TODAY’S READING IN THE OLD TESTAMENT – GENESIS 28:1- 29:35
The family drama of the patriarchs continues. It reads like a soap opera with so many twists and turns, family tensions, and intrigues. Rebekah loathes her daughters-in-law, the two Hittite women that Esau took as wives (Genesis 27:46; 26:34). Esau’s father, Isaac, also was displeased with Esau because He married Canaanites rather than tribal members (Gen 28:8). Thinking it might appease his parents to marry someone to whom he was more closely related, Esau takes another wife, his niece Mahalath, a daughter of his uncle Ishmael. Esau, as we have seen, represents the old nature, the flesh, and chooses the offspring of Ishmael, who also represents the old nature, the flesh. “What is born of the flesh is flesh” (John 3:6).
What kind of choices do we make? Do we walk after the Spirit or after the flesh?
Romans 8:5 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
Galatians 6:8 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
As we read through the Book of Genesis, we can see that God is after something. He is looking for SOMEONE who will heed His Word and believe His promise. He is looking for, anticipating, someone whose trust and obedience is perfect. He is looking for a man filled with Spirit. He is looking for that perfect man- Christ Jesus.
2 Chronicles 16:9a 9 “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.
Of course, it is not until we encounter Jesus that we see the precise Man that God has in mind, the Man whom He is looking for, whose heart is completely His. His perfect obedience avails for us who look to Him to be our sufficiency.
But as His chosen people, such as Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, believe the Promise, and walk in its light, we see from the Scripture’s record that God is at work in their lives developing those characteristics that will eventually be fully realized in Jesus Christ. Did you know that He is at work doing a similar thing in you? Christ is being progressively formed in you (Galatians 4:19).
First and foremost, we have seen how each of these men and women exhibit faith. (Note that Sarah is listed in “Faith’s Hall of Fame” Hebrews 11:11). They take steps of obedience that confirm that they believe God’s Word. They believe the good news of the Promise. They have a conviction that God’s promises are true, and live in the light of what they have been told to hope for. Their testimony of faith pleases God. He credits them as being righteous (Gen 15:6) and counts them as favored ones. The writer of Hebrews explains:
Hebrews 11:6 6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
They also are excellent candidates for God’s grace. Each of these people have their flaws and their faith is not always focused. Can we identify with them? God uses them despite themselves.
Jacob is a great example of God’s grace in action. His name means ‘supplanter’ or ‘cheater’. He spent a good part of his early life cheating others. After his encounter with the Lord, he will be on the receiving end of people’s deceit, but God will use these experiences to further his purposes and demonstrate His grace. ‘Jacob’ was grabbing the heel of his brother at birth. He cheated his brother out of his birthright. He tricked his father into giving him the blessing his father had intended to give Esau.
But while Jacob was on his journey to get a wife, he stopped for a rest, laid his head on a stone, and had a dream of a stairway to heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. At the top of the stairway stood the Lord. The Lord personally addressed Jacob and renewed the covenant that He had made with Abraham. But now He would remind Jacob that he was in on the Promise! How wonderful it is when we have the revelation that God’s Promise is for us! He has not just made a covenant with Abraham, but He has made a covenant with you. How wonderful it is to know that Jesus Christ went to the cross to win for us an open heaven! He is the One who gives us access to heaven and brings heaven to us. He is the staircase and the One at the top of it!
The Spirit of wisdom and revelation brings heavenly understanding to the mind of the believer. God’s grace comes to all repentant Jacobs with the hope of salvation.
And what about these angels ascending and descending heaven’s staircase?
Hebrews 1:14 14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation?
I love Jacob’s response when he comes out of his dream state. “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it!” (28:16). The thought of God’s presence being on earth is now in his thinking. This is a foreshadowing of the gospel promise that God’s presence is coming to earth in the person of His Son, Jesus Christ. When Jesus of Nazareth first approached Nathaniel, he said of him, “Behold an Israelite in whom there is no deceit! (Hint: Israel will soon be Jacob the deceiver’s God given name in the story.) Nathaniel recognizes and confesses that Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:47-49). Then Jesus says to Nathaniel, “
John 1:51 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Jacob marks this special occasion by setting up a pillar and consecrating it with oil. He does not yet build an altar. He will do that after his life-changing encounter with God at Penuel (Gen 32:22-32; 35:1-7). Setting up pillars was a pagan practice that the law of God would eventually forbid (Deut. 16:22). Jacob had not yet fully surrendered to the Lord.
Lord, make us aware of Your presence! Jacob named this place, ‘Bethel’, meaning ‘house of God’. Later in the history of Israel, Bethel becomes a place of idolatry. The prophet Hosea would condemn its evil practices (Hosea 10). Our focus ought to be on Who God is, rather than where God was.
Jacob would become father of the twelve tribes of Israel in an unusual way. He spends the first part of his life cheating others (up until his dream at Bethel). The last part of his life has people cheating him. First, his uncle Laban cheats him. Jacob loves Laban’s daughter, Rachel. He labors 7 years for the right to marry her. It was the custom of the day for a man to present a dowry. Jacob did not have material possessions to offer, but instead agreed to labor 7 years for her hand in marriage. But there was another local custom that Laban did not tell Jacob about. In Laban’s culture, the older daughter had to be married before the younger. So, Laban disguised his older daughter, Leah, and sent her to Jacob as his bride. She appeared before Jacob heavily veiled, and only after the wedding night did Jacob realize he had married the wrong girl. (Let us thank God for the incandescent light bulb!) Jacob was in love with Rachel and could not let her go. Laban takes advantage of this. He says, “Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for seven year’s more work”. Laban also gave Jacob his daughter’s handmaidens, Zilpah and Bilhah, who would also produce children for Jacob.
In the midst of this domestic mess, there is a love story. “So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her.” (29:20)
TODAY’S READING IN THE NEW TESTAMENT – MATTHEW 9:18-38
We are following a day in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. He travels from the area of the Gadarenes in the southeast side of the Sea of Galilee and crosses over to Capernaum (9:1). He heals the paralytic (9:2), calls Matthew to be a disciple (9:9), and has dinner at Matthew’s house. After dining and teaching, another ruler, Jairus, comes to Him reporting that his daughter has died. He believes Jesus can raise her from the dead. Jesus goes with him. As he travels in the crowd, a woman with an issue of blood touches the edge of his garment and is healed of a 12-year case of chronic bleeding. Jesus raises the dead daughter to life, and then heals two blind men! This is followed by a case of a demon-possessed mute being healed. Is it any wonder that the crowd were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” And it was all in a day’s work for Jesus.
In the light of this, what kind of day did you have? Lord, give us an eye TODAY to see what you are doing, what you can do, and what you have done. There is none like You!
Verse 3 is a haunting reminder of the peril of Western civilization as it rejects its foundation, the Judeo-Christian worldview.
Psalm 11:33 If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?”
The Lord is merciful, but He loves justice. For this reason, we should fear justice and cleave to His mercy. The cross is where God’s justice is satisfied on our behalf. It is where sin’s punishment is exacted, so mercy can flow to penitent sinners.
Psalm 11:77 For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; The upright will behold His face.
TODAY’S READING IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PROVERBS 3:11-12
Proverbs 3:11-12 11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD Or loathe His reproof, 12 For whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
PRAYER– O Lord, we are grateful that we can choose to walk after the Spirit as we begin this new day. Thank You for the mercies that are new this morning. We own up to our failings. We confess our sins and humbly receive the Holy Spirit’s witness to our conscience that the blood of Christ cleanses us from every sin. Thank You for the warnings of Your Word, that if we sow with a view to satisfying the flesh and doing what is right in our own eyes, we will reap of the flesh’s corruption. Thank You Father for sending Jesus to be our perfect representative. His perfect devotion and obedience have won for us an open heaven. It is a miracle that He has made it possible for our bodies to be a ‘Bethel’, Your dwelling place, a temple of the Holy Spirit.
We cherish Your Word and seek Your righteous rule in our lives. Help us preserve the foundation of Your self-revelation by championing Your Word and offering You our fresh obedience this day! In Jesus’ Name. Amen