratching himself and belching in this scene. He apparently was used to having what he wanted went he wanted it! He was someone who would have appreciated fast food! However, Jacob, the heel grabber, with cunning, quickly seized the moment!

Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”

 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”

 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.

Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.

 So Esau despised his birthright. (vs. 31-34)

Now, there is nothing that would indicate that Esau could not have eaten without Jacob’s permission - he just apparently didn’t like serving himself. So it certainly didn’t take much for Esau to give up his rights to the blessing of the firstborn son! Jacob, recognizing the gluttonous weakness of his brother, knew he could take advantage of the situation. We have to wonder what manipulative skills he had picked up from watching his mother... We’ll see evidence of that in her later.

The use of the word despised tells us very strongly that it was not just a matter of Esau not caring about the birthright - he actually scorned it! So, the picture we’re given of Esau is not pretty! He is crass, rude (notice he got up and left as soon as he was finished without so much as a word of thanks), and he’s a disrespectful, glutton. Hebrews 12:16, which Beth Moore points to, sheds further light on Esau:

See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.

That is quite an indictment! As I mentioned at the beginning, children come with a certain package of traits, because we are all uniquely designed and gifted by God. However, we also know from experience and observation that the environment plays almost as strong a role in the shaping of personality and values. We are only given snapshots of what went on in this home, but I keep going back to verse 28, which seems powerfully placed here: Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. Is it just me, or is this a glaring warning to parents???

The thing about God’s love, and what I personally experienced the minute my second daughter, Emmy, was born, is that it does not divide when shared, it multiplies! God just increased the size of my heart when I saw Emmy - He did not diminish my love for Molly! I am amazed by this as a teacher, as well. There are certain children who are more difficult to love, but when I commit them to prayer, God gives me His heart and vision for them. And I find that prayer is something I have to do diligently, over and over DAILY, to avoid showing any favoritism in the classroom. So certainly, as a parent, if we see ourselves leaning one way or the other, we need to ask God to help us! The relationships in and futures of our families depend upon it!

Off to work with prayer for ALL of my kiddos!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Genesis 25:19-28

After learning briefly about the line of Ishmael, God’s Word now turns to the line of promise.
This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Isaac.

Abraham became the father of Isaac, and Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan Aram and sister of Laban the Aramean. Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant. (Gen. 25:19-21)

Have you ever noticed how many women in the Bible have trouble conceiving? Sarah was barren for most of her married life, and now we see that Rebekah also suffered from infertility (and let’s not forget Rachel and Hannah). She and Isaac had been married nearly 20 years by this time. Isaac knew that God had promised that he would have descendants as numerous as the stars - he believed the promise he’d been raised on, yet the promise was not to be fulfilled on his time schedule, but God’s. God was stretching his faith, even as He had done with Abraham.

We are told that Isaac prayed to the LORD for Rebekah, and that the LORD answered and she became pregnant. While we would like to know the exact details of this answer to prayer, the Bible doesn’t tell us. Did Isaac wait for 20 years before he finally prayed? Did he just pray once? I would imagine that he had been praying for many years, before God finally answered. This birth would continue the line of the promised Messiah, so there was not going to be anything ordinary about it! It would be clear when these babies came that it was of God! Those of us who have waited what seems like an eternity to see a promise of God fulfilled in our lives can attest to the fact that when we finally received the promise, there was no doubt that it was a God thing!

So, Rebekah is confused when she finally gets pregnant that there is so much activity within her:

The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, “Why is this happening to me?” So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; 
one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau’s heel; so he was named Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. (vs.22-26)

Right off the bat, we can see signs of the differences between these two, and can tell there will be a competition between them. Esau was red and hairy (hence his name, which means hairy)! It cracks me up to picture him, because my Emmy was a hairy baby, too! Jacob (which literally means heel grabber, or conniver/deceiver ) is grabbing Esau’s heel from birth! He wanted all that his big brother was entitled to!

The most foreboding part of this story is in the next two verses, where we see their differences so clearly:

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. (vs 27-28)

The Smothers Brothers made sibling rivalry famous with their line, “Mom always liked you best.” But there is nothing funny about this particular competition for the love of a parent. Esau was a man’s man and the pride of his father, while Jacob was more of a mama’s boy, who probably liked to stay close to home. Anyone with brothers and sisters understands the feeling of competition for parental approval. And certainly any parent can understand how this would impact a marriage! We tend to think that twins are joined at the hip - many even sharing a secret language. But often there is a natural comparison that goes on that can be damaging, not only to each child’s self-image, but to their relationship with their sibling. This is definitely a cautionary tale for parents, and we will see the ramifications of parental favoritism in tomorrow’s passage. Family dysfunction is nothing new!


Monday, May 16, 2011

Genesis 25:12-18

Before moving on in the story of Isaac, this chapter gives a brief genealogy of the line of Ishmael.

This is the account of the family line of Abraham’s son Ishmael, whom Sarah’s slave, Hagar the Egyptian, bore to Abraham.

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish and Kedemah. These were the sons of Ishmael, and these are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Ishmael lived a hundred and thirty-seven years. He breathed his last and died, and he was gathered to his people. His descendants settled in the area from Havilah to Shur, near the eastern border of Egypt, as you go toward Ashur. And they lived in hostility toward all the tribes related to them. (Gen.25:1-12)

Here is the beginning of Arab/Jewish hostilities. They have been opposed to each other ever since the time of Ishmael and Isaac. While the Jews trace their lineage to Abraham through Isaac, the Muslims believe that their ancestor, Ishmael, was the son of promise. Think about the funeral for Abraham, and imagine how difficult that must have been. Even though Ishmael was the first son of Abraham, he was never the son of promise, and he knew it. Beth Moore reminds us that he had Abraham’s name but not his presence for all of those years. Imagine the root of bitterness that had taken hold in his heart! We all know people who have chosen a life of bitterness and resentment - people who live in a perpetual state of discontent, because they continually focus on what they lack rather than on the blessings. Age does not seem to heal this tendency, it merely exaggerates it!

Many of us hang on to resentments toward our parents and their failure to provide either physically, emotionally, or spiritually what we feel we needed from them. Some may have been abusive or negligent, but even the best parent fails us in some ways. Parenting is the most difficult task we are given! And, I know, for me it is the area of my deepest insecurities. You always seem to be second-guessing your decisions and the way you are disciplining. And you really don’t know until the children are fully grown whether or not what you have done has worked! We live in an era when psychology has ruled, and we have looked intently at the possible ramifications of our decisions, and yet, we, too, have blown it many times.

Our parents weren’t as equipped, and frankly, they did NOT make their children the center of their universe (which was probably the one thing we should learn from them). I don’t know about yours, but my parents certainly did not have a clue about raising children in the LORD! They did not even call Him “LORD” until I was a married adult! I’m thinking they did pretty darn well, considering! We need to extend our parents grace for their failures! My mother lamented that she had not known the LORD when we were little, but the LORD gave her a verse that she clung to:

I will repay you for the years the locust has eaten... (Joel 2:25)

So what can we learn from this story of Ishmael? Bitterness is an inherited trait! A parent who lives a life full of complaining, anger, and resentment will leave this legacy to the family. Ishmael certainly passed down his resentment and anger to his sons. What kind of legacy are we leaving for our children? What are they hearing from our mouths? Do they see us as grateful, trusting God, and realizing that He is the God who works all things together for good to those who are called according to His purposes? (Rom 8:28) Or do they see us as discontented, always putting others down, jealous of the success or blessings of others?

I’m kind of glad that the Bible portrays no perfect parents, except for God the Father. He has given us many stories of what NOT to do, and His example of perfect love, compassion, forgiveness, partnered with justice and righteousness. Let’s commit ourselves to His example! And then forgive ourselves (and our parents) when we (they) fall short!


Friday, May 13, 2011

Genesis 25:1-11

We are going to take two days to visit this next passage, first looking at the death of Abraham and how it affected his family, and then, tomorrow, we’ll look at Abraham’s obituary. In verses 1-6 we are told that Abraham remarried a woman named Keturah (there’s a piece of biblical trivia) after the death of Sarah. It’s often pointed out that a man who has been happily married will remarry quickly after the death of his wife. Men need a woman! Isn’t it interesting that his second wife gave him six more sons! Now, think about how impossible it was for Sarah and Abraham to have a son, yet in his old age everything seems to be working like crazy! Why did God allow Sarah and Abraham to wait so long for their Isaac? Well, God was purposely building Abraham’s faith and working out His character in Abraham during those barren years. I like the way Beth Moore expresses this:

“The most profound things God promised were often fulfilled against the greatest odds and through the most difficult hardships. To God, faith is often the point - God does nothing cheaply. Perhaps the divine nature of a promise fulfilled guarantees its expense. We may receive a hundred unexpected things from God with delightful ease while the fulfillment of some things we believe He promised us proves virtually impossible. You see, the impossibility is what makes the fulfillment of the promises fall under the God category. God makes promises man simply can’t keep.”

Even with all of those sons, Abraham recognizes who the son of promise is:

Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. (vs. 5-6)

Abraham did not shirk his responsibility to his other sons, but he made sure that they were not around to interfere with Isaac’s right to the promised land.

And, finally, we come to the end of Abraham’s life:

Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre, in the field of Ephron son of Zohar the Hittite, the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac, who then lived near Beer Lahai Roi. (vs. 7-11)

I’m so thankful that Abraham died a nice quiet death and just “breathed his last.” Finally, he was at home! Today, however, I want to focus on verse 9: His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him... There is nothing like a death in the family to bring everyone back together! It absolutely necessitates that people put aside any differences and come together to honor and mourn the deceased. Remember that the last time Ishmael and Isaac had been together, as far as were told, was the day of Isaac’s weaning celebration, when Ishmael tormented Isaac, and so was sent away with his mother. But at the end of Abraham’s days, Ishmael returned to bury his father. I wonder if he made it to Abraham’s deathbed before he died... At any rate, he and Isaac are brought face to face for a reconciliation. Jon Courson focuses on this passage in his commentary, in a special study he calls, “Someone’s Gotta Die.” He writes:

“While it’s sad that it took the death of their father to bring them together, I’m glad it took that, for in their story we see that if there is ever to be reconciliation between you and the son or daughter who is estranged from you, between you and the mother or father who doesn’t understand you, between you and the friend who betrayed you, between you and the spouse who hurt you - someone has got to die. There is no other way.”

How many of you are feeling some conviction at this point??? I’m raising MY hand! Courson points out that it took the death of Jesus to reconcile us to God, and that if we ever want reconciliation to occur (and, admittedly, we may NOT at this point), someone is going to have to die - and I think that means ME! This is such a huge concept, and so hard to do, much less even WANT sometimes. Yet, Courson points out that there are several reasons why it has to happen: 1) reconciliation delights our Father (reconcilers have died to self and put others first); 2) reconciliation defeats our foe (Satan LOVEs division, especially in the body of Christ, so our when we take the step of reconciliation we foil his plan); and 3)reconciliation destroys our flesh (the cross is the ultimate place where we crucify our flesh and exchange our own will for His). There is nothing more awful than a bad relationship, whether one of outright enmity or one of just painful silence.

Since WE are the ones reading this, that tells me WE are the ones who need to die! If you are like me, this is going to take prayer first just to have my heart changed to even WANT to do God’s will in this area! Pray for me and I’ll pray for you!!!

Genesis 25:1-11 Part 2

Are you a reader of obituaries? Sometimes I’ll scan the obituaries of our local paper, because they are usually at the end of the local section. Some are very elaborate, detailing the person’s birth, childhood, schooling, military service, marriage(s), employment, survivors. Others simply report the death, as if the person had not lived a life. Oe thing you never see is something like this: “Bill was a great guy, if you don’t count the times he screamed at his kid and the two times he cheated on his wife, Betty;” or “She was a mean old broad, who hated everything and everyone, and who loved to gossip and put others down.” No, obituaries usually only note the positives of a person’s life - thankfully! Even the nastiest person is made out to be a saint at his or her death. And that is what we see in Abraham’s “obituary,” too!

We have seen the weaker side of Abraham recorded for all to read for posterity in the book of Genesis. We know how he made Sarah lie about being his sister TWICE to save his skin. We saw how he stumbled in his faith when he agreed to take Hagar. He was NOT the perfect saint. One of the things that makes the Bible so authentic and obviously God-inspired is that none of the “heroes” of the Bible are perfect, except for Christ. The rest all have their sinful sides fully displayed. Yet, God promises that our sins have been forgotten once we are His - they have been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12).

When Abraham died he was 175 years old. If you look back to when God first called him in Genesis 12:4, you’ll see he was 75 when he first responded to God’s call. So, what do you suppose he did with his first 75 years, when he was living in a pagan polytheistic culture? Apparently is doesn’t matter to God, or to us, or it would have been recorded. But, I’m certain we would find that Abraham had plenty of “issues” in his past. Even during his 100 years of walking with God that were recorded, we have seen his failures, but none of these are included in his “obituary.” Hebrews 11, which is called “The Roll Call of Faith,” dedicates 12 verses to Abraham that show us what God remembers and wants us to remember about Abraham. The writer of Hebrews is making the point that people have ALWAYS been saved by faith in God, not by their own righteousness:

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. (vs. 8-10)

In these verses, Abraham is commended for his obedience to follow God’s call on his life and for having a heavenly perspective, living contentedly as a stranger just passing through this earth on his way to a better place.

By faith Abraham, even though he was too old to have children—and Sarah herself was not able to conceive—was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. (vs. 11-12)

Here we see God wants us to remember the faith of Abraham that believed nothing was too hard for God, including providing children through a barren old woman! And, finally, he is remembered by God for passing the test of his lifetime:

By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death. (vs. 17-19)

Twelve verses, more than given to any other Bible “hero,” tell us what God remembers and considers important for us to remember about Abraham: his faith in a faithful God, who is supreme, sovereign, and even able to raise the dead! Because, it really isn’t about Abraham - it’s about his GOD!

If you struggle with what you consider your lack of faith, or if you feel like you are not cutting it as a Christian, or if you struggle with feeling truly forgiven for those horrible skeletons in your closet, take hope from Abraham’s obituary! What is God going to remember about you?? He’s going to remember what HE has done IN you - not what you did for Him! Because Jesus died so that we might wear robes of His righteousness, God no longer sees those ugly things in our past - He is seeing us through Christ. Have no doubt that even now He is preparing a terrific obituary for you!

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Genesis 24:59-67

Today’s story is so sweet! Truly we should be visualizing this as a movie right now! Yesterday we read how Rebekah’s family had tried to delay letting her go, but Rebekah, obviously sensing God’s call, immediately responded in obedience. So, her family reluctantly sends her, but does so with a blessing:

So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,
“Our sister, may you increase 
   to thousands upon thousands; 
may your offspring possess 
   the cities of their enemies.”
Then Rebekah and her attendants got ready and mounted the camels and went back with the man. So the servant took Rebekah and left. (Gen.24:59-61)

Look at this blessing. What a great model of prayer for our children. I’m sure they literally meant that they wanted her to have many children who would be successful in the world’s eyes. However, this is also a prayer we can and should prayer for our children and grandchildren with a spiritual application. In her study, The Patriarchs, Beth Moore asks her readers to rewrite this prayer in such a way. Thinking about my two daughters, Molly and Emmy, and my grandchildren, I wrote, “May many come to the LORD through your testimony and witness, and may they and you be victorious in your walk.” What would you write?

With that blessing from her family, Rebekah mounted the camel and went on her journey to meet and marry a man she had never laid eyes on! As Westerners, we cannot fathom such an arranged marriage, but this one had been arranged by God Himself! Beth Moore points out that this is the first marriage we get to witness in the line chosen for the Messiah, since Abraham and Sarah were already married when God called him. She reminds us that Abraham had specifically told the servant that this bride was not to be coerced into marriage. She was to come willingly. This shows a respect for women as something other than possessions! Let’s see what happens next!

Now Isaac had come from Beer Lahai Roi, for he was living in the Negev. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, “Who is that man in the field coming to meet us?”

“He is my master,” the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. (vs. 62-65)

When we first see Isaac, we are told he was “meditating.” Because we are told that he “looked up” from this meditation, I have no doubt that he was actually praying - and probably expectantly as he awaited the return of the servant. Rebekah also looks up and sees Isaac. Are you hearing the swell of the music? When she learns that this man is, indeed, her intended husband, she immediately covers her face with a veil. She knows the value of mystery in a marriage! At the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, I loved seeing her face veiled! It is just a precious thing to have that unveiling in the ceremony!

If we have any doubt that we can trust God to choose our mates, look at the ending:

Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. (vs. 66-67)

I had said at the beginning of our study of this chapter that we had previously not been told of Isaac’s grief over the death of his mother. Here, in a very simple, poignant sentence, we are told that he, indeed, had been grieving. This verse is so special to me, because it reminds me of my Emmy and her Nathan. When they had been dating about a year and a half, and were in their first year of college (Emmy at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Nathan at Berkeley), Nathan’s mother died unexpectedly at the age of 53 of a heart attack. It happened the week that they were home for spring break (and, amazingly, this was the ONLY spring break during their four years in college that they shared). I will never forget being at the hospital praying for Nathan’s mother, Susan, then seeing Nathan and his father huddled together after hearing that she had died. It still makes me cry! Emmy spent the next few days at Nathan’s side - they clung to each other - as the plans for the services we being made. She joined the family at the front of the church. I could see that the loss of his mother had completely cemented their relationship. for surely Nathan was comforted by Emmy. From then on, he grew increasingly protective of Emmy. It truly changed their relationship!

So, as I see Isaac taking Rebekah for his wife, it makes me cry, thinking of the loss he had felt, and how God gave him the perfect woman for him to move into his mother’s tent. I grew up with four sisters, then had two daughters, so it wasn’t until I had my first grandson, Beau, that I finally understood that whole mother-son relationship. It is completely different than the mother-daughter thing. I adore my girls more than anything, but when a boy tells you he loves you, it is so very special. Nathan and his mother were very close. When he was in high school and dating, he used to climb on her bed after a date and tell her all about it. She was an amazing woman! She had so much energy and had a great sense of humor. In fact, she and Emmy are VERY much alike! She has been greatly missed over these years, but I know that God provided Emmy as a comfort to Nathan - and just like Isaac felt about Rebekah, Nathan loves Emmy!

Beth Moore says we should look at precedent set by this marriage, which provides, "the ideal of parental blessing, prayer and the leadership of God, mutual consent, a draw of hearts toward one another, and a growing love that outlasts the romance of first sight."  It's the perfect blend of the spiritual with the romantic!  Yes, I believe God is a romantic!  And that is why I love this story!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Genesis 24:28-61

The young woman ran and told her mother’s household about these things. Now Rebekah had a brother named Laban, and he hurried out to the man at the spring. As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had heard Rebekah tell what the man said to her, he went out to the man and found him standing by the camels near the spring. “Come, you who are blessed by the LORD,” he said. “Why are you standing out here? I have prepared the house and a place for the camels.” (Gen:24:28-31)

In today’s passage, Rebekah rushes to tell her family about the stranger she met at the well (much like the Samaritan woman at that other well, who ran to tell others about Jesus). Notice that her brother, Laban, quickly goes out to meet this man “As soon as he had seen the nose ring and bracelets on his sister’s arm...” I’m a little skeptical of Laban, only because I know how he will do business with Jacob later, but it does appear that his hospitality is motivated by the glitter of the gold! At any rate, he welcomes the servant into his home. And before the servant will even sit down to eat, he wants to take care of his master’s business, so he recounts the whole story to Laban.

I want to particularly review the charge that Abraham had given to the servant as he recounts it here in verses 39-41:

“Then I asked my master, ‘What if the woman will not come back with me?’

“He replied, ‘The LORD, before whom I have walked faithfully, will send his angel with you and make your journey a success, so that you can get a wife for my son from my own clan and from my father’s family. You will be released from my oath if, when you go to my clan, they refuse to give her to you—then you will be released from my oath.’

See how this parallels the work of the Holy Spirit? He never forces His way into anyone’s life. He comes and woos us, draws us to Jesus, but He never forces us to believe. We have complete free will to either believe and receive or to reject His gift of salvation. And the servant is very direct with the proposal:

“Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn.” (vs. 49)

At first it appears as if Laban and his father, Bethuel, are going to immediately obey:

Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.” (vs. 50-51)

The servant brings out gifts for the whole family, and celebrates with a dinner. However, the next morning, when the servant is ready to head back to Abraham and Isaac with Rebekah, the family now tries to delay:

But her brother and her mother replied, “Let the young woman remain with us ten days or so; then you may go.” (vs. 55)

This is similar to the tactics Laban will use on Jacob. He appears to obey God’s plan, then does a last minute shift to delay. While our Bible says “ten days,” Jon Courson says that the indication is that they were asking for more - as much as ten months. It’s like the young man who, when pressed by Jesus to leave everything to follow Him, says “Let me first bury my father.” There should be no delay in doing what God has clearly called us to do (and in this instance, there was no doubt that God was in control)! While her family hesitates, Rebekah has no such hesitation. When asked what she wants to do, she immediately replies, “I will go.” (vs 58). Oh, that we would so quickly respond to God! I don’t know about you, but most of my responses of eventual submission and obedience have been preceded by LOTS of hesitation, and even some whining!!! I don’t know why He’s so patient with me, but I’m so very grateful!!!

Is God asking you to do something over which you are hesitating? Are you pleading for more time?? Take a leap of faith like Rebekah and trust Him to catch you! If He’s clearly calling, He will also equip you to not only obey but to accomplish what He’s called you to!

Tomorrow we’ll get to the best part of the story, when Isaac finally sees his bride! Don’t you love a good love story?


Monday, May 9, 2011

Genesis 24:10-27

In today’s passage, we are going to see Abraham’s servant set out to find the bride for Isaac. Jon Courson, in his commentary, points out that the servant is a type of the Holy Spirit, seeking out the Bride for Christ, so as we look at the story, we’ll note the parallels.

Then the servant left, taking with him ten of his master’s camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. He set out for Aram Naharaim and made his way to the town of Nahor. He had the camels kneel down near the well outside the town; it was toward evening, the time the women go out to draw water.

Then he prayed, “LORD, God of my master Abraham, make me successful today, and show kindness to my master Abraham. See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. May it be that when I say to a young woman, ‘Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, ‘Drink, and I’ll water your camels too’—let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.” (Gen. 24-10-14)

Right away, we can note that the servant is never named. We don’t know if this is Abraham’s old and faithful servant, Eliezer (Gen 15:2), or another servant. It doesn’t matter that we know, GOD knows. In the same way, the Holy Spirit’s job is not to draw attention to Himself, but to Christ. Then, also note that the servant took with him TEN camels loaded with all kinds of good things from his master. The Holy Spirit brings us wonderful gifts from the Father - loads of them! When the servant gets to his destination, he says a very specific prayer. He is looking for someone with a servant’s heart, who will respond immediately. Don’t be afraid to pray specific prayers! I believe God put this specific prayer in the servant’s heart so there would be no doubt about God’s choice for Isaac.

From the time Molly and Emmy were young, I prayed specifically, and told them over and over, that I wanted them to find husbands who would meet two criteria: (1) ones who loved God first and foremost and who would take them by the hand to serve God together, and (2) men who would “cherish” them. I used that specific word over and over, because I feel so strongly that women need to marry men who truly value them above all other women. When Molly met her husband, Kevin, at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, she was a senior and he was a freshman. They met through a Christian fraternity, with which she was a little sister, and they spent that first year together as mere friends and prayer partners. By the end of her senior year, it was clear that Kevin was very attached to her (he cried at her graduation). They went on their first date right after graduation, and while they were at dinner, Kevin wrote to her on a napkin, “I cherish you!” BINGO!! It is my greatest joy to see my girls married to such godly men, who truly do cherish them as wives and mommies.

Before he had finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. She was the daughter of Bethuel son of Milkah, who was the wife of Abraham’s brother Nahor. The woman was very beautiful, a virgin; no man had ever slept with her. She went down to the spring, filled her jar and came up again. (vs. 15-16)

The servant received the answer to his prayer before he had finished praying!! This same thing happened to Daniel in Daniel 9:23. Before the words leave our mouths, before the desires even take form in our hearts, God is at work answering. Again, I believe that is because God is the One who initiates this relationship and He wants us to know when the answer is His. And, surely, Rebekah was the answer to this servant’s prayer. Not only did she come from the right family, she offered to go above and beyond the servant’s direct request for a drink, volunteering to also take care of TEN camels! That would be MANY trips to the well with a heavy jar! The servant gives her a gold nose ring and gold bracelets as thanks for her generosity of spirit. Then Rebekah even offers hospitality at her father’s home (verse 25)! No wonder the servant breaks out in worship:

Then the man bowed down and worshiped the LORD, saying, “Praise be to the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned his kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the LORD has led me on the journey to the house of my master’s relatives.” (vs. 26-27)

Remembering that Rebekah is a type of the Bride of Christ, what do we learn from her response to the servant? When the Holy Spirit asks something of us, do we respond so quickly? Do we go above and beyond or just meet the bare minimum? Are we people of hospitality and generosity? Certainly, we learn from the servant that we need to pray specifically and expect God to answer. Are you doing that for your children and grandchildren? Especially as it concerns a future mate? There will be no more important decision they make, so we must begin praying early for their mates. It’s never too early to start those prayers. :)

Tomorrow we’ll look at the response of Rebekah to the servant’s next offer and get our first glimpse of her brother, Laban, who comes back into the picture later with Jacob.
Off to school - our first day of state testing!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Genesis 24:1-9

In chapter 23 we looked at the grief of Abraham over the loss of his dear wife, Sarah. However, nothing in the chapter mentions the grief of Isaac. Surely Isaac must have been close to his mother! She must have doted on him as her only son, the treasure of her heart. Well, today’s story just gives a a glimpse into Isaac’s pain, while revealing much about God’s plan.

Abraham was now very old, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. He said to the senior servant in his household, the one in charge of all that he had, “Put your hand under my thigh. I want you to swear by the LORD, the God of heaven and the God of earth, that you will not get a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but will go to my country and my own relatives and get a wife for my son Isaac.” (Gen. 24:1-4)

Interesting that the Abraham is now described as “very old!” Jon Courson says he was about 140 years old! It reminds me of a line in the movie, On Golden Pond, when the frail and aged Henry Fonda mentions to equally old Katherine Hepburn other “middle aged couples like us.” Katherine Hepburn looks at him in disbelief and says, “We are NOT middle aged! People don’t live to be 150!” Well, Abraham is no longer in the prime of his life! God has faithfully blessed him in every way. Abraham left all he ever knew and had to follow God, and God has given him everything he could have ever wanted or needed and more, as we read later in the chapter:

The LORD has blessed my master abundantly, and he has become wealthy. He has given him sheep and cattle, silver and gold, male and female servants, and camels and donkeys. My master’s wife Sarah has borne him a son in her old age, and he has given him everything he owns. (vs. 35-36)

But Abraham is now concerned about taking care of Isaac and seeing that he is settled with a wife and family. So he calls his servant in and gives him the assignment of finding God’s choice for Isaac. Notice that Abraham has two big qualifications: the wife must NOT be from the Canaanites, but his own family, and the servant must NOT let Isaac go back to the old country. God does NOT want us marrying unbelievers, and He NEVER wants us to return to where He’s saved us from!!! Look at the emphasis Abraham places on this, as he makes his servant swear an oath to obey Abraham’s wishes:

“Make sure that you do not take my son back there,” Abraham said. “The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’—he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there. (vs. 6-8)

How intentional are WE when it comes to protecting our own children from those things which will pull them away from God? Satan has an amazing array of activities and enticements to occupy the minds and hearts of our children. We need to have the same passion and commitment to raising our children in God’s kingdom as Abraham shows here! We need to protect them from those things which will pull them away. So why aren’t more of us anxious to work in children’s ministries? This is the most important mission field of the church! Vacation Bible School and Sunday School ministries are recruiting, people. It’s that time of year. Is God calling you to step up?? As a parent how are you working to protect your children or grandchildren? Are you helping them learn how to put on the full armor of God?

There are so many great nuggets in this story! I can’t wait until next week to really get into it!

Have a restful weekend!


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Genesis 23

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. (Gen. 23:1-2)

I have been anticipating this chapter of Genesis, because it is so special. I’ve been reading Jon Courson’s commentary on the chapter and reviewing what I wrote in my workbook for Beth Moore’s, study The Patriarchs. There are several things to note right off the bat. First, Sarah’s age is given - and apparently she is the only woman in the Bible whose age at death is given. Why? Well, Jon Courson writes that it is a way to exalt her among women. It points to the fact that she was given 37 years with Isaac, and it certainly emphasizes the length of her life with Abraham. And this is the part that is so poignant: Abraham has lost his better half, the princess (the meaning of her name) who willingly followed him away from the only home she had known, and who had faithfully remained at his side through all of their ups and downs and more downs!

In Beth Moore’s workbook, she asks the students to think of a couple who have been together so long you can’t picture them apart. I had written the names of my sister, Jodi, and my brother-in-law, Ed. In 2012 they will celebrate their 50th anniversary. I have known my dear Ed since I was about 10 years old. I can’t remember life without him as my brother. In the blank on my workbook, about five years ago, I had written the note, “they’ve survived much and enjoyed more.” Little did I know how much more they would have to survive! Any couple who have been together for more than 30 years understands how two have become one. It is almost impossible to conceive of your life without the other. So this picture of Abraham having lost his princess, really gets to me!

Jon Courson points out that this is the first time the Bible records someone weeping! He remarks that there is “no record of tears over the Fall of man , or when the Flood came, or when the people were scattered at Babel.” It’s not until this 23rd chapter that God records the tears of Abraham. Imagine his devastation. He must have felt as if he’d lost his legs! In writing of Abraham’s grief, Beth Moore paints a perfect picture of unadulterated grief: “You know the kind. You cry until you’re certain you have no more tears and then a few hours later, they wash over you like a flood. You wonder where on earth they are coming from... In the early moments of loss, nothing we have can quite make up for what we’ve lost... Early grief steals our world as if nothing and no one else ever existed.”
Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am a foreigner and stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.” (vs. 3-4)

The death of Sarah has suddenly brought eternity into perspective. Abraham’s heart is now fully in heaven and he realizes that, even though he is a respected, wealthy leader in Canaan, and even though God has promised him all of this land, at this point he owns none of it, not even a plot to bury his dear Sarah. This reminded me of that period of grace after the loss of a loved one, when your mind is taken up with details. After the initial shock the details of services and burial have to be taken care of - and they offer you a cushion from the pain for a while.

So Abraham makes arrangements to purchase a choice plot of land from Ephron, a Hittite. Although Ephron originally offers the plot for free, it is clear from the rest of the passage that he knows Abraham will not accept it. Ephron surely takes advantage of Abraham’s grief and charges an outrageous price for the plot (according to both commentators, 400 shekels of silver was exorbitant). But Abraham doesn’t even attempt to bargain when it comes to his Sarah. This tomb would become the burial place of both Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah.

My heart aches for Abraham, and for Isaac. The loss of the wife and mother to a family is enormous! She is always the one who keeps everything together. At Don’s retirement party this past Saturday, I was speaking and referred to the fact that Don and I would be celebrating out 39th anniversary this next August. My daughters began to gesture to me that I was wrong, it will be our 40th anniversary. I could not believe it! I have been telling everyone that it’s our 39th - and low and behold, if it isn’t our 40th!!! Everyone got a kick out of the fact that I did not know it! Usually it’s the wife who is on top of that info! :) Anyway, it’s been a long time - and we can’t imagine our lives without the other. What a bittersweet story this is, then, to look at the painful loss of Sarah!

May the LORD grant each of us a better awareness of the gift of marriage and the blessing of this special fellowship that is a preview of our Marriage to come!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Genesis 22:15-24

Today we’ll finish off this chapter, in which we’ll see Abraham passed the test of his life, with high marks:

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time and said, “I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” (Gen. 22:15-18)

Remember that God tested Abraham, not because He did not know how Abraham would do, but because He wanted to prove Abraham’s faith and His strength to the world. Satan comes to tempt us to steal, kill, and destroy, but God TESTS us (it can and most likely will be the same event) to build us up and show His power within us. God never allows us to go through anything that we haven’t been prepared for beforehand.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1 Cor. 10:13)

On completion of the biggest test of his life, Abraham receives a “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” And he doesn’t just get a plaque to commemorate the occasion - he gets the reaffirmation that God will surely do what He has promised. Abraham’s descendants will be “as numerous as the stars in the sky or the sand on the seashore.” And the best part? “... all the nations of the earth will be blessed because you have obeyed me.” Wow! Now that’s a reward!

When we take God at His Word and OBEY it, we aren’t the only ones blessed. Our obedience in and through a trial affects MANY. Everyone around us who witnesses our submission to the test is drawn to the God who sustains us in the midst of it. Don’t you want to leave that kind of legacy? That is why James was so confident in his proclamation about the joy of a trial:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)

Don’t you want to be mature and complete and not lacking anything? Me, too!!! I keep waiting for the maturity! I know that I’m still here, because God still has so much to work out in my life!! :)

Finally, this chapter ends with another genealogy. This time it’s the list of offspring from Abraham’s brother, Nahor. It lists his many sons, with a tiny footnote about the daughter of one of them, Rebekah! So, at the tail end of a portrayal of the sacrifice of Christ, we are introduced to the the future bride of Isaac. So, we are also reminded of another Bride - the Church! We all love a good love story - especially one that ends with a wedding. It’s coming, but tomorrow we’ll first read about another loss.

Have a great morning, remembering that WHATEVER comes your way, He is more than capable of taking you through it!


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Genesis 22:9-14

Today’s scene is almost shocking to our sensibilities. Abraham and Isaac have finally reached the site on Mt. Moriah:

When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. (Gen. 22:9-10)

Imagine what must have been going through Abraham’s mind as he is laying the wood on the altar, log by log, arranging it for the best fire. “Okay, LORD, any time now would be a good time to stop this!” He has to get to the point of actually raising the knife over Isaac, before the LORD finally calls out to him to stop:

But the angel of the LORD called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” (vs. 10-12)

Abraham has that same immediate response he had earlier in the first verse of this chapter: “Here I am!” Beth Moore calls this “the quickest moment of obedience in scripture.” What relief and joy must have filled him. I would think he would have gotten weak in the knees. Don’t you find it interesting that there is no mention of Isaac putting up a struggle? We always think of Abraham’s obedience here, but Isaac was amazing! He was a young man at this point, who could have surely overwhelmed his aged father with ease. Yet, he submits in obedience. He must have had tremendous confidence in his father as well as his Father!

See how this story parallels the story of Christ? In this portrayal of the gospel, Abraham plays the part of God the Father, and Isaac is Jesus, the Son who was obedient unto death (Eph. 2:8). The difference, of course, is that Jesus actually went through death and separation from His Father. The Father had to give up His Son for us! He wanted Abraham to understand the cost. This was a lesson Abraham could NOT forget, a test that Abraham passed with an “A+!”

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (vs. 13-14)

Abraham got it! God Himself provided the lamb! Here we see Jehovah-jireh, our God who provides. He not only makes the provision, He IS the provision. He is all we need! He knew we needed a savior, so He became the Savior. If He would not even spare His Son, what would He withhold from us that we need? And the things we need money can’t buy: peace, love, joy, forgiveness, hope... all things that only God can give, and that He gives in abundance when we trust only in Him.

So, then, this is the gospel message: God Himself provided our salvation. There was not a thing we could do.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Thank you, LORD, for your marvelous provision!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Genesis 22:5-8

He said to his servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”
Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the knife. As the two of them went on together, Isaac spoke up and said to his father Abraham, “Father?”
“Yes, my son?” Abraham replied.
“The fire and wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”
Abraham answered, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” And the two of them went on together. (Gen. 22:5-8)

There are many important things to note in this passage which is a portrayal of the story of redemption through Christ. As Beth Moore says, it’s the first account of the gospel in the Old Testament.

As Abraham prepares to climb the mountain, he tells the servants, We will worship and then we will come back to you.” Somehow, Abraham believed God would step in and Isaac would either be spared or brought back to life. I cannot imagine the struggle there must have been within him. Abraham places the wood on Isaac - just as Christ carried his own cross. They go on for a while, when Isaac speaks up. “Um, Dad? Haven’t you forgotten something? I see the fire and wood - but where are we going to get the lamb up here on the mountain?”

Abraham’s response is, “God himself will provide the lamb...,” or, as the King James Version reads, “God will provide himself a lamb...” Abraham had all the confidence in the world that God would provide. He did not know how, but he knew God would be faithful to His promise through Isaac. Abraham could not have fully understood, but God would, indeed, provide the way of salvation through His own Son.

This is truly a story of letting go and trusting God completely. Most of us will never be asked to make such a sacrifice of our children, but some do. Moms who watch their sons or daughters go off to war and those who sit by the bedside of a child suffering from cancer must also relinquish all control to God.

Years ago, when Molly was entering high school, a school friend, Lisa, was suffering from, and eventually died of cancer. I ran into her mother a few months before Lisa died and asked her how she was doing it - holding up in the middle of all of it. She held up a book she had in her hand with the title The Sovereignty of God, and she said, “This is how I do it!” She knew without a doubt that God loved her daughter much more than she did, and that He had a plan that was bigger than just them. And this is that ripple effect that Beth Moore talks about. When God puts us through something hard, it’s because He’s going to do something HUGE! Surely, through watching Lisa and her family go through the horrible ordeal with such faith, God was honored and many lives were impacted. God redeemed, and continues to redeem lives through Lisa’s story.

Tomorrow we’ll finish off this chapter and see the results of Abraham’s faith and God’s faithfulness.
I’m off to work, while Don’s staying home to play! Good for him! :)