Friday, 10 January 2014

(11) January 11: Genesis 27-28 and Matthew 9v18-38

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 elements of the promise now reiterated to Jacob.

To ponder:
More deception, yet more blessing. We’ll see again and again that God so governs even evil that it serves his purposes. And so he brings his blessing to the younger over the older through the favouritism and persistent lying of a mother and a son who take advantage of a blind and weak old man (27v35)! This is the God who so governs the responsible decisions of men that he brings us blessing through the execution of his own Son. Herod and Pilate did what his “power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4v27-28).
            Again, the blessings quoted are prophetic. Jacob’s descendents are given supremacy of Esau’s, and it is clear Isaac gives the blessing in order to pass the baton of God’s promise on (v29b, compare 12v3, also 28v3-4). Esau is left resentful, his thoughts echoing those of Cain (v41). At times we will be treated appallingly by others – even family. But we must guard our hearts.
            As with Isaac, Jacob is to gain a wife from Abraham’s people not the Canaanites. Esau marries Ishmael’s daughter uniting the two lines that are outside the promise.
            The subsequent story of Jacob begins with God confirming his promise in a dream just as he did to Abraham (15v12-19). He is even seen in heaven. Jacob’s naming of the place “Bethel” (gate of heaven) declares the significance of the land for the future. Bethel contrasts Babel. There people sought to climb to heaven. Here heaven reaches down to earth. The pillar and oil are a memorial, to mark what had happened.
            It wasn’t necessarily commendable for Jacob to say he would follow God “if” God watches over him. God had already promised to. So a hint perhaps of a lack of faith. Nevertheless, Jacob’s commitment patterns that of his descendents: to have God as his God, to worship him (the idea of “house” refers to a place of worship - later the temple), and the offering of a tithe.
            It was in this same land that Jesus walked and said that “on him” angels would ascend and descend (John 1v51). As the perfect descendent of Jacob he inherits and so embodies the land. He, not modern Israel, is where we must go for access to God and to worship (John 4v21-26). In him, God has become our God and we gladly offer our all in return.

Praying it home:
Thank God that by his Spirit we can worship through Christ anytime and anywhere. Pray for a greater readiness to give our all in response. Pray also for your attitude to any people you feel resentful towards at the moment.

Thinking further:
It is dangerous to come to the Old Testament primarily for moral lessons. We’ve seen how mixed the example of Bible characters can be. God uses them and blesses them, but it doesn’t mean he condones their actions. The nature of narrative is that it often doesn’t tell us how we should view what these people do. But this is far more engaging for us as readers. We are expected to bring our wider knowledge of God’s word to assess what we read. As we do, of course we find ourselves wanting to emulate what is good and learn from what is bad. However, the main point of the stories is rarely the moral one. As has been seen, it is usually about God and his great purposes.

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