Genesis 24:28-26:35

This is from the “straight through Bible reading plan” for today.

Genesis 24 is the account of Abraham’s servant going back to the land of Paddan-aram (Genesis 25:20) to get a wife for Isaac.

Genesis 24 fills us in on what Laban was focused upon in these verses…

30 As soon as he had seen the nose ring, and the bracelets on his sister’s arms, and had [oh yeah also] 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.

Laban’s greed is evident throughout his whole story.

Notice how specific the servant’s prayer was…

42 “When I came to the spring today, I said, ‘LORD, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come. 43 See, I am standing beside this spring. If a young woman comes out to draw water and I say to her, “Please let me drink a little water from your jar,” 44 and if she says to me, “Drink, and I’ll draw water for your camels too,” let her be the one the LORD has chosen for my master’s son.’

He wasn’t satisfied with a quick, “Lord, please bless me,” but expected a specific response from the young woman who came to draw water.  That way he could watch to see if his prayer was answered.

When we pray specifically and see God answer in just that way, then our hearts are filled with worship (Genesis 24:48).

Laban and family didn’t likely know of God’s promise to Abraham, to make his descendants as numerous as the stars (repeated in 26:4)…

17 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,

but they said something similar…

60 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.”

As I was reading of the sons of Abraham through his second wife, Keturah, in Genesis 25:2

2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah.

I wondered if Midian was the same as the place where Moses went after killing the Egyptian.  Moses did send them to “the land of the east” (25:6).

Image result for midian

Geni.com

It is accepted fact that Midian lay southeast of Israel and it was, in fact, the place where Moses went to escape Egypt.

Gulf of Suez and Southern Sinai Peninsula

https://www.thebiblejourney.org/biblejourney2/25-the-israelites-journey-from-egypt-to-mt-sinai/prince-moses-escapes-to-midian/

The description of where the sons of Ishmael, the Arabs, lived, is somewhat ambiguous

18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which is opposite Egypt in the direction of Assyria.

That would seem to be in the same vicitnity as the Midianites and other sons of Abraham.

Genesis 25 describes Rebekah’s inability to bear children, then the birth of Esau and Jacob.  Esau was the firstborn, but despised his birthright by selling it for a pot of beans.  Jacob valued the birthright, but schemed to get it.

Then, in Genesis 26, Jacob (and Rebekah’s) scheming got Jacob the blessing from his blind father.  Somehow, it seems to me that something deeper kept Isaac from realizing that this man he was touching was not Esau.

Hebrews 12 says this about Esau…

16 that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

The opportunity had passed Esau by.  He didn’t appreciate the blessings he had, but traded them for temporary pleasures.  Jacob valued spiritual blessings, but got them the wrong way.  Both of them were failures.

Paul explains that God was gracious to Jacob, though he (and we) didn’t deserve it.  Romans 9…

10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad–in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls– 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

Paul goes on to answer the objection that this whole situation was “unjust” in Romans 9:14-16.

Isaac, faced with a famine (Genesis 26), was told by God not to go down to Egypt.  Isaac went to Gerar, which was about on the edge of the land promised to Abraham.

 

Image result for Gerar

https://headwatersresources.org/jacob-in-the-land-of-canaan-genesis-33-35/

Like father, like son, Isaac lied about his wife to king Abimelech.  With disputes about wells with the Philistines, Isaac went to Rehoboth, and then finally back up to Beersheba (Genesis 26:22-23).  There God renewed the covenant with him…

24 And the LORD appeared to him the same night and said, “I am the God of Abraham your father. Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you and multiply your offspring for my servant Abraham’s sake.”

I wonder how many bad marriages have “made life bitter” (Genesis 26:34-35) for Dad and Mom?  And, of course for the person who got married.

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 9

Today’s Bible readings are from Genesis 9-10, Matthew 9, Ezra 9 and Acts 9.

Genesis 9-10 are about Noah’s sons and the “table of nations.”  After the flood, Noah and his sons were blessed by God, told they could now eat meat (and I assume until then everyone, including animals, were vegetarians), and that they were to hold the blood precious.  They should neither drink the blood of animals or shed the blood of man.

Verse 6 is where we get the idea for capital punishment…

“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image (Genesis 9:6)

God promises that He will never again bring a global flood upon the earth, testified to by the rainbow (Genesis 9:8-17).

An introduction to the nations is given in vv. 18-19

18 The sons of Noah who went forth from the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (Ham was the father of Canaan.) 19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from these the people of the whole earth were dispersed.

and then the sin of Ham occurs (Genesis 9:20-29).  Noah gets drunk, Ham sees his nakedness and told his brothers.  They cover his nakedness without looking.  Ham is cursed and Shem and Japheth are blessed.  Then Noah dies.

Genesis 10 records the descendants of Japheth, Ham and Shem.  Here is a genealogical table (genealogical table of the descendants of noah, lambert dolphin) and here is a map.

This map is from Martin Luther.

Here is another map from Bible History Online…

Image result for table of nations

Significant to Genesis 11 and the tower of Babel is this description of one of the sons of Ham…

8 Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. 9 He was a mighty hunter before the LORD.  Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the LORD.” 10 The beginning of his kingdom was Babel, Erech, Accad, and Calneh, in the land of Shinar.

Matthew 9 is a collection of miracles performed by Jesus, which often raised the ire of the Pharisees and they frequently challenged him.  Does he have the authority to forgive sins? (9:1-8)  Why do you associate with sinners? (9:9-13)  Then a question from his own disciples (9:14-17), followed by three healing miracles (9:18-31) and casting out a demon (9:32-33), at which the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons” (9:34).

This chapter ends by noting Jesus’ compassion and His desire for His disciples to take notice of the potential harvest of souls…

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

In Ezra 9 Ezra is confronted with the situation of Israelites intermarrying with Canaanites.  The issue is not inter-racial marriage, but the reality that marrying Canaanites had historically proven to be deadly to one’s spiritual life and devotion to the one true God.

Ezra prays a prayer of confession, noting Israel’s guilt and God’s grace throughout their history, and even now.  I love what he says in verse 13, that You “have punished us less than our iniquities deserved…”  In the face of such mercy, dare we break Your commandments again???

Acts 9 recounts the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Since chapters 1-12 are basically the story of Peter, this scene with Paul is merely an interlude.  Peter’s story is resumed in 9:32-43, preparing us for chapters 10-11 and the spread of the gospel to the Gentiles.

The gospel to Saul was simply,

4b “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.

Apparently Saul already knew enough about Jesus to put 2 and 2 together, for as soon as he regained his sight, he argued that Jesus was the Son of God everywhere he went!

Hosea and Amos

Hosea and Amos were both prophets to the northern kingdom.  Hosea picked up the mantle from Amos.  John Phillips, in Exploring the Old Testament Book by Book contrasts the two:

Amos thundered out the righteousness of God; Hosea wept out the mercy of God.

Amos took the heathen nations into his prophecy; Hosea limited his utterances to Israel, with occasional reference to Judah.

The style of Amos is clear and lucid, his illustrations drawn from the countryside; Hosea style dispenses short, sharp sentences, his broken home giving him ample illustration to convey the truths that were heavy on his heart.

Hosea is the prophet of outraged love–that love which never lets go; the love that many waters cannot quench; the love that suffers long and is kind.

Amos is the prophet of law, but Hosea had no such unhampered vision of great laws.  He was the prophet of love.  He tells us that in its deepest aspect, sin breaks not merely God’s law, it breaks His heart.

p. 317

New Morning Mercies, January 6-8

Here are some quotes from Paul Tripp’s New Morning Mercies from the last three days:

The contented heart is satisfied with the Giver and is therefore freed from craving the next gift. (January 6)

I need the presence and power of the Holy Spirit living inside me because sin kidnaps the desires of my heart, blinds my eyes, and weakens my knees.  My problem is not just the guilt of sin; it’s the inability of sin as well.  So God graces his children with the convicting, sight-giving, desire-producing and strength-affording presence of the Spirit. (January 7)

I don’t know how much you’ve thought about this, but faith isn’t natural for you and me.  Doubt is natural.  Fear is natural.  Living on the basis of your collected experience is natural.  Pushing the current catalog of personal “what-ifs” through your mind before you go to sleep or when you wake up in the morning is natural.  Envying the life of someone else and wondering why it isn’t your life is natural.  Wishing that you were more sovereign over people, situations, and locations than you will ever be is natural.  Manipulating your way into personal control so you can guarantee that you will get what you think you need is natural.  Looking horizontally for the peace that you will only ever find vertically is natural.  Anxiously wishing for change in things that you have no ability to change is natural.  Giving way to despondency, discouragement, depression, and despair is natural.  Numbing yourself with busyness, material things, media, food, or some other substance is natural.  Lowering your standards to deal with your disappointment is natural.  But faith simply isn’t natural to us.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 8

Today’s readings are from Genesis 8, Matthew 8, Ezra 8 and Acts 8.

“God remembered Noah,” what precious words.  More specifically, God remembered to do good to Noah for his faith and obedience.

In Genesis 19:29 God remembered Abraham and even though he did not specifically ask for Lot and his family to be saved from the destruction of Sodom, God delivered them.  He knew what was in Abraham’s heart that caused him to intercede for the people of Sodom, primarily the preservation of his nephew Lot.  In Genesis 30:22 God remembered Rachel and opened her womb to conceive.  In Exodus 2:24, God heard the cries of the Israelites in bondage and remembered His covenant with Abraham.  This is re-emphasized in Exodus 6:5.  In 1 Samuel 1:19 God remembered Hannah, and she was able to conceive.  Psalm 115:12 is plural, God has “remembered us.”

Several times God remembers His love or His promises.

Because God remembered Noah and his family, the waters receded and “the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat” (Genesis 8:4).

greater ararat, ferrell jenkins

A photo of Mount Ararat, by Ferrell Jenkins.  Go to his site, Ferrell’s Travel Blog for years of research articles and photographs from Israel, Egypt, Asia Minor and the Mediterranean area.

Verse 20 is another painful reminder that our sinfulness can only be atoned through a sacrifice.  More than likely, these animals had become “pets.”

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

In God’s promise not to judge all humanity with a catastrophe like this again, he acknowledges that man’s heart has not changed.

21 And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.

In Matthew 8 we have Jesus performing his first miracles, to verify that He is indeed the king of the Jews.

I like the prayer (request) of the leper…

2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.”

He didn’t demand that Jesus heal him.  He didn’t “name it and claim it.”  He fully believed that God could heal him, but he submitted to God’s will.  He left it up to Jesus.  He presented his request fully believing that God could heal him, but acknowledged his dependence upon God’s will.  This is the balance we need in prayer–fully confident that God can, but completely submissive to whether He will.

Jesus’ first words about hell (the lake of fire), though by no means his last, are in Matthew 8:12.  He calls it…

the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

What is meant by “outer darkness”?  Maybe simply that unlike those invited in to the banquet, they would be left outside, alienated from the “party.”

How can this place be “dark” and “fiery” at the same time?  Or is it referring to two levels of judgment–one for those who were ignorant (darkness) vs. those enlightened?

Thomas Constable notes:

Jesus shocked His hearers by announcing three facts about the kingdom.  First, not all Jews would participate in it.  Second, many Gentiles would.  Third, entrance depended on faith in Jesus, not on ancestry, the faith that the centurion demonstrated.

Verse 34 (Matthew 8) is surprising and shocking…

34 And behold, all the city came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him, they begged him to leave their region.

We look at the amazing miracle done to turn this man’s life around completely and would expect them to beg him to stay; they looked at the profit loss from pigs (which they should have anyway, unclean) and begged him to leave.  As someone has said, “they preferred pigs to persons, swine to the Savior.”

Apparently Ezra’s return to Jerusalem was delayed due to not finding any Levites among the returnees (Ezra 8:15).  So they sent for some to return with them and they were successful because of “the good hand of our God on us” (Ezra 8:18).  They celebrated Passover before going (Ezra 8:21).

“It is emphasized that the date of departure from Babylon was carefully calculated to take place on the first day of the first month, though in the event they could leave only on the twelfth day due to the need to recruit Levites ( Ezra 8:31).  While the point is not made explicitly, this arrangement implies that the Ezra caravan, like the Israelites of old, marked their departure with the celebration of Passover (cf Exodus 12:1Numbers 33:3), and that therefore this second episode in the restoration of the commonwealth begins in the same way that the first ends.” [Note: Joseph Blenkinsopp, “A Theological Reading of Ezra –Nehemiah.” Proceedings of the Irish Biblical Association 12 (1989):29.]

Ezra’s refusal to depend upon an armed escort despite the large amount of gold they were carrying displayed genuine faith.  We need to remember this.  Like Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac, our faith needs to be put to the test and stand the test.

“It is well to affirm faith, as many Christians do regularly in the creeds.  Yet it is salutary to ask whether anything that one ever does actually requires faith.” (NOTE: McConville, p. 58)

What is the last thing I’ve done that required faith?  How about you?

Here is the way Ezra states it…

22 For I was ashamed to ask the king for a band of soldiers and horsemen to protect us against the enemy on our way, since we had told the king, “The hand of our God is for good on all who seek him, and the power of his wrath is against all who forsake him”  23 So we fasted and implored our God for this, and he listened to our entreaty.

If we’ve stated to others that God can be depended upon, then we need to act like it.

Acts 8 records the church finally going to “Judea and Samaria” (Acts 1:8) due to persecution.  God had to kick them out of their Christian ghetto in Jerusalem.  So Philip “went down to the city of Samaria and proclaimed to them the Christ” (Acts 8:5).  Many of them believed, because they heard the gospel and saw miracles and were baptized.  But they had not yet received the Holy Spirit.  Why didn’t the Holy Spirit baptize them when they first believed?  Because leading apostles from Jerusalem needed to witness it and verify that the Samaritans (remember they were the antagonists early in the book of Ezra) were part of the same body of Christ, the newly-founded church.

14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, 15 who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, 16 for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. 17 Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.

We will see something similar happen in Acts 10 when Cornelius believes and receives the Spirit.  There, he receives the Spirit immediately, but that is because Peter is already there on the scene to witness it.

Normally, the Spirit baptizes a person into Christ the moment they believe (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13; Romans 8:9).

Philip, the evangelist, formerly a deacon, was available to go wherever God called (and took) him!

30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”

I had the exact same thing happen to me in Switzerland in 1978.  I was waiting for a train, reading my Bible, when someone approached me and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?”  Being in Bible College at the time, I said yes, but I wonder what kind of person that was.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 7

Today’s readings are from Genesis 7, Matthew 7, Ezra 7 and Acts 7.

Genesis 7 records the flood.  That it was global is clear from verse 19, where it says…

19 And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered.

flood chart (genesis 7-8)

Noah and his family, and the animals that gathered to the ark, were the only ones who survived.  Note in verse 16 that it says that “the LORD shut them in.”  God made them safe and secure in the Ark, just as He makes us safe and secure in Jesus Christ.

Matthew 7 finishes Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.  It begins with the verse that has superceded John 3:16 as the most well known verse in American society–“Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1).  Of course, from the context we know that this was not meant to exclude all judgment, but to be careful in our judgment.  To get the speck out of our brother’s eye, we have to judge.  There is judgment being made in not casting one’s pearls before swine.

What an encouragement to pray is verse 11, “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”  Since our earthly fathers give us good gifts, “how much more” will our Heavenly Father!  All we have to do is ask!

I’ve always thought, when comparing the narrow and broad paths (Matthew 7:13-14), that the narrow path led in one direction and the broad path in the opposite direction.  But in reality, the broad path could be all around the narrow path, on every side, since upon the broad path are religious unbelievers who look, act, dress and speak a lot like true believers.

It is scary to think that people in ministry, who do even miraculous things, can be unsaved.  It is possible to be deceived about one’s salvation (Matthew 7:21-23).

Ezra 7 speaks of the return of Ezra (and others) to the land of Israel.  Even though the book begins with the first return under Zerubbabel, Ezra doesn’t come until 57 years later.

Ezra’s priestly pedigree is first established (Ezra 7:1-6a), then his spiritual credibility (Ezra 6:b, “and the king granted him all that he asked, for the hand of the LORD his God was on him.”), then his teaching pattern (Ezra 7:10).  And lastly, a letter of recommendation from the king (7:11-26).

This is a great pattern for any teacher of God’s Word…

10 For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the LORD, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel.

Study…do…teach.

“The order is very significant, for you cannot effectively practice what you have not thoroughly learned, and you cannot convincingly teach what you have not practically applied.” [Note: Laney, p52.]

Ezra then gives thanks for all the “loyal love” God had shown to him (Ezra 7:27-28).

Acts 7 is Stephen’s speech before the Sanhedrin.  He first recounts Israel’s history.  I wonder if his mentioned of Moses (their hero) being rejected (Acts 7:24-28) and then again in the wilderness, was meant to set up a statement about them rejecting their Messiah.  But Stephen didn’t get that far.  He directed a stinging rebuke against them that they did not even keep their own law (reinforcing the bad news that they were sinners) and they rushed him and stoned him.

51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute?  And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”

In his death, Stephen imitates our Lord, surrendering his spirit (Acts 7:59) and asking God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60).

M’Cheyne Bible Reading, January 6

Today’s readings are from Genesis 6, Matthew 6, Ezra 6 and Acts 6.

Genesis 6 is the beginning of the flood narrative (Genesis 6-8).  Verse 5 is a good description of total depravity…

5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

In the midst of judgment, Noah “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:8).  Was that favor/grace free?  Or was it because “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9)?  Was it because Noah “did all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22)?

“The same explanation for Enoch”s rescue from death (“he walked with God”) is made the basis for Noah”s rescue from death in the Flood: “he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9).  Thus in the story of Noah and the Flood, the author is able to repeat the lesson of Enoch: life comes through “walking with God.”” [Note: Sailhamer, The Pentateuch . . ., p. 119.]

Matthew 6 is the continuation of the Sermon on the Mount, dealing first with righteous that is performed “in order to be seen/noticed” and therefore praised.  I can remember Dr. Stanley Toussaint, a professor I had for a Summer class at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, every time he would say “paid in full,” would pound the desk to emphasize–this is all you get!  But righteousness done in secret, seen only by God, will be rewarded by Him.

The last part of Matthew 6 deals with worry.  Three times Jesus says “do not be anxious” (25, 31, 34). But he doesn’t stop there. Jesus is interested in more than handing down commands. He wants to get at our hearts.

So Jesus gave His followers 7 reasons we shouldn’t worry.  First, life is more important than the things of life (v. 25).  Second, you’re more important to God than the lillies and the birds, but He makes sure they have what they need (v. 26).  Third, it doesn’t accomplish anything!  Nothing gets better by worrying (v. 27).  Fourth, God really does care about you (vv. 28-29).  Fifth, worry is what pagans do.  In other words, it’s an act of unbelief! (vv. 30-32a).  Sixth, what is even more important is the kingdom.  Seek it (v. 33).  Seventh, grace comes each day.  For today’s troubles you have today’s grace.  Tomorrow’s grace will come tomorrow (v. 34).

Years ago I heard Phil Keaggy sing this song:

Worry is assuming responsibility for things that are out of our control. That

Years ago I heard Phil Keaggy sing this song:

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.”

Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”

And here is a great bedtime song for worriers, sung by the Haven of Rest Quartet:

Ezra 6 plays out one of the Proverbs.

Proverbs 26:27 says…

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.

In other words, when you plan evil against God and His people, it will come back to bite you!  The letter that Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai had sent, trying to get the Israelites in trouble for rebuilding the wall, declaring that they had no authority to do this, was turned on its head.  Darius found the decress which Cyrus had made (because God had stirred his spirit, Ezra 1:__) and made Tattenai and Shethar-bozenai support the building project by getting out of the way and providing animals for sacrifice.

Verse 14 says…

They finished their building by decree of the God of Israel and by decree of Cyrus and Darius and Artaxerxes king of Persia;

Notice what came first, the “decree of the God of Israel…”

The Passover was eaten “by the people of Israel who had returned from exile, and also by every one who had joined them and separated himself from the uncleanness of the peoples of the land to worship the LORD, the God of Israel.”

Acts 6 records the internal problem of some people being neglected.  Deacons were chosen to serve them, and at least two of those deacons, Stephen and Philip would do much more than merely waiting tables.  Stephen began preaching Christ and he was brought before the council, the Sanhedrin.