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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 The humility and quiet determination of Eliezer, Abraham’s servant, has been replaced by the headstrong recklessness of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson.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?“]

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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

 

Positioned To Hear From God

“It came about after the death of Abraham, that God blessed his son Isaac; and Isaac lived by Beer-lahai-roi. (Genesis 25:11)

In Genesis 24:62 and in Genesis 25:11, we are told that Isaac lived near Beer Lahai-roi, or the Well of Him that lives and sees. He lived in the “South Country”, or what is referred to as The Negev. This section of Southeastern Palestine was a desolate and arid region (Negev literally means “Dry”). It bordered on the Arabian Desert. So why of all places was Isaac living here?

Beer Lahai-roi was undoubtedly a special place for the people in Abraham’s household. The first instance where we are told about the Well is when the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar after she flees from her mistress, Sarah (Gen. 16:7-16). It was there that Hagar had a revelation of the love and concern that God has for even the outcast and broken-hearted. It was at this spot that Hagar heard the voice of God speaking to her.

Obviously, the relationship between Isaac, the son of Sarah, and Hagar, his father Abraham’s concubine, was not the most amicable. But it seems that Hagar must have shared her account of what happened at Beer Lahai-roi that day since the Well came to be commonly known by the name she had given it. Perhaps Isaac was so impressed by what had happened that he headed for that very spot when he set out on his own.

What better place is there to go than that place where God has spoken? What destination is preferable to that where the Lord has revealed Himself? We know that God is not bound by the confines of any particular location; He is omnipresent. But we are wise to look for Him where we know He has been and to seek Him in the last place we saw Him. So often we plead with God to go with us to where we are moving when we would do better to go where He already is. Isaac did just that. Eager to have the hand of God leading his own life, as He had led Abraham’s, Isaac went to the place where God had moved before.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published May 1, 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.

Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible  (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.

Three Perspectives Atop Mt. Moriah – Abraham

Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go over there to worship; then we’ll come back to you.”  Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and laid it on his son Isaac. In his hand he took the fire and the knife, and the two of them walked on together. (Genesis 22:5-6 CSB)

There were but three individuals who were present atop Mt. Moriah when Abraham offered up his son Isaac. Abraham, Isaac, and God. There were no other witnesses present when this occurred. Each of the three had a very different perspective on what was planned to happen, and even a very different amount of insight as to what was going to actually transpire. God had revealed to Abraham what he was asking Him to do, but He obviously did not tell him that His commandment was a test, the which He had no intention of Abraham carrying out to completion. Isaac had been told by his father that they were going far off from home to make a burnt-offering to the Lord, but Abraham did not divulge all of the Lord’s instructions until they arrived at their destination. All three of these individuals came at this crossroads from a different perspective. Let us now consider the first of these: Abraham’s.

I cannot imagine any commandment coming from God to Abraham that could have seemed more puzzling than what he is instructed to do in Genesis 22:2. When we consider all that has happened leading up to and even after the birth of Isaac, it is hard not to imagine Abraham’s utter perplexity over what God was now asking of him. God had repeatedly promised that through Isaac Abraham would become a father of many descendants (e.g., Gen. 17:19, 21:12), yet now God was asking him to put the young man to death himself, before Isaac had fathered a single child!

What a great difference we see between Abraham’s response here in Chapter 22 and that of Chapter 18: when God told him how he intended to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham knew with all certainty that the “Judge of all the Earth would do right.” We have no record here of Abraham pleading with God, bargaining with God, or even questioning God. His faith at this point has reached the level that he could say: God has promised that Isaac would have children to my posterity, yet now He is asking me to put my son to death. I know not how God will make good on His promises after Isaac is dead, but I know that He shall!

By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son;  it was he to whom it was said, “In Isaac your descendants shall be called.” He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a type.”  (Hebrews 11:17-19)

Many centuries later, the writer to the Hebrews gives us a commentary providing insight into what Abraham was thinking as he and Isaac climbed up the mountain. So often the picture is painted of an angry, resentful Abraham reluctantly trudging up the mountain; uncertain whether or not he should go through with this. But this doesn’t really seem to be the idea that Scripture is giving us at all. Verse 3 of Genesis 22 says that Abraham got up early, there was no hesitation on his part. And then, he tells his servants in Verse 5 that he and Isaac both will return from the mountain. Someone might suggest: Well, Abraham probably knew deep inside that God would stay his hand and keep him from taking Isaac’s life, but there is certainly no indication of that. What Abraham was counting on is actually much more remarkable. He believed that God would raise Isaac back to life, resurrecting him after the sacrifice was made! Those of us living today might not believe that God is still in the “business of miracles”, but Abraham sure had no problem believing it.

We have seen several events up to this point of Genesis where Abraham’s faith either failed or was very shaky, to say the least. But here atop Mt. Moriah, his faith was as pure as refined gold. The idea that is so often taught in Sunday School classes about this incident is that the underlying lesson is that Abraham was willing to follow God’s instructions, even when they were “unreasonable and cruel.” But we see so much more about the fiber of Abraham’s faith here than just “blind obedience.” Abraham had learned enough about the character of God to realize that God will make good on His promises no matter what. Abraham was not hoping for a miracle to bring Isaac safely through this event, he was counting on one!

So often we limit God in what He is able to do and question every instruction that He gives us. We ourselves seek to rectify the seeming paradoxes of His commandments rather than trusting Him to do so. We attempt to take into account all things in order to determine if we can safely obey what He is leading us to do, so as not to overturn some other area of our life. But Abraham knew better. God had promised that Isaac would have children and would carry on Abraham’s lineage, yet He also commanded Abraham to offer Isaac up as a sacrifice before a single offspring had been born. Abraham did not know exactly how God would harmonize these two statements, but he knew that He would. Even if it took a miracle.

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

Loren

loren@answersfromthebook.org

[This post was originally published February 24, 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.

Scriptures marked (CSB) are taken from the Christian Standard Bible  (CSB) Copyright © 2017 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Christian Standard Bible®, and CSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers, all rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (NLT) are taken from the New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible,New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked (KJV) are taken from the King James Version of the Holy Bible, Public Domain.

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