Tag Archives: Jacob

Through the Bible, January 28

Read: Catch up day

Thought and Reflection: Today is the scheduled “catch up” day for the fourth week of January (22-28), so no reading is scheduled.  But here are some thoughts to consider.

  1. As Jacob traveled to the family of his mother where he was to find a wife, God appeared to him in the amazing dream of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth with angels ascending and descending (Gen. 28:10-22). Jesus uses this same imagery to speak of God’s work in His ministry. He told Nathanael, “you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). What assurances can we take from the knowledge of God’s continued work in the affairs of men?
  1. Joseph did right by Potiphar and his promiscuous wife and he still ended up in prison (Gen. 39). Instead of wallowing in self-pity for the injustice of it all, he rather saw the favor that God showed him (vv. 21, 23). We must remember that God’s goodness to us does not always mean our circumstances will be to our liking.  Serve God anyway. Can you think of any instances when doing the right thing didn’t seem to “work out”?
  2. Joseph was able to see the greater good of God’s work in bringing his family to Egypt instead of focusing on his brother’s malicious treatment of him from years previous. The past is just that—past, and that’s where it should remain. Don’t allow it to become a debilitating weight of anger and resentment in the present. What if Joseph had responded differently? How might our response to personal slights impact the larger working of God?

Devotional Thought:

Like It, Or Not

Life is exhilarating.  Life is dull.  Life is fearful.  Life is rewarding.  Life is hard.  Life is joyful.  Life is disappointing.  Life is surprising.  Life is predictable.  Life is tragic.  Life is…

That’s just how life is, isn’t it?  It’s an ever-changing conglomeration of emotions, circumstances, events, people, places, and experiences.

A glance back over the life of Jacob verifies that assessment:

  • mother’s favorite,
  • taking Esau’s birthright and blessing,
  • escaping Esau’s hatred,
  • love at first sight,
  • marrying the “wrong” girl…then the right one,
  • birth of a son, and another, and another, and…
  • a conniving father-in-law,
  • God’s blessing,
  • afraid to return home,
  • wrestling with an angel,
  • reconciled with a brother,
  • his daughter’s rape,
  • joyful birth of a final son,
  • wrenching death of the favorite wife,
  • death (?) of Joseph,
  • famine,
  • Joseph alive and quite well,
  • move to Egypt.

Here’s the point.  My life is not for my entertainment.  It’s not really even for my pleasure.

You see my life doesn’t even belong to me.  My life is no longer mine to live (Gal. 2:20).  I have “lost” my life (Matt. 16:25).  It has been purchased and is no longer my possession (1 Cor. 6:20).  So whether I live or I die I am the Lord’s (Rom. 14:8).

Whether or not all of the various components of my life combined together are to my liking is really immaterial. What matters is the will of God being accomplished in and through my life.

Through the Bible, January 27

Read: Genesis 46-47; 49:28-50:26

Summary: With God’s encouragement Jacob accepts Joseph’s invitation to move the entire family to Egypt.  There, provided with exceptional favor, they settle to live in the region of Goshen.  Jacob dies in Egypt, but according to his wishes, is returned to be buried at home in the grave of his fathers.  Joseph assures his brothers he holds no malice for their previous ill-treatment of him, understanding that though “you meant evil against me…God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive as they are today” (Gen. 50:20).

Devotional Thought:

From One Little Decision

Many–probably most–of the choices we make seem small and insignificant. We are frequently wrong about that. Others seem hugely consequential, and often turn out to be otherwise.

Jacob had a choice to make. His son, Joseph–that is his recently-discovered-alive-and-second-most-powerful-man-in-the-world son–invited him to move with all of the family down to Egypt.

Jacob balked.  He was living in the land God promised to him, his father, and his grandfather.  Wouldn’t leaving it show a lack of faith in God?  Wouldn’t that seem to go against God?

With God’s encouragement Jacob decided to go (Gen. 46:3-4).  He and the 70 members of his family packed up and went.

Personally speaking, moving your family from one place to another is a big decision.  In the larger pictures it’s really not.  What you do is a bigger deal than where you live.

God, though, made this decision a huge deal.  For it was in Egypt that He took these 70 people and multiplied them until they were “as numerous as the stars of heaven” (Deut. 10:22).

Take care of your choices; even the seemingly small ones.  From one little decision God can cause a chain of events that grows far beyond us, our lives, and our purposes.

Through the Bible, January 24

Read: Genesis 32-33; 35

Summary: Jacob’s return home means an encounter with Esau, whom he still fears greatly.  It also proves rather momentous in that God blesses him and reaffirms the covenant with him.  This series of events also includes Jacob’s mysterious wrestling match with an angel.

Devotional Thought:

The Same?

We’ve all seen a child following a period of some weeks or months absence from them.   They’ve changed haven’t they?  It’s apparent; their physical appearance is different.

By the same token, we may see an adult following about the same period of absence and they look no different at all.

After a long absence from home, Jacob had changed.

Not his physical appearance, though that may well be true, we just don’t know it. Instead of knowing what he looked like, we know his attitudes and his thinking–that changed.

Compare these two “snapshots” of his character; first, when he was leaving home (see Gen. 28:20-21) and then when he was returning, twenty years later (see Gen. 32:10-12).  Previously he seemed arrogant and proud: an if-you-help-me-I-will-serve-you kind of attitude.  But now it’s humility and thankfulness and petitions for God’s aid. The change is obvious.

What is different about you over the past six months?  year?  five years?  decade? Has your faith deepened? Is there less of self and more of God? Is your own will even further submitted to God’s? Is the Lord’s place in your life larger? Have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control flourished?

Muhammad Ali suggested that a man who looks at the world the same at age 50 as he did at age 20 has wasted 30 years of living.

Do you look the same today, spiritually, as you did even last year?

Don’t be wasting your life.

Through the Bible, January 23

Read: Genesis 29-31

Summary: Jacob’s search for a wife lands him two, sisters Rachel and Leah.  His experiences with their father, Laban, teach him valuable lessons that help temper his youthful, self-serving attitudes.  Finally, after 20 years, he decides it’s time to return home, now with a family including eleven sons and one daughter.

Devotional Thought:

The God of Bethel

Jacob’s parents had sent him off to find a wife among his mother’s family.  Now, twenty years later, God is sending him back home (Gen. 31:13).

He left home under duress.  Esau, his brother, was so angry and spiteful he wished to kill him.  All his efforts to gain an advantage and advance his position had ended up with increased mistreatment from his father-in-law and having to run away.

Now, God is calling him to return home.  He does so by identifying Himself to Jacob as, “the God of Bethel” (31:13).

Jacob needed reminding of what had happened there.  That is the location where, on the night Jacob had fled from home, God appeared to him in a dream as he slept on a pillow of stones (Gen. 28:10ff).  That dream was of the ladder reaching from heaven to earth with the Lord standing above and angels ascending and descending.  It was the dream where God promised to be with Jacob and He repeated to him what had been said to his fathers, Abraham and Isaac.

The God of Bethel is the God who had not forgotten Jacob.  He was still with him and would be with Him, just as He said.  Now, it was time to go back home.

This wasn’t going to be easy either.  Separating from his father-in-law will be traumatic.  And what about his brother with his murderous intent?

It didn’t matter.  The God of Bethel was there.

The God of Bethel is not just Jacob’s.  He’s ours too, in Jesus (see John 1:51). In uncertain, stressful, troubling, and changing times, we need the God of Bethel.

Through the Bible, January 22

Read: Genesis 26-28

Summary: Isaac, like his father Abraham, lies about his relationship with his wife Rebekah.  Rebekah and Jacob work to deceive Isaac to secure the blessing that rightfully belongs to Esau.  Esau’s anger (and poor choice of wives) prompts Isaac and Rebekah to send Jacob to his mother’s family to find his wife.  Along the way, God repeats the promises to Jacob previously made to Abraham and Isaac.

Devotional Thought:

The Second Most Important Decision

The second most important decision a person makes in their life is whom they marry.

Repeatedly the Bible testifies to the impact of marriage on happiness, peace, stability, spirituality (both positively and negatively), and so much more. And, yes, it even touches on salvation which, of course, is the most important decision.

Esau’s decisions for spouses “made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Gen. 26:35).

That’s just one stone in the wall of warnings to be very thoughtful in the choice of a mate.

Poor marriage decisions promoted the spread and influence of sin, ultimately

resulting in the flood (Gen. 6:2ff).

Solomon’s wives spelled the downfall of this once great spiritual man (1 Kings

11:3).

The epitome of wicked Bible kings is Ahab.  There was no one like him, “whom

Jezebel his wife incited” (1 Kings 21:25).

The Bible’s manual for wise living, the book of Proverbs, frequents this subject

(12:4; 14:1; 18:22; 19:14; 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15), climaxing with “An excellent

wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels” (31:10).

Just to note a few others: If you are not married, take exceeding care in your choice of a mate. If you are married, invest heavily in nurturing and deepening that relationship. If your marriage is broken, exhaust every effort to fix it–and then work on it some more.

The “one flesh” relationship made by God in marriage (Gen. 2:24) requires the utmost of patience, work, diligence, sacrifice, and humility.  And the blessings make the cost seem as nothing.

Through the Bible, January Week 4

Week 4: Jacob and Joseph

January 22-28

Jesus depicts the eternal kingdom as to “recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Matt. 8:11).  Is it even possible to overemphasize the role of the Patriarchs in God’s eternal plan?

This week’s reading picks up with the conflict between Isaac’s twin sons–Abraham’s grandsons–Jacob and Esau.

In Jacob we see the maturing of a young, impetuous, selfish man to one who through the challenges and struggles in his life, becomes a genuine spiritual leader for his ever-growing family.

Nowhere else in Scripture does the providential care and working of God shine brighter than in the life of Jacob’s son, Joseph. What an incredible example of faithfulness to God no matter what life might bring one’s way.

Not only do we continue to thrill at the grand scheme of God’s plan pointing to the coming of Jesus, we also find encouragement and strength in the lives of our spiritual predecessors.  Truly, “whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).

Through the Bible, January 21

Read: Catch up if needed.

Today is the scheduled “catch up” day for the third week of January (15-21), so no reading is scheduled.

Reflection and Thought:

Here are some things to think about based on this past week’s reading.

  1. Abraham had his failures. He misrepresented (lied?) about his relationship to Sarah for fear of physical harm (Gen. 12:10-20; 20:1-18). How have you, even unintentionally, demonstrated a lack of faith in God’s provisions and protection?
  1. Everything about Abraham and Sarah’s circumstances screamed the impossibility of their ever having a child. Do God’s promises and assurances ever seem as impossible to me?
  1. The wives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob all had barren wombs. Repeated insurmountable obstacles–from a human perspective–demonstrate the work of God through the chain of events from generation to generation among the Patriarchs. What obstacles do you presently face, believing they are keeping God’s will from being accomplished in your own life?

Devotional Thought:

Be Genuine

Are you hesitant to allow other people to see your weaknesses, faults, and foibles?

Most of us are.  We present our public persona as orderly, happy, well-managed, and well-nigh-on-to perfect.  When the reality tends more toward confused, messy, weak, and befuddled.

We are hesitant–to say the least– to allow people to see the real us.

Why?

Probably fear of rejection.  We want to be worthy of other’s acceptance so we present the very best “us” we can muster, whether it’s really true or not.

Now, I’m not suggesting we just throw out for public consumption every tidbit of negativity about our lives for the sake of openness.  There is something to be said for thinking and doing better than we may feel, for ruling our own emotions and overcoming our circumstances.  You know, not being a victim, but choosing and living the life we want.

Think about how God presents Abraham.  Yes, he is the man of remarkable faith, but he’s also the man who was afraid and wasn’t fully honest about his relationship with Sarah.  He was not perfect.  And the Bible is sure to let us know that.

Neither are we.  God knows it and despite our best efforts to convince people otherwise, they know it too.  Our acceptance by God, and others, is not based on perfection.

We need to get over ourselves and be genuine.

Through the Bible, January 20

Read: Genesis 23-25

Summary: Sarah dies, Abraham remarries and Isaac finds a wife.  Abraham dies.  Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons, Jacob and Esau, are born.

Even for great Patriarchs, life goes on.

Devotional Thought:

Angels at Work

I’m glad I wasn’t Abraham’s servant.   Imagine being given the job of traveling to a distant land to secure a wife for your master’s son.  The servant was justified in his concern that he might have trouble finding a woman willing to take him up on this outlandish offer.  Imagine: “Come with me and become the wife of a man you’ve never met, based solely on what I, a stranger, am telling you!”

Here’s why I love this story.  Abraham’s assurance to the servant was that God would “send his angel before you” (Gen. 24:7). Now, just go ahead and read the story of how Rebekah agreed to this stranger’s offer and became Isaac’s wife. Find the angel.  What did he do?  What role did he play?

We just don’t know.  We know he was there and contributed to the success of this improbable venture, but we don’t know how.

Here’s something else we know.  God’s angels are at work still today ministering on behalf of “those who are to inherit salvation” (Heb. 1:14).  I don’t know how or when or where.  I just know they are.

I love that.

Through the Bible, January Week 3

Week 3: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

January 15-21

The stage having been set in Genesis 1-11, Moses now turns his attention to introducing Abraham.  Not only is he the man from whom the Israelites trace their origins, he is also the man known as the “father of the faithful.”  He occupies more space, by far, than any of the other “heroes of faith” in Hebrews 11 (vv. 8-19).

Though Moses is recording these accounts for the benefit of the people of Israel leaving slavery in Egypt to become a nation and people for God’s own possession, he is also tracing out the ultimate plan and working of God that will lead to Jesus Christ. Remember, this is not merely an account of the events that happened to transpire in the life of one man from ancient history, this is the record of the direct, deliberate, and planned action of God leading to Jesus Christ and humanity’s salvation.  The opening words of the New Testament are, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1).

Abraham’s thrilling story dramatically depicts the power and working of God through feeble and faulty men.  God’s plan worked not because of these people, but despite them.

Even so, Abraham is truly a spiritual giant.  When Paul sought to drive home the role of faith in man’s justification, it was to Abraham–who preceded the Law of Moses–to whom he turns to show genuine faith and righteousness.  One day of our reading this week will turn to those discussions from Romans and Galatians.

My Delight is the Lord, March 18

March 18, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Genesis 47:1-12; 49:28-50:26

Good and Evil

Jacob and his family were in Egypt because God had brought them there. He had saved their lives from the extreme famine and worked through Joseph in quite remarkable ways. Now this shepherding family was being placed on the best land in Egypt. This was not only with the king’s blessing, but the responsibility to also tend the royal livestock. Given the circumstances, could it have been any better for Jacob’s family? God was certainly good to them. But remember, it’s not going to stay this way. Turn a page or two in the Bible and the offspring of these same people are oppressed and enslaved and persecuted by the same Egyptians. This too was by God’s design. It’s hard, no doubt. Job asked it this way, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?’’ ( Job 2:10).

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did Jacob do to Pharaoh? (47:7)
  • How did Jacob characterize his life? (47:9)
  • How is Jacob’s death described? (48:33)
  • What did Joseph’s brothers fear after Jacob’s death? (49:15)