Deuteronomy 2

Vs. 1, “Then we turned back and set out toward the desert along the route to the Red Sea, as the Lord had directed me. For a long time we made our way around the hill country of Seir.”  This is a very sad moment for Israel for they had been at the very cusp of entering the Promised Land.  Now for thirty-eight more years, they would wander in the wilderness.  How sad that we sometimes have to learn the hard way.  Yet in the midst of their disobedience, The LORD was continuing to provide for them (vs. 1-15).  The LORD was also showing his faithfulness to the descendants of Esau and Lot (vs. 16-23).  But now it was time to prepare for battle for Sihon King of Heshbon would reject the terms of peace extended by Israel (vs. 24-37).  Ultimately God is in control (vs. 30), but certainly, had they not been aggressive many lives would have been spared.

Regarding application…Undeserved Blessings.  Vs. 7, “The Lord your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands. He has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything.”  If you did not know the characteristics of God, it’s a bit surprising to see that the Israelites would be shown such favor after their failure at Kadesh Barnea.  Question: Why would God be so faithful to a stubborn and unbelieving nation?  Certainly we can point to God’s covenant promises.  But, more than that, there was an ultimate plan. It is long in the making, but God is showing us His faithfulness and love way before the cross.  Take time today to thank the Lord for His provision and blessings in your life!

Exodus 17

Vs. 3, “But the people were thirsty for water there, and they grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to make us and our children and livestock die of thirst?”  Oh Israel…how easy you forget.    The Israelites take their grumbling up a notch by quarreling with Moses (vs. 2).  Like the Red Sea incident, Moses uses the staff to divinely manipulate water (vs. 5-7).  Question: Why the lack of faith?  I recall driving through a desert and I thought that was hard.  Imagine traveling through the desert on foot with over one million others?  But these tough desert times were for their benefit (Exodus 20:20).  In the second half of our chapter, we see Israel’s first military encounter (vs. 8-16).  The Amalekites were probably descendants of Esau (Genesis 36:12, 16).  They would be thorns in Israel’s side as the years progressed (vs. 16).  We are also introduced to Joshua the warrior who would battle the Amalekite as Moses would hold up his staff (vs 11-13)!  Though we are not sure the original significance, we are certainly reminded that it was God who helped them win this battle!

Regarding application…Obedience.  Vs. 10, “So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill.”  The LORD could have easily just blotted out the Amalekites, but this time He chose to use the Israelites.  There will be battles that we cannot avoid both physically and spiritually.  God called on Joshua to help lead His people in battle.  Joshua was able to round up the right people (vs. 9) to help him fight the enemy.  Joshua was prepared.  We also need to be prepared to obey when God calls us.  Question: Are you ready?

Genesis 36

Vs. 1, “This is the account of the family line of Esau (that is, Edom).”  Question: What is the significance of this chapter?  God’s promise to Jacob/Israel for the land of Canaan would continue to be fulfilled as Esau’s descendants would inhabit the land Southeast of the Dead Sea (outside of Canaan).  Sadly, over the years, the Edomites would become enemies against Israel.  When Israel was journeying back to Canaan after escaping Egypt, it was the Edomites who would not allow them passage through their land (Numbers 20).  Additionally, the prophet Obadiah would prophesy concerning Esau’s descendants too.

Regarding application…God’s is Sovereign.  Vs. 9, “This is the account of the family line of Esau the father of the Edomites in the hill country of Seir.”  The odds were against Jacob from the beginning.  Though twins, Esau was technically the first-born.  Esau was favored by Isaac.  Esau was the tough warrior/hunter.  Yet, God had told Rebekah that the older would serve the younger (Genesis 25:23).  God fulfilled His promise that indeed Esau would become a nation.  Question: How does this apply to us?  When it seems that God’s promises are slow to come, keep the faith.  Be persistent and know that those who choose the road to evil will not win.

Genesis 35

Vs. 1, “Then God said 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.”  Finally, Jacob goes back to the place where God had originally called him.  Interestingly, while Abraham constructed an alter in the past, this is the first time where we are told God commanded someone to build an alter.  Additionally, we see Jacob clean house and command everyone to get rid of their foreign gods (vs. 2).  God would protect them as they made their trek up to Bethel (vs. 5).  Upon arrival, God would reaffirm His covenant to Jacob and remind him his new name is Israel (vs. 9-15).  Question: Why did Jacob leave Bethel (vs. 16)?  I’m not entirely sure, but I’ve read a few commentaries that seem to think it was outside of God’s will.  Sadly, Rachel dies giving birth to her second son Benjamin (vs. 16-19).  We also see the effects of sin in Reuben sleeping with Bilhah (Genesis 49:3-4).  And lastly, Jacob returns to help bury his father Isaac (vs. 27-29).

Regarding application…Cycle of Life.  Vs. 18, “As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.”  We have three recorded deaths in our chapter today and one birth in Benjamin.  The earth is our temporary home.  It’s interesting to note that just because Jacob built an alter for God and got rid of the foreign gods, he would not be immune to sorrow.  God gives and takes away.  Let us not take for granted the life that God has given us here.  Like Jacob, God has called us to follow Him.  Each of us are in different cycles in our lives.  Some of us have the hope of birth or babies in our lives, some of us have sick parents.  Find reasons to still rejoice in the Lord for all the things He has done!

Genesis 33

Vs. 4, “But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.”  As Jacob saw Esau approaching, in haste he divided up his family in order of favor (vs. 1).  Fortunately, Jacob’s contrite heart and Esau’s twenty some years to get over his anger would result in reconciliation.  Yet, we see an interesting development.  Jacob would not follow Esau (vs. 16-17) and had earlier wiggled his way out of traveling with him (vs. 12-15).  Perhaps Jacob learned from mixing family and business, but he doesn’t want to live near Esau.  However, Jacob doesn’t completely follow God’s command to go back to the Promised Land.  Though he would finally cross over the Jordan, the area of Shechem would not be an ideal place to reside in (vs. 18) as we will read in the following chapter.  He should have traveled thirty miles back to Bethel where God spoke to him (Genesis 28).

Regarding application…Extending Forgiveness.  There is something pretty remarkable in this extension of forgiveness.  The author of Hebrews would state a sad fact about Esau’s godlessness (Hebrews 12:14-17).  Though Jacob/Israel was chosen by God, it was Esau who is showing us what forgiveness should look like.  Notice too how Jacob wanted to “pay back” Esau in some way, which is why he insisted that Esau accept his gifts (vs. 10-11).  Brothers and sisters, we can’t ever pay back the overwhelming forgiveness that was given to us through Jesus.  If Esau who is considered a godless man can extend forgiveness, how much more should we?  Question: Is there anyone in your life that you need to forgive?  Like Esau & Jacob, it is often the people who are the closest to us.

Genesis 32

Vs. 3, “Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom.”  As Jacob set out back to the land of Canaan, what a wonderful gesture by our Lord to encourage him with the presence of Angels (vs. 1)!  Though Jacob had escaped the wrath of Laban, he now how to face the reality of Esau’s anger.  Would Esau still hold a grudge?  Jacob wisely comes offering peace and gifts after being gone for twenty years.   However, when Jacob heard Esau was coming with four hundred men, this brought great fear (vs. 6-7).  Jacob being the shrewd person he was, proceeds to divide up his family with safety in mind (vs. 8).  But I really like what Jacob does next: He prays (vs. 9-12).  Jacob would give a total of 550 of his best animals in hopes to appease his relationship with Esau (vs. 13-21).  The latter half of our chapter would end with Jacob receiving a new name: Israel (God strives, God rules, God heals, he strives against God) (vs. 22-31).

Regarding application…Wrestling with God.  Vs. 24, “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”  Question: What was the heart of the matter?  Jacob needed to surrender to the Lord.  The identity of the person who wrestled with Jacob (vs. 30) is believed by many theologians to be the preincarnate Christ.  Regardless of how you interpret, Jacob wrestled with God.  He wrestled with his faith.  He wrestled with his worries.  He wrestled for God’s blessing (vs. 26).  Jacob who was once known as the deceiver, is now known as one who wrestled with God.  He wrestled and now walks in faith with the Lord.  How interesting that he now has a limp for the rest of his life.  To some, this limp might be a sign of weakness.  But for Jacob, it was a mark of power and a reminder of his dependence upon the Lord!  Question: Are there any issues that you are wrestling with God about?  Take time to pray and depend upon Him!

Genesis 29

Vs. 1, “Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples.”  Little did know Jacob know, but he would spend the next twenty years in Haran.  It’s not a surprise that Jacob would come upon shepherds at a well, for wells were often places of blessing and care (vs. 2-8).  Upon inquiring about his uncle Laban, Rachel would come into the scene (vs. 9-11).  Much like Isaac & Rebekah before him, it was love at first sight!  Time would pass and Laban would offer his daughter Rachel to Jacob if he served him for seven years (vs. 14-20).  Sadly, the deception that Jacob did on Esau would now happen to him (vs. 25), the deceiver is deceived!  Jacob would bargain with Laban and after a week of marriage with Leah, he then would also marry Rachel but would have to work another 7 years (vs. 27).  Sadly, this type of marriage (polygamy) was not something that God originally intended (Genesis 2:24).  We can see the grief and tension that this created in Jacob’s two wives as he favored one over the other (vs. 30).  Leah’s hurt was not unseen, for the LORD opened her womb, while Rachel was childless (vs. 31-35).  Jacob’s sons, Reuben, Simeon, Levi and Judah were all born to Leah.

Regarding application…Silver Lining.  Vs. 30, “Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.”  My heart goes out to Leah.  The first daughter should have been offered to Jacob from the onset.   Question: Was Leah part of the deception or just an obedient daughter?  I don’t know what God’s original intention was, but we do see part of the outcome.  Leah would be the mother of the tribes of both priests and kings through Levi and Judah (Jesus was from the line of Judah).  While not loved by her own husband, the silver lining is that God loved her and blessed her.  There are times when we are not going to feel loved in our lives.  Sadly, our lives on earth are not always going to have Christ-like love in our relationships.  But, the Lord sees and blesses us accordingly.

Genesis 28

Vs. 4, “May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.”  After a crazy turn of events with Jacob’s life in danger, Isaac seems to come to his senses now and agrees with Rebekah.  He blesses Jacob and sends him off to Paddan Aram to protect Jacob, to find a wife, and ultimately to continue the covenantal promise made through Abraham.  Sadly, Esau tries to gain his father’s favor by marrying another wife who is not a Canaanite woman (vs. 6-9).  A wife from the line of Ishmael was still not under the blessing of the Lord.  A weary Jacob would head out from his family, but the Lord knew that Jacob needed some encouragement (vs. 10-15).  Here we are given insight to a dream where God gave Jacob a picture of a stairway to heaven (vs. 12).  And through this vision, the LORD God would tell Jacob that He will continue His promises.  Because of this, Jacob would honor God by setting up a pillar and alter to honor the Lord (vs. 16-22).  Bethel means house of God (vs. 19).

Regarding application…Stairway to Heaven.  Vs. 12, “He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.”  Sorry to ruin the surprise, Led Zeppelin did not have an original idea.  Question: What is the significance to this stairway?  One of my Seminary professors reminded us that other parts of Scripture can help us interpret difficult passages.  I’m currently doing a bible study series in the Gospel of John and have been reminded that Jesus would refer to this stairway as Himself (John 1:51).  The very idea of a stairway signifies access.  We have access to God, even in the times when we think we have been forgotten.  Take comfort in knowing He is with us always!

Genesis 27

Vs. 1, “When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he called for Esau his older son and said to him, “My son.” “Here I am,” he answered.”  Something is wrong here.  Before Esau and Jacob were born, God had told Isaac that the younger son (Jacob) would rule over the older (Genesis 24:23).  Question: Why then is Isaac starting the process of blessing his oldest to rule (vs. 1-4)?  Rebekah proceeds to make it even worse by eavesdropping and formulating a deception (vs. 5-13).  Jacob (the deceiver) proceeds to go through with Rekehah’s plan and just outright lies to his father (vs. 14-29).  And then to make matters worse, Esau wants to murder Jacob (vs. 41)!  It’s sad because Isaac & Rebekah had such a great start.  This is what you call some major family dysfunction!

Regarding application…Do You Believe?  Vs. 13, “His mother said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.”  Basically, Rebekah took matters into her own hands.  She knew God’s prophecy about Jacob the younger son.  But, she didn’t believe that God would honor His promise if she didn’t take action on her own accord.  Because God’s prophecies will come true, this happened in spite Rebekah’s own lack of faith.  Jacob would have ruled over Esau anyway.  In some ways, its comforting to know that God’s will cannot be altered.  Yet, I think many of our actions cause far more grief to us and others because our inability to truly believe in faith.  As we begin our week, what areas of life do you need to put more faith in?

Genesis 25

Vs. 8, “Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.”  Abraham lived to the age of 175 years old.  He married again and had seven more sons.  Even in his older years, Abraham continued to live a good life and ensure the best for his family.  Though his inheritance would go to Isaac (vs. 5), he would make sure to shower gifts on his others sons.  It’s notable that Ishmael and Isaac came together to grieve their father’s death (vs. 9).  We also see a synopsis of Ishmael’s line (vs. 12-18), as the twelve rulers of Ishmael came true (Genesis 17:20) and would be the ancestors of the Islamic religion.  In the latter half of our chapter, we continue the story of Abraham’s line through Isaac (vs. 19-34).  Twenty years would pass and Rebekah would have problems not being able to conceive.  Through prayer and trust, God would bless them with twin sons.   Though twins, these two sons, Esau and Jacob could not have been more different!  Setting aside the differences, God would bring Rebekah this prophecy that it would be Jacob who would be the eventual leader (vs. 23).  This would begin to play itself out with Esau foolishly agreeing to sell his birthright to Jacob (vs. 31-34).  Question: What is a birthright?  It was basically special advantages for being the first-born in the family.  The first-born would get a double-portion of the inheritance and would traditionally get the blessing from the father.

Regarding application…God Answers Prayers.  Vs. 21, “Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.”  Aside from the obvious that God kept His promise, there are some real nuggets of truth here.  Notice that it took twenty years (vs. 20, 26) for God to finally grant this request.  Most of us have not even been Christians this long.  Yet, we see a very important truth that God doesn’t always answer our prayers according to our time.  When I accepted the Lord Jesus into my life at the age of 16, it would take me twenty-two years to finally realize that God answered my request to be used by Him by through being a Pastor.  Be patient as you pray and seek where God will lead you.