A Reluctant Writer

joesph-and-his-brothersObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 45-46[1]

Two decades elapsed without record of God speaking to Jacob. He knew Jacob was heartbroken at the loss of Joseph. He knew Joseph brothers lied to their father. God also knew the pain and deception would one day work for their good. God had chosen Joseph to save his family from starvation.

A famine brought the shameful acts of Joseph’s brothers to light. They had sold Joseph into slavery thinking his dreams would never come to pass. The next time they saw Joseph, he was second only to Pharaoh in the mightiest nation on earth and they bowed before him fulfilling Joseph’s dreams. Instead of chiding his brothers for the evil they did to him, Joseph acknowledged three times God had sent him to Egypt.

The evil that is done to us by those closest to us can produce good things, but how do you forgive the kind of betrayal Joseph experienced. It appears God allowed evil things to happen because it advanced his plan to save everyone. That is how Joseph interpreted the events of his life and that may be why he could find the strength to forgive.

God’s plan is bigger than Jacob and his family. In the year 1882 God told Abraham, Joseph’s great grandfather, his family would be afflicted in a foreign nation, but God would judge that nation and afterward bring them out with great substance. Abraham and Isaac were not permitted to leave Canaan. When Jacob fled from his brother Esau’s wrath God promised to bring him back to Canaan. Only something truly dramatic would prompt Jacob to leave Canaan again.

The threat of starvation should he remain in Canaan and revelation that Joseph lived and ruled Egypt was not enough. Yes, he would go to Egypt to see his son but relocating his family was a difficult decision after three generations of God telling them to stay in Canaan.

On his way to Egypt, he stopped in Beersheba to offer sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. God told him, “Don’t be afraid to go down to Egypt…”[2] Then God repeated what he had been saying for three generations, “I will make you into a great nation…”[3] God also promised to go with them to Egypt and bring them back to Canaan again.

Jacob knew God could bring them home again. He had already experienced God’s protection and provision when he relocated to Haran and God brought him back to Canaan. This time Jacob would not come back. God told him he would die in Egypt and Joseph would close his eyes.

Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph never saw the fulfillment of God’s promises. Yet they lived and died believing God would keep his word. Before Joseph died he told his family to bring his bones with them when God brought them back to Canaan. Joseph’s faith that God would keep his word gave him a place in Hebrews Chapter 11 among the great men and women of faith.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 46:3

[3] Genesis 46:3

Susan_Govatos_Josephs_Dreams_smObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible.

Genesis 37

After Jacob kept his vow at Bethel, God stopped talking to Jacob and began talking to Joseph. Jacob knew God spoke through dreams. The first time God spoke to Jacob was through a dream. When Joseph dreamed of being exalted above his brothers the brothers hated him. His father remained silent.

Then Joseph dreamed of being exalted above his father, and Jacob rebuked him. A clear indication that Jacob did not understand the gospel Abraham taught him. To receive the things God promised, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob must bow to one of their son. We know that son is Jesus, but the patriarchs did not know which son they would inherit the promises from. Jacob did not know about Jesus, and he did not know when the son God made the promises to would be born. For all Jacob knew he was rebuking the Messiah. Joseph was not the Messiah, but God did use him to save the world from starvation.

God’s message and actions have remained consistent for three generations. He told Abraham his family would serve a nation that would afflict them, and God would judge that nation before he brought them out with great substance. That nation was Egypt, but the patriarchs did not know that. God gave Joseph dreams to prepare the way for their relocation to Egypt fulfilling the things he spoke and vowed he would do when Abraham believed him.

It may have appeared that Joseph’s dreams were vain imaginations to both Joseph and his family. His brothers sold him into slavery, and then lied to their father. Jacob lived many years believing Joseph was dead. I find it interesting that Jacob’s sons treated him the same way Jacob treated his father Isaac. And Jacob would lived with sorrow for many years before he learned God made his evil deeds work together for good.

HamorObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 35[1]

When Jacob fled from his brother Esau, God appeared to Jacob and he made a foolish vow.  Twenty-one years later, Jacob desired to start a business and provide for his family of eleven sons and four wives. But God cannot bless the works of Jacob’s hands until he keeps the foolish vow he made at Bethel. I call the vow foolish because God offered him grace that made no demands on Jacobs life. Jacob turned grace into law when he vowed to make God his God, tithe and build a church if God did everything Jacob requested.

God sent angels to help Jacob because he wanted to bless the works of his hands. In a dream an angel told Jacob it was time to return home and reminded him of the vow he made at Bethel. Jacob departed in the middle of the night. His uncle pursued him. God prevented him from harming Jacob.  Laban departed and the angels arrive. Jacob was conflicted. He knows he should keep his vow. When he made the vow he was a poor man. Now he is a rich man and a tithe of his wealth is a lot to sacrifice.  Jacob’s sin nature is rebelling and the angels know it.

Jacob spent the night wrestling with himself. The angel pointed to the problem when he touched Jacob’s thigh knocking it out of joint. Jacob’s thinking is out of joint with the covenant of grace God made with Abraham. Even though Jacob has a permanent physical reminder, he ignored the angels counsel. Bethel was a mere twenty miles south. Instead of returning to Bethel to keep his vow, he limped to Shechem, bought land and started his own business. He stopped following God twenty miles short of preventing a disaster.

“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for he takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”[2]

God is patient, but the consequences of Jacob’s actions will eventually catch up with him.

Fifteen years after Jacob set up permanent residence in Shechem, his seventeen year old only daughter decided to visit some girlfriends in town. She never returned. Hamor, a Hivite prince, seduced Diane, and then fell in love with her setting in motion a series of events that destroyed the work of Jacob’s hands.

Following the example of their deceitful, rebellious father, Jacob’s sons made a covenant with Hamor, an honorable man,[3] that they never intended to keep. Jacob’s sons slaughtered every male in the city and plundered their goods. In that one deceitful act Jacob’s name was ruined and everything he spent more than a decade building destroyed.

This time an angel bearing a message was not sufficient. God spoke 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.”[4]

This time Jacob obeyed. He returned to Bethel with his family and kept his vow. Again God spoke to him, but the message has not changed for three generations. God will give Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and one seed/son descended from them the land they lived upon as foreigners. They will become a nation producing kings and more nations.

God never wavered from the promise he made to Abraham, but he did add to the promise. Jacob’s name, which means supplanter, will be changed to Israel, which means he will rule as God.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, NASB

[3] Genesis 34:19

[4] Genesis 35:1

ShechemObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 32-33[1]

After Jacob and Uncle Laban concluded their meeting in an amicable way, Jacob’s journey is stopped by angels of God. Jacob desires to provide for his own family, and God wants to fulfill that desire, but there is sin in Jacob’s life that must be dealt with first.

“When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for he takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands?”[2]

Jacob had a good desire, but the unpaid vow leaves God little choice but to “destroy the work” of Jacob’s hands. God sent the angels to minister to Jacob.[3] If Jacob will receive it, they have the answer to Jacob’s sin problem.

Jacob has good intentions, but the desire to do the right thing is not strong enough to conquer the evil that resides in all of us. The Apostle Paul described the battle in Romans Chapter 7.

“For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.”[4]

Jacob knew keeping his vow was the right thing to do, but could not find the strength to keep his end of the deal. While waiting Esau’s arrival to verify if he could return home without his brother killing him, he arose in the middle of the night and sent his family to a safe place.

Jacob is alone with his thoughts and the Bible says “a man wrestled with him till day break.” The heading of this passage in my NIV bible says he wrestled with God. The heading in my Chronological Bible says he wrestled with an Angel. These are generally accepted views in Christianity, but I don’t believe he wrestled with God or an Angel. The Hebrew word translated man in Genesis 32:24 means “a man”, not a divine being.[5]

Jacob wrestled with himself. The New Testament tells us to put off the “old man”.[6] He was up all night trying to put off the “old man”, which is corrupted by our deceitful lusts.[7] When the Angel saw that Jacob could not prevail against the old man, he point to the problem. The Angel touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh knocking it out of joint.

Covenants are established by vows. Vows were made by placing a hand upon the thigh. Jacob cannot overcome the sinful old man because his thoughts are out of joint regarding the covenant God made with Jacob’s ancestors and the covenant Jacob made with God at Bethel. God knows Jacob is headed for disaster. The disaster could be avoided if Jacob renewed his mind regarding the covenant God made with Abraham and if he kept the unnecessary vow he made at Bethel.

Esau arrived overjoyed to see his brother again. Jacob could have returned to his father’s house as God commanded him. Instead he limped his way to Shechem and bought land.[8] He had no intention of returning home or keeping the vow he made at Bethel, but he built another altar and continued to offer insincere worship to God.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Ecclesiastes 5:4-6, NASB

[3] Hebrews 1:14

[4] Romans 7:15-17

[5] H376, אישׁ, ‘ı̂ysh, eesh, Contracted for H582 (or perhaps rather from an unused root meaning to be extant); a man as an individual or a male person; often used as an adjunct to a more definite term (and in such cases frequently not expressed in translation.) : – also, another, any (man), a certain, + champion, consent, each, every (one), fellow, [foot-, husband-] man, (good-, great, mighty) man, he, high (degree), him (that is), husband, man [-kind], + none, one, people, person, + steward, what (man) soever, whoso (-ever), worthy. Compare H802.

[6] Romans 6:6

[7] Ephesians 4:22

[8] Genesis 33:18-19

5_stone-of-remembranceObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 31:3, 11-13, 24[1]

Jacob complicated his life when he added to the promises God made to him at Bethel. Twenty years later, Jacob had forgotten about the vow to build God’s house and tithe. He was tired of working for Uncle Laban. He had four wives and eleven children. Jacob wanted to return home and provide for his own family. But he had unfinished business with God that needed to be resolved before God could bless him.

If you make a vow to the Lord your God, do not be slow to pay it, for the Lord your God will certainly demand it of you and you will be guilty of sin. But if you refrain from making a vow, you will not be guilty. Whatever you lips utter you must be sure to do, because you made your vow freely to the Lord your God with your own mouth.[2]

After Joseph was born Jacob told Uncle Laban he wanted to return home. Laban wanted him to stay. He had learned by “divination” that Jacob’s presence brought blessings upon his family. Jacob had worked fourteen years to pay the dowry for Leah and Rachel. His debt satisfied, he was free to leave but Laban agreed to pay him wages if he stayed. Jacob accepted, and requested his wages would be paid in livestock.

God’s promise to be with Jacob did not make Jacob’s life perfect. Uncle Laban changed his wages ten times to keep Jacob from prospering. If Laban said, “‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘the streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young.”[3] No matter how many times Laban changed Jacob’s wages the flocks bore young that belonged to Jacob per his agreement with Laban. Jacob grew rich in spite of being cheated by his uncle because God was with him.

Laban’s sons resented that Jacob was becoming richer than their father. Laban was not happy about Jacob’s prosperity either. Jacob knew it would be best to leave. God concurred and sent a message to Jacob.

The first time God spoke to Jacob he identified himself as the “God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.” This time God identified himself as the “God of Bethel where you anointed the pillar and where you vowed a vow to me.” Jacob may have forgotten about the vow, but God did not. God told Jacob to return home, but he also made it clear that Jacob needed to keep his vow on the way home.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Deuteronomy 23:21-23

[3] Genesis 31:7

bethelObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 28:13-15[1]

Jacob had learned about God from his father and grandfather but did not encounter the presence of God until he was 70 years old. His bad behavior forced him to leave the Promised Land or risk death at the hands of his twin brother. When he stopped to rest at Bethel, God appeared to him in a dream promising to watch over him and bring him back.

In the dream, God identified himself as the “God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.”[2] The wording is intriguing because Isaac was Jacob’s father not Abraham. It appears God was talking about his family knit together by a common faith instead of carnal acts.

Abraham possessed the faith that pleased God. God did not acknowledge or commend Isaac’s willingness to sacrifice his life. The act that gave Isaac a place among the great men of faith was the blessing he gave Jacob and Esau in regard to their future. God directed Jacob’s attention to the gospel of grace he taught Abraham that Abraham taught to Isaac, Jacob and Esau.  The benefits of Abraham’s obedience belonged to Jacob as well as to his father Isaac.

Jacob’s bad behavior did not deter God from keeping the oath he swore when Abraham obeyed him. God’s promise to give Jacob and his seed land and to multiply them as the dust of the earth that spreads to the west, east, north and south was not new. When he appeared to Jacob in the dream God had been saying the same thing for 170 years.

The final comments God made to Jacob were personal. He promised to be with Jacob and to bring him back to the land he fled fearful his brother would kill him. But the patriarchs never owned the land where they lived. During their lifetime on earth the land was inhabited by God’s enemies who fought with each other, endured famines, and during Abraham’s lifetime suffered a catastrophic judgment of God. Jacob returned home as God said he would, but did not stay there. He died in Egypt. When God promised to bring him back to “this land” did God mean the land where the patriarchs lived as foreigners or was God talking about the day the land would belong to God’s people? I am inclined to believe the latter.

God’s message of grace to Jacob placed no demands on Jacob’s life. Jacob was not as gracious as God. He awoke in awe that he had found the gate of heaven and made a deal with God that put demands on both of them. If God gave Jacob “food to eat and clothes to wear”[3] in addition to the things God promised in the dream, Jacob would do three things. He would make the Lord who spoke to him in the dream his God, make the pillar he erected God’s house, and give God a tenth of all God gave to him.

Jacob did not need to ask God for food and clothes. God would have given him those things whether Jacob asked or not. God did not ask Jacob to build the house of God and tithe. Those things were Jacob’s idea. Jacob made a foolish and unnecessary vow that shifted his relationship with God from grace to law. He will learn the hard way it’s better not to vow then to vow and not keep it.

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Genesis 28:13

[3] Genesis 28:20

matthew11_30Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 26:2-5, 24[1]

God saved Isaac, the man willing to die for his faith, when Abraham obeyed God’s command to sacrifice his “only son”. Isaac was not Abraham’s “only son”. Hagar already gave him a son, but Isaac was the only son who was a miracle. He was a gift from God to a barren woman and the only son from whom Abraham would inherit the promises God made to the seed. One seed according to the Apostle Paul. Abraham and Isaac learned on Mt. Moriah that Isaac was not the seed God had on his mind.

Isaac knew how his father left Ur of the Chaldees looking for a city built on foundations of justice and equality by God. His father taught him the only way to possess the city was by a son that God would multiply into a multitude too numerous to count. Isaac knew God would deliver this son from all his enemies and those who hate him. And the nation the son becomes will serve God without fear in holiness and righteousness.

There is one thing Isaac did not know. There would never be a man in Abraham’s family that had claim to being the seed’s father. One son of Abraham would be the father of a daughter, Mary, whose eldest son would not have a human father.[2] The role of Abraham’s sons in producing the one seed who will inherit the earth would be minimal.

Aside from the trip to Mt. Moriah where God swore an oath, Isaac like his father lived a fairly normal, uneventful life and would repeat some of his father’s bad behavior. After his mother died, he married Rebekah, a barren woman. Twenty years of childlessness later, he petitioned God to give his wife a child. God spoke to Rebekah when she inquired about the struggle in her womb. She relayed the news to her husband about the twins who would become nations.

Aside from the tidbit of information Rebekah shared with Isaac about the future if their children, God had yet to speak to the man willing to sacrifice until a famine produced thoughts of moving to Egypt. According to the Chronological Bible, Isaac was 85 years old the first time God appeared to him with the same light burden and easy yoke[3] that rested on Abraham.

“Do not go down to Egypt. Live in the land I tell you to. Live in this land and I will be with you and will bless you for to you and to your seed I will give all these countries and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven and will give to your seed all these countries and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”[4]

Twenty-five years later, Isaac returned to Beersheba where God appeared to him and repeated the same message. Isaac lived a blessed life because his father obeyed God’s commands. His willingness to sacrifice his life on Mt. Moriah gained nothing. Everything he had and would obtain in the future was the result of Abraham’s obedience because to obey God is better than sacrifice.[5]

[1] All scripture quotes are from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.

[2] Luke 1:34-35

[3] Matthew 11:29-30

[4] Genesis 26:2-5

[5] 1 Samuel 15:22

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