28th January - 3rd February: Genesis 23-29
Genesis is known as "the book of beginnings." We can also learn from the endings. here, we read of the death of Sarah. As we read of the generations coming and going, we come to rest in the truth that only God is eternal. This is the great truth, proclaimed in Psalm 90. He alone is "God, from everlasting to everlasting" (Psalm 90:2). From Psalm 90, we learn the lesson: "Teach us to number each of our days so that we may grow in wisdom" (Psalm 90:120. The experience of bereavement is very distressing - "Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to cry about her death" (Genesis 23:2). Nevertheless, we look beyond the things that are temporal to the things that are eternal, and we know that our suffering is light and temporary while our eternal glory is greater than we can imagine" (2 Corinthians 3:17-18).
The story of how Isaac and Rebekah came to be married is told in vivid detail. It is a touching story. There is a real sense of God being in control of the events - God working out His perfect plan for Isaac and Rebekah. "The Lord knows what he is doing with us. We must hold on to this truth when it seems that our circumstances have become a tangled web, a long and winding road which appears to be leading nowhere. Whatever our feelings may sometimes suggest, we must affirm our faith - "As for the Lord, His way is perfect." There is no better place to be than in the centre of God's will. We must pray for the Lord's leading so that we can truly testify, "The Lord led me in the right direction" (Genesis 24:48).
Following the accounts of Abraham's second marriage and his death (Genesis 25:1-11) and the twelve tribes of Ishmael (Genesis 25:12-18), we move on to the story of Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:19-34). Esau was born first - yet, in line with God's purpose of grace, "the older will serve the younger" (Genesis 25:23). God's grace does not operate according to human standards. Salvation is by grace so that it may be seen that it is not by works. Jacob was born holding on to Esau's heel - "so he was named Jacob (Heel)." He was well-named, but God made something of him! Esau showed "contempt for his rights as firstborn" (Genesis 25:34). He missed out on God's blessing because he did not treasure it highly.Jacob was not superior. Esau was not inferior. Grace lifted Jacob and the glory belongs to God. Grace could have lifted Esau, but he refused to come, to submit. The fault lies with Esau.31st January
The promise to Isaac was to be fulfilled in Christ - "Through your descendant all the nations of the earth will be blessed" (Genesis 26:4). There were to be "numerous descendants", but there was only one descendant through whom God's great salvation was to come to the world: Jesus Christ. He is the Way, the true and living Way - the Way to God. In Genesis 26:19-22, there's the story of the three wells - 'Argument', 'Accusation', 'Roomy.' Progress is made after things seemed to go from bad to worse. Isaac "worshipped the Lord" (Genesis 26:25). Abimelech recognized that Isaac was a man of God - "We have seen that the Lord is with you" (Genesis 26:28). The quality of our life is to be such that others will recognize that we belong to the Lord. At the end of the chapter - Genesis 26:34, there is a warning: even those who love the Lord can make mistakes!
This is the story of deception. It ia very human. It is difficult for us to see how God works out His perfect plan through all of us. By faith, we believe that God is in control, working out His purpose of salvation, even where self-centred men and women (here, it is Rebekah and Jacob) are plotting to get their own way. 'My will be done' - this is what we are hearing from Rebekah and Jacob. Behind it all, there is God, and He is saying, 'My will be done.' From the fact that God was working out His purpose here, we must not conclude that He condones the devious way in which Rebekah and Jacob acted. Rather, we are to believe that God's purpose does not depend on us. Though we fail Him often, He will not fail us. He can turn things around for His glory, so that it may be seen that is His doing, and not ours.
Into a story, full of deception, comes grace - superabundant grace. Jacob was just looking for a good night's rest (Genesis 28:11), but he got more than he bargained for. This was a night to to be remembered - a night he would never forget as long as he lived. This was the beginning of a new Jacob. There were to be further experiences of divine grace. The most striking of these spiritual experiences is described in Genesis 32:22-32. When we look at Jacob's deceit, we might expect that he had disqualified himself from being useful in the purpose of God. To think like this is to forget the grace of God and the God of grace. God comes to Jacob (and to us) not once but many times. He comes with His precious promises: "I am with you ... I will not leave you ... " (Genesis 28:15).
Jacob receives his heart's desire - Rachel, but not in the way he intended. God was teaching Jacob patience. Doing God's will is more important than getting our own way. We may receive our heart's desire, but it will be as a side-effect of doing God's will and not as the be-all and end-all of our lives. The sons of Leah (Genesis 29:31-35) are given names with meanings. There is, in Leah, a progression towards a more spiritual attitude. (a) Reuben ('Here's my son') - "Now my husband will love me" (Genesis 29:32). (b) Simeon ('Hearing') - "The Lord has heard that I'm unloved, and He has also given me this son" (Genesis 29:33). (c) Levi ('Attached') - "My husband will become attached to me' (Genesis 29:34). (d) Judah ('Praise') - "This time I will praise the Lord" (Genesis 29:35). Her earlier concerns [(a) - (c)] are valid, but her response to the fourth birth highlights a progression beyond her own feelings to a deeper commitment to praising the Lord.