Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Joseph and his Brothers in Canaan (Gen.37,39).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac and not Ishmael, and through Isaac’s son Jacob and not Esau. Jacob disguised himself as Esau, so that Isaac gave Jacob the Abrahamic blessing (Gen.12:1-3). Esau planned to kill Jacob, so Jacob went to live with his Uncle Laban and eventually married Laban’s two daughters, Rachel and Leah. Jacob had twelve sons through Leah, Rachel and their maidservants. Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife, gave birth to Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph, and later Rachel died while giving birth to Jacob’s twelfth son, Benjamin (35:18-19).   This takes us to the story of Joseph and his brothers in Canaan (Genesis 37, 39:1-6). Watch or listen to the story and read the comments below.

Jacob and his family were settling down in Canaan, their promised homeland. When Joseph, Jacob’s son through his beloved wife Rachel, was seventeen he brought Jacob a bad report about his brothers. Jacob loved Joseph more than his other sons and gave Joseph a special robe. Joseph’s brothers resented their father favoring Joseph and the bad report about them didn’t help (Gen. 37:2, 5, 9). Jacob’s father Isaac had favored his brother Esau and now we find Jacob doing the same thing. Like Isaac and Ishmael and Jacob and Esau before them now we find the sons of Jacob at odds with one another. 

Joseph had two relatively straight forward dreams.  The brothers were gathering wheat when Joseph’s bundle stood upright while the bundles of his brothers bowed down to it. In the second dream the sun and moon and eleven stars bow before Joseph. His brothers understood from the dream that Joseph planned to rule over them and they hated Joseph all the more. Even Jacob rebuked Joseph for suggesting that Jacob and Rachel would also bow before Joseph.  Joseph seemed oblivious to how his dreams affected his family. The dreams stirred up jealousy and hatred in his brothers but Jacob kept the matter in mind (See Luke 2:51).

Now Jacob sent Joseph to check up on his brothers while they were grazing their flocks in Shechem (Gen.34). Joseph was wandering around in the fields when a man told Joseph that his brothers had gone on to Dothan. When his brothers see Joseph approaching they plotted to kill Joseph and put an end to his dreams. They would kill Joseph, throw him in a cistern and say he was killed by a wild animal.  Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob through Leah, persuaded the brothers not to kill Joseph. He wanted them to throw Joseph in the cistern so he could rescue him and return Joseph to their father (37:19-22). Ironically, Joseph was helped by the Canaanite man only to be betrayed by his own brothers.  

When Joseph arrived, his brothers tore off his robe and threw him into the cistern. As they sat down to eat some Ishmaelite traders passed by on their way to Egypt.  Judah suggests that it would be more profitable for them to sell Joseph as a slave than to kill him. So they sell Joseph for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites who take Joseph to Egypt (37:26-28). When Reuben returned to the cistern Joseph was gone. Reuben was the firstborn but he slept with his father’s third wife Bilhah, and Jacob found out (29:32, 35:22). Rescuing his fathers’ favorite son might put Reuben back in his father’s favor. However, Reuben’s leadership and his plan proved to be futile (37:29). Reuben went to his brothers who dipped Joseph’s robe in goat’s blood so that it would look like a like a wild animal had killed Joseph.

The brothers took the bloody the robe to their father to identify. Jacob concluded that Joseph had been torn to pieces by a wild animal so Jacob mourned for Joseph. Then the brothers who had caused their father’s grief tried unsuccessfully to comfort him. Jacob said he would go to his grave grieving the loss of son, Joseph. Meanwhile, the Ishmaelites sold Joseph to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. Joseph became a slave in Egypt but the LORD was with Joseph. The Lord blessed everything Joseph did so Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his household. Then the Lord blessed everything in Potiphar’s house so he only concerned himself with the food he ate.  Joseph was a slave in Egypt, but God was with Joseph and made him successful even in his adversity. God even used the malicious acts of his brothers to preserve Jacob’s family and to accomplish His plan for them. 

Through adversity Joseph acted honourably and at the right time God honoured Joseph. In a similar fashion the Lord Jesus would rejected by his people, betrayed by a brother, and sold for a few pieces of silver. Yet God would see Jesus’ suffering and in time God would exalt Jesus for the good of his people (John 1:11, Isa.53:11, Phil.2:8-9).

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jacob Wrestles with God (Gen.32).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfilment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac. Later Isaac’s wife, Rebekah gave birth to twins, Jacob and Esau. Now Isaac wanted to bless Esau but Rebekah disguised Jacob as Esau so that Isaac unknowingly blessed Jacob with the Abrahamic blessing (Gen.12:1-3). Isaac made it clear that Jacob would indeed be blessed so Esau planned to kill Jacob. So Jacob went to Paddan Aram to the home of his Uncle Laban. On his way to Haran, Jacob fell asleep and dreamed of a stairway reaching from earth to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. Above the stairway was the Lord who promised Jacob multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The Lord also promised to watch over Jacob and to bring him back to the land. Jacob called the place Bethel, God’s house.

In Paddan Aram Jacob met his Uncle Laban and eventually married Laban’s two daughters, Rachael and Leah. Leah bore Jacob six sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. Rachael gave her maidservant, Bilhah, to be Jacob’s wife and Bilhah had two sons, Dan and Naphtali. Leah gave her maidservant, Zillah to be Jacob’s wife and she bore two sons, Gad and Asher. Then the Lord gave Rachael a son for Jacob who she named Joseph. The Lord prospered Jacob and Jacob sought to return to his homeland. Laban pursued Jacob but the Lord warned Laban not to the harm Jacob. The two men made a covenant not to interfere with each other so Jacob went on to his homeland.  This takes us to the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Listen to or watch the story and read the comments below.
Sometime after Rachael gave birth to Joseph, God told Jacob to return to the ‘promised land’ (Genesis 31:3, 13). God protected Jacob from his Uncle Laban’s wrath but now would he protect Jacob from his brother, Esau (31:24, 29, 52). 20 years earlier Esau had consoled himself with the thought of killing Jacob (27:41). Now as Jacob was on his way home, God gave Jacob a vision of angels (32:1-2). Jacob’s years away from the land are bracketed by two visions of angels (28:12, 32:1). Then Jacob sent messengers to Esau who returned saying that Esau was coming with 400 men (32:6). Jacob humbles himself before Esau with the hope of restoring their relationship (Gen. 32:5). Now that Jacob would have to face Esau, he divided his family into two groups so that if one was attacked, the other might escape (Gen. 32:8). So Jacob prays acknowledging that he is unworthy of God’s love (Gen. 32:9-10). Jacob left home with nothing, but now he had a large household! Then he prays for the Lord to rescue his household from Esau. Afterwards Jacob sends tribute to appease Esau then he planned to spend the night alone in preparation (Gen. 32:13-23).  

Jacob sends his family and his possessions across the river and stays behind alone. Before Jacob faced Esau he would have to wrestle with this unusual man all night long. This would be the fight of Jacob’s life and a fight which Jacob was determined not to lose (Gen. 32:24). When the man saw that he couldn’t overpower Jacob, he simply touched Jacob’s hip and dislocated it (Gen. 32:26). As daybreak approached the man told Jacob to let him go. But Jacob wouldn’t let him go until the man blessed him. When asked, Jacob told the man his name and the man changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Esau had said how Jacob was rightly named for he had twice deceived Esau, but now Jacob would be called ‘Israel’ for he had wrestled with God and man and had overcome. When Jacob wanted to know the man’s name the man blessed Jacob. Then Jacob called the place Peniel because there he saw God face to face and lived (32:30). As the sun rose it was a new day for Jacob and as he left Peniel he walked with a limp. God hindered Jacob’s ability to walk, gave him a new name and worked a permanent change in Jacob’s life. He was now Israel but for the rest of his earthly life he would still be part Jacob.

Following the Lord is like a wrestling match in which we are called to relentlessly cling to God. Jacob’s encounter with God didn’t lead to life of ease but to a painful crippling. After striving with God the clever and able Jacob would now walk with a limp. In the same way God calls us to cling to Him even when it seems like God is against us. In this life we are promised troubles—but we are to ‘take heart’ for Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). Our Lord Jesus wrestled with God and with men even to the point of death on a cross. As ‘true Israel’ Jesus clung to God and prevailed over sin and death on our behalf. Jesus struggled with God so that we might share in his victory. Jesus endured the cross for us and now through our struggles we can become more like him (Phil. 3:10–11). This story encourages us to relentlessly cling to Jesus with all our strength, for he promises to never let us go.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Jacob's Dream at Bethel (Gen.28).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac. When Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, became pregnant the babies in her womb were jostling and the Lord revealed that there were two peoples in Rebekah’s womb and that the older son would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). Now when Isaac was old and blind he wanted to bless Esau before he died. But Rebekah disguised Jacob as Esau and Jacob claimed to be Esau, so that unknowingly blessed Jacob. Isaac said the nations and his brothers would serve him. Also, Isaac restated the blessing given to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3) that whoever cursed him would be cursed and whoever blessed him would be blessed. Later Esau came in to be blessed and Isaac trembled violently when he realized he had blessed Jacob. Isaac told Esau that he had given the blessing to Jacob and that Jacob would be blessed! Isaac made it clear that even though Jacob had acted deceitfully the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant belonged to Jacob. Esau wept bitterly and comforted himself with the thought of killing Jacob. 

When Rebekah found out that Esau wanted to kill Jacob she told to flee to her brother Laban in Haran. When Esau was no longer angry Rebekah would send for Jacob. Then Rebekah told Isaac that her life wouldn’t be worth living if Jacob took a Canaanite wife. So Isaac commanded Jacob not to take a Canaanite wife but to a wife from among the daughters of Laban, his mother’s brother. Isaac blessed Jacob and said, “May God Almighty bless you and your descendants with blessing given to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way to Laban, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Now this takes us to the story of Jacob’s dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10–22). Watch or listen to the story and read the comments.   
Jacob’s parents, Isaac and Rebekah, sent Jacob to Haran to get a wife from Laban, Rebekah’s brother. Yet, Jacob was also fleeing from his brother Esau, who wanted to kill Jacob for taking Esau’s blessing. The scene quickly darkens reminding us that this is a dark time in Jacob’s life. The setting of the sun also recalls the time when God made His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 15). That put a stone under his head shows us that Jacob now has nowhere to lay his head. He rests his head on a stone, falls asleep and sees in a dream a stairway resting on the earth and reaching up to heaven. So Jacob is being exiled from the ‘promised land’ for stealing his brother’s birth-right and his father’s blessing.

Jacob sees this stairway intersecting heaven and earth and the angels of God are ascending and descending on the stairway. Above the stairway is the Lord who speaks to Jacob saying, “I am the Lord, the God of your fathers Abraham and Isaac.” Jacob is being ‘exiled’ but the Lord speaks to Jacob. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself to Jacob while Jacob is running for his life. This is the God of Jacob’s father’s Abraham and Isaac and He promises to give that the land promised to Abraham and Isaac would be given to Jacob and Jacob’s descendants. Jacob’s descendants will be as innumerable as the dust of the earth and they will spread out in every direction and all people throughout the earth will be blessed through them.

The Lord also promises that Jacob’s journey will be a successful one. Not only will Jacob find a wife and have children but the Lord will be with Jacob and watch over Jacob wherever Jacob goes. The God of Jacob’s fathers is identifying Himself with Jacob and promises Jacob innumerable descendants to bless the world. In addition to these massive promises the Lord adds the promise of God’s own personal presence so that the Lord will watch over him wherever Jacob goes. So the Lord of his fathers will be with Jacob, the deceiver, and will not only watch out for Jacob wherever Jacob goes but the Lord will bring Jacob back to this land. The land where Jacob is laying his head will be his and the Lord will fulfill His promise for Jacob.  

Jacob awoke and thought of how he didn’t even realize that the Lord was in that place. The reality of the presence of the Lord in that place was awe inspiring for Jacob. Jacob must have felt like he had really messed up and so even as Jacob was fleeing Esau God shows up and reveals Himself to Jacob. Jacob was unaware of God’s presence and had no idea that God would show up and confirm that Jacob would inherit the Abrahamic blessing. He was fleeing because his brother Esau wanted to kill him but the God of Abraham and Isaac shows up to bless Jacob. The presence of was so real, so awesome that Jacob in holy ‘fear’ Jacob said, “This is an awesome place! This is the house of God! It is the gate of heaven!” So for Jacob that place would become for Jacob the house of God and very gate of heaven!

So early that very next morning when Jacob woke up he took the stone from under his head and he set it up as a pillar. For Jacob the stone would become a kind of monument or a reminder of the Lord’s presence. Jacob poured oil on the stone and he called the place Bethel (God’s house). Then Jacob vowed that if God would be with Jacob, watch over him, provide him food and clothing, and bring him safely to his father’s house then the Lord would be Jacob’s God and Jacob would give God a tenth of whatever he would receive from the Lord. So Jacob vows that if God will do what God had said then God will be Jacob’s God. Jacob adds the further condition of the provision of food and clothing and a safe return to his father’s house. So Jacob makes this conditional vow to that is dependent upon God fulfilling his promises to Jacob. Jacob has done nothing to deserve God’s favor and his conditional vow shows that Jacob has a long way to go but 

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Jacob Gets Isaac's Blessing (Gen.27).

God promised Abraham multiple descendants and a homeland to bless the world. The fulfillment would come through Abraham’s son, Isaac but Isaac's wife, Rebekah was barren (Genesis 25:21). Isaac prayed and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. The two babies jostling in Rebekah’s womb so she inquired of the Lord. The Lord revealed that there were two peoples in Rebekah’s womb and that the older son would serve the younger (Gen. 25:23). In time Rebekah gave birth to Esau and Jacob. Isaac loved Esau, who was a skillful hunter, while Rebekah loved Jacob.

Once when Isaac’s sons were grown, Esau returned to camp from hunting famished and found Jacob with a pot of stew (Gen. 25:29–30). Taking advantage of the opportunity, Jacob demanded that Esau swear an oath to give Jacob his birth-right for some of the stew. This Esau gladly did (Gen. 25:31) and so Jacob gave Esau some stew which Esau devoured. Esau left having despised his birth-right by giving it to Jacob for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:32-34). This takes us to the story near the end of Isaac’s life of when Jacob steals Esau’s blessing. Watch the story here and read the comments below.

The story starts with Isaac being old, blind and ready to act contrary to the prophecy given Rebekah before the birth of her sons that, “the older would serve the younger.” Isaac tells Esau, his older son, to go hunt some game and prepare him some ‘tasty food’ so that Isaac could bless Esau before Isaac died. Isaac loved his ‘tasty food’ and he loved Esau so he plans to ensure that his older and favorite son gets the blessing. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah, loved Jacob so when Rebekah overhears Isaac’s plan she tells her younger son, Jacob. Why is Isaac seeking to bless Esau privately without his wife’s knowledge? But Rebekah hears of Isaac‘s plan so she comes up with one of her own. Rebekah tells her younger son, Jacob, to get two goats which she would prepare for Jacob to bring to Isaac. Jacob would pretend to be Esau and Isaac would give Jacob the blessing which he was planning to give Esau. So Isaac planned to bless Esau contrary to the prophecy while Rebekah thought she could trick Isaac into fulfilling it.  The story depicts Isaac as having dull senses and ready to act contrary to what God had revealed regarding his sons.      

The marriage of Isaac and Rebekah had started off so well. Abraham had sent his chief servant who was prayerfully led by God to Rebekah. Isaac married Rebekah and when Rebekah was barren Isaac prays for her. Rebekah became pregnant in answer to Isaac’s prayer and she gave birth to Esau and Jacob. But now Isaac and Rebekah aren’t communicating with each other or with God. So Rebekah tells Jacob to get two young goats for her to prepare just the way Isaac likes them. Then Jacob would take the ‘tasty food’ to Isaac and Isaac would bless Jacob thinking he was Esau. Jacob was hesitant but only because he thought Rebekah’s plan might backfire. Esau was hairy, and Isaac might touch Jacob’s smooth skin and realize it was a trick and would curse Jacob rather than bless him. Jacob goes along with Rebekah’s plan but only after he is assured that Rebekah will bear the negative consequences if the plan fails.

Evidently, Rebekah doesn’t think that Isaac will be able tell either Esau’s hands from goatskins or the difference from goat meat and wild game. Rebekah thought it was worth the risk so she says she will accept the blame and any curse that would result. Jacob gets the goats and Rebekah prepared the food. Rebekah put Esau’s clothes on Jacob and covered his hands and neck with goatskins. So Jacob is going to try to trick Isaac into giving Jacob what the Lord had promised him in the prophecy to Rebekah. Isaac thinks he can give the blessing to Esau contrary to the prophecy and Rebekah thinks she can deceive Isaac into fulfilling the prophecy. This only shows how gracious God was to them considering how undeserving they all were and that none of them were all that willing to trust the Lord.

So Jacob takes the ‘tasty food’ to his father disguised as his older brother, Esau. When Isaac asks how he was able to get the food so quickly Jacob claimed that the LORD gave him success. But the voice sounds like Jacob so Isaac wants to touch him to see if it’s really Esau. Isaac touches him and while the voice sounds like Jacob the hands feel like Esau. Isaac asks if it is really Esau and Jacob said, “Yes, I am”.  Isaac ate his ‘tasty food’ and he couldn’t distinguish between wild game and goat meat. Isaac was ready to give the blessing after one last test. Jacob kissed Isaac and for Isaac the smell of Esau’s clothes was like the smell of a field blessed by the LORD. But this is Esau who despised his birthright and grieved his parents by taking two Canaanite wives. Isaac, unknowingly, blesses Jacob with heaven’s dew and the earth’s richness— nations will bow before him and he will be lord over his brothers. Then Isaac restates the blessing given to Abraham (Gen.12:1-3) that those who curse him would be cursed and those who bless him would be blessed. In opposition to God’s ‘revealed will’ Isaac tries to pass on the Abrahamic covenant blessing to Esau. But God is sovereign and so he was actually imparting the blessing to the one God had chosen all along. 

Almost immediately, Esau comes in from hunting and brings the food to Isaac. Isaac wants to know who is there. “Your firstborn son, Esau, get up eat and give me your blessing” said Esau.  Then Isaac trembled violently and he wanted to know who had brought him the food he had just eaten. Isaac acknowledges that he had unknowingly given Jacob his blessing and yet he confirmed to Esau that Jacob would indeed be blessed! Esau pleads for his father’s blessing but Isaac tells Esau that his brother had taken it deceitfully. Esau says that his brother had deceived Esau twice; first Jacob took Esau’s birthright, and now Jacob had taken his blessing. Esau desperately pleads for another blessing, but Isaac had already made Jacob lord over his relatives including Esau. Isaac had sustained Jacob with grain and new wine so what more could Isaac do for Esau? Isaac realized that this was God’s will so there was now no turning back. Esau wept aloud but the blessing of the Abrahamic covenant belonged to Jacob. Isaac tells Esau he will dwell away from both the earth’s richness and heaven’s dew. Esau would not inherit the promised land of Canaan but he would live by the sword and serve his brother. In time when Esau grew restless then Esau would throw off his brother’s yoke. In response Esau consoles himself with the thought of killing his brother Jacob.