Archives For January 2012

Revelation of God

The LORD speaks to Jacob and Laban through dreams and directly.  He guides and directs Jacob, promising to be with him.  This is in accordance with his covenant promise to Jacob’s family.

 

Fallen Condition

Strained relationships, distrust, and trickery continue.  Laban does not worship the LORD, but has “gods” that can be stolen and probably carry rights to inheritance.  Laban puts his hope and trust in his material wealth and blessing, leading him to exchange the worship of the true God (who clearly witnessed of himself through Jacob) for gods that don’t have any power.  He served money as his master, and this led him to cheat Jacob 10 times, because he cared more about money than family. He even sold his own daughters and devoured their money.

 

Redemptive Solution

Jacob didn’t have to worry about or put his hope in money, because God had promised him an inheritance and providentially provided for him.  Christ is the ultimate heir of the promise to Abraham, and he inherited all of God’s full blessing; everything belongs to him.  By faith in Christ and in his sacrificial work on our behalf, we can be forgiven for our hope in and dependence on money and be united with Christ as co-heirs of the ultimate inheritance.  We don’t have to be anxious about money or be led to acquire it dishonestly because God has promised to take care of our needs in the present and has made us heirs of his kingdom in the future.

 

Virtue Formation

We should not seek dishonest gain or be blinded by money.  We should seek to be obedient to God, trusting his providence, making wise decisions.

Revelation of God

God is the source of the blessing of children, and Leah and Rachel recognize this.  He is also the reason for Jacob’s prosperity, which Laban recognizes.  Because of God’s promise to Jacob, he works to bless him even when Jacob misunderstands God or tries to take matters into his own hands.

 

Fallen Condition

Rachel and Leah are engaged in rivalry for their husband’s attention and for children.  This is caused by the mess of Laban’s deceitfulness and Jacob’s mistakes.  The theology of Genesis is tightly focused around God’s promise in 3:15 for the seed of the woman to crush the serpent.  Male children are therefore vitally important, and barrenness is a disgrace and reproach because it signals that the seed will not come through that line.  This causes a desperation that leads Rachel and Leah to sinfully strive against the other, even to offering their servant-maids to Jacob.  They want the experience of blessing, as well as love and acceptance, so badly that they seek to bring it about for themselves rather than seeking the Lord’s acceptance.

 

Redemptive Solution

God has the deepest love for us, and showed this through giving his son Jesus for us.  Through his work, we have the fullest kind of acceptance possible – acceptance by God despite our self-willed alienation from him.  When we do not receive love and acceptance from others, we exercise faith in what the Lord has extended to us.  This work in us goes even farther, leading us to love and accept others.

Virtue Formation

We should not engage ourselves in bitter rivalry with others for any kind of benefit.  Rather, we should love and accept others even when we do not experience these things from others.  Rather than relying on superstitions and folklore, we should believe the Lord’s clear promises to us and trust him to work in our lives.

Revelation of God

God providentially guides Jacob to meet the shepherds and Rachel at the well.  He takes notice of Leah in her distress of not being loved as she should have been, and blesses her.  Jacob ironically gets the short end of trickery when previously he has been the trickster.  Perhaps God is using the incident with Laban to show him the negative consequences of his trickery.

 

Fallen Condition

Physical attractiveness becomes the difference between acceptance and rejection in a fallen world.  Laban, to pursue his own gain, espouses ideas of fairness but in the end cheats Jacob out of seven years and breaks a promise.  We often pretend fairness but in our actual circumstances use whatever means necessary to get ahead, as our heart desires power, status, or glory over others.  He tries to rationalize this action with a true statement misapplied, just as we attempt to rationalize our dishonest actions in a desire to justify ourselves.  [Calvin] Jacob does not love Leah in the way that a wife deserves to be loved and honored by a husband.  Because of these circumstances, Jacob becomes a polygamist.

 

Redemptive Solution

The Lord takes note of the weak and despised, and provides children for Leah.  It is her offspring, through Judah, King David will come and rule all Israel and that the Lord Jesus will come and inherit the promise to Abraham.  God’s power is demonstrated in our weakness.  In physical unattractiveness or other weakness, God desires to work to show his glory.  He promises new and glorious resurrection bodies for those who share Christ’s resurrection.

We don’t have to seek to get ahead of others in the eyes of the world, because God has promised us an inheritance in Christ that is greater than anything in the world and that will last forever.

 

Virtue Formation

We should avoid dishonesty and pursue integrity in our dealings with others.  We should love those who are not lovely in the eyes of the world.  We should pursue a pure vision of marriage – one man and one woman.  We should gives thanks and credit to the Lord when he answers our cries for help.

Revelation of God

Isaac blesses Jacob in the name of “God Almighty” – the God of all power and infinite strength; able to accomplish whatever he wills.  God reveals himself to Jacob in a dream.  He reaffirms his covenant with Abraham through Jacob.  Again, he is totally committed to his promises.

 

Fallen Condition

            Esau tries to regain some sense of blessing through his own effort by taking an Ishmaelite wife, seeing that Jacob was blessed and commanded to take a wife from Abraham’s family.  But we don’t enter God’s blessing through efforts of merit, or by attempting to make up for the wrong things we have done.

Jacob does not understand God and draws wrong conclusions about him.  He tries to put God in a box and make a bargain with Him, seeming to treat him like just another one of the “gods” of the world.  Rather than believing and receiving God’s promise, he tests God.

Apart from God’s revelation to us, we would not know what He is really like.  We tend to form our own conceptions of God.

 

Redemptive Solution

Despite Jacob’s lack of the knowledge of God, God reveals Himself to Him.  Even though Jacob does not have a correct conception of Him yet, God is faithful to his promise to Abraham and is shepherding Jacob.  Even when we did not know God, God chose us before the foundation of the world and at the right time revealed Himself to us personally.

We can never make up for our own faults through our own effort, so God provides a way for us to be reconciled to him – by grace through faith in the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf.

 

Virtue Formation

We should not attempt to make up for our sins through good works, but receive God’s forgiveness and in repentance make restitution.  Like Jacob, we should respond to encountering God with reverence and worship, yet we should avoid testing God as Jacob does.

Revelation of God

            God is not a direct character in this story, but the passage outlines how God’s words from the previous chapter come to be.  God is therefore shown to be truthful in all of his words, declaring what is to be beforehand.  Even so, God uses human means and instruments here to accomplish his words – even the wickedness of Jacob in his deceitfulness is used by God to bring Isaac to bless him, accomplishing His will.

 

Fallen Condition

The strife between brothers continues, exacerbated by Rebekah’s favoritism.  Esau is cheated by Jacob’s deception.  Jacob pursues the inheritance and blessing, what he believes he needs to be successful or happy, through deceit and trickery.  As a consequence of his actions, Esau seeks to kill Jacob in his anger.

Favoritism and envy promote strife.  Favoritism is a lack of love for others caused by a perverted desire to make yourself look better or seek greater satisfaction in a certain one.  Envy betrays a lack of trust in the Lord’s provision and plan for you.  Cheating is caused by a desire to be approved or accepted, or to meet a perceived need, by relying on yourself instead of trusting in the Lord.

 

Redemptive Solution

God reconciles people at war with one another through offering all an inheritance greater than any other through Christ.  When we realize our many faults that God judges through the cross of Christ, we will be slower to play favorites by judging others’ faults.  When we lack in love for others we can remember the love God demonstrates toward us while we were still sinners, and by grace he will supply us with the strength to love others in this way.

We realize through the work of Christ that there is nothing to be gained in envy, because the treasures of the world will disappear and all who are in Christ will inherit the earth.  We don’t have to cheat, because God has promised to supply all of our needs in Christ.  We are completely accepted and approved by Him now that Christ received our judgment, so we can walk in the way of the Lord and not take matters into our own hands for temporary solutions.

 

Virtue Formation

We should have integrity and not deceive others.  Though cheating and deception may bring temporary benefits, it can create strife and broken relationships.

Revelation of God

God continues to be faithful to the offspring of Abraham per his promise.  He blesses Isaac with wealth and helps him navigate through difficulties.  He reaffirms his promise of blessing to Isaac on behalf of Abraham because of his faith (v.5).  God is “with” Isaac to bless him (v.24).  Abimelech and his country clearly recognize that God is with Isaac.

We inherit the blessings of Abraham through being united with Christ by faith.  God guides us with a  good providence, and he is with us in his very presence through his indwelling Spirit.

 

Fallen Condition

Isaac has many problems.  First, there is a famine.  The land is still under the curse.  He repeats the sin of his father in lying to Abimelech about Rebekah.  He has strained relationships with the Philistines because of his increasing wealth and their actions in filling in wells of his father and arguing over rebuilt ones.

All of these are illustrations of sin’s enduring consequences.  The sins of parents can resurface in their children, and sinful decisions made in the past can have far-reaching consequences.

 

Redemptive Solution

Throughout Isaac’s trouble, God is in control and guides him on the basis of his promise.  Isaac receives God’s promised commitment because he is the child of Abraham.  Though there are difficulties because of sin, God often providentially uses them to work eventually for Isaac’s good.

Christ is the ultimate heir of Abraham, and we are children of Abraham and heirs with Christ through faith in him.  He will providentially lead and guide us.  When we make mistakes, he will correct us, and will often use the consequences for a greater purpose.

 

Virtue Formation

Isaac hears and follows the voice of the Lord, as we should from his Word.  He does not look to aggravate conflict with Abimelech, but humbly seeks a nonviolent resolution while working to preserve what is rightfully his.  We should not emulate Abimelech, who begins to come across as a slick-dealer concerned only with self-preservation.  Nor should we follow Isaac in his deception of others.  But Isaac walked by faith in the Lord, as should we.

Revelation of God

God continues to be faithful to his promises as he blesses Abraham’s son (v.11).  The genealogy of Abraham illustrates that God’s promise to make him the father of many nations is already coming to be.  The Lord answers the prayer of Isaac for Rebekah because she was barren, and Rebekah’s prayer for understanding and wisdom during her suffering.  The Lord works out his purposes and plans in many cases through the prayers of his people.  As in v.23, the “older shall serve the younger” shows that God often accomplishes his promises through what seems weak in the world in order to display his strength.

The plans of God are compatible with the willing decisions of man.  God destines the birthright for Jacob, and this comes about through Esau’s poor decision to sell his birthright for food.  Finally, God’s blessing and sovereign choice comes before any human merit – before the two children were born, God determined their destiny.

 

Fallen Condition

Abraham’s other sons apart from Isaac are separated from the line of blessing and promise.  Though they experience the earthly blessings and common graces of land, long life, fruitfulness, and general prosperity, they do not have the promise of being the people of God.  Many people and nations exist today apart from God’s promises, though they may seem outwardly successful.

Barrenness is evidence of the continuing curse for Adam’s sin, as is the struggle in childbirth.  Favoritism and the strife between brothers characterize Isaac’s family.

 

Redemptive Solution

Though Abraham’s sons are separated from Isaac, God plans to bless all the nations through Abraham’s seed.  This is revealed in Christ, who brings forgiveness and reconciliation to God to all men of all nations as the gospel goes out.  Those who are in Christ are one family and share in Christ’s inheritance; they are all Abraham’s special sons.  There is no partiality or favoritism in the kingdom of God, and the sons of the kingdom are commanded to love one another, and will do so through the new nature they have in Christ.

 

Virtue Formation

We should pray on the basis of God’s promises, in the name of Christ, trusting God to answer according to his plans and wisdom.  We should avoid family strife and favoritism and pursue love for one another.

Revelation of God

God continues to be committed to his covenant promise to Abraham, just as he is committed today to his promises to us.  God heard and answered the prayer of Abraham’s servant on account of his covenant with Abraham, just as he hears and answers our prayers today on account of his son Jesus.  He providentially works all circumstances to the good of those who love him.

 

Fallen Condition

We live in a world where many are not reconciled to the Lord, and they can have a negative influence on us.  We are in need of the providence and guidance of the Lord to walk in his ways, yet often we do not depend on him and self-righteously attempt to do good in our own strength in independence from Him, the source of all good things.

 

Redemptive Solution

God hears and answers the prayers of the needy.  To those who come to him in faith, trusting in his promises, he will act to fulfill them and answer prayer favorably.  The judgment for our independent and rebellious streak falls on Jesus Christ, and thus God made a way to be reconciled to Him in faith and dependence and looks on his children favorably through Him.

Virtue Formation  

We should seek to marry those who share our commitment to the Lord and not the ungodly.  In our special tasks or daily decisions, we should seek the guidance of the Lord in prayer and expect to be given wisdom in answer.

Revelation of God

God has been faithful to his promise to Abraham in that he has made him as a “prince of God” among the Hittite people.  He has clearly blessed Abraham.

 

Fallen Condition

The death of Sarah glaringly shows the continued effects of the fall, along with the weeping, mourning, and grief that accompany death.  The business negotiations of the passage hint at a human tendency to have “one-up” in a business relationship or negotiation, though Abraham is working for God’s honor and not his own and thus is not guilty of pride here.  The motivations of the Hittites are ambiguous.  Also, as Abraham notes in the beginning, he is a sojourner and foreigner – he does not possess a permanent home, yet has the promise of one.  We are sojourners and exiles on the way toward our promised home; all are subject to death.

 

Redemptive Solution

God has promised and provided a home for us – ultimately, this resting place is in Himself, and though He has provided a deposit for us in the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit, it will be manifested in full in the New Heavens and New Earth.  In this passage, the context is God’s promise to Abraham of the land of Canaan, which he currently dwells in but does not yet possess.  Here, significantly, he purchases a piece of that land – he owns a portion of it, burying Sarah there in faith knowing that God has promised the land to be his.  We are given the blessings of a promised rest in the dwelling place of God through the work of Christ, who along with this promise gives us victory over death, promising no more weeping or mourning.  These blessing are applied to us by grace through faith in him.

We do not have to fight for or be selfishly concerned with our own honor, because God is just and has bound our honor with Christ’s honor in our unification with him.  He will uphold our honor, and so we should work for the honor of the Lord because they are bound together.

 

Virtue Formation

We should commend and imitate Abraham’s example of faith in burying Sarah in Canaan, believing God’s promise.  In our business dealings, we should have integrity and be concerned for the Lord’s honor, not our own pride.

 

Notes

There may be canonical echoes or comparisons that may be made between Abraham’s burying Sarah in this rich man’s tomb and the burial of Christ in the rich man’s tomb.

Tough one today.

 

Revelation of God

God is our creator and Lord and as such, he rightfully requires sacrificial worship from his people.  As every good and perfect gift we have is from God, and we continue to possess it and enjoy it because of God, he has the right to take it away.  As God is the only one worthy of worship and the only one who can fully satisfy our desires, for our good he requires that we value Him and obey his commands above any other relationship or attachment (cf. Jesus and the cost of discipleship).

As part of the process of restoring his image and likeness in us, God tests us to reveal the work that he is doing in us.  Abraham here is tested in perhaps the greatest way possible – and in the end, because of his obedience, his faith in God is revealed to be of the highest quality.

And, God is merciful and provides for us.  Though he has the right to demand anything and everything from us, his nature is one of mercy and love.  The provision of the Lord is significant in this passage (v.14).  God rightfully requires our life for breaking his law in rejecting his word; yet, he provides the sacrifice in Jesus Christ necessary for us to be reconciled to him, offering his very own son, the costliest thing he could offer.

It is important to emphasize that in this passage, God does not capriciously or arbitrarily make demands just because he has the right to.  God is working in this situation, and in our tests, for his glory and consequently our good (v.15-18).  We can be confident that though God owns everything and has a right to do anything, he is never arbitrary or spiteful and always does what he does and asks what he asks because he desires and is working for the good of those who love him.

 

Fallen Condition

Unlike Abraham, we sometimes fail the tests that God sends us of much lesser intensity, and this reveals that our sinful nature moves us to value things more than God.  This betrays our arrogant belief that we know what is best for us or others more than God does.  We may attempt to segment our lives, giving some areas to God’s authority and purpose and doing what we wish without thought or regard for God in others.  We tend to view our possessions as solely ours, forgetting that they are truly God’s and we are his managers.

 

Redemptive Solution

Despite our sinful nature, God gives us the grace we need to pass these tests.  “The Lord will provide.”  We receive the grace we need for enduring faith from God.  He provides a sacrifice in Jesus Christ to cover all of our failures, and in uniting us with him gives us resurrection power to put to death the sinful nature and obey his commands.

 

Virtue Formation

Abraham here is a supreme example of faith, believing God’s promise and expecting his provision.  We should follow his example of believing God and acting in obedience even when circumstances appear impossible.  We should expect God to keep his promises and hope for the reward and blessing that will come.