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Tag Archives: Religion

Jacob Blesses His Sons — Pt. 2

“And Jacob called unto his sons, and said, Gather yourselves together, that I may tell you that which shall befall you in the last days.” (Genesis 49:1)

After Jacob finished pronouncing a blessing over the sons of Joseph, he called his eleven other sons to him that he might do likewise unto them. There is a marked transition between this chapter and the rest of the Old Testament; Jacob’s blessing on his sons changes the focus from the Patriarchs to the nation of Israel. Up to this point, God has been working primarily through individuals. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph — “Patriarchs”, the fathers of old. The story from Genesis 12 through the completion of the book is one concerning a single family. Now, we move outward and change the focus to a single nation. Genesis ends with 70 members of the family of Jacob, the entire nation of Israel at the time, while Exodus opens up with the number of Israelites numbering into the millions (Ex. 12:37). God will work throughout the remainder of the Old Testament through prophets, priests, judges, and kings. Yet all of these will be representatives of the nation itself (or else representatives of God to the nation, but it will be with the nation that God will deal).

Reuben

Jacob starts to speak the prophetic “blessings” over his sons and starts, as was customary, with the eldest son, Reuben. “My might and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity and the excellency of power…”, Jacob begins (Gen. 49:3). It would seem for the briefest of moments that Reuben’s sins against his father were forgotten; that nothing of the blessings due him as first-born had been forfeited. As the man who believes his sins bear no consequence, Reuben must have breathed a sigh of relief as his father pronounced this wonderful benediction upon him. “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel“, Jacob continues. Reuben’s heart must have sunk as his father proceeded by announcing before the entire family exactly why this was so. Reuben lost his position as first-born among the sons of Jacob, and for what? The indiscretions of a single night cost him dearly, indeed (Gen. 35:22). Let us never suppose that our sins are wholly without consequence and that our own indiscretions will go unnoticed. The Lord forgives us when we confess our sins to Him, but they often carry temporal consequences in this life. Sin, when dealt with, will not cost us our position with God, but it can cost us our position in our family, our marriage, our work, and our community.

Reuben is described as “unstable as water.” As water will not bear under the load of practically any solid object; and as water will displace, bend, move, and ripple under the force of anything thrown into it, so was Reuben without a foundation of any sort. We caught a glimpse of the weakness of his character back in Gen. 37:22. Rather than take charge of the situation as he rightfully should have as eldest, Reuben attempts to convince his brothers to throw Joseph into a pit, so that he might sneak back later and rescue him. I do not wish to criticize Reuben’s actions (or rather, inactions), but it speaks volumes that he carried so little influence as the oldest brother that he was unable to insist that the brothers forego their wickedness. The only time we really see any decisiveness at all from Reuben is when he is either following his lusts (35:22) or his fears (42:22).

Simeon And Levi

The second and third sons of Jacob do not fare any better than Reuben. No qualifying benediction is even afforded them as Jacob denounces their wanton cruelty and the rashness of their retribution. “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Yet Simeon and Levi took it upon themselves to execute judgment, not only on the man who attacked their sister, but upon the entire city that he lived in (Gen. 34:25-29)! It is always man’s tendency when exacting revenge to do so without equity, for he does not possess the objectivity nor the unbiased perspective of an omniscient God. We inevitably carry things too far, responding not so much in the interest of justice, but retaliation. The words of Simeon and Levi in Gen. 34:31 demonstrate that they believed their actions were justified, but like Reuben, their sins would cost them.

I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel“, Jacob announces on behalf of the Lord (Gen. 49:7). And so it would be for these two brothers who had joined together to carry out their wicked act of vengeance. The tribe of Simeon would find their inheritance in the land at the far southern end of Palestine, nestled at the edge of the Negev. Their land would actually be carved out from Judah’s inheritance; dry and arid, it would border against the desert wilderness (Josh. 19:9). For all intents and purposes, Simeon would be swallowed up by the larger tribe surrounding him. Levi would literally be scattered throughout the entire land, having no direct inheritance of their own (Num. 18:20). The tribe of Levi would, however, be given the honor of serving as the priests of the nation of Israel. Levi had taken it upon himself to deal with the sins of Shechem by slaying the man and his entire city, but the sons of Levi would be instructed in judging sin in God’s way.

Judah

Coming now to Jacob’s fourth son, Judah is the first of the brethren to receive a positive pronouncement from the mouth of his father. We know that Judah was in no way innocent of sin, why was God overlooking it? Why did Judah receive a blessing when he was just as guilty of sin as his older three brothers? The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that Judah dealt with his sin and turned from it. We saw back in Chapter 43 that Judah was a changed man after his sins against Joseph and his own daughter-in-law. Therefore, it is this fourth son of Jacob through whom the Royal lineage will arise. King David will come from the tribe of Judah, but more importantly, Jesus Christ, the King of kings will arise from the tribe of Judah. Jesus will be that “Choice Vine” (Gen. 49:11, John 15:1) to Whom Judah’s “foal” and “colt” shall be bound. Shiloh, the Giver of Peace, will hold the royal scepter in His hand and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be.

Zebulun

Zebulun is destined to inherit a part of the land which stretches to the Northwest coast of Palestine, bordering with the city of Sidon of the Phoenicians. Zebulun is called a “haven of ships”; the land of this tribe will be one rooted in maritime commerce. As such, Zebulun is the more cosmopolitan of the tribes, engaging in trade with ships from various other nations. From a spiritual standpoint, Zebulun is representative of those within the Church whose own affairs closely border with those of the world. Having one foot planted firmly in the world and another in the Body of Christ, it is very often through these individuals that new “ideas” creep into the congregation, ideas which are little more than secularism dusted off and re-dressed. We must remain relevant to the world, they say, or we must present the Gospel to the world on their own level. It is always the original intention of such people to do as much exporting of ideas as importing, yet it never seems to work out that way. Once the Gospel becomes watered down and intermingled with secularism, there remains no “market” for it.

Issachar

If Zebulun represents the merchant within the Church, then Issachar is the laborer. “Crouching between two burdens”, Issachar is content to do what needs to be done that he might partake of the good rest and pleasant land for which he labors. A good and faithful servant, Issachar makes no effort to make a name for himself, but remains a servant — paying “tribute” to his King.

Dan

When Genesis 49:16 states that Dan shall “judge” his people, it carries more of the meaning that he shall protect them. We call those mighty and valiant men and women from the Book of Judges “judges”, yet they were not busying themselves in the office of a magistrate, or what we think of as a judge. These were the champions of the people, men and women appointed by God to deliver the nation from its enemies. Dan shall be a “serpent by the way, an adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels…” Adders were indigenous to Palestine, yet horses would be indicative of foreign invaders since horses were not an animal used by the Hebrews (Deut. 17:16). The picture here is of the tribe of Dan lying in wait to take out the invading enemy upon their entry into the land. Great and mighty warrior “judges” such as Samson (of the tribe of Dan) come to mind in this prophecy.

Gad

“A troop shall overcome him: but he shall overcome at last” (Genesis 49:19)

Perhaps no other verse in this entire chapter is more appropriate to every child of God than this. Are we not all overcome again and again, yet we possess the promise that, in the end, we shall overcome? Nevertheless, it is not we who overcome, but the One we serve has overcome already (John 16:33). Nestled in between Jacob’s pronouncement concerning Dan and this one concerning Gad is the simple, nearly parenthetical statement: “I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord.” It is not the military might of Dan which shall overcome, nor is it the power of Gad; it is the Salvation which God provides that shall cause the child of God to overcome. It is the mighty God of Jacob, from whence the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel comes (Gen. 49:24). Jesus Christ is the One Who secures the victory, not us. It is through His efforts that we have overcome, not our own.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 18, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

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Who Sent Joseph Into Egypt?

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (Genesis 45:7-8)

The implications of this statement made by Joseph to his bewildered brothers must have been as perplexing and astounding to them as it has been to generations of Bible readers since it was first spoken. As believers, we tend to just sort of skip right through such profound statements with the unspoken understanding that, naturally, all things are under God’s control and He is in control of all things. Skeptics enjoy reading such statements as opportunities to impugn the character of God; assigning to Him full responsibility for the entirety of man’s errors. But what exactly do such statements really mean? More directly: was everything which we have read about occurring in the life of Joseph a part of God’s perfect plan?

Before we are too quick to answer this, we should consider what it would mean if all of these things were, in fact, the plan of God. First of all, it would imply that it was God’s plan for the brothers to commit sin by selling their brother into slavery. James tells us in his epistle that God never entices man to do evil (James 1:13) and consequently could never plan or intend for anyone to commit sin. Sin is, therefore, never a part of God’s perfect plan. Yet we are told that God sent Joseph into Egypt, i.e., that He planned for Joseph to go there. How is this possible if God did not intend for the brothers to sell him into slavery?

This is an area of disputation that has historically resulted in all sorts of theological dilemmas, calling into question where the line is drawn between God’s will and the free will of man. Does God or does He not ever step across that line in order to accomplish His perfect will? My simple answer to this is that He does not. What God does do is to take the opportunity to use even the sin, errors, and shortcomings of man (believers and unbelievers alike) to bring His will to pass. It was not God’s intention for the brothers to sell Joseph into slavery, but He chose to use that as the impetus that would put Joseph into the land of Egypt. God did not plan for Potiphar’s wife to make lewd advances toward Joseph nor to falsely accuse him of misconduct; yet He used those very things to facilitate Joseph’s delivery into prison — a place where he would come into close contact with the chief butler and baker of Pharaoh.

How God would have brought His will to pass apart from the sins of these people is anyone’s guess, but we can be assured that God did not need the sins of man to help His plans along. He never does. It speaks volumes about the sovereignty of our Lord in that He is able to accomplish His will in spite of man’s sin. What a profound reminder that God is in complete control!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published November 11, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission

Jacob In Haran

“And it came to pass, when Jacob saw Rachel the daughter of Laban his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother, that Jacob went near, and rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother.” (Genesis 29:10)

Genesis 29 opens up on the same high note which Genesis 28 closed with. “Jacob went on his journey”, the King James Version tells us. The Hebrew literally reads that he “lifted up his feet“, conveying the idea that Jacob is refreshed now and filled with a newness of strength and purpose. His direct encounter with the Lord God Who visited him through his dream the night before has definitely made a powerful impression on Jacob. He is not timid and lonely anymore, but seems to proceed with a fresh spring in his step; the heaviness of the fear of Esau now giving way to the encouragement that can only come from the confidence that God’s mercy rests upon him.

In some ways, I wish that Genesis 29 was but a single verse in length because things go downhill from there. How many people have we known who have left a Sunday church service with a renewed zeal and purpose, their faces glowing with a revitalized passion for the things of God, only to return to business, as usual, come Monday morning? Even worse, the pricking of their own conscience and the convicting work of the Holy Spirit are now muffled by the illusion that all is well within them. For many, there is little doubt that the former state is preferable to the latter; since a solitary feasting at a banquet does little more for the starving man than satiate him for a short time, all the while further callousing his sensitivity to the hunger pangs by which he perishes.

But we are convinced of better things concerning Jacob. For God will call Jacob back to Bethel and will revive the wayward prodigal to Himself. But for now, unfortunately, Jacob must pass through some difficulties resultant of his reliance on self rather than trusting in the provision of God. Verse 2 of Genesis 29 begins to paint a familiar, yet somewhat dissimilar scene to one we read about in Genesis 24. A meeting at a well, a beautiful young girl, a man in search of a bride. But something is strangely absent this time, something is different. The humility and quiet determination of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, has been replaced by the headstrong recklessness of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. The observance of polite etiquette which Eliezer demonstrated stands in stark contrast to Jacob’s brashness. Jacob presumptuously refers to strangers as “my brethren” (v.4), and then proceeds to instruct them in how they ought to be conducting their business affairs (v. 7). To top it all off, Jacob takes it upon himself to move the stone guarding the well without being bidden or permitted to do so (v. 10)!

I am sure that more than a few of the onlookers were a little shocked when this stranger threw himself upon Rachel and began to loudly sob (v. 11). It is obvious that Jacob was very enthusiastic and emotional about having arrived at his destination, but there seems to be more than mere social impropriety during Jacob’s encounter with Rachel that set it in great variance to Eliezer’s encounter with Rebekah years before:

“And [Eliezer] said O LORD God of my master Abraham, I pray thee, send me good speed this day, and shew kindness unto my master Abraham…And [Eliezer] bowed down his head, and worshipped the LORD.” (Genesis 24:12, 26)

Now, there is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that it was God’s will for Jacob to marry Rachel, but I wonder if things might have ended a little more pleasantly for Jacob if he had been trusting more in God and less in his own abilities? Perhaps Jacob was relying on the direction of the Lord more than we are told in the narrative, but it sure doesn’t look like it. God led Jacob to the exact spot where he ended up at the exact time he ended up there, but it doesn’t appear that Jacob was fully understanding just how much God was directing things. Even Jacob’s vow back in Genesis 28:20-21 seems a little “wishy-washy.” “If God will do this, if God will take care of me, if God will bring me back to my father’s house…” God had already promised that He would do these things (Gen. 28:15)!

So, Jacob comes to the well where Rachel was bringing her father’s herds filled with confidence and determination, but it sure doesn’t seem to be a humble determination in God like Eliezer had. It looks a lot more like self-assuredness than a firm faith in God. But have we not all been guilty of such from time to time? We reach a spiritual mountaintop and have a very intimate encounter with our Lord, and then we come down from that mountaintop fully energized to face the trials of our lives. That is, face them in our own strength! God never told Jacob “I will be with you so that you can do what I have spoken to you”, no, He said “Behold I am with thee…I will not leave thee until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (Gen. 28:15 emphasis added). God doesn’t tell us that He is going to strengthen us to accomplish His will in our lives, He tells us that He is going to accomplish His will in our lives. God did not appear to Jacob just so that Jacob would become a little more confident in his own abilities, to have a little greater trust in his own ingenuity. God appeared to Jacob in order that Jacob would be confident in the Lord’s abilities and not continue to trust in his own. He does the same with us.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published June 10, 2010]

All Scripture quotations in this post are taken from the King James Version (KJV) of the Holy Bible

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

Isaac, Digger Of Wells

“Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.”(Genesis 26:18)

Isaac is a very unique figure in the Book of Genesis. A full 14 chapters are devoted to the life of Abraham. Ten chapters chronicle Jacob and 12 feature Joseph as the most prominent person. As for Isaac, Chapter 26 is pretty much it. Sure, he is spoken of as early as Chapter 12 when God promises his father Abraham that he will become a “great nation.” In fact, Isaac’s impending birth is a key subject throughout the life of Abraham. But what are we told once Isaac finally arrives? Remarkably little.

The details given to us in Chapter 26 of the prime of Isaac’s life (the following chapter opens up with Isaac in his old age) are at first glance quite mundane. But what we are shown are truly the highlights that are of the greatest importance. Unlike his father Abraham, there are no great journeys undertaken, no wars waged. His life is not portrayed as his son Jacob’s: filled with intrigue, deception, and family struggles that would rival the most riveting of soap opera plots. But the events of Chapter 26 are precisely the things which God finds important. These are the things that really matter.

God’s Covenant Is Confirmed

In Verses 1-5, and then again in Verse 24, God appears to Isaac and confirms His promises that He had originally made to Abraham. I am with you, I will bless you, I will multiply your descendants. God does not actually appear to very many people in the Bible, Isaac was one of the few. If we were told no more than this, it would serve to fix Isaac’s as one of the most extraordinary lives ever lived.

Like Father, Like Son

“The Lord appeared to him and said, “Do not go down to Egypt; stay in the land of which I shall tell you.” (Genesis 26:2)

There are several uncanny similarities between the events in Isaac’s life and Abraham’s. So much so that some have questioned whether or not the details were maybe muddled over time and confused before they were written down. Famines, kings called Abimilech, army commanders named Phichol, lies about wives really being no more than sisters. As baseball great Yogi Berra said: “It’s déjà vu all over again!”

But it seems that the names Abimilech and Phichol were more likely titles given to men in those positions (such as “Commander-in-chief” or “Pharaoh”). Famines were definitely a common occurrence, and we are specifically told that this famine was in addition to the first famine in the days of Abraham (Verse 1). When famine strikes in the land this time, Isaac’s first instinct is to do what his father had done and go down into Egypt. But the Lord restrains him from doing so. When he arrives in the land of Gerar, he also emulates Abraham’s actions and tells the locals that Rebekah is his sister. Isaac not only learned the noble and commendable traits of his father, he learned the sinful and baser tendencies, as well. We learn here that Isaac was not a perfect man, and we are reminded of the importance of modeling godly behavior in front of our own children.

Patience And Meekness

 Now all the wells which his father’s servants had dug in the days of Abraham his father, the Philistines stopped up by filling them with earth.” (Genesis 26:15)

We glean two very exceptional (and very rare) attributes of Isaac when we read of how he patiently re-dug the wells of Abraham which the Philistines had covered. They are the virtues of patience and meekness. No sooner does he strike flowing water beneath the valley floor than the local herdsmen run him off and claim the well as their own. He does not threaten, he does not retaliate (compare 1 Peter 2:23); he simply moves on. He digs a second well, and the same thing happens again. But patiently and peacefully Isaac moves to yet another spot. There, at the Well of Rehoboth, Isaac praises God that He has provided a place in the land for him.

Busy Digging Wells

Finally, the whole tone of this chapter, indeed of Isaac’s whole life, is that he busies himself with the digging of wells. In the face of opposition, in the face of strife, in the face of trouble and turmoil: Isaac digs wells. Though there are those who would fill his wells with earth, though there are those who would try to steal the precious, life-giving water found beneath them: Isaac continues to dig wells. In good times and bad: Isaac digs wells.

When we consider that we have a Well ourselves, a Well that is the Lord Jesus Christ, filled with living waters (John 4:10), waters that we may drink of and never thirst again; we realize that our lives, too, are best spent with the patient digging into this Well. Digging deeper into the Well of His Word, coming to know Him better. Even when others would seek to steal the life-giving water that we find in Him (though no man can), even when others strive with us as we press on — digging ever deeper.

The digging of wells may not seem to be the most exciting of undertakings, in fact, we know that it takes a great deal of persistent effort. It can be back-breaking, exhausting, and downright heartbreaking when we have dug and dug and still failed to strike water. But Isaac is perhaps best known as a digger of wells. May we all be.

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 13, 2010]

[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]

**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.

Which Bible Version Do You Prefer?

A few weeks ago, I purchased a copy of the new Spurgeon Study Bible published by Holman Bible Publishers. This Bible uses the text of the Christian Standard Bible, a recent update of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, produced by the same publisher. My thoughts so far on this particular version is that it is an excellent English rendering of the Scriptures that seeks to blend the accuracy of a strict word-for-word translation with a clearer thought-for-thought wording where the original meaning might not be as readily understood by the 21st Century English speaker. They have labeled this approach “Optimal Equivalency” and it seems like a very good translation strategy, particularly for younger readers or new Christians.

Personally, I really enjoy reading a lot of the newer Bible versions that have hit the shelves in the past decade or two, although I do concur with the thoughts of many that we might be getting a little excessive with just how many new versions and constant updates of these versions are continuing to flood the market. And every time I see a new translation or update, I am reminded of just how passionate people can be about which Bible versions are superior to others. Some go so far as to be very dogmatic and rigid about which versions are indeed valid at all and which ones are corrupt, heretical, or outright perversions intentionally designed to lead people away from God. While most of us would never be so adamant about defending one translation over another, I believe that a lot of Christians have a particular version or versions that they certainly feel more comfortable with and maybe trust a little bit more because it is a version with which they are more familiar.

Having experimented with using several different versions on this website for Scripture quotations, going forward I would like to reference primarily one translation in order to remain consistent and avoid confusion (especially my own confusion!). I praise God that this website has gained quite a few regular readers recently and I really want to proceed carefully and prayerfully in deciding which version to choose for this. In articles that I have read in my own research, some have commented that they will not even read a blog or listen to a preacher that doesn’t use, for instance, the King James Version while others feel just as strongly opposed to those who do. It would be truly sad to alienate readers by using a version that they do not trust. In my opinion, there are several very good translations that would work nicely for the purpose of this website, but I would be very interested to know how those of you who take the time to read these posts feel before deciding. Below you will find a poll asking which, if any, Bible version you prefer and would most like to see quoted and referred to in these Bible studies.

Even if you are not a regular visitor, I would greatly appreciate your opinion. Please feel free to share any detailed thoughts in the comments section if you would like. Lord willing, in the coming weeks we will conclude the reposting of our Genesis study and will move over into a new study in the Gospel of Matthew. Be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any of the new posts as they come out. As always, may the Lord richly bless you in the study of His Word and thanks for reading!

To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,

Loren

 

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