Thursday, 9 January 2014

(10) January 10: Genesis 25-26 and Matthew 9v1-17

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note the ways God is active in choosing those he is going to work through.

To ponder:
Throughout the Lord does things his way. God’s promise will be fulfilled through Isaac. So Abraham leaves everything to him, and sends his other sons away, ensuring Isaac alone remains in the land. And although God fulfils his promise to make Ishmael a nation (twelve tribes), from this point we hear no more of him.
            God’s answer of Isaac’s prayer for children challenges us husbands to be praying for our wives. But as with Sarah, the point of Rebeka’s barrenness is to show her children are specially from the Lord. God reveals that he has ordained what will be for her sons – two nations: Edom and Israel. God’s reversal of the usual order which favours the eldest again shows that things will progress as he determines. Esau is not innocent in losing his birthright (25v30, 34), but God’s choice of Jacob is one of grace. From the start, by name and action he is deceiving. Nothing in him could warrant God’s favour.
            Paul makes much of these twins in teaching that we too are included in God’s purposes not because of anything in ourselves, but simply by God’s choice – and so grace (Rom 9v1-13). Indeed, just as God granted life to his chosen Jacob from Rebeka’s barren body, so he gives us life when we are born again, not by human decision, but by God (John 1v13). We should be deeply thankful.
            God’s prior choice of Isaac for the fulfilment of his promise is displayed in what follows. Repetition highlights what is most important. So much feels familiar: God urges Isaac to stay in the land, twice now repeating his promise to him. Isaac lies about his wife before Abimelech just as Abraham did, showing Abimelech to be the more upright. Yet again, because of his promise and choice, it is Isaac not Abimelech who is blessed, making the Philistines envious (26v3, 12-13, 22, 29). They later make a treaty with Isaac because the Lord is with him. Presumably they recognise Isaac will therefore succeed come what may (26v28-29).
            Election is a contentious topic. But we raise it because it is perhaps the main point of these chapters. Indeed, it pervades the Bible: Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph are all chosen for their roles whilst evidently far from righteous. It is only having chosen them that the Lord then shapes them into the people of faith and obedience he wants them to be – just as we saw with Abraham (26v5). “For those God foreknew, he predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son” (Rom 8v29). And God just continues to bless. In “all things” he works for our good (Rom 8v28). Indeed, having given us Christ he will give us “all things.” So no-one can condemn us, and nothing can separate us from his love (Rom 8v31-39).

Praying it home:
Thank God for the faith he has given you, and the gracious blessings he showers on you despite your sin. Pray for his help to accept the difficult doctrine of election even though it is hard to understand. We will never fully fathom God’s ways.

Thinking further:
It is commonly said that Arabs descended from Ishmael, locating the tension between Muslims and Jews in the story of Ishmael and Isaac. 25v13-18 lists Ishmael’s sons. The reality is that they settled in the North of the Arabian Peninsular (25v18). Such clear descent to modern Arabs is therefore extremely unlikely. To read Jim Packer on predestination click here.

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