Scripture Read: Genesis 29 - 30:24
Title: The Deceiver is Deceived and God is Still in Control
(H) Highlight verse:: "So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her" Genesis 29:20
(E) Explain: The plot thickens. The deceptions run deeper. Jealousy and envy abound. I continually say that this family account could easily be a soap opera and daily, we see why. However, in all of this deception (Laban tricks Jacob into 14 years of service for two daughters in marriage, when he only had eyes for one), jealousy (Jacob loved Rachel more than Lean, but Leah gave him children), human intervention (To "get back" at her sister Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah to him father children with her and Leah gave her servant Zilpah to have children with him), God was still at work. In this hot mess of a family where bitterness and jealousy were rampant, God was able to make something good come from it. God took four mothers and one father to establish or bring about the 12 patriarchs of Israel Yes, God worked wonders out this chaos.
(A) Application: Humans make messes. We/I do stupid things on a daily basis. I like to "help" God in running my life. The problem is, I allow sins to be present in my life and ultimately these sins affect my life and my relationships. I do a fantastic job of tearing apart something that God has created. I am like a child, sometimes, who likes to disassemble things, just to see how they work and my disassembling often ends up pretty bad. Fortunately, God is patient with me and puts back together that which I tore apart. God is in control and He knows what He is doing. I love that God can take a disassembled mess and make a beautiful thing out of it.
(R) Respond: Thank you for being patient with me God. I love that you remain faithful even when i am not. May I live this day in a way that gives you full control of my life. May I not meddle with what you are doing, but also may I not sit back apathetically and do nothing. I want to be in tune with you, so I may do what you have planned for me this day.
Scripture Read: Genesis 27 - 28
Title: Deception, Deceit and a Blessing
(H) Highlight verse:: "And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on earth and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold the LORD stood above it and said, 'I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac.'." Genesis 28:12-13a
(E) Explain: The soap opera continues. The dysfunction develops more. Jacob continues in his deceptive plan to get the inheritance that he conned his brother out of giving up. Jacob deceives his father, who is going blind, by pretending to be Esau, thus receiving a blessing from his father. Having received the blessing, Esau becomes infuriated and says that once their father is dead, he is going to kill Jacob. Rebekah hears this and sends Jacob to her brother, Laban's home so he will be safe and also to find a wife. Esau marries an Ishmaelite. Jacob has a dream about a ladder, where he is also blessed by God . He responds with worship and makes a vow to God. He names the place where he had his dream Bethel, which means house of God.
THE MEANING OF THE DREAM
The dream is significant and intended to encourage, assure and bless Jacob in his time of despair. There are three features to this dream that we should focus our attention.
(A) Application: This passage continually reminds me of God’s power, protection, and presence amidst his people. It is a wonderful reminder that God is present and active with his people. It is vitally important to be sensitive to God’s presence. Whether you feel him or not, He is present with us as I speak. He is in the midst of his people right now. I am encouraged by this passage because it helps me be sensitive to God's presence in my life today. I am inspired because I know God still speaks through visions, dreams and his Word. He is active in this world and in my life. When God does show up my life I know that I am changed and transformed into his likeness, and for his glory.
(R) Respond: Lord, may I live a life of integrity before you. I pray that when I feel the temptation to manipulate or deceive others for my selfish gain and benefit, that I submit myself to you and resist this temptation. May I be a blessing to you and may you bless me according to your loving-kindness.
Scripture Read: Genesis 25:19 -34; 26
Title: Sibling Rivalry
(H) Highlight verse:: "Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Isaac." Genesis 25:28
(E) Explain: Isaac and Rebekah's life has many similarities to Abraham and Sarah's Rebekah is a beautiful woman and Isaac feels the need to lie to King Abimelech about her being his wife. A mistake his father made in prior years. Rebekah has difficulty conceiving, just as he mother-in-law did. However God continually blessed Isaac and Rebekah as he gains great wealth and influence in the land where he lives.
As the soap opera continues Isaac and Rebekah are blessed with twins. We see early on that there was a sibling rivalry going on from the beginning, starting in the womb. But the boys are two very different sons. Esau becomes a skilled hunter and a man of the field. You can imagine him as a big hairy brute… a true man’s man. Jacob… well he was a quiet son… what on earth does this mean? Jacob liked to stay home; he was a momma’s boy. Ironically when the word quiet is used to describe a person it means “perfect”, however we find Jacob is far from this. Isaac favored Esau because he loved that he brought home meat to eat. We see now that Isaac is a man of prayer who loves his food. We see that he could certainly be adding fuel to the rivalry fire between the brothers because he favors Esau over Jacob. However Rebekah favors Jacob. Why? Maybe because he was the quiet home body or maybe because she knew God was going to bless him. Either way we see some dysfunction going on here. Parental favoritism is a recipe for destruction and the cause of great conflict in the future.
(A) Application: In this account there is a lot going on as usual. The word that keeps coming back to mind in this passage is patience. Isaac prays for a child for 20 years, he doesn’t give up. He shows great faith and patience. Esau on the other hand does give not practice patience because he actually gives up his birthright because he wants what he wants NOW! He gives up his precious birthright (something that will benefit him greatly in the future and is exclusively for him) for a meal right now. He is like Wimpy from Popeye who always said, "I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a Hamburger today." He forfeited his birthright over a bowl of stew.
We live in a McWorld where we can have anything we want and we can have it now. Sometimes we compromise our values because we cannot patiently wait. Sometimes we go through things in our life and we feel we cannot patiently endure, but I think that we can learn from the Patriarchs of faith as they patiently waited (sometimes they tried to move God's process along a little faster) for God to fulfill His promise in their lives.
(R) Respond: God I pray for patience. I pray that in my need to get what I want NOW, that I can step back and allow you to work at your pace and give me the things you desire for me to have in your time. May I not forfeit a blessing because of my impatience.
Scripture Read: Genesis 24
Title: God's Sovereignty
(H) Highlight verse:: "And he said, 'Oh LORD God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast to my master Abraham." Genesis 24:13
(E) Explain: Abraham's wife, Sarah, died at the age of 127 years old and in chapter 24 we read that Abraham was well advanced in years. If this account is chronological and happened shortly after the death of Sarah, then we can deduce that Abraham was around 137 years old. Isaac would have been around 37 years old. Abraham has been blessed by God in all things and he knew because of his age, his days on earth were numbered. He had gave his servant a task to go out and find a wife for his son Isaac. He specifically told him not to find a wife from Canaan, but he was to find his wife from his own family back in the country he came from.
The servant was obedient and he tool his master's command very serious. He knew that he could not do this task in his own power, so He prays to the LORD and asks for His guidance and hand in this search process. The servant was specific in his prayer, because he wanted to know for certain that the woman that he chooses is the one God brings to him. After this specific prayer the servant meets Rebekah. She meets the criteria perfectly and the encounter happens exactly the way he prayed it would. Upon receiving confirmation he brings Rebekah back to Isaac and the two were married.
We can learn a lot from the servant because his first response upon receiving confirmation is worship and prayer. He praises God for guiding him and answering his prayer. Because of the sovereignty of God and the obedience of the servant, God's promise is fulfilled and the blessing of Isaac and the covenant to Abraham will continue..
(A) Application: This passage is very relevant for today. In it I see the sovereignty of God. Now, I think it is important to know that sovereignty means that God is in control, but this does not mean that humans don't have a role or responsibility to play in accomplishing God's will. In this passage I see that some of the key components of God's will being accomplished is based on the servant.
(R) Respond: God I pray you grant me success today and I pursue you and seek your will in my life. May I be obedient, understanding of my gifts and limitations, prayerful and worshipful to you as you guide me in your ways and show me your will and purposes for me.
Scripture Read: Genesis 22
Title: God Provides
(H) Highlight verse:: "So Abraham called the name of the place 'The LORD will provide'." Genesis 21:1
(E) Explain: Abraham has had some challenges of faith in his life, and in chapter 22 he faces the greatest challenge of all. In the previous chapter God's promise of giving Abraham and Sarah is fulfilled. Abraham became a father to Isaac at the ripe ole age of 100 and Sarah became a first time mother at 90. (She would definitely stand out at a MOPS..Mother of Preschoolers meeting). We know that she is ecstatic to finally be a mother and to receive this great promise of God. Fast forward a few years... God speaks to Abraham and tells him to sacrifice his son Isaac as an act of obedience. Abraham, I imagine, is shocked and a bit confused, but we read that he obeys.
Abraham makes preparations for the journey of sacrifice and brings Isaac along as commanded. At one point Isaac notices that there is no animal to sacrifice, so he asks his father about this. I love Abraham's answer... "God will provide for Himself the lamb." This response is a deep and thought-provoking response. However, in this we see the faith of Abraham, and we get a glimpse of God's ultimate plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, God's own beloved son.
Abraham binds his son, and I think it is safe to say that this binding was not a struggle. You take a teenage or adolescent boy and pair him up against a man who is over 100 years old... I think it's safe to say that the boy could manage an escape. So, we can deduct that Isaac willingly let his father bind him so that he could be the sacrifice that God requested from Abraham. Fortunately, it doesn't get that far. An angel tells Abraham to stop, and eventually Abraham finds a ram in the thickets and sacrifices the animal instead. I am sure that Abraham sighed a huge relief and as a reminder to God's provision he named the place"The LORD will provide. God then re-iterates, his covenant and Isaac and his father go together to Beersheba to live..
(A) Application: I have always and still do have problems with this request from God to sacrifice Issac. I know what the point and overall lesson of this story is. I get that. .But I still wrestle with the "why?" Why did God command this outrageous deed of Abraham? I have read theories and I have theories of my own, but I I don't have an answer and I think that is ok. I know and believe God is good. I do not believe God ever intended for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. I believe God had the lamb or ram already picked out out before this event ever happened. I am all about God's sovereignty and omniscience. I just think this was a big ask from God, just to make sure Abraham would be obedient. The only logical conclusion I come to and it is certainly an acceptable one is that this is a preview of what is to come. One day God's son, Jesus will come to the earth and be the sacrifice. Only in this case God will not provide an animal to be sacrifice in his place. He IS the lamb that will be (and was) sacrificed. God, the loving Father allowed His son to be sacrificed as the perfect lamb so that the sins of the world could be forgiven, that life would be available to all who believe, and redemption could be made.
(R) Respond: God is THE provider. He does provide for the needs of His people. I have struggles in my faith at times. I doubt God is going to pull through for me. But He has provided Jesus to ensure that I will have all that I need to thrive in life today and have eternal glory once I pass from this world. Thank you Jesus!
Scripture Read: Genesis 20-21
Title: God's Promises Fulfilled
(H) Highlight verse:: "The LORD visited Sarah just as He said HE would and did for Sarah what He had promised?" Genesis 21:1
(E) Explain: There are two trust stories found in these two chapters. One deals with believing that God will fulfill His promise to protect and one deals with believing God will deliver on His promise of giving Sarah a child.
In chapter 21 we read the story of Abraham, Sarah and King Abimelek. Abraham was worried that his life would be endangered if he went to the Gerar and the King found out Sarah was his wife. He must have thought that since Sarah was so beautiful that the king would want her for himself and have Abraham killed. Sounds again like the beginning of a good soap opera. Abraham and Sarah lie to the king because they fear for their safety and ultimately have an issue with trusting God's protection, If you recall the covenant God made with Abraham was a promise to be with him wherever he went. All in all the outcome is favorable for Abraham and Sarah, but we do see that even the patriarch of the Jewish faith and Christianity had difficulty at times completely trusting God.
In Chapter 22 we read about the fulfillment of God's promise of a son to Sarah. A couple chapters previous we are told how Sarah laughed in disbelief when she heard she would have a child in her old age. Now, we see God's promise come to fruition and Sarah's response is not a laugh of disbelief or a cry of despair, no, she laughs with joy because God proved to her that He is trustworthy to deliver on His promises.
(A) Application: I never tire of saying this, "God always keeps His promises." For me the problem is never that God doesn't deliver on His promises, the problem is I have difficulty sometimes, believing God will fulfill what He has promised. I know that I get anxious when things aren't going my way, or I believe God is up to something good in my life and He isn't working fast enough or on my schedule and this quickly turns to unbelief. I start thinking, well maybe God isn't going to do what He said? I think that I am actually that special! Of all the people throughout history Jeff Holton is the only person that God decides not to follow through with His promises. I can be pretty pathetic sometimes,
My wife has a quote on our kitchen wall that says, "We know who wins in the end... But the middle is hard." Such is life. Believing the promise of God is easy. Receiving the promise of God is easier. But the middle, the waiting, the fully trusting God, well that's hard.
(R) Respond: When life is tough and not going the way I expect it, I will hold on to God's promises. I will cling to Jesus. When life is going great and everything seems to be going the way I hope and pray, I will hold on to God's promises and cling to Jesus. But for today, Lord I pray you help me to fully trust you in everything.
Scripture Read: Genesis 18 - 19
Title: God's Mercy In the Midst of Debauchery and Destruction
(H) Highlight verse:: "Is anything too hard for the LORD?" Genesis 18:14
(E) Explain: Time and again God makes outrageous claims and promises. Time and again He follows through. These two chapters, I have felt, are unusual and complex. There is a lot going on and it is really easy to lose sight of what the passages are trying to say. The accounts deal with the words and deeds of these three visitors who come to see Abraham. The text doesn't give them names but it is assumed that two of these visitors are Angels and one is the LORD himself.(This is called a Theophany.). These two passage deal with the two things... unbelief and judgment of sin.
In the area of unbelief we see this happening with Sarah as she hears about the promise of having a child in her old age. The text tells us that upon hearing this news she laughed in disbelief because she was so old. When confronted about it she denied it, but the visitors assured her it was going to happen.
In the area of judgment we read the familiar story of Sodom and Gomorrah. There are countless commentaries, thoughts, and opinions as to what is going on in this passage. Personally, I believe many lose the forest for the trees in this passage. People try and pinpoint a specific sin that Sodom and Gomorrah is being punished for but really all we know is that it was a wicked and evil city and God is going to judge and destroy it. I don't think it was just because of sexual sin (it certainly was one of the reasons) but I think the city had become so base and full of debauchery that God had to deal with ALL the evil that was going on, and He did.
However, amidst all of this evil is a man and his family... Lot. Lot is the nephew of Abraham. In chapter 18 we read about Abraham's intercession. He knew his nephew was living in this evil city and he did not want to see the city destroyed. He prays to the LORD and the LORD agrees to the terms of Abraham, yet God cannot find even 10 godly people in this city. BUT, God does save Lot and extends his mercy to his family. Unfortunately his future sons-in-law don't believe him and his wife is perishes because she longed to go back.
Yes, I see God's judgment in all of this, but I also see His mercy. God would not let one righteous person perish in the destruction. Lot was spared, because of God's mercy. Unfortunately, many perished but I think this should show that God doesn't take the rebellion of sin lightly.
(A) Application: God does discipline and punish for sinful activities in our life. Sin is a cancer that separates us from God. It infects us so that we cannot have proper fellowship with Him. When we allow sin to reign in our lives, God will deal with us... Fortunately, because of Jesus and God's mercy He will not destroy those of us who are called His sons and daughters, but He will discipline us and that is rarely if ever fun.
As a Christian I must seek to live my life to please God. I must, through the power of the Holy Spirit, commit to living in obedience and turning from sin in my life. I cannot live in sinless perfection, that is impossible, but I can commit my life to obeying God and His commands and praying that I may live a life that is pleasing to Him. I never like it when I am disciplined by God, but I do know that He does discipline me, because He loves me.
I am also reminded in the passage about the power of intercession. I need to pray for my friends who do not know or follow Jesus. Abraham prayed or interceded for His nephew to be saved from destruction and I believe I am called to do the same (pray for/intercede) for my friends and peers who are content to live amidst sin or who are willingly let sin rule their lives.
(R) Respond: Lord, help me when I laugh in disobedience to your promises, remind me daily that nothing is too hard for you. You can do anything, and you empower me to live a life where I can firmly believe this. Remind me daily, to pray for my friends who do not know you as their Lord and savior. Help me to pray for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are allowing sin to rule in their lives. I pray that you would lovingly draw them back to your presence. I pray for myself that I would not let the lures and temptations of sin to influence my life. May I live a Spirit-filled life that is pleasing to you. Search me Lord and help me to see the sins in my life before I feel the need to expose the sins of others.
Scripture Read: Genesis 16 - 17
Title: The Problem of Taking Matters Into Your Own Hands
(H) Highlight verse:: "And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.." (Genesis 15:6)
(E) Explain: The main point to Abrams story is God's promise to him. We are told in the passage that Abram believed God... Belief wasn't usually the problem for Abram, it was usually the, how will it get done that posed the problem. He had great difficulty in letting God take control of fulfilling His promise. As both Sarai and Abram were getting old, they realized one of the key promises of God was that He would give them a child to receive the inheritance. So, they devised a plan to "help God" along in this process. Sarai gave her Egyptian servant Abram and she became pregnant. We are told that Hagar then despised Sarai. This can mean that she thought that Sarai had lost her rank as the blessed one in the relationship and that Sarai was now going to be demoted... Sarai's response was to send Hagar away from the home. God was with Hagar and her son Ishmael and He blessed them.
God, once again reminds Abram about his promises and changes his name to Abraham and his wife's name to Sarah. God instituted the practice of circumcision as a way to confirm His covenant.
(A) Application: The account of Abram, Sarai and Hagar is very much akin to a modern day soap opera. My take away from this passage is God's plans are perfect. He is able to bring to fruition his plans... Man's plans are messed up and often self-serving. There are times in my life where I believe God has promised something, but I get anxious as to how He is going to accomplish what He has promised and I meddle with God's plan. I need to trust that God knows what He is doing and He is more than capable of accomplishing and completing his promises.
(R) Respond: God, help me to stop meddling with your plans and to simply trust you and submit my anxiety and worries over to you.
Scripture Read: Genesis 15
Title: The Abrahamic Covenant
(H) Highlight verse:: "And he believed the LORD and He counted it to him as righteousness. ." (Genesis 15:8))
(E) Explain: Earlier in Genesis (chapter 12) God made a promise to Abram. We are reminded time and again that God always keeps His promises. It is at this junction of life Abram begins to question God's promise. Abram and Sarai are childless and one of God's promises was that He would give them offspring to inherit the land He was given him. Since they remained childless Abram thinks that God is going to bless them by using the heir to his household as the means of blessing Abram. God assures him this is not the case. Abram thinks he figured God's plan out, but he had no idea what God was actually going to do (we will see this all come to fruition a few chapters later). Abram's plan is a man devised plan, but certainly not a God ordained plan. God reminds Abram of His promise by making a covenant with Abram. It is in these verses (9 - 21) we see the process God uses to confirm the covenant. God didn't make a mistake in his promise to Abram, Abram just didn't know how God would accomplish it. However, we are told Abram BELIEVED God and He counted this as righteousness.
(A) Application: Our plans are not always God's plans.. Sometimes situations in our lives arise and things seem bleak. I think God has spoken to me and intellectually I believe that He has the ability to do what He has promised, but sometimes I find it hard to believe fully in my heart that He will. When I feel this way is when I find that I start devising a plan to "help God out" in fulfilling His promise, but He doesn't need my help. He has it all under control. It is important for me to respond as Abram did in verse 6... God just wants me to believe (have faith, trust) Him and this is all He requires of me. It really is a simple process, but can be so hard sometimes.
Thankfully we have the reminder of God's promises fulfilled through Jesus. Through Him we have received the promise of life. Because of Jesus, we can know and FULLY believe that God care about His people and He wants us to trust Him fully, because He is trustworthy. Whenever we feel that God has forgotten about us or isn't going to do what He said, let us simply remember Jesus,.
(R) Respond: God, I will trust you, even when I don't act like I trust you, because you are trustworthy.
Scripture Read: Genesis 11 -12
Title: God's Promise to Abraham
(H) Highlight verse:: "I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you... Abram went forth as the LORD had commanded him, and Lot with with him." (Genesis 12:2, 4))
(E) Explain: In Genesis 11, we are introduced to Abram (later called Abraham) who is a considered the patriarchal father of the nation of Israel. Abram was a man who lived in an area called Ur of the Chaldeans with his father, brother, sister-in-law, nephew Lot, and his wife Sarai. One day the LORD spoke to Abram and told him to "Go away from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I show you. And I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing." In this passage we see many things happening.
(A) Application: When God calls me to go and do, I better be ready to respond in obedience. I know that in comparison to this world and even the universe that I am insignificant and small. However, this does not mean that I am insignificant and small in God's eyes. He does have a plan and purpose for me and I need to be faithful to seek it out and be obedient to follow it.
(R) Respond: God, when you speak, may I listen? May I not only listen, but may I respond in obedience and faith. Where you go, I will follow, when and where you call me, I will go.
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I currently live in Florida with my beautiful family. The Lord has blessed me with 20 years of full time ministry. He is and has been faithful. I am currently serving at a church as an Associate Director of Discipleship.