A Reluctant Writer

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

twins-664x442Observations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 25:19-26[1]

Isaac willingly laid down his life believing God would raise him from the dead. Abraham had the knife in hand to make Isaac a sacrificial offering when God stopped them. God’s intervention made one thing abundantly clear. Isaac was not the “one seed” the fulfillment of the promises belonged to. Isaac was not the king of the city God is building. He was born through divine intervention but he was not superior to anyone else. He thought he would walk down the mountain clothed in immortality. He walked down the mountain a mere mortal with a promise God would keep his word.

Abraham and Isaac returned home to break the news to Sarah. Sorry, you did not give birth to the Messiah. Seven years later, Sarah died and Isaac married a barren woman. Isaac heard God swear an oath to multiply them into a great multitude, yet twenty years of marriage later Isaac and Rebekah had not produced one child. God’s actions speak louder than his words. The multitude God promised will not come through Isaac because Isaac was not the “one seed” everyone, Jew and Gentile, will inherit the promises from.

God had not promised Isaac that Rebekah would have a child as he had promised Abraham Sarah would have a child. Isaac was sixty years old when he prayed for a child. God responded by giving him twins, but Isaac and Rebekah did not know twins were in her womb. When the children wrestled within her, she asked God why there was so much activity in her womb.

God’s response tells us volumes about God and how he thinks.

Two nations are in your womb, two peoples shall be separated from your body; one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger. Genesis 25:23

If I had looked at the ultrasound, I would have told Rebekah not to worry. Two babies are wrestling for space in your womb. God looked in her womb and saw two nations. This is one reason God’s words can be difficult to understand. God and I look at the same things but we don’t see the same things.

The Hebrew words translated elder and younger in verse 23 have another meaning – greater in number and few in number. The nation Esau became would be greater in number of citizens but they will serve the nation Jacob/Israel became with fewer citizens. Israel has always been a small nation but that won’t stop them from ruling the world when the “one seed” the promises were made to returns to rule the world.

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

TestObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 22[1]

Abraham never found the city designed and built by God that he was looking for when he left Ur of the Chaldees. Instead God appeared to him talking about a son. The birth of Isaac 25 years after Abraham arrived in Canaan began the genealogy that led to the “one seed” on God’s mind. Abraham spent most of his life learning the only way to obtain the city was through the son God spoke about.

Three years after the birth of Isaac, God told Abraham to listen to his wife. Send Hagar and Ishmael away. If God spoke between the time he told Abraham to listen to his wife and the day he told Abraham to sacrifice his “only son”, his words were not recorded.

At some point, Abraham understood that he would have to be resurrected from the dead to obtain the city God is building. Many years later, the Apostle Paul came to the same realization and wrote “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”[2]

God tested the sincerity of Abraham’s faith when he told Abraham to sacrifice his “only son”. Abraham teaches us the only kind of faith that pleases God, imparts salvation and justifies us. This kind of faith requires you to “believe in your heart that God raised him [Jesus] from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”[3]

Abraham believed God would raise the dead. He expected to offer Isaac as a burnt sacrifice when he reached Moriah. The journey gave him three days to think about it. When they arrived at the mountain, he spoke his faith that God can and would raise the dead. He told his servants to stay with the donkey and said, “We will worship and then we will come back to you.”[4] Clearly, Abraham expected to return home with Isaac.

It is important to note that Abraham could not have obeyed God without Isaac’s willing compliance. Isaac was 33 years old when he went to Moriah with his father. He understood that his father planned to kill him and burn his body. Isaac also believed God would raise the dead. That agreement gave Abraham the strength to obey God. He could not have done it any other way.

When Abraham and Isaac’s actions proved their faith was genuine God stopped them and swore an oath he would fulfill everything he promised. Yet neither Abraham nor Isaac saw the promises fulfilled. Abraham lived another 42 years. Buried Sarah and married Keturah who gave him six sons. Isaac married a barren woman. After 40 years of marriage, divine intervention gave them two sons.

They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. They looked for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they longed for a better country – a heavenly one. Therefore God was not ashamed to be called their God for he has prepared a city for them.[5]

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

[2] 1 Corinthians 15:19

[3] Romans 10:9-10

[4] Genesis 22:5

[5] Most of this paragraph is a paraphrase of Hebrews 11:13-16

sarahandisaac googleObservations as I follow God through the Chronological Bible

Genesis 21[1]

Twenty-five years after Abraham arrived in Canaan his barren wife Sarah gave birth to a son. Sarah was thrilled. She credited God for her joy and then asked a ridiculous question. “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? How quickly Sarah forgot. God said to Abraham that Sarah would give birth to a child more than once. Every time he said it, they laughed in disbelief.

Now that Sarah had given birth to a son, she no longer needed Ishmael. When she saw 17 year old Ishmael mocking his 3 year old brother, Sarah demanded her husband to send away the slave and her son. To Sarah he was a means to an end that God rejected. But God only rejected Sarah’s plan not the man.

Before Ishmael was born God told Hagar he would make right the wrongs committed against her by his people. Twice he told Abraham Ishmael would not be forgotten. After God agreed with Sarah’s demand “to send away the salve woman and her son”, he told Hagar a second time he would make right the wrongs done to her and Ishmael. Ishmael would become a great nation too, but not the nation that produces “the seed” God made his promises to. Ishmael was included in those promises when Abraham circumcised him as a sign of the covenant God had with Abraham. The intent of the sign was the inclusiveness of God’s plan, but the sign did not save them.

If Ishmael had understood what lay ahead for the sons of Isaac there might not be so much hatred toward Israel today. Ishmael’s descendants lived in their homeland for centuries multiplying into a great nation that far outnumbers the nation of Israel. Both Isaac and his sons lived as foreigners with no land to call their own for 400 years. When they finally became a nation, they were doomed to failure before they possessed one inch of the Promised Land. After 300 years of being ruled by mostly corrupt kings who did not obey God, they became foreigners again with no place to call their own. Then millions of them were slaughtered by the Nazis sending them back to the Promised Land where they became a nation surrounded by people who hate them and would gladly slaughter all of them.  When will Ishmael see that God has never shown unwarranted favoritism to Isaac and his descendants?

The Apostle Paul compared Hagar and Sarah to the covenant of grace and the covenant of law to dispel the belief that circumcision will save you.[2] The child of the free woman who represents grace, Isaac, and the child of the salve who represents law, Ishmael, were circumcised. But circumcision did not save them. Paul called circumcision a yoke of slavery. “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”[3]

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

[2] Galatians Chapter 4-5

[3] Galatians 5:6

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