Today’s Bible readings are from Genesis 31, Mark 2, Esther 7 and Romans 2.
In Genesis 31 Jacob heads back home to the promised land. Laban was upset with him (v. 2) and God told him to return home “and I will be with you” (v. 3). This is the best promise one can have. So it was a good time to go.
Because of Laban’s displeasure, Jacob felt like he had to leave on the sly, so he told Rachel and Leah how he had come to have more flocks than Laban and that God wanted him to return (vv. 4-13), so Rachel and Leah respond…
“Is there any portion or inheritance left to us in our father’s house? 15 Are we not regarded by him as foreigners? For he has sold us, and he has indeed devoured our money. 16 All the wealth that God has taken away from our father belongs to us and to our children. Now then, whatever God has said to you, do.”
This might have been the first time Leah and Rachel ever agreed on anything. Apparently Laban had already spent their potential inheritance and they were all too glad to leave, especially since God had blessed them with wealth (v. 16)
Rachel and Leah complain about the loss of their inheritance because of their father’s dishonorable behavior. Consider for a moment the inheritance our Heavenly Father is keeping safe for you. Can the thought of that inheritance encourage you to good thoughts, words, and deeds today?
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
–1 Peter 1:3-5 (NIV)
Rachel and Leah were wrong to look to their father Laban for their portion or inheritance (Genesis 31:14) once they were married to Jacob. He now was their portion and inheritance. “Since you are saved and joined to Christ, appraise the world and ask, ‘Is there yet any portion for me?’ If you think there is, you are mistaken” (Barnhouse).
Jacob leaves secretly, without saying goodbye, and headed towards the mountains of Gilead, going across the desert on camels.
The mountains of Gilead are in Jordan, east of the Jordan river.
Laban pursued Jacob to the hill country of Gilead. He was upset because Jacob had “driven away my daughters like captives of the sword” (v. 26), which was certainly hyperbole and he was not allowed to give a going away party (vv. 27) or bid them farewell (v. 28). And also, Jacob had stolen “my gods” (v. 30).
In all this Laban could not do any harm to Jacob because God had warned him not to (vv. 24, 29).
Jacob admitted to being afraid that Laban would “take your daughters from me by force” (v. 31) and challenged Laban that if anyone was found with “your gods shall not live” (v. 32).
Laban searched every tent but did not find his idols. Rachel sat on them and claimed to be experiencing her “time of the month” (vv. 34-35). Of course, Jacob then expressed his incense at Laban accusing him of taking his gods (vv. 36-37) and then unloaded on Laban all the pent up frustrations he had experienced serving him (vv. 38-42). Although Jacob was accurate in his report, Laban still felt the sting of losing his family (v. 43) and made a covenant with Jacob (vv. 44-54) to protect his daughters. The Laban left (v. 55).
“Amid much that is sad and even sordid in this story… amid craft, deceit, and lying on almost every side, we cannot fail to see the hand of God overruling and making even the wrath of man to praise Him.” (Griffith Thomas, cited in Barnhouse)
God kept his promise to Jacob to bring him safely back to the land, in spite of human opposition and his own failures, just like He will bring us to our eternal home, in spite of satanic opposition and our own failures.
But why did God allow Jacob’s family to keep the idols?
Also, what does it say about Jacob’s faith, that he said in verse 42, that “unless the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac had been with me…”that he did not claim God as his own?
Mark 2:1-12 is one of my favorite stories. It is the story of four friends who take a paralytic to Jesus. They do everything they can, including digging through the roof, to get their friend in front of Jesus. The text says that Jesus “saw their faith (v. 5) and forgave the man’s sins, then healed him to show the teachers of the law that he did have authority to forgive sins (vv. 6-12).
9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
An interesting question! Of course, it is impossible for humans to forgive a man all his sins or heal him on the spot of his paralysis. For God, on the other hand, both are easy. In another way, though, it is easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because that is invisible. To say, “Stand up” demands clear proof which would be satisfied only when the man begins walking.
After this, Jesus calls Matthew, the tax collector (hear “boo, hiss”) is called by Jesus. The Jewish people held them to be traitors (on the side of Rome) and extortionists, taking more than was required to line their own pockets. Therefore, they were despised. But Jesus called him anyway.
Apparently Matthew invited Jesus, and many of his other non-savory friends, to eat together (vv. 15-16). Jesus was glad to be there, for these were people who knew they were “sick” (v. 17). Jesus was a friend of sinners.
Small groups today sometimes host “Matthew Parties,” an intentional outreach to neighbors and friends to a meal, some fun event, with someone sharing their testimony or a short gospel presentation.
In three discussions, first about fasting (vv. 18-22) and then about the Sabbath (vv. 23-27) and picking grain on the Sabbath (vv. 25-28). In the first he told parables indicating that change was coming, making the Jewish religious practices out of date and irrelevant.
Jesus came to introduce something new, not to patch up something old. This is what salvation is all about. In doing this, Jesus doesn’t destroy the old (the law), but He fulfills it.
In Ezra 7 Esther’s banquet comes to a close and she reveals her true identity.
But Haman, I’m afraid the meal won’t agree with you . .
At the banquet, Esther asks the king to spare her people from someone who wanted to destroy them (7:1-4).
Esther was in a very dangerous position. Not only did she now identify herself with a minority group that Haman had represented to the king as subversive, but she also accused one of his closest confidential advisers of committing an error in judgment.
“She understands full well the delicate and precarious nature of her position. The threat against her and her people has two perpetrators, Haman and the king, and both are present with her. She must somehow fully expose the culpability of Haman, while at the same time never appearing in any way to be bringing any charges against the king. Hence, her response is extremely well thought out and presented with the utmost tact.”
–Frederic W. Bush, Word Biblical Commentary
When the king asks “Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther points to Haman (7:5-6). Esther was not afraid to tell it like it is: “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” (v. 6)
The king, in rage leaves the room, and Haman falls upon Esther, begging for mercy (7:7). When the king re-enters the room, he sees Haman “molesting” the Queen (7:8). When Harbona, one of the king’s eunuchs, mentioned the pole set up to impale Mordecai, the king commands “Impale him [Haman] on it.” And he was (7:9-10). Ironically, this type of death was an ancient precursor of crucifixion.
When anyone works against God, he falls into his own trap. “Perhaps the greatest example of this was when Satan thought that he won by getting the crowd to crucify Jesus, but the cross turned out to be the instrument of his defeat” (David Guzik)
Romans 2 sentences the religious Jews to the same condemnation as the Gentiles in chapter 1.
When we judge others, we condemn ourselves, just like the Pharisee did in Luke 18:10-14. We cannot escape the judgment of God (v.3), so we need to respond to His kindness by repenting (v. 4), else we experience God’s wrath (v. 5-6).
“Notice, dear friends, that the Lord does not drive you to repentance. Cain was driven away, as a fugitive and a vagabond, when he had killed his righteous brother Abel; Judas went and hanged himself, being driven by an anguish of remorse because of what he had done in betraying his Lord; but the sweetest and best repentance is that which comes, not by driving, but by drawing: ‘The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.’” (Spurgeon)
Even the very moral person falls short of God’s standard of righteousness (vv. 6-10). Is Paul saying here that we can earn eternal life “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”? Paul probably meant that if a person obeys God perfectly, he or she will receive eternal life. But that is not possible. Those who do not obey God perfectly receive wrath. Later he willclarify that no one can obey God perfectly, so all are under His wrath (Romans 3:23-24).
The Gentiles do not have the Mosaic Law in the sense that God did not give it to them. Therefore He will not judge them by that Law. The Jews in Paul”s day did have it, and God would judge them by it (Romans 2:12).
Even Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic Law know that they should do things that are right and not do things that are wrong (Romans 2:14). It is written in the Law, but also on our consciences (2:15).
In summary, to convict any self-righteous person of his guilt before God, Paul reminded his readers of three principles by which God will evaluate all people.
- He will judge righteously, in terms of reality, not just appearance (Romans 2:2).
- He will judge people because of their deeds, what they actually do both covertly and overtly (Romans 2:6).
- Moreover He will judge impartially, not because of how much or how little privilege they enjoyed but how they responded to the truth they had (Romans 2:11).
Paul had been speaking of Jews, included in the larger category of “good people,” in Romans 2:1-16, but now he identified them by name. The Jews were very self-righteous. Paul explained the basis of their boasting in vv. 17-20. Verses 21-24 indicates some of their sins. Additionally, they depended upon circumcision, which was to no avail (vv. 25-27). The important thing was to have a circumcised heart (vv. 28-29).
In Romans 2:17-29 Paul’s point was that perfect obedience is more important that religious privilege. Even though the Jews boasted in outward matters, the law and circumcision, they were guilty of failing God inwardly, as were the Gentiles. Really a God-fearing Gentile was more pleasing to God than a disobedient Jew because God delights in obedience.