Day 21: The Lion of Judah

Genesis 48-50

Key Verses

Genesis 49:8-12
Judah, your brothers shall praise you;
your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons shall bow down before you.
Judah is a lion’s cub;
from the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He stooped down; he crouched as a lion
and as a lioness; who dares rouse him?
The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until tribute comes to him;
and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.
Binding his foal to the vine
and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
he has washed his garments in wine
and his vesture in the blood of grapes.
His eyes are darker than wine,
and his teeth whiter than milk.

These chapters mark the end of Jacob’s life and the end of Genesis. We see Jacob blessing each of his 12 sons including Joseph’s children, Ephraim and Manasseh. Each blessing draws from the son’s life and projects their past choices on their future descendants. Judah and Joseph both have the longest and most positive of all the blessings. It’s almost as if the writer of Genesis is wanting the reader to ask… “Will the promised Savior come from Judah or Joseph’s family?”

It’s interesting… this tug of war between Judah and Joseph continues through Israel’s history… When Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons in Chapter 48, he claimed them as his own sons. After the Israelites conquered the Canaanites to reclaim the land, each son or tribe was given an allotment of land (with the exception of Levi. The Levites were given the honor of the priesthood). Both Ephraim and Manasseh received land, which ensured that Joseph’s descendants received a double portion of the inheritance. Since Jacob gave the blessing of the firstborn to the younger brother, Ephraim, it is from Ephraim’s family that we see many great leaders of Israel.

Could the promised King come from Joseph’s family? But Israel’s greatest king, David, was from the tribe of Judah. In the end, we know it was from Judah’s family that the promised Savior would come. Today’s “Key Verses” contains the blessing Jacob gave to Judah. Jesus’ name in Revelation, the Lion of Judah, came from Jacob’s blessing to Judah.

In the end, Jacob died and was buried with his fathers in Canaan. Genesis was written by Moses for the people of Israel (who had been in Egypt for over 400 years)… so that they would know their history. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you have been grafted into the family of Abraham, so Genesis is your family history too! We have the privilege of having seen the promise of the Savior fulfilled – but the promise to Abraham- of a land and a people – will not be completely fulfilled until the end of the age in the new heaven and new earth…

John, the writer of Revelation, writes:

And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” …And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:5; 9-10).

And the people said… “Amen!”

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Day 20: My help

Genesis 46-47; Matthew 15:1-20

Key Verses

Genesis 46:3
Then [God said to Jacob], “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation.

Matthew 15:10-11
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Just a few points from the reading in Genesis before we concentrate on Matthew…

  • Jacob is old… and apprehensive about moving his entire family to Egypt. So before he leaves his homeland, he makes the whole caravan stop at Beersheeba in the southern tip of Canaan. God is kind to Jacob and reassures the old man that He will not leave him, and that Jacob will, at long last, see Joseph (Gen. 46:1-3).
  • The narrator lists all of Jacob’s descendants that traveled to Egypt (Gen. 46:8-27). The Hebrew people will not go back to Canaan for 400 years. When they return, they will have increased in number from 70 to approximately 2 million (Exodus 12:37)!
  • Pharaoh allows Jacob’s family to settle in Goshen, and they flourish there (Gen. 47:27). This is in contrast to the Egyptians who continue to suffer from the effects of the famine (Gen. 47:13).

Today’s reading in Matthew speaks to the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and remains relevant for us, the people of the modern-day church.

If you observe how Jesus interacts with people throughout the gospels, you will find that he is deeply compassionate to those who ask for help. Is it easy for you to ask others for help? This has always been difficult for me. In 2010, my three children and I were in a horrific automobile accident. I was knocked unconscious on impact. When I regained consciousness, our van was surrounded by dozens of emergency personnel. Never have I been more helpless than in that moment. One child was screaming, another was in shock, and the third lay lifeless, slumped, unmoving in the back seat. I could do nothing to help. I remember grabbing through the window of the van for a police officer’s hand and begging him to pray for my children. And as my eyes turned to God for help, He assured me – somehow in my Spirit – that I could rest, that He would help me.

Jesus longs to help. But  he can only help when we know we need help. In my situation, my helplessness was obvious to me because it was physical. Spiritual helplessness,on the other hand, is harder to see – because pride blinds us.

The religious rulers of Jesus’ day relied on their ability to keep the law to make them right before God. There was no humility, no brokenness, no room for failure, no need to ask for help. They didn’t understand how Jesus could associate with tax collectors and “sinners,” so they judged him and eventually came to hate him. In today’s passage, they were nitpicking and judging Jesus for not washing his hands before he ate. In other words, he was not observing the ceremonial washing tradition. Pettiness. It infuriates the savior.

Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites…

“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men’” (Matthew 15:8-9).

Jesus’ quote from Isaiah points out two ways in which the Pharisees were hypocritical:

  1. Their actions were merely external and didn’t reflect what was truly in their hearts and
  2. They cared more about the traditions of men than the Law of God.

In our churches today, do our external actions match the brokenness in our hearts? In appropriate situations, do we choose to be transparent and authentic in regards to our needs and failures? Or do we choose to mask our heart-ache and act like we don’t need help?

Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees hit very close to home. Jesus’ words make me examine my heart and ask for help in rooting out the hypocrisy I find there. I am helpless to change my heart!

But.

Jesus longs to help!

Day 19: Peace at last!

Genesis 44-45; Matthew 14:22-36

Key Verses:

Genesis 45:4-5; 6-8
So Joseph said to his brothers, […] And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you […] to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Matthew 14:27
But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

Finally. We reach the climax of the story in Genesis 45! But let’s look back at chapter 44, specifically at Judah.

Judah, being very much in the background of Joseph’s narrative, has quietly undergone a dramatic transformation. Remember… it was Judah’s idea to sell Joseph to the slave traders (37:26-27). And don’t forget Judah’s gross negligence of Tamar back in Chapter 38. But, he repents of his wrongdoing in vs. 38:26. And from this moment, the writer of Genesis portrays Judah in a positive light… In chapters 42 & 43, we see a contrast between Reuben and Judah. Reuben tries to persuade his father to let Benjamin come back to Egypt with them to buy grain, but Jacob does not listen. It is Judah that is able to convince Jacob to entrust Benjamin to him. And now we see in vs. 44:18-34, Judah’s impassioned speech before Joseph to spare Benjamin. Judah finally looks like the one through which the legacy of the Savior will pass!

After Judah’s speech, Joseph could no longer control himself. Imagine the scene as Joseph sends all Egyptians from the room and announces to the stunned men that he was Joseph, their brother. In the ESV bible translation, it reads that the men were “dismayed.” More like terrified. Remember – Judah had just finished begging for Benjamin’s life – and now the brother that he betrayed reveals himself – and He. Is. Powerful…. VERY POWERFUL. They had to be terrified.

Isn’t this a beautiful picture of the gospel? Our sin betrays us in the presence of God. We should be terrified, but instead we find GRACE! …So did Joseph’s brothers…

So Joseph said to his brothers, …and now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life…God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. …So it was not you who sent me here, but God.

Who sent Joseph to Egypt? Yes, God. Joseph recognizes the terror of his brothers, and he comforts them.

Jesus does the same with his disciples in Matthew 14. It is the familiar passage of Jesus walking on the water. But just think of the emotions of the disciples. They had been in a boat, battling a severe storm for 9 hours (according to the ESV Study Bible). They were exhausted, and they thought they saw an evil spirit. They were TERRIFIED. But just the sound of Jesus’ voice brought them complete comfort. The storm didn’t go away, but his presence brought them peace.

Where there is much grace, there is peace. There is peace in the presence of Jesus. The disciples found peace that night.

And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Day 18: Grain and Grief

Genesis 42-43; Matthew 14:1-21

Key Verses

Genesis 41:53-54
The seven years of plenty that occurred in the land of Egypt came to an end, and the seven years of famine began to come, as Joseph had said. There was famine in all lands, but in all the land of Egypt there was bread.

Matthew 14:19-20
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

Genesis 42 begins with an abrupt change of scene. After four chapters devoted to Joseph’s life in Egypt, we suddenly are back in Canaan, and guess what? There is no food. Jacob sends all of his sons to Egypt to buy grain, but he keeps Benjamin at home – for fear that he should lose him just as he lost Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were Rachel’s only sons. Jacob’s love for Rachel extends beyond her grave to her sons…

The dreams that Joseph had as a young boy in Canaan (Genesis 37:5-11) begin to come to pass. As his brothers come to Joseph, the governor of Egypt, to buy grain, they bow before him with their faces to the ground. The text says, “And Joseph recognized his brothers, but they did not recognize him. And Joseph remembered the dreams that he had dreamed of them” (Genesis 42:8).

These two chapters begin the dramatic story of reconciliation. Joseph cautiously conceals his identity from his brothers, and he chooses to speak with them through an interpreter. He understands them when they talk of remorse over what they had done to him years earlier, and he must turn away so they do not see him weeping. Moved with compassion he sends his brothers away with grain but devises a plan for them to return with his younger brother, Benjamin. And much to Jacob’s distress, the brothers return to Egypt a 2nd time with Benjamin in tow.

This story is tense with emotion as it builds to Joseph revealing himself to his brothers in Chapter 45. Today’s reading in Matthew is also wrought with emotion. Jesus, having just learned that John the Baptist was beheaded, seeks to grieve and pray alone… But the crowds won’t let him, and continue to follow him. The familiar story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 takes on a new light when you read it in the context of Jesus’ grief over John the Baptist. The time that Jesus spends with the crowds amid his difficult circumstances only serves to magnify His compassion.

Both readings end in the middle of a story… So, until tomorrow… :-)

Day 17: His Kingdom

Genesis 41; Matthew 13

Key Verses

Genesis 41:39
Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has shown you all this, there is none so discerning and wise as you are.”

Matthew 13:53-54
And when Jesus had finished these parables, he went away from there, and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?”

The first words of Genesis 41 are… “After two whole years, Pharaoh [had a dream].” How many years passed between chapters 40 and 41? Two whole years. Not just two years, but two whole years, Joseph had been sitting in prison waiting. waiting. waiting. After no one in the land could interpret Pharaoh’s dream, the chief cupbearer remembered Joseph from prison and how he had interpreted his dream. And just like that, Joseph is standing (freshly bathed and shaved with new clothes) before Pharaoh!

Joseph predicts there will be 7 years of plenty and 7 years of famine. He then lays out a plan to prepare the land of Egypt for the famine. Pharaoh is so impressed… he makes Joseph 2nd in command!! Only God could bring someone from the depths of the pit and exalt him to the leader of the land!

Who else was his father’s favorite son, rejected by his brothers, betrayed for pieces of silver, was unjustly accused, rescued from the pit and exalted to sit at the right hand of the King? Jesus. Joseph points to Jesus!

Another parallel between Joseph and Jesus is that they were both rulers of a Kingdom. In Matthew 13, we see Jesus teaching about His Kingdom.

The Kingdom is a place with a ruler, a law and a people.

  • The place is here – but ultimately, the place will be the new earth.
  • We see the law personified as Jesus lives on the earth – He shows us compassion, humility, righteous anger, grace, forgiveness. Jesus also teaches the law of His Kingdom, i.e. the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
  • God is gathering a people for His Kingdom. These are the people who understand and live to obey his teaching (or law).

Jesus explains in Matthew 13 that only the people of His Kingdom can understand his teaching (vs. 13-17). He teaches that His people will live side by side (on this earth, in this place) with those outside the Kingdom until the last day – when the angels separate the good from the righteous (vs. 24-30; 47-50).

He teaches that His Kingdom will begin small, and seem insignificant, but will grow to take over the whole place (vs. 31-33).

He also teaches the value of the Kingdom – it is like a treasure – and worth great sacrifice (vs. 44-46).

What Kingdom to you belong to? Who is your ruler? What law do you live under? Are you part of God’s people? Jesus teaches that admission into His Kingdom requires perfection. And if you can’t meet the standard, then you must pay a price of death. But. Jesus paid the price for you – which makes your admission to His Kingdom – not free – but paid in full.

Are you willing to go into His place, to live under His law and to be a part of His people? And if you are a part of His Kingdom… do you realize the treasure you have been given?

Day 16: God with Us

Genesis 38-40; Matthew 12:22-50

Key Verses

Genesis 39:21
But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

Matthew 12:49-50
And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, [Jesus] said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Genesis 38 is… strange. My first reaction is, “Why is this in the bible? And why is it right in the middle of Joseph’s story?” The scandalous story just seems out-of-place… until you read the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1. Judah, Tamar, and Perez are all mentioned as being in the family line. We learn that Judah is the one son out of Jacob’s 12 sons by which the promised Savior would come. If we were to choose, we would probably have chosen Joseph, but we don’t get to choose! Judah’s story is sandwiched in the middle of the story of Joseph. It makes the contrast between the brothers crystal clear. Again, God’s ways are not our ways (and we should be thankful for that!)

Genesis 39 is our first glimpse of Joseph in Egypt. Remember, he is now a slave. Three times we read that “the Lord was with Joseph” in this chapter. I think the writer wants us to notice that the Lord was with Joseph!

The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master. His master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord caused all that he did to succeed in his hands (Genesis 39:2-3).

Joseph was wrongly accused by his slave master’s wife, and put in prison.

But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison. And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison (Genesis 39:21-22).

And the third time:

The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed (Genesis 39:23).

Think about how difficult life must have been for Joseph. It was bad enough that he was a slave, but now he was an innocent man in prison! But, I love this part of the story of Joseph… It is the middle of his story, and typically the middle of a story is the hardest. My daughter, Anne, suffers from a brain injury. We have no idea how much Anne will recover, if she’ll ever be able to walk, read or take care of herself. Our dream is for her to have meaningful work. Right now, that dream seems impossible – but we are in the middle of her story. And what makes living in the middle of a story difficult is that you don’t know how the story will end…

But.

The Lord was with Joseph in the middle of his story. And God is with our family as we live in the middle of Anne’s story. This is a great comfort to me!

 

Day 15: Good in Spite of Evil

Genesis 36-37; Matthew 12:1-21

Key Verses

Genesis 37:28
And they [his brothers] drew Joseph up and lifted him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty shekels of silver. They took Joseph to Egypt.

Matthew 12:18
“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.”

The deaths of Rachel and Isaac in Genesis 35 and the settling of Esau away from his brother in Genesis 36 mark the end of Jacob’s story. The narrative now turns toward Jacob’s favorite son, Joseph. Joseph’s story will continue to the end of Genesis – making it the longest narrative in the book.

Joseph has been a great source of comfort to me since my daughter’s accident. Joseph is one of the few characters in the bible who suffers greatly and also learns the reason for the suffering before his death. If you look at the sweeping narrative of Joseph’s story, you see God’s hand orchestrating each circumstance so that Joseph would be used to save the whole family of Israel, and therefore, preserve the lineage from which the promised savior would come.

We’ll walk through his story slowly over the next week – savoring each detail – as we also look forward to Jesus’ life as portrayed in Matthew.

Genesis 37 introduces us to Joseph. His father loved him, but his brothers were jealous of his preferential treatment and they hated him. The hate intensified as Joseph shared his dreams with his family… dreams of him ruling over his brothers and father. These dreams provoked Joseph’s brothers to conspire to kill him. Reuben and Judah, however, convinced their brothers not to shed blood, so instead they sold Joseph to slave traders making their way to Egypt.

Who gave Joseph these dreams? This is an important question because it was the dreams that pushed the brothers to such an evil act. But we learn later, that it was imperative that Joseph go to Egypt – for it was only from Egypt that Joseph could save the family. Joseph had no idea of his destiny. He only knew his present – that he would probably be separated from his family for his lifetime – serving as a slave in Egypt. That’s quite a sad turn in Joseph’s life, but we will see that God was with Joseph every step of the way… God was with Joseph in Egypt.

But let’s turn to look at what Jesus is up to in Matthew’s reading for there are parallels to Joseph’s predicament. Jesus was not conforming to the strict Sabbath laws of the Pharisees. The Pharisees hated Jesus for this – for Jesus spoke truth to them and said, “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8).

This intensified the Pharisee’s anger and we read in vs. 14 that “the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.”

In both cases, God used the anger and jealousy in the hearts of men as a piece in his master-plan. God’s will will not be thwarted! This is a good reminder for me as it is easy to lose sight of God’s goodness in the midst of mass killings, extreme poverty, and innocent war casualties. Not much has changed since Joseph’s time. God still has a plan, and despite the evilness in this world, his good plan will come to pass!

Day 14: Jacob’s Turning

Genesis 31-35

Key Verses

Genesis 35:10-12
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”

These chapters in Genesis weave a tantalizing story. It’s character driven and full of action. There’s intrigue, rape, slaughter, reconciliation – but ultimately it’s the story of Jacob – finally turning to God.

Background: This story begins in Bethel. Jacob had just cheated Esau out of Isaac’s blessing and was running for his life – fleeing north to his mother’s family. On his way, he spent the night in Bethel, and God met with him there in a dream – a dream of a ladder to heaven (Genesis 28). In the dream, God appeared to him and promised to be with him and bless him. Jacob awoke and made a promise… with a condition – that if God would bless him, he would return to Bethel and worship Him there.

20+ years later… Jacob is a changed man. He is humbled by the trickery and harsh treatment from his Uncle Laban, but despite Jacob’s hardships, God had blessed Jacob with wives and children and many herds and flocks. Jacob manages to escape his Uncle Laban and begins the journey south toward home. However, his changed heart convinces him that he must reconcile with an enemy.

The antagonist: At first, the writer of Genesis leads you to believe that Jacob’s main conflict is with Esau. Jacob sets his mind to reconcile with Esau and sends a messenger to him with a large peace offering. But then the messenger returns reporting that Esau is advancing with 400 men (a small army) and Jacob is terrified. Jacob drops to his knees and initiates his first recorded prayer. It is a cry for help. He sends his family and herds away to safety and spends the night, alone, waiting for his brother.

Climax: The true antagonist, the one Jacob has wrestled with his entire life, comes to Jacob in the middle of the night. Jacob and this mysterious man wrestle until morning. Jacob’s striving endures until finally, the man breaks Jacob’s hip from just the touch of his hand and Jacob realizes that this man could only be God, in human form. However, Jacob still refuses to let God go – until He blesses him. At this moment, God changes Jacob’s name to “Israel” which means “strives with God.”

Peace: Now that Jacob has reconciled with God, his relationship with Esau is reconciled as well. The brothers meet together, and part ways, at peace.

Conflict: Instead of following Esau to Seir, Jacob travels the opposite direction and settles in Shechem. Shechem is 30 miles short of Bethel, the place Jacob promised to return to if God would bless him. Stopping short of full obedience, there is only tragedy waiting for Jacob and his family as his daughter, Dinah, is raped by the prince of the land. Dinah’s brothers take revenge by slaughtering the men of Shechem.

Resolution: God appears to Jacob, and commands him to return to Bethel. Realizing that God will not accept his half-heartedness, Jacob instructs his family to remove all idols and travel to Bethel. Jacob builds an altar to God at Bethel and God blesses Jacob.

The story ends where it began – in Bethel, meeting with God. Jacob’s journey is one of transformation – but it is not perfect. God pursues Jacob, forgives Jacob and changes Jacob – and continues to pursue, forgive and change Jacob throughout his life. He was a work in progress. Aren’t we all?

Day 12: A Surprising Choice

Genesis 29-30; Matthew 10

Key Verses

Genesis 29:31
When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren.

Matthew 10:39
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Genesis continues with more family drama, and this story seems especially sad to me. But God, in his wisdom, knows how to bring good out of our hardships. He does this for Leah in today’s reading.

If you don’t know the story from Genesis 29, you must read it. It’s filled with bitter irony, as Jacob (the cheat) met his match in his Uncle Laban. Laban, agreed to let Jacob marry his younger daughter, Rachel (who was beautiful and whom Jacob loved) after SEVEN years of labor. After the seven, long years, the big wedding day approached and Laban tricked Jacob into marrying his older daughter, Leah (who wasn’t as beautiful as Rachel). Jacob didn’t love Leah. After a week, Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel too – but only if Jacob agreed to work another seven years. “And he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years” (Genesis 29:30).

This sets the stage for a bitter sister-rivalry. But God was kind to Leah… “When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren (Genesis 29:31).”

Jacob chose Rachel, but God chose Leah.

Leah’s 4th son, Judah (whose name sounds like “praise”) continues the lineage of Christ.

Why Leah? Why Judah? We see throughout Scripture that God often chooses the ordinary to accomplish the extraordinary.

One of the best examples is found in Matthew 10 as Jesus appoints his disciples. Jesus didn’t choose powerful, influential men. Just look at the list of disciples in Matthew 10:2-4… They are not just ordinary; in some cases, they are lower than ordinary. Fishermen, a tax collector, a radical zealot are not the types we would choose to lead the largest religious movement in history. But God loves to surprise us.

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).

Day 11: A Royal Family

Genesis 25-28

Key Verses

Genesis 28:15
“Behold, I am with you [Jacob] and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

It was God’s plan from the beginning to preserve a family from which the promised savior would come. The entire world’s survival depended on this family’s survival… All seemed lost when Cain killed Abel – but God knew that the promise would continue through Seth. We follow this family, the royal family line, through Seth and then 10 generations to Noah. It goes through Noah’s son, Shem, and then 10 generations to Abraham. And the drama heightens as we see the very family that God had chosen to carry the blessed seed – threaten God’s plan with their faithlessness. Yet, God’s faithfulness overruled.

God’s promise passed from Abraham to Isaac:

“I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father. I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because Abraham obeyed my voice and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws” (Genesis 26:3-5).

Then Isaac and Rebekah had twin boys, Esau and Jacob. Which son would carry the promised seed? Isaac wanted Esau, but God’s choice was Jacob. Family dysfunction took center-stage as Rebekah manipulated, and Jacob deceived so that Isaac’s blessing was passed to Jacob instead of Esau.

It’s always been a mystery to me how God uses imperfect people to carry out his good plan. God had always planned for Jacob to receive the blessing from Isaac. And God carried out his good plan in spite of Jacob and Rebekah’s deceit and manipulation.

Jacob, whose name meant “heel-grabber” or “cheater” had spent his life striving to receive this blessing. Nancy Guthrie writes in her book The Promised One, “Jacob wanted the right things. His desire was for the blessing of being in the line of the Promised One. But there was no sign he wanted God. There was no reaching out for God but only grabbing for God’s blessings.” God, because of His faithfulness (not because of Jacob’s faith), extended His original promise that He gave to Abraham – to Jacob:

“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:13-15).

What do I learn from these chapters?

  1. God is faithful and good.
  2. Man… not so much.

Just like Isaac, Rebekah, Jacob, and Esau, we are in desperate need of God’s grace. Thankfully, this family’s faithlessness could not thwart God’s plan to bring the promised savior. That’s good news to me…. because it teaches me that my faithlessness will not hinder God’s plans in my life – just like your faithlessness will not hinder His work in yours. He is the Lord.