Links I Like

Here are some links from this week’s reading…

If the Father Was Not Angry with the Son at the Cross…with Whom or What Was He Angry? by Wyatt Graham

This article is a helpful explanation of what was going on on the cross and helps us understand the atonement and the necessity of God’s wrath needing satisfied.

The Running Type of Obedience, by Mike Leake

Mike always has good articles.  This is about Phillip’s obedience in going (running) to the Ethiopian eunuch to witness to him.

What You Should Know about the Government Shutdown, by Joe Carter

There’s a lot of talk, and misunderstanding, about the government shutdown.  It is nice to have some facts.

The Overlooked Virtue of Marie Kondo

This one came to my inbox titled “Tidying Up as a Virtue.”  I know I need it.  But the article is about much more.

The Beauty of Wagon Trains, by Mike Glenn

This past Thursday night, a group of men were talking about fellowship and what it means and what it takes for genuine fellowship to happen in our culture today.  This article emphasizes the danger of trying to go it alone.

Wish Dream

Speaking of fellowship, here is a link to Bonhoeffer’s warning about those who try to bring their wish dream of what fellowship should look like to them, thus destroying the fellowship that exists.  Frank Viola reproduces these paragraphs out of Bonhoeffer’s Life Together.

Quotes to Ponder (1/11/19)

The reason so few Christians really grow in their faith, is they are unwilling to do things strong Christians do to become strong—and often blame the church for it. They are like those who resent the gym for their weight issues. (Tim Spivey)

His grace has forever freed us from needing to prove our righteousness and our worth.  So we remind ourselves every day not to search horizontally for what we’ve already been given vertically. (Paul David Tripp, January 11, New Morning Mercies)

In C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, chapter 8 is called the Law of Undulation.  It speaks of the reality that in our life, in every area of life, we experience peaks and troughs–highs and lows.  Remember that these are messages from Screwtape to Wormwood, his demonic nephew.  You can read this chapter online.  Better yet, buy and read the whole book.  There is a newer book, similar to Screwtape Letters, aimed at teenagers, called Lord Foulgrin’s Letters.

“Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives.  He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish.  It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be. Hence the prayers offered in the state of dryness are those which please Him best.”

A couple of other great C. S. Lewis quotes:

“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

“If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.” (26) (Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)

Another from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies (January 12)…

“In Romans 15:5, Paul calls your Lord ‘the God of endurance.’  This title really gets at the center of where your hope is to be found.  Let me state it plainly: your hope is not to be found in your willingness and ability to endure, but in God’s unshakable, enduring commitment to never turn from his work of grace.  Your hope is that you have been welcomed into communion with One who will endure no matter what….Your perseverance rests on him, and he defines what endurance looks like!  It is the grace of endurance granted to you by the God of endurance that provides you with everything you need to continue to be what he calls you to be and do what he calls you to do between this moment and the moment when you cross over to the other side.  When difficulty exposes the weakness of your resolve and the limits of your strength, you do not have to panic, because he will endue even in those moments when you don’t feel able to do so yourself.”

 

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 12

Today’s readings are from Genesis 13, Matthew 12, Nehemiah 2 and Acts 12.

In Genesis 13 we see the troubles caused by disobeying God’s command to Abram to leave his family (kinsman) behind.

Abram going back to Bethel, the place of his first altar, reminds me of Revelation 2:4-5…

4 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

Get back to basics.  After you have disobeyed God, confess your sins and go back to basics.

When Lot’s servants and Abram’s servants were jostling for space (because their flocks had grown quite large), Abram gave Lot first choice of where to go.  Lot chose the fertile Jordan Valley and Abram was left with the mountains.  But from there God showed Abram all the land which God had promised him.  He renewed His covenant with Abram:

14 The LORD said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him, “Lift up your eyes and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, 15 for all the land that you see I will give to you and to your offspring forever. 16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. 17 Arise, walk through the length and the breadth of the land, for I will give it to you.”

Then Abram moved on.

18 So Abram moved his tent and came and settled by the oaks of Mamre, which are at Hebron, and there he built an altar to the LORD.

beth-shemesh, kiriath-jearim, jerusalem, hebron

Hebron is on the central mountain range, south of Jerusalem.the hill of hebron from the southeast (1915 photograph)

The hill of Hebron from the southeast (1915 photograph)

oak of mamre

Oak of Mamre

(steemkr.com/steemchurch/@darlenys01/in-the-oaks-of-mamre-place-of-promise)

Matthew 12 records consistent opposition from the Pharisees, culminating in them saying that Jesus was doing miracles by the power of Beelzebul.  First comes the conflict over Sabbath observance (12:1-8).  His argument, from David and the priests in the temple, is that there are exceptions.  But ultimately, it is because Jesus is Lord over the Sabbath that affirmed that His disciples could eat the grain on the Sabbath.

Jesus again criticized the Pharisees for failing to understand the Scriptures (cf. v. 3), and He quoted Hosea 6:6 again (cf. 9:13).  Previously Jesus had cited this verse to show the Pharisees that they failed to recognize their own need.  Now He used it to show them that they failed to recognize Him.  The Jews in Hosea’s day relied on mere ritual to satisfy God.  The Pharisees were doing the same thing.  They had not grasped the real significance of the Law, as their criticism of Jesus’ disciples demonstrated. Jesus accused the accusers, and declared the disciples “innocent.” (Thomas Constable)

Warren Wiersbe has this great insight:

“Note that Jesus appealed to prophet [vv. 3-4], priest [vv. 5-6], and king [v. 7]; for He is Prophet, Priest, and King.  Note too the three ‘greater’ statements that He made: as the Priest, He is ‘greater than the temple’ (Matt. 12:6); as Prophet, He is ‘greater than Jonah’ (Matt. 12:41); and as King, He is ‘greater than Solomon’ (Matt. 12:42).”

Jesus then healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath (12:9-14).  When would Jesus learn?  Jesus challenged the Pharisees with the reality that they would show compassion to lesser beings (animals) when they were in trouble, why not a human.

The Law said that it was more important to demonstrate compassion than to offer a sacrifice (v. 7; cf. Hos. 6:6).

The Pharisees began to plot to destroy Jesus, so Jesus withdrew from area.  His ministry was validated by Scripture, because Jesus was fulfilling Isaiah 42:1-4 (Matthew 12:18-21).

After the Pharisees witnessed Jesus healing a demon possessed man, they claimed that Jesus did that by the power of Satan (Beelzebul).  Jesus first challenges their thinking by pointing out that Satan wouldn’t throw out his own minions.  That didn’t make sense (12:25-26).  Then he asked by whom their sons casts out demons (12:27).

Jesus concludes by verifying that this was done through the Holy Spirit, thus it indicates that the kingdom is present (12:28).

Many people have stumbled over the issue of the sin of “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” which Jesus says is unforgivable, and thus people believe they might have committed the “unpardonable sin.”

My view is that this sin is both event-contained and cumulative.  I believe that to commit this sin today we would have to be seeing Jesus do miracles and attribute those to Satan.  Also, this was the persistent attitude of the Pharisees, thus condemning them.

Thus, it is not a particular sin which we can commit today.  Even the video campaign that came out a few years ago “blaspheming” or disbelieving the Holy Spirit doesn’t exactly fit.  What does “fit” as an unpardonable sin is lifelong, persistent disbelief in the gospel.

So if you’re troubled that you might have committed the unpardonable sin (not suicide by the way), you can rest assured that you have not.  Whatever sin you’ve committed, no matter how great (Psalm 25:11), can be forgiven.  Just confess that sin to God and He promises to forgive you (1 John 1:9).

Jesus says something else about demons in vv. 43-45.

43 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

I’m not going to discuss all the details of this passage, but simply note that whenever a demon is cast out, it needs to be replaced with Someone else, the Holy Spirit.  It is not enough to cast demons out of an unbeliever.  You must share the gospel with them, or else it can get worse.  This replacement principle is seen in the “put off” and “put on” section of Ephesians 4:25-32.

Nehemiah 2 records Nehemiah’s request to go to Jerusalem (2:1-11) and his initial scouting around the walls (2:12-16) and his motivational speech to the people of Jerusalem (2:17-18a), to which they responded…

“Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work. (18b)

Of course, opposition arose, something that will occur regularly in Nehemiah’s work.

Nehemiah prayed for four months about conditions in Jerusalem before he spoke to Artaxerxes about them (cf. 1:1; 2:1).  Artaxerxes’ reign began in the seventh Jewish month, Tishri (late September and early October), of 464 B.C.  Therefore Nehemiah presented his request in late March or early April of 444 B.C.

Thomas Constable, Nehemiah

Someone has defined leadership as “the art of getting people to do what they ought to do because they want to do it.”

NEHEMIAH’S MOTIVATIONAL TECHNIQUES

Step 1 He gathered the facts (2:12-16).
Step 2 He created a need in his hearers (2:17).
Step 3 He reviewed past success (2:18a).
Step 4 He revealed adequate resources (2:18b).
Step 5 He secured his hearers’ commitment (2:18c).

Donald Campbell identified 21 principles of effective leadership that Nehemiah demonstrated in chapter 2.

[1] He established a reasonable and attainable goal

[2] He had a sense of mission

[3] He was willing to get involved

[4] He rearranged his priorities in order to accomplish his goal

[5] He patiently waited for God’s timing

[6] He showed respect to his superior

[7] He prayed at crucial times

[8] He made his request with tact and graciousness

[9] He was well prepared and thought of his needs in advance

[10] He went through proper channels

[11] He took time (three days) to rest, pray, and plan

[12] He investigated the situation firsthand

[13] He informed others only after he knew the size of the problem

[14] He identified himself as one with the people

[15] He set before them a reasonable and attainable goal

[16] He assured them God was in the project

[17] He displayed self-confidence in facing obstacles

[18] He displayed God’s confidence in facing obstacles

[19] He did not argue with opponents

[20] He was not discouraged by opposition

[21] He courageously used the authority of his position.

Donald K. Campbell, Nehemiah: Man in Charge, p. 23.

Acts 12 recounts the miraculous deliverance of Peter from prison.  The apostle James was killed (12:2) and Peter was imprisoned (12:3).  The church prayed for Peter, but had a heard time believing it was him at the door!  Verses 21-23 record the supernatural death of Herod Agrippa I.  Because of his pride God struck him dead.

Hosea and His Children (Hosea 1:4-9)

Today on Grace Still Amazes we’re going to look at Hosea’s three children, mentioned in Hosea 1:4-9.  Just like I wouldn’t want to be married to a woman named Gomer, I wouldn’t want to have to name my children the names Hosea gave them.  But he gave them to them for a reason.

Listen to Hosea 1:4-9.  I’m going to actually start in verse 3.

3 So he went and took Gomer, the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and bore him a son. 4 And the LORD said to him, “Call his name Jezreel, for in just a little while I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel. 5 And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the Valley of Jezreel.” 6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.” 8 When she had weaned No Mercy, she conceived and bore a son. 9 And the LORD said, “Call his name Not My People, for you are not my people, and I am not your God.”

The events described in this section of Hosea reflect, in a broader sense, the tragic conditions existing in Israel (and Judah to some extent) at the time of Hosea’s ministry.  That is, the domestic tragedy in Hosea’s home was a microcosm of a far greater tragedy in the nation.  That tragedy was turning their backs on Yahweh to embrace other gods.  Such turning could only result in ultimate judgment from God.

So three children were born—Jezreel, Lo-Ruhamah, and Lo-Ammi, which were translated here in the ESV, “No Mercy” and “Not my People.”  These three names represent God’s judgment against faithless Israel.

By the way, Hosea was not the only prophet to use the names of his children to communicate judgment to God’s people.  Isaiah, writing to Judah, gave his children names relating to Judah’s future judgment (Isaiah 8:3-4) and future redemption (Isaiah 7:3).

One might notice that of Jezreel it is said in verse 3 that “she conceived and bore him (that is Hosea) a son” whereas with both Lo-Ruhamah and Lo-Ammi it is simply said “she conceived and bore a daughter or son.”  Some believe that this means that only Jezreel was Hosea’s son and that Gomer was already committing adultery and those trysts made her pregnant with the last two children.

Each section on Hosea’s children (vv. 3-5, 6-7, 8-9) contains a birth notice, a word of instruction from the Lord about the child’s name, and an explanation of the meaning of the name.  The names of Hosea’s children all reminded everyone who heard them of the broken relationship that existed between Yahweh and Israel, and each one anticipated judgment.

So Derek Kidner says…

The three persons are a crescendo—first of judgment, but in the end a crescendo of grace to round off each of the first two chapters.  Grace has a way of interrupting oracles of doom…but for the moment there is no break in the clouds, and the darkness will get deeper with each successive birth. (The Message of Hosea, p. 20)

The first child born, to both Hosea and Gomer, was Jezreel.  This name has a double meaning that is illustrated in both the judgment phase and the deliverance phase.  Jezreel means “God scatters” (a picture of judgment upon the land and people of Israel, played out through the Assyrian policy of scattering and intermarrying conquered countries).  Jezreel can also mean “God sows,” which illustrates the restoration of the people of Israel to their homeland.

Jezreel was most likely born during the final years of Jeroboam II’s reign.

But it is not just the meaning of the name which is significant.  There was a town in Israel by the name of Jezreel.  It was located at the east end of the Jezreel Valley, called the “breadbasket of Israel” because it is the largest plain in Israel.  At the midpoint is Megiddo.  This great plain in Israel was one of the few places where chariots, cavalry and large armies could maneuver.  It was a key place were the bow and arrow were prime instruments of warfare.

jezreel valley and lower galilee map

This map is from the Satellite Bible Atlas.

jezreel valley from mount carmel, with hill of morech, beth shan and mount gilboa labelledjezreel and surrounding region, bible atlas

This map shows the city of Jezreel, Bible Atlas online


jezreel--where jezebel was thrown down, biblical archaeology society

Jezreel had become the Israelite winter capital by the time of Ahab (9th century BC), who built a palace there; the Bible also mentions a wall and defensive tower.  In 1 Kings 21, when Naboth the Jezreelite refuses to sell his vineyard to Ahab, Ahab’s wife Jezebel has him stoned to death.  This is followed by a visit from none other than the prophet Elijah and the subsequent gruesome death of Jezebel.

The reason Hosea and Gomer’s son is named Jezreel is because, verse 4, “I will punish the house of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel…”

The “house of Jehu” was the ruling dynasty of the northern kingdom at that time.  Jeroboam II, the greatest of king of the northern kingdom, was the grandson of Jehu.

If you remember the story of Jehu (2 Kings 9-10), he was told by God to take over the northern kingdom, but he went too far in shedding blood.  This bloodbath started in the city of Jezreel, located at the edge of the large, fertile valley of Jezreel in the north of Israel.  Its most famous victim, Jezebel the queen mother, was thrown down from an upper window.

Jehu had received his commission from Elisha.  In 2 Kings 9:6-10 we read…

6 So he [Elisha] arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. 7 And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. 8 For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.9 And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. 10 And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.”  Then he opened the door and fled.

It was at Jezreel that King Jehu of Israel (841-814 B.C.) massacred many enemies of Israel, including King Ahab and Queen Jezebel of Israel, King Jehoram of Israel, and many prophets of Baal, which was good (cf. 2 Kings 9:6-10, 24; 10:18-28, 30).

But he also killed King Ahaziah of Judah and 42 of his relatives, which was bad (2 Kings 9:27-28; 10:12-14).  Ahaziah and his relatives did not die in Jezreel, but their deaths were part of Jehu’s wholesale slaughter at Jezreel.  Jehu went too far and thereby demonstrated disrespect for the Lord’s commands (cf. 2 Kings 10:29-31).

Because of Jehu’s atrocities that overstepped his authority to judge Israel’s enemies, God promised to punish his house (dynasty).  The fulfillment came when Shallum assassinated King Zechariah, Jeroboam II’s son and the fourth king of Jehu’s dynasty, in 753-752 B.C.  This death ended Jehu’s kingdom (dynasty) forever (2 Kings 15:10).  It happened at the town of Ibleam (2 Kings 15:10), located in a southern part of the Jezreel valley.  The captivity that followed gave Jezreel a very bitter meaning for Israel, namely, the scatting throughout the world (2 Kings 17:18).

The dynasty ended as it had begun, with the assassination of the ruling house of Israel in the valley of Jezreel.

There is a slight paradox here, for in carrying out God’s judgment against the house of Ahab, God said…

30 And the LORD said to Jehu, “Because you have done well in carrying out what is right in my eyes, and have done to the house of Ahab according to all that was in my heart, your sons of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.”

So why was Jehu being judged for the “blood of Jezreel”?  Apparently, just like God would use Sennacherib, the Assyrian conqueror, and Nebuchadnezzar, who sacked Jerusalem, yet later judged them for how they went about it and their pride, so Jehu is being judged here for both going too far and showing a proud heart.

Thus, the final word on Jehu, from 2 Kings 10: 29, 31

29 But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin–that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.  31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.

So Kidner states

Self-interest and bloodlust were his dominant springs of conduct, and it was this that made “the blood of Jezreel” an accusing stain.

And the reason that Israel was now about to experience a similar judgment, some hundred years later, is because they never repudiated this attitude of violence.

Duane Garrett has a simpler explanation, and that is that the Hebrew word here translated “punish” can, and should here, mean “visit.”  So it should be translated, “And I will bring (visit) the bloodshed of Jezreel upon the house of Jehu.”

He says,

This is not punishment for Jehu’s zeal in the slaughter at Jezreel; rather it is punishment for not learning the lesson of Jezreel.  Jehu himself had been the agent of God’s fury and personally had seen how terribly it fell upon an apostate dynasty.  But he and his household went on to repeat the apostasy of the Omrides and their predecessors (2 Kings 10:31; 13:1).  God visited the bloodshed of Jezreel on the house of Jehu because, in the final analysis, his dynasty’s rule was little better than that of Jeroboam I or Ahab and Jezebel.  Jehu’s actions at Jezreel were, if anything, the main reason God did not eliminated his dynasty sooner (2 Kings 10:30). (Duane Garrett, Hosea-Amos, p. 57)

Verse 5 indicates that the name of Hosea’s first son would also point to a future judgment that would also take place in the valley near Jezreel.  It would happen on “that day,” namely, a future unspecified day.  Yahweh promised to break Israel’s military strength, symbolized by an archer’s “bow,” there and then.

jezreel valley__israel's breadbasket

Usually, when God promises to “break the bow” of some fighting force, it means that God is coming to Israel’s rescue.  It is the enemy’s fighting force that would be broken.  There is a notable example in 2:18b where at the time of God’s future deliverance…

Bow and sword and battle I will abolish from the land, so that all may lie down in safety.

Also Psalm 46:9

9 He makes wars cease to the ends of the earth. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the shields with fire.

But here, it is the bow of Israel that God will break, indicating that Israel would no longer be a force for God.  The “house of Jehu” (government) and the “bow” (military might) will fall as one.

Also, the further sting of this final sentence of judgment under the name Jezreel is the great reversal that it implies by the scene of defeat.  Jezreel was the valley of Gideon’s great victory over the Midianites (Judges 6-7), as well as Deborah before him (Judges 4-5).  Thus, Jezreel had once been a name of Israel’s glory.  But since Jehu’s massacres, it could only stand for savagery. (Kidner, 21)

This valley, because it was so strategic to trade routes, had seen many battles.  Gideon had defeated the Midianites in this valley (Judg. 6:33; 7), the Philistines had defeated the Israelites under Saul’s leadership there (1 Sam. 29:1, 11; 31), and Pharaoh Neco II defeated Josiah there after the Assyrians attacked (2 Kings 23:29-30).

But now the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pilesar III would fulfill this prophecy when he invaded and defeated Israel there in the valley of Jezreel 733 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29; cf. 2 Kings 17:3-5).  So though forty years apart, the end of Jehu’s dynasty and the end of the northern kingdom would take place in the area of Jezreel.

This valley will also be the place where the great end times battle, the battle of Armageddon, or Har-Meggido, will be fought.  There, the armies of the vicious and violent Antichrist will amass his armies against Jerusalem and Jesus will break the bow of Antichrist with the word of His mouth.

In verse 6-7 we then read about the second child.  If Jezreel’s name signified defeat, this daughter’s name represents deportation.

6 She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the LORD said to him, “Call her name No Mercy, for I will no more have mercy on the house of Israel, to forgive them at all. 7 But I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and I will save them by the LORD their God. I will not save them by bow or by sword or by war or by horses or by horsemen.”

The name “No Mercy” is in Hebrew Lo-Ruhamah.  We could also translate it “Not Loved.”  What a terrible name to give to a little girl!  It communicates complete alienation and rejection by her father and says that she has been abandoned to face the difficulties of life alone.

For a culture as child-centered as Israel was, it is difficult to imagine a name more scandalous and offensive.  At the mention of her name, people would naturally query, “Why would anyone name his daughter that?”

I don’t imagine that it represented Hosea’s true feelings towards her.  Nor does it demand that we take her as the offspring of Gomer with another man.  Although verse 6 does not say, “bore him a daughter” like verse 3 says of Jezreel, it could simply be a shortening of the birth statement.

What it does signify is that Yahweh had been very compassionate, very loving, towards Israel in her past, but that her persistent unfaithfulness to Him and His covenant with her made continuing love impossible.  Just as Gomer showed no love for Hosea had vanished, so the Lord’s compassion towards His people had been stretched to the breaking point.

God was withdrawing his mercy from the house of Israel because He had been betrayed by the repeated adulteries (that is, idolatry) of the nation of Israel.  You can read it throughout 1 and 2 Kings.  They could no longer expect grace from God.  He had given it time and time again before, but now his patience has run out.

This is the same type of sentiment which causes Jesus to cry out (Matthew 23:37b):

How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

Garrett says

The people heard that terrible name and no doubt whispered to one another, “Hosea’s wife is unfaithful; he must doubt that this child is his.  He has rejected the poor thing!” and Hosea could respond something like: “Do you trouble yourself over Lo-Ruhamah?  I tell you, you are Lo-Ruhamah!  Yahweh has turned his back on you!”

In contrast, it says in verse 7 that the Lord would have compassion on the Southern Kingdom of Judah and deliver her from such a fate.  Was this to provoke Israel to jealousy?

He said deliverance would come by “Yahweh their God”, perhaps using His own name in this way to impress on the Israelites who their true God was.

He said He would not do this in battle, however.  The Israelites relied on human arms and alliances, but the Judahites trusted in the Lord, generally speaking, so He delivered the Judahites supernaturally.

The Lord delivered them in 701 B.C., by killing 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night while they slept encamped around Jerusalem (2 Kings 19:32-36; Isa. 37).  Jerusalem was the only great city that did not fall to the Assyrians during this invasion of Syria-Palestine.  There would be no such reprieve for an impenitent Samaria.

And this would not be the only time when Judah would experience a supernatural deliverance, for this verse likewise points forward to the ultimate “in the last day” when God will fight for His people.

2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle [the battle of Armageddon], and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped.  Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. (Zechariah 14)

From this prediction by Hosea Israel should have realized that God will have compassion on those who trust in Him and do not seek security through their own devices (weapons, alliances).

Are the words of Hosea 14 speaking of present Israel, or future Israel?  If present Israel, then some people “got it” and turned back to God.

1 Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God, for you have stumbled because of your iniquity. 2 Take with you words and return to the LORD; say to him, “Take away all iniquity; accept what is good, and we will pay with bulls the vows of our lips. 3 Assyria shall not save us; we will not ride on horses; and we will say no more, ‘Our God,’ to the work of our hands.  In you the orphan finds mercy.”

Judah’s sins were not as great as Israel’s at this time.  Judah enjoyed a succession of four “good” kings (Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, and Jotham), and Hosea may have received this prophecy when Uzziah or Jotham was reigning.

Now, Duane Garret argues that the end of verse 7 best reads from the Hebrew, “I will no longer show love to the house of Israel, I shall completely forgive them.”  That is a jolting statement, similar to what we see in the oracle of Lo-Ammi in verses 8-10.  It is also similar to the pathos of Hosea 11:8

8 How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I hand you over, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart recoils within me; my compassion grows warm and tender.

So Garrett says, “This inconsistency (first saying one thing, then the opposite) is the language of the vexation of a broken heart—and it also reflects the mystery of a God whose ways are above our ways.

The effect of this, of course, should have led Israel to repentance, just like Jonah’s oracles of Nineveh’s doom did.

The name of the third child signals the final stage of judgment against Israel.  Lo-Ammi, “not my people,” “not mine” signified Yahweh’s divorce from Israel.  From defeat, to deportation, to divorce.  They are totally disowned.

Again, this could possibly indicate that this third child, and possibly the second, were not Hosea’s.  That is debatable, but there is no doubt that the use of this name is the prophet’s means of saying that Israel has broken the covenant relationship and therefore God severs them from the covenant relationship.

The mention of weaning in verse 8 grounds this text in real history and since a child was weaned after two to three years, it may signify that Israel was being given a little more time to comprehend these prophecies and repent.

“Not my people,” however, signals a total change in their status.  Now, they are no longer God’s favored nation, but “just like everyone else,” alienated from God and His covenant promises.  The relationship and covenant between God and Israel is now null and void.

H. Ronald Vandermey notes:

God’s time clock for judgment had but one final alarm: Lo-AmmiJezreel had promised a scattering of the people; Lo-ruhamah, the withdrawal of God’s covenant mercy; and Lo-ammi, the severing of Israel’s peculiar position as God’s covenant nation. (Hosea, Moody Bible Institute, p. 23)

The phrase “you are not my people, and I am not your God” is a reversal of God’s pledge to Israel in Exodus 6:7

7 I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

This name strikes at the very heart of the covenant that God had made with Israel at Sinai.

Because of his special relationship with them, he would deliver them; now that that relationship is over, judgment will come.

The reality is, that Israel had been acting like it had no relation with God for a long time.  They were not acting as children should, imitating their God, nor were they treating God as their God, instead going after Baals.

All the things that Israel treasured most–their homeland, the mercies of God, a special status with the one true God, were all about to be taken away.

You can listen to Grace Still Amazes on KENA at 7:45 a.m. on Sundays and Saturday at 7 a.m., Sunday at 8 a.m., and starting Sunday January 6, 2018 will also air at 11:45 a.m. on Sundays on KAWX.  Often this posting will be longer and include more material than the radio broadcast, which is 15 minutes.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 11

Today’s Bible readings are Genesis 12, Matthew 11, Nehemiah 1 and Acts 11.

Genesis 12 is the Abrahamic covenant, the foundational covenant of the Old Testament, the basic promise to the Jews.

1 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

There are seven elements in this promise—seven—suggesting fullness and completeness (cf. 2:2-3): (1) God promised to create “a great nation” through Abram. (2) God promised to “bless” Abram. (3) Abram’s “name” would live on after his lifetime (“I will make your name great”). (4) Abram was (commanded) to “be a blessing” to others. (5) God would “bless those who bless[ed]” Abram. (6) And God would “curse those who curs[ed]” Abram. (7) “All the families of the earth [would] be blessed” through Abram and his descendants. (Thomas Constable)

The promises in Genesis 12:1-3 and 7 are the fountainhead from which the rest of the Pentateuch flows.  One way to categorize them is “posterity (descendants), blessing, and land.”

God progressively revealed more information about each of these promises. He gave more information about the land promise in 13:15, 17; 15:7-8, 18; 17:8; 24:7; 26:3-4 (plural “lands”); 28:4, 13; 35:12; 48:4; and 50:24. Repetition of the seed promise occurs in 13:15-16; 15:5; 17:2, 5-10, 13, 16, 19-20; 18:18; 21:12; 22:17-18; 26:3-4, 24; 28:13-14; 32:12; 35:11-12; 46:3; and 48:4 and 16.

Also, the “posterity” promise will be expanded in 2 Samuel 7, through the Davidic covenant.  The “land” promise will be expanded in Deuteronomy 28-30, in what is often called the Palestinian covenant.  The “blessing” aspect is expanded in the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36.god's covenants with isreal, adapted from paul benward, understanding end times prophecy

The Abrahamic covenant is unconditional (notice all the “I wills”).  The land covenant and Davidic covenant are somewhat conditional, while the New covenant is unconditional.  Notice that the Mosaic law works alongside these covenants, informing Israel how they can have a relationship with God and enjoy the blessings of these covenants.  It is entirely conditional.

Abraham obeys God, believing His promises.  He left Haran for the land of Canaan.  (The only problem is that he didn’t leave his whole family behind.  He took his nephew lot.)  They came to Shechem, to the oak of Moreh.

wadi farah from the northwest (the way abraham would have come into the land towards shechem)

Wadi Farah, likely Abram’s entrance path into the promised land.

abraham' s entrance into canaan, the history of israel

shechem, bibleatlas

from Bible Atlas online

Shechum is between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, where Joshua will later read the law (Joshua 9).

shechum pano with labels, sourceflix

Possibly the oak of Moreh?

elon moreh (possibly the oak where abram built his altar_), biblewalks

Here Abram worshipped:

7 Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.”  So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.

There is a good view of the land from here.

Abram then over to Bethel, between Bethel and Ai.

abraham between bethel and ai

Here again…

And there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. (v. 8)

From there, Abram went to the Negeb/Negev, which is down south and is basically desert.  Beautiful, but desert.

Negev Desert

Then there was a famine in the land, and Abram went to Egypt.  There he lied about Sarah (self-preservation).  God still, graciously, blessed Abram–protecting Sarah and making him wealthy.

Matthew 11 is the beginning of the turning point in the Gospel of Matthew.  Each gospel has a turning point where Jesus is rejected by the religious leaders and turns His face towards Jerusalem and spends more time with His smaller group of disciples.   Chapters 11-13 record Israel’s rejection of her Messiah and its consequences.

Matthew 11 begins with the doubts of John the Baptist (11:1-6).  Even deeply devoted followers of Jesus have times of doubt.  But Jesus assured him that the miraculous works proved who He was.  Jesus affirmed John’s greatness (11:7-11), but indicated that even the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John.

What is meant by verse 12?

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.

It is most likely that the verb biazetai is in the passive tense.  Probably Jesus meant that the religious leaders of His day were trying to bring in the kingdom in their own, carnal way, while refusing to accept God’s way that John and Jesus announced.

So Thomas Constable writes…

This view explains satisfactorily Jesus’ reference to the period from the beginning of John’s ministry to when He spoke.  Ever since John began his ministry of announcing Messiah, the Jewish religious leaders had opposed him.  Moreover, in 23:13, Jesus accused the scribes and Pharisees of trying to seize the reins of kingdom power from Messiah, to lead the kingdom as they wanted it to go.  They also snatched (took “by force”) the kingdom from the people by rejecting, and eventually crucifying, the Messiah.  The imprisonment of John was another evidence of violent antagonism against the kingdom, but that opposition came from Herod Antipas.  John and Jesus both eventually died at the hands of these violent men.

Verses 16-19 is like Jesus is saying, “You can’t win for losing.”  They didn’t like John’s more austere ways, nor Jesus’ more convivial ways.

So Jesus begins to pronounce judgment upon the nation, saying that what they had seen and heard meant greater judgment for them.  Greater light means more severe judgment for rejecting it!

Jesus gives a wonderful invitation at the end of Matthew 11, but prefaces it by saying that only those whom the Father chose would hear it and respond.  Notice that it in verse 26 it says that it is God’s “gracious will” that reveals the truth to some and conceals it from others.  While verses 25-27 express the priority of God’s choice, verses 28-30 are an appeal to our own volition.  Will you come and find rest?

Nehemiah is a book about rebuilding the walls.  The temple had been built under Zerubabbel and Shealtiel, under the encouraging of Haggai and Zechariah.  Now it was time to rebuild the walls.  Nehemiah is also a great book about leadership.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE BOOK OF NEHEMIAH

445 Nehemiah learned of conditions in Jerusalem and requested a leave of absence from Artaxerxes.
444 He led the Jews to Jerusalem. Repairs on the wall of Jerusalem began. The Jews completed rebuilding the walls. Nehemiah promoted spiritual renewal among the returnees.
443  
442  
441  
440  
439  
438  
437  
436  
435  
434  
433  
432 Nehemiah returned to Artaxerxes, ending his 12 years as governor of Judah. Malachi may have prophesied in Jerusalem.
431 Nehemiah may have returned to Jerusalem and begun his second term as governor. More religious reforms apparently began.
430  
429  
428  
427  
426  
425  
424  
423 Darius II began to reign.

 

Return First Second Third
Reference Ezra 1-6 Ezra 7-10 Nehemiah 1-13
Date 538 B.C. 458 B.C. 444 B.C.
Leaders Sheshbazzar

Zerubbabel

Ezra Nehemiah
Persian King Cyrus Artaxerxes Langimanus
Elements of the decree As many as wished could return and rebuild the temple. As many as wished could return and complete the temple.  Allowed to have civil magistrates Allowed to rebuild the walls around the city.
Related events Work begun but then halted until 516 B.C. Problems with intermarriage Wall rebuilt in 52 days
Prophets Zechariah

Haggai

Malachi

The years of history the book covers are 445–431 B.C., or perhaps a few years after that.

The walls of the city had lain in ruins since 586 B.C.  At that time Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, breached them, entered Jerusalem, burned the temple, carried most of the remaining Jews off to Babylon, and knocked the walls down.  Consequently the few Jews who remained could not defend themselves (2 Kings 25:1-11).  The returned exiles had attempted to rebuild the walls in or shortly after 458 B.C., but that project failed because of local opposition (Ezra 4:12, 23).

Nehemiah received a report from Hanani about the condition of the walls in Jerusalem.

The lack of city walls left Jerusalem vulnerable to attack at any moment.  Also, it communicated that there was nothing important about Jerusalem.  It would not only produce constant distress, but disgrace as well.

So what did Nehemiah do?  Well, nothing right?  After all, he lived many, many miles away.  There was nothing he could do about the news reports on TV.

Nehemiah had the heart of Psalm 137:5-6If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth; if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

No, Nehemiah wept and mourned and fasted and prayed (Nehemiah 1:4).  He poured out his heart to God in prayer (vv. 5-11).  Leaders listen to reports, even bad news, without shooting the messenger.  Leaders know that their first job is to define reality (Max Depree).  Then, he gets involved.  He gets involved emotionally and mentally.  He prays to God, exalting God (v. 5), confessing sins (vv. 6-7), reminding God of His promises (vv. 8-10) and asking God for help (v. 11).

Notice that Nehemiah had come to realize that he had to be a part of the answer to his prayers.  He couldn’t stand back and hope someone else would do it.

Nehemiah did this–weeping and praying and fasting (maybe not all the time) for four months!

Charles Fensham reminds us…

“With the expression this man at the end of the prayer Nehemiah shows the big difference between his reverence for his God and his conception of his master, the Persian king. In the eyes of the world Artaxerxes was an important person, a man with influence, who could decide on life or death.  In the eyes of Nehemiah, with his religious approach, Artaxerxes was just a man like any other man.  The Lord of history makes the decisions, not Artaxerxes [cf. Proverbs 21:1).”

Charles Swindoll noted four qualities that Nehemiah demonstrated in this chapter that are typical of effective Christian leaders:

  1. He had a clear recognition of the need.
  2. He was personally concerned with the need.
  3. He went to God first with the need.
  4. He was available to meet the need.

In Acts 11 Peter has to explain why he went to the home of a Gentile and how it could be possible that Gentiles should now be included in the body of Christ.  He recounts exactly what happened, step by step, then says…

15 As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell on them just as on us at the beginning. 16 And I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

Peter acknowledged that the Gentiles had received the “same gift” of the Holy Spirit as when they believed.  Thus, this was God’s plan and work.  And aren’t we glad?!?

18 When they heard these things they fell silent.  And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.”

I don’t know if they cringed as they reluctantly confessed this new reality, or if they were exultant, but it makes me want to jump for joy!

Verses 19-30 record the establishment of a church in Antioch, which would become (Acts 13) a missionary sending church.  Here is where Barnabas and Saul teamed up for the first time.

I love verse 23…

23 When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose,

That, in a nutshell, is discipleship–rejoicing in what God’s grace has done, and exhorting new believers to “remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose.”

In “Antioch the disciples were first called Christians” (Acts 11:26).  “Christian” is the most common term we use in referring to ourselves, but it was not the first term or the most common.  Disciple was.

M’Cheyne Bible Reading Plan, January 10

Today’s reading are from Genesis 11, Matthew 10, Ezra 10 and Acts 10.

Genesis 11 is about the tower of Babel, the line of Shem, especially focusing on Abram’s family, preparing us for the story of God’s covenant with Abram, Isaac and Jacob.

Image result for genesis book chart

One can see from Swindoll’s book chart of Genesis that the first eleven chapters focus on four great events, while chapters 12-50 focus on four great men.  We are now at the turning point of the book of Genesis.

The problem (sin) which caused God to divide humanity into different languages is found in Genesis 11:4

4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.”

the anu ziggurat at uruk, with former height superimposed

The basic sin seems to be “make a name for ourselves,” establish our authority and importance.  It may be another way of becoming “god-like,” taking His throne and being independent of God.  They wanted to empower themselves.  They were proud and arrogant.  God opposes the proud.

Also, God had instructed Adam (Gen. 1:28) and Noah (Gen. 9:1) to multiply and fill the earth, not congregate in one place.  Their unity was not a God-sanctioned, God-given unity, but a unity that would likely challenge God’s place, just like the end times unity under the Antichrist.

Interestingly enough God would “make a name” for Abram (Genesis 12:2-3).  Just like becoming like God is God’s desire for us, just not Satan’s way (Gen. 3), so having a name (importance, honor) is God’s desire, just not the world’s way (Genesis 11, 12).

I was listening to and old episode of Russell Moore’s Signposts podcast yesterday and he was interviewing Michael Card.  Michael said something like, “If Satan cannot get us to do bad, he will get us to do good in a bad way.”

The builders undoubtedly expected to ascend to heaven to meet God. Instead, God descended to earth to meet them (“The LORD came down to see the city and the tower”).  God’s soliloquy (“Come, let Us go down . . .”) in this verse mimics the language of the tower builders in verses 3 and 4 (“Come let us build . . .”; cf. 1:26).  The tower was so puny that He had to come “down” to see it (cf. Isaiah 40:22)!

Down in vv. 27 and 31 we come across the name Haran, first a brother to Abram (v. 27) and then a name of a place (v. 31).

location of haran in mesopotamia, leon mauldin

This map from Bible Atlas shows some of the ancient cities, including Haran.  Ur would be further down river from Babylon.  Was the city Haran named after Abram’s brother?

beehive houses in haran

Houses in Haran today.  Wikipedia.org

31 Terah took Abram his son and Lot the son of Haran, his grandson, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram’s wife, and they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan, but when they came to Haran, they settled there.

Notice that it was Terah who took the lead, intending to take his family “into the land of Canaan,” but they stopped short.  Was Terah a follower of Yahweh?  A monotheist?  We don’t know.  But Abram is and will continue the journey to “the land of Canaan.”

abraham travels (genesis 11)

In Matthew 10 Jesus sends out His disciples on a mission trip, preparing them for the inevitability of persecution.  One of the factors often missing in our discipleship today is “on the job training” or practical experiences.  Jesus did missions, then he sent His disciples on a mission trip.  In Luke’s gospel he sends them out twice, in chapters 9 and 10.

Jesus chooses 12 disciples (Matthew 10:1-4), sends them to the people of Israel (10:5-6), tells them what they are to do (10:7-8a), instructs them how they are to provide for themselves (10:8b-15) and then prepares them for persecution (10:16-42).  They will suffer like their master, but be rewarded for it.

Ezra 10 recounts the action on the part of the people to put away foreign wives.  Marrying foreign wives would soon cause them to adopt foreign gods.  The verse at the end of the chapter says…

44 All these had married foreign women, and some of the women had even borne children.

The list of men prior to this verse shows how widespread was the contagion.

Acts 10 recounts the spread of the gospel and the inclusion in the church of the Gentiles.  Acts 10:1-8 tells how God heard Cornelius’ prayer and told him to send for Peter.  Acts 10:9-23 indicates how God prepared Peter to actually go into the home of a Gentile (no longer unclean).

28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.

In Acts 10:24-48 Peter and Cornelius confirm how God had led them to this time and place, and Peter shared the gospel with Cornelius.  In vv. 34-35 Peter says…

34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

Now inclusivists would like us to understand by this that God had already accepted Cornelius and that that was all that was needed.  He didn’t need to hear about Christ and respond in belief in Christ, just general faith was enough.

However, Peter goes on to share the gospel and it is only after Cornelius believes and the Holy Spirit comes upon him that his salvation is made evident.

44 While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. 45 And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. 46 For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God.  Then Peter declared, 47 “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.

We had said back in Acts 8, that the gospel was being proclaimed and the church was being established first in Jerusalem (Acts 2), then in Judea-Samaria (Acts 8) and now to the Gentiles (Acts 10).  In both cases when these new groups of people (both hated by the Jews) accepted Christ, they were baptized by the Holy Spirit in the presence of leading apostles and other Jews (v. 45, “the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter”) so that it could be confirmed, as indeed it will be in Acts 11, to the Jews who had first believed in Jerusalem.

Remember that Phillip had witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8.  He had received Christ and had been baptized in water, but the Spirit was not visibly poured out on him because it was not witnessed by an apostle.

What happened in Cornelius’ house was “the Pentecost of the Gentile world.” By pouring out His Spirit on these Gentiles, God showed that—in His sight—Jews and Gentiles were equal.  The Jew had no essential advantage over the Gentile in entering the church. God observes no distinction in race when it comes to becoming a Christian (cf. Eph. 2:11—3:12).

The Ethiopian eunuch was probably a descendant of Ham, Saul was a descendant of Shem, and Cornelius was a descendant of Japheth (cf. Gen. 10).  Thus, with the record of their conversions in chapters 8—10, Luke told us that the church is equally accessible to all branches of the human family.

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.