< What I Learned Teaching Sunday School: May 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Genesis 35 and 36

Genesis 35:1-5 Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”
2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

Jacob had stayed in Shechem too long. Remember last time we said it may have been up to 10 years and it could have been because Shechem was a nice comfortable city. But Jacob had vowed to God back in Genesis 28:20 that he would go to Bethel where God had first revealed Himself to him. So now God is telling him he needed to take his family there and bring them all back into a right relationship with God.

You notice they had foreign gods. Remember Rachel had stole some from her father, but it’s likely they had picked up more during their stay. They may have been worshipping them. Today your family may get into new-age religion or a cult or horoscopes or tarot cards.

Other idols we have which we honor more than God, both as regards time and emotion are: money, home, garden, television, position, talents, beauty or pleasure. Anything we put before God.

Jacob realizes he needs to purify his household before they move to Bethel. He tells them to get rid of the gods and change their clothes. (This last is a symbolic cleansing, a new start.)

Remember Bethel means House of God. And there Jacob would offer a sacrifice on the altar. And in the Old Testament all sacrifices pointed to the sacrifice of Christ. They did it for forgiveness. In Hebrews it says “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” They believed God would forgive them when they offered a sacrifice and we believe God HAS forgiven us through His Son’s sacrifice for our sins.

After Jacob and his family repented, the immediate result was security! They set out and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so no one pursued them.

Genesis 35:6-15 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.
8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.
9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.
11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.”13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.
14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

This is the place where he had dedicated his life to God 30 years before. Where he dreamed of the ladder to heaven. He had been alone then and now had a large family. His character had changed and his name had changed.

His family is standing there hearing God’s promises now. This is important – that the whole family knows God. He is responsible to teach them and set the example.

Deuteronomy 6:4-7 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

The other thing to note in this passage is when God emphasizes that Jacob’s name is now Israel, the promises to him of land and seed are also to Jacob’s descendents. The nation of Israel.

Genesis 35:16-28 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni] But his father named him Benjamin.
19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.
21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.
Jacob had twelve sons:
23 The sons of Leah:
Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,
Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.
24 The sons of Rachel:
Joseph and Benjamin.
25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:
Dan and Naphtali.
26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:
Gad and Asher.
These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.
27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed.
28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Genesis 36 is just a listing of Edom’s family. It’s included because Isaac had given him a patriarchal blessing. So before continuing with the history of Jacob’s family, particularly Joseph, Edom’s genealogy is given.

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Genesis 34

Genesis 34:1-31 Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. 2 When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. 3 His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her.4 And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.”

5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home.

6 Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. 7 Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.
8 But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. 9 Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”

11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”

13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.”

18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city. 21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.”

24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised.

25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses.

30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.”

31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?

A comparison of scriptures indicates that Jacob must have stayed in Succoth and Shechem for several years, perhaps as many as 10. Jacob had made a vow back in Genesis 28:20-22 that if God kept him safe he would go back to Bethel. And he’s not doing that. Maybe because Scechem was quite a city at that time and there were many social amenities and comforts. But apparently his children got involved in this world and began to be conformed to the idolatrous customs there and abominable practices.

Jacob as head of the family was responsible to lead his family daily in their right relationship with God. And it seems like he wasn’t doing it.

Scripture doesn’t say why Dinah was going somewhere alone and unprotected. It’s estimated she was between 13 and 16 when this happened.  The Jewish historian Josephus says that she was on her way to a heathen feast of the Shechemites. In any event she should have known that Egyptians and Canaanites regarded unmarried women abroad in the land as their lawful prey and she shouldn’t have gone unattended.

Shechem, the son of Hamor, a tribal prince, found her alone and eventually took her into his house. And she may have gone willingly – the passage says he loved her. But let’s just say that the Israelites had different standards then the pagans.

Shechem wanted to make her his wife and approached Jacob about it, but according to the custom of that day, the father couldn’t act independently without the consent of the brothers of the girl who were considered mainly responsible for safeguarding her rights.

If the two families HAD co-mingled there would be no chosen people.

The brothers took matters into their own hands, probably without telling Jacob their plans. They were going to get revenge not just on the man who had defiled their sister, but against all the people of Shechem. When the men were healing from circumcision the brothers attacked and destroyed them, took their wives and children captive and confiscated their goods.

They behaved like pagans! Jacob was very angry. He strongly rebuked his sons for the trouble they had brought on him and upon their whole family. He also reminded them that compared to the Hivites, his family was few in number.

Simeon and Levi responded in self-defense that’s typical of many people today. Shechem’s sin forced them to do what they did! But we’re not to seek revenge. God says “Vengeance is mine. I will repay.” Even when someone sins against us it must not cause us to sin. The Holy Spirit has given us the Fruits of the Spirit: Peace, love, self-control, goodness, etc.

Jacob’s stern denunciation and God’s judgment regarding Simeon and Levi is only fully revealed on Jacob’s deathbed where Jacob’s verdict is recorded: “Cursed be their anger, so fierce, and their fury, so cruel!” To the end of his life Jacob would never forget their cruel massacre of the Shechemites. And those 2 tribes suffered God’s judgment. God ordained that neither would have territory which they could call their own. Ultimately, the Simeonites were swallowed up in the tribe of Judah. The Levites also had no inheritance. However later in their history the Levites moved forth in obedience to God. Eventually, God turned their judgment into blessing and they became the tribe of priests. So they still didn’t own real estate, but were honored with priesthood and taken care of.

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Genesis 33

Genesis 33:1-3  Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants.2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.

Jacob is now humble and has placed his confidence in God. He groups everyone, keeping Rachel and his youngest child in the back and then he goes forward to be first.

Bowing 7 times was a customary homage given to kings of that day. Jacob, by his changed attitude of meekness, humility and willingness to give Esau the respect and honor due him, paves the way for Esau to forgive him and to accept him again as his brother.

Genesis 33:4-7 4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept. 5 Then Esau looked up and saw the women and children. “Who are these with you?” he asked. Jacob answered, “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.” 6 Then the female servants and their children approached and bowed down.7 Next, Leah and her children came and bowed down. Last of all came Joseph and Rachel, and they too bowed down.

And everything is fine!! God answered Jacob’s prayer beyond what he hoped. They were never this close the whole time they were growing up! 20 years ago Esau would never have run to Jacob and hugged him!

And Jacob proudly introduces his family, giving honor to God for His grace and blessing.

Genesis 33:9-11 8 Esau asked, “What’s the meaning of all these flocks and herds I met?”
“To find favor in your eyes, my lord,” he said.
9 But Esau said, “I already have plenty, my brother. Keep what you have for yourself.”
10 “No, please!” said Jacob. “If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably. 11 Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” And because Jacob insisted, Esau accepted it.

Remember Jacob had sent the animals earlier as a gift. And Esau can’t bring himself to accept so generous a gift. It’s clear that Esau is quite rich himself and doesn’t need the gift. But Jacob pleads with him and Esau may have heard the undercurrent of contrition in Jacob and realized it was a form of an apology – so he accepted it.

Genesis 33:12-17  Then Esau said, “Let us be on our way; I’ll accompany you.”
13 But Jacob said to him, “My lord knows that the children are tender and that I must care for the ewes and cows that are nursing their young. If they are driven hard just one day, all the animals will die. 14 So let my lord go on ahead of his servant, while I move along slowly at the pace of the flocks and herds before me and the pace of the children, until I come to my lord in Seir.”
15 Esau said, “Then let me leave some of my men with you.”
“But why do that?” Jacob asked. “Just let me find favor in the eyes of my lord.”
16 So that day Esau started on his way back to Seir. 17 Jacob, however, went to Sukkoth, where he built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place is called Sukkoth.
Sukkoth means shelters.

He was in a good place now. On good terms with his brother. Back in his own land. And on his way to see Isaac again. He could rest a bit.

You might expect that Jacob has all good things happen to him from now on. No! Just like when we become Christians we still have some sin and weakness and problems, he does too. In the next few chapters though it’s members of Jacob’s family that sin. One commentator suggests he’s beginning to reap the lack of discipline due to the presence of several wives.

Genesis 34 is rather a sordid tale. But it shows us two things. One is the Bible tells it like it happened. When people say such in such is in the Bible so it must be ok. Well, no. It isn’t saying the sins and many of the life styles and actions are ok. They are just the history. The second thing is lots of time they show you what happens when godly people live to closely with pagans.

And we’ll see that social interaction and intermarriage was leading to the rapid degeneration of Jacob’s family to the amoral and spiritual level of the heathen around them. It’s bad in Genesis 38 also. And both events will reveal the necessity for Jacob’s family to be separated for a time from the surrounding people until they are sufficiently grounded in God’s revelation of Himself to preserve their national and religious independence and most importantly later on to preserve the Old Testament which was committed to them on behalf of the world. And we’ll see they end up in Egypt later to do just that.

In fact Egypt was the perfect place for forced separation because Egyptians would have NOTHING to do with shepherds. They wouldn’t eat with them or even be around them.

Genesis 33:18-20 After Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan and camped within sight of the city. 19 For a hundred pieces of silver, he bought from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, the plot of ground where he pitched his tent. 20 There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.

So after their period of rest they prepared to settle in nearby Shechem in central Canaan, about 50 miles from Hebron. He actually bought property. Only the second piece of land in the Promised Land purchased by one of the Patriarchs. And Jacob dug his well here. Nearly two thousand years later Jesus sat on this same well when he promised the gift of living water to the Samaritan woman.

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Saturday, May 23, 2015

Genesis 32

Genesis 32: 1-2 Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.

Having spent the previous night feasting before God in the “Mount of Sacrifice,” Laban rose early in the morning and took leave of Jacob’s family. With his blessing.

This starts a new era in Jacob’s life. His 20 years of serving Laban were over. He now stood on the threshold of all God had promised him – he was about to enter Canaan. All he had to do was cross the Jordan.

Remember when Jacob left home 20 years before God revealed Himself in a dream with a ladder between heaven and earth, with angels going up and down? Now, when Jacob and his family in obedience to God’s specific command prepare to reenter Canaan, Jacob is again assured of God’s presence with him by another meeting with the angels of God.

He was probably stressed and a bit worried. He had been chased by his father-in-law. And now he was vulnerable with valuable flocks and herds, his wives and little children. Not many men. They could be ambushed and robbed! And his brother Esau was living somewhere around there and they weren’t on good terms…

So he needed encouragement. And he saw another camp. Of angels. Sent by God to protect him.

There are many places in Scripture where God has sent angels to His chosen ones.

Psalm 34:7 says The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.

Daniel 6:22  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight.

Hebrews 1:14 Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?

Jacob named the place Mahanaim, which means two camps. This became a city and its ruins are still in existence today under the name of Maneh.

Genesis 32:3-5 Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. 5 I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’”

Jacob had a guilty conscience regarding Esau. Therefore he was afraid. But notice he didn’t go to God with the problem, he decided what he was going to do himself. Send special messengers to Seir, southeast of the Dead Sea where Esau lived to announce both his return and his wealth and to beg for Esau’s grace.

Genesis 32:6 When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.”

This news was kind of ….terrifying! Now Jacob was really scared. No one knew better then he the deep root of Esau’s grudge and determination to take revenge. 

Genesis 32:7-12  In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. 8 He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, LORD, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

Jacob plans an emergency route to escape and also prays to God a very earnest prayer which has all the elements of true intercession.

There are seven points to notice in Jacob’s prayer which should always be present in our prayers of supplication to God:

1. Acknowledgment of God’s person and our relationship with Him. (God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord) 
2. Reminder of God’s specific promise to him.  “You said to me” etc. And he reminds God that he has fulfilled God’s command to return.
3. Confession of unworthiness – By owning his unworthiness, Jacob also indirectly confesses his sin. He knows he doesn’t deserve God’s help. The reason Esau is mad at him is Jacob’s fault! But he’s praying on the ground of God’s grace, not is own merit. He spoke of God’s kindness and faithfulness He has always shown him.
4. Praise and thanksgiving for past mercies – He talks about all God has already done for him. He first crossed the Jordan alone – now he has 2 camps going back.
5. Jacob’s specific request – “Save me…for I am afraid”. He was very clear. Even though God always knows what we want we shouldn’t be vague when we ask. Instead of saying “Please make me a better Christian” say “Please give me more of a servant’s heart or more love for Your Word, or a better ability to share the Gospel. Help me find 30 minutes to study the Bible today! That kind of thing.
6. Jacob’s outpouring of his heart to God – he didn’t repress his emotion of fear. He poured out his true feelings. “I am afraid he will come attack me!”
7. Jacob’s bold claim of God’s promise to him – Jacob reminds God, “But You have said, “I will make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.” This was at the end, reminding him that God’s word, God’s purposes, God’s promises can never fail.

Genesis 32:13-21 13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.”
17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’”
19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.

After Jacob prayed you can see his attitude changed. He doesn’t really seem afraid anymore. Now instead of organizing an escape plan he prepares to meet Esau face to face. And the prayer may have changed how he actually felt about Esau. He seems to realize and be admitting that he owes Esau something. The gift he puts together is generous. Even sacrificial. A total of 580 animals.

Genesis 32:22-23 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions.

The ford of the Jabbok is on the east side of the Jordan River midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. This is where they must reenter the Promised Land. His family is safely across now and he’s done all he can.

Genesis 32:24-32 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.
30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.
So, suddenly a “man” appears who wrestles with Jacob until daybreak. At the end Jacob realizes this is no mere man, but God. Hosea 12:4-5 describes this man as “the Angel” – God Himself.

To understand the meaning of this passage, we need to review the character and previous history of Jacob. Since meeting with God at Bethel, Jacob seems to have deliberately reoriented his life according to his faith in god’s promises and in obedience to God’s revealed commands. He maintained his integrity as an industrious, faithful and reliable servant throughout all his bitter experiences with Laban. We don’t read that he continues to complain about his hard lot. Instead we read of his “Preoccupation with the goodness of his God” who blessed him in the midst of injustice from others.

However, side by side with these virtues, which are indispensable to the life of a true believer, we have to recognize that the most prominent feature of Jacob’s character was a strong reliance on his own resources, his astute judgment and shrewd calculations by which he seems to presume he will always succeed, even to the winning of God’s inheritance and blessing. Before Bethel he manipulated people all the time. And he didn’t care if he hurt them. He also didn’t question whether he was pleasing God or not so long as it ended the way he wanted.

Following this God chastised Jacob for twenty years through circumstances under Laban. The manipulator was now manipulated. Surely he could see the similarities.

Jacob’s prayer which produced such a change of attitude within him toward Esau must have brought also some convictions that his whole way of life and self-reliance kept him out of step with God. 

So it seems that God prepared Jacob’s heart for a new encounter with Himself after which the whole of Jacob’s character would be changed. No more schemes and lies.

We don’t know how much of this struggle was physical and how much spiritual. In any case it’s highly symbolic. When Jacob is set to enter the Promised Land (promised by God, but for which he schemed and worked) he is opposed by none other then God Himself!

God’s blessings are acts of grace. Meaning they are undeserved. In fact the Bible says that God will choose those who consider themselves weak or foolish in order that no one shall boast of how he obtained God’s blessing by the glory of his own merit.

So Jacob doesn’t recognize God first and struggles with Him, refusing to surrender. He fails to see that God had a purpose and a blessing in this encounter.

Sometimes God has to break people so He can use them. You aren’t surrendering fully to Him if you are trying to do things on your own.

In this passage, at first it looks like God doesn’t want to bless Jacob and Jacob forces Him to do so. That’s not so. God is sovereign: no man forces Him to do anything. However, God is good. He was Jacob’s God and Jacob had responded to Him in faith. Therefore if God came to Jacob, Jacob knew (once he realized who it was) that it was because God intended to bless him. Had he not been so sure of that (by his faith in God’s character) he might have given up when “the angel” told him to let go.

Jacob’s surrender brought true victory. God asked Jacob for his name which was so revealing of his old character and disposition. Jacob means “the supplanter.” He was a schemer. A cheater. God wanted Jacob to say his name so he could see clearly that the name HAD described him. But no more. God gave him a new name. Israel. And he would have power with God through prayer and power with men in daily life. (Commentators don’t agree on the meaning of the name Israel. Some say it means “God prevails” others “God rules”.)

After this Jacob has a permanent sore hip. The perfect example of God’s strength being perfect in Jacob’s weakness. Because every time he felt his hip – which would have been ALL the time – he would be reminded he had surrendered fully to God.

We can apply this to our lives when we feel that we are missing out on some of God’s promises for us. Perhaps we haven’t realized that we are trusting in our own strength, fighting the Lord Himself. 

God’s full blessing is available to us. However, in the New Testament experience, this comes through our identification with Christ’s death. We cling trustingly to Him believing he will bless us with all the glory and fruit fitted with the power of the Holy Spirit. Our old life died on the Cross with Christ. We’ve surrendered to Him and have a new life now. One of power with God in prayer and with men in service.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Review of “Adventures in Saying Yes”

I just finished reading Adventures in Saying Yes, A Journey from Fear to Faith by Carl Medearis. And this may sound funny, but it made me feel good about Muslims and people in the Middle East!

In today’s world of news filled with violent terrorism, to see these people portrayed as warm, friendly, generous and welcoming hosts was a breath of fresh air!

It made me want to befriend some of them!! And the book also made me want to go out and do more for God. To not ignore the little nudges that could be from Him. Because as Carl pointed out, if they are helpful and good ideas why wouldn’t you go ahead and do them. And if you ignore them, you may stop hearing Him.

The book was a fun and inspiring read!

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