Monday, 13 January 2014

(14) January 14: Genesis 33-35 and Matthew 11

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

To discover:­­
As you read note how God’s protection of Jacob is seen.

To ponder:
Esau acts gloriously. As always Jacob makes plans for his family’s protection (v1-7). Yet, again, God already had things in hand. He had changed Esau’s heart, and even blessed him too – presumably because he was also Isaac’s son. As with Jacob’s covenants with Abimelech and Laban, Esau attitude commends peace with God’s people.
            Sechem’s response is very different. Jacob had promised to follow Esau to Seir so may have been wrong to settle here, prompting what followed (33v14). Nevertheless his naming of his camp “the God of Israel” stresses his family are to be distinct from the Canaanites in worshipping the true God. The threat throughout chapter 34 is of losing this distinctiveness (33v16, 22). After Dinah’s rape the Canaanites urge intermarriage (34v9). Deceptively, Jacob’s sons require them to be circumcised – the very sign that was to set Israel apart. The threat is eradicated by Simeon and Levi. Their concern for Dinah’s honour was surely right (34v31), but their response was terribly wrong. Indeed, it meant their privileges as sons 2 and 3 were forfeited (49v6-7). Moreover, in eradicating the first threat it created a second (34v30).
Christ wisely commends shrewdness and innocence in interacting with the world (Matt 10v16). But we must consider the call to distinctiveness too. This is the reason the New Testament affirms Christians should marry only those “in the Lord” (1 Cor 7v39). It is to keep us faithful and protect our children’s upbringing because God continues to bring his promises to fruition through godly families (Mal 2v15).
Again God intervenes to protect Jacob, urging him to return to Bethel and ensuring the Canaanites don’t attack (35v1, 5). The two Bethel visits bracket (and so highlight) the chapters in which God blesses Jacob with wealth and offspring.
Returning to this special place, Jacob ensures his family turn from their idols. As Abraham did (and we should), he starts to direct his family in the ways of the LORD. But verses 11-13 are most key, echoing the commission of Adam and Eve (Gen 1v28) and reiterating God’s promises. Israel are to be like a new humanity. And through them, God’s plan to reverse the curse and fulfil his purpose for creation will be fulfilled.
The rest of the chapter sees the mother of the nation buried at the very place the one through whom all this would be achieved would be born (35v19)! Reuben, the eldest son sins in a way that loses his privilege in blessing (49v4) - leaving Judah (son 4) as first. Finally Isaac dies at an age that reflects God’s favour.
Praying it home:
Thank God for moving you to join his people rather than oppose them. Pray for God’s strength and help for those seeking to raise their children in the faith, and especially for those who are married to non-Christians. Pray those who are single would see the wisdom of not marrying non-Christians.

Thinking further:
Throughout God’s blessing has been seen in offspring, wealth and long life. This looked towards his promise of these things to Israel in the land - if the Israelites remained faithful. On this basis advocates of the so called “prosperity gospel” today promise these same things to those of faith. However, we should note that in building a nation God had a particular purpose in granting such things to the patriarchs and to Israel. Moreover, the New Testament sees the promises of the land as fulfilled in the new creation when these things will certainly be ours in some form (Hebrews 4v1-11). For now we are told the gospel will mean suffering on the model of Jesus (Phil 1v29, 3v10-11), which may include sickness (Phil 26-20) and poverty (Phil 4v12-13) in even the most faithful. These are part of God’s means of shaping us into the likeness of his son, building an appreciation for what will be (Rom 5v1-5), proving our faith to be genuine, and through this bring non-Christians to glorify God (1 Pet 1v6-7).

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