Monday 30 November, 2015

Genesis 30:14-24

14 While the wheat harvest was being gathered, Reuben went out into the fields. He found some mandrake plants. He brought them to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But Leah said to her, “Isn’t it enough that you took my husband away? Are you going to take my son’s mandrakes too?” Rachel said, “All right. Jacob can sleep with you tonight if you give me your son’s mandrakes.” 16 Jacob came in from the fields that evening. Leah went out to meet him. “You have to sleep with me tonight,” she said. “I’ve traded my son’s mandrakes for that time with you.” So he slept with her that night. 17 God listened to Leah. She became pregnant and had a fifth son by Jacob. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me because I gave my female servant to my husband.” So she named the boy Issachar. 19 Leah became pregnant again. She had a sixth son by Jacob. 20 Then Leah said, “God has given me a priceless gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor. I’ve had six sons by him.” So she named the boy Zebulun. 21 Some time later she had a daughter. She named her Dinah. 22 Then God listened to Rachel. He showed concern for her. He made it possible for her to have children. 23 She became pregnant and had a son. Then she said, “God has taken away my shame.” 24 She said, “May the Lord give me another son.” So she named him Joseph.

Sometimes reading the narratives in the Bible is like watching soap operas! People messing with each other in an attempt to get what they want. Rachel (Jacob’s favourite wife!! This can’t be good…) is consumed with her desire to have a child, she feels shame at not being able to. On top of that her sister (!!!) Leah produces healthy baby boys but she is not Jacob’s favourite wife (how weird is it for two sisters to be married to the same man let alone having the whole favourites deal going on?). Then they introduce the mandrake (love-apple, superstition suggests they aid conception) and we get more drama. Rachel – in her desperation to get pregnant puts her faith in a plant – that her sister’s son has found. To get the plant she “sells” her sister a night with “their” husband – which Leah wants because Jacob spends his nights with Rachel! Does trusting a mandrake work out? Absolutely not. It has the reverse effect with Leah getting pregnant, again, and Rachel doesn’t.

Why are these peoples stories recorded? Messy, broken lives. They are there to paint a picture of what my life looks like when fear and shame take control. Just like Rachel can’t fix her infertility – neither can I fix the things in my life that frighten and bring me shame. But God can and He does! In verse 22-24 it tells us that God “hears” Rachel’s prayer. She finally turns to God, and regardless of what has gone on before – God gives her a son.

Lord – You are beyond understanding in your great love and compassion. You give – freely – to demonstrate your love – despite my brokenness and self-reliance. Help me depend on You today!

Written by Ps. Linda Quinn

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Sunday 29 November, 2015

Genesis 30:1-13

30 Rachel saw that she wasn’t having any children by Jacob. So she became jealous of her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2 Jacob became angry with her. He said, “Do you think I’m God? He’s the one who has kept you from having children.” 3 Then she said, “Here’s my servant Bilhah. Sleep with her so that she can have children for me. Then I too can have a family through her.” 4 So Rachel gave Jacob her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her. 5 And Bilhah became pregnant. She had a son by him. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has stood up for my rights. He has listened to my prayer and given me a son.” So she named him Dan. 7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah became pregnant again. She had a second son by Jacob. 8 Then Rachel said, “I’ve had a great struggle with my sister. Now I’ve won.” So she named him Naphtali. 9 Leah saw that she had stopped having children. So she gave her servant Zilpah to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a son by Jacob. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. 12 Leah’s servant Zilpah had a second son by Jacob. 13 Then Leah said, “I’m so happy! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

This seems to be a classic rivalry of sisters Rachel & Leah, wives of Jacob, as to which one is better. Rachel unable to have children, gives her maid Bilhah to Jacob to see if she can appropriate a family that way.  This seems to work well. Leah then thinks she’ll do the same. Jacob has 4 more sons from these arrangements.

I feel like we have read this story before (see Abraham & Sarah Gen 16). To us today this seems a bit messed up or perhaps something we’d see on an American talk show, but in that time & culture this method of making a family, and finding value as a woman, was acceptable & normal.

What hasn’t changed are the emotional responses of the women, the desire to have a family, jealousy, need of love & acceptance by their husband & acceptance by peers.  These are all powerful emotions & feelings, along with the need to be valued.

Cultures today aren’t all that different, where the value of a woman is gained through marriage and bearing children, especially boys.  As a single woman who has not had children I am so thankful that my value isn’t determined in this way.  Even more importantly, I am eternally thankful that my value as a person is found completely in and through Jesus.

Father thank you that you value me, not by what I do, or what I can produce, but I am valued through my relationship with your Son, Jesus.

Written by Suzie Hodgson

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Saturday 28 November, 2015

Genesis 29:31-35

31 The Lord saw that Jacob didn’t love Leah as much as he loved Rachel. So he let Leah have children. But Rachel wasn’t able to have children. 32 Leah became pregnant. She had a son. She named him Reuben. She said, “The Lord has seen me suffer. Surely my husband will love me now.” 33 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “The Lord heard that Jacob doesn’t love me very much. That’s why the Lord gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “Now at last my husband will value me. I have had three sons by him.” So the boy was named Levi. 35 She became pregnant again. She had a son. Then she said, “This time I’ll praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

There are two points I see from today’s passage. Leah’s shift, and God’s purpose.

The Lord saw that Leah was not loved, and responded by “opening her womb” so that Jacob would have a son. Leah’s desire was to have Jacob’s love, and thought giving him a son would result in this. Through these verses, we see that giving Jacob sons, did not in fact increase Jacob’s love for Leah, but by the time she gave birth to Judah, her attitude had taken a shift. “This time I will praise the Lord”. (Judah’s name means “praise” and he was to be part of the birth line of Christ.)

God’s purpose was not to provide children to Leah to grow Jacob’s love for her, although he did show compassion to her, but these children were the first of the 12 to become the founders of the 12 “tribes of Israel”.

And so what do I learn from this today? A consistent theme throughout Genesis is that God has a plan, which does not follow the expected route. Does He improvise according to the imperfection of mankind? No. I believe God always has a Plan A, and fulfils His purpose, His way.

Father, help me to always trust in Your way, and to know that Your plan is perfect. Help me to continually praise you as Leah learnt to, even though she did not gain what she was desiring. Amen

Written by Steve Fell

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Friday 27 November, 2015

Genesis 29:15-30

15 Then Laban said to him, “You are one of my relatives. But is that any reason for you to work for me for nothing? Tell me what your pay should be.” 16 Laban had two daughters. The name of the older one was Leah. And the name of the younger one was Rachel. 17 Leah was plain, but Rachel was beautiful. She had a nice figure. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel. He said to Laban, “I’ll work for you for seven years so I can marry your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It’s better for me to give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob worked for seven years so he could marry Rachel. But they seemed like only a few days to him because he loved her so much. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. I’ve completed my time. I want to sleep with her.” 22 So Laban brought all the people of the place together and had a feast prepared. 23 But when evening came, he gave his daughter Leah to Jacob. And Jacob slept with her. 24 Laban gave his female servant Zilpah to his daughter as her servant. 25 When Jacob woke up the next morning, there was Leah next to him! So he said to Laban, “What have you done to me? I worked for you so I could marry Rachel, didn’t I? Why did you trick me?” 26 Laban replied, “It isn’t our practice here to give the younger daughter to be married before the older one. 27 Complete this daughter’s wedding week. Then we’ll give you the younger one also. But you will have to work for another seven years.” 28 So Jacob completed the week with Leah. Then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his female servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her servant. 30 Jacob slept with Rachel also. He loved Rachel more than he loved Leah. And he worked for Laban for another seven years.

It’s ironic isn’t it? Jacob, the deceiver, is deceived. Jacob’s name means “grasper” and that’s been his character (not just his birth): the one who took what was not his is now cheated of what he is owed.

This is the second time Laban has given wives to Abraham’s family. He was straight forward in his dealings with Abraham and readily gave his sister Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife. But now he’s entirely different. I expect Laban knew of the goings on in his sister’s family and why Jacob had run away. I wonder if he is teaching his nephew a lesson about the effects his deception had on those around him.

It can be hard to see the consequence sin in my life has on others, but the effect of others sin on me is easy to see, and feel. Being hurt can be a blessing if it helps me see how I hurt others. And a yard stick for my actions “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you.” (Matthew 7:12)

It may be significant that Laban trusts Jacob, the one who runs away, to stay for the second 7 years after he gives him Rachel. And it’s certainly significant that he does. Being Jacob was not his destiny. He is becoming Israel, the faithful, who holds onto God and refuses to let go.

Written by David Cornell

1 (reply)
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    What lovely insights David. It is amazing how a “little” sin can permeate your life and those around us

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Thursday 26 November, 2015

Genesis 29:1-14

29 Then Jacob continued on his journey. He came to the land where the eastern tribes lived. 2 There he saw a well in the open country. Three flocks of sheep were lying near it. The flocks were given water from the well. The stone over the opening of the well was large. 3 All the flocks would gather there. The shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s opening. They would give water to the sheep. Then they would put the stone back in its place over the opening of the well. 4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My friends, where are you from?” “We’re from Harran,” they replied. 5 He said to them, “Do you know Nahor’s grandson Laban?” “Yes, we know him,” they answered. 6 Then Jacob asked them, “How is he?” “He’s fine,” they said. “Here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” 7 “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high in the sky. It’s not time for the flocks to be brought together. Give water to the sheep and take them back to the grasslands.” 8 “We can’t,” they replied. “We have to wait until all the flocks are brought together. The stone has to be rolled away from the opening of the well. Then we’ll give water to the sheep.” 9 He was still talking with them when Rachel came with her father’s sheep. It was her job to take care of the flock. 10 Rachel was the daughter of Laban, Jacob’s uncle. When Jacob saw Rachel with Laban’s sheep, he went over to the well. He rolled the stone away from the opening. He gave water to his uncle’s sheep. 11 Jacob kissed Rachel. Then he began to cry because he was so happy. 12 He had told Rachel he was a relative of her father. He had also said he was Rebekah’s son. Rachel ran and told her father what Jacob had said. 13 As soon as Laban heard the news about his sister’s son Jacob, he hurried to meet him. Laban hugged Jacob and kissed him. Then Laban brought him to his home. There Jacob told him everything. 14 Then Laban said to him, “You are my own flesh and blood.”

The customs of the old testament are a far cry from ours today. Most Australians live in cities and the sheep we see is at the butcher.  Jacob has to move the stone from the well so as Rachel can water her sheep, we just turn on a tap.  Yes the Old Testament seems miles away from our existence today,  Yet…  What we see is devotion to family, which is common enough in our context today.  Devotion you ask… the stone was very large – you did not move a large stone away unless there was a reason and here the reason is family, devotion to family.  Emotion was high as well, Jacob kisses Rachel, he weeps, Laban embraces Jacob and kisses him – and yes these may be normal customs of the middle east, but weeping was a strong show of emotion.  I wonder why.  Was it just the sense of family and devotion or was there more.  Was there the pent up emotion of seeing the Lord at work in miraculous ways and the relief that God really was answering prayer.  I like that thought.  I have often felt a surge of emotion as I realise God is answering my prayers.  And I have learnt not to be embarrassed by it.  Seeing God at work should impact us emotionally.

Father help me to see your hand at work in my life and help me to respond with the full range of emotion as I see your miracles, deliverance, healing, salvation…

Written by Ps. Richard Botta

1 (reply)
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Powerful thought Richard, I know what you mean. I think I agree with you, in a big bad wilderness, God was leading this family by the hand!

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Wednesday 25 November, 2015

Genesis‬ ‭28:18-22‬

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head. He set it up as a sacred stone. And he poured olive oil on top of it. 19 He named that place Bethel. But the city used to be called Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a promise. He said, “May God be with me. May he watch over me on this journey I’m taking. May he give me food to eat and clothes to wear. 21 May he do as he has promised so that I can return safely to my father’s home. Then you, Lord, will be my God. 22 This stone I’ve set up as a sacred stone will be God’s house. And I’ll give you a tenth of everything you give me.”

Just the night before, Jacob had an intimate and powerful encounter with the God of the universe. The weight of this glorious interaction is still on him the next morning. So he decides to mark that moment and that place as a turning point in his life, from this point forward he desires to worship God alone.

God had already promised to be with Abraham and his descendants forever, God renewed that promise to Abraham’s son Isaac. Now the next generation had to make their choices. Abraham’s two grandchildren have taken different paths, Esau is deliberately disobeying Isaac in spite of him. Here, by grace, Jacob is responding to God with faith, little faith, but faith nonetheless. He tithes, just as Abraham did, and he commits to following the Lord.

Lord, every generation must make their own choice, to trust you or not. You are faithful and your promises never fail. Teach me to play my part, to let others play theirs. Help me to instruct, but teach me that I cannot control, it is yours to reveal yourself and it is the choice of others in how they respond. Teach me to be accountable for my response to you.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Tuesday 24 November, 2015

Genesis 28:10-17

10 Jacob left Beersheba and started out for Harran. 11 He reached a certain place and stopped for the night. The sun had already set. He took one of the stones there and placed it under his head. Then he lay down to sleep. 12 In a dream he saw a stairway standing on the earth. Its top reached to heaven. The angels of God were going up and coming down on it. 13 The Lord stood beside the stairway. He said, “I am the Lord. I am the God of your grandfather Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your children after you the land you are lying on. 14 They will be like the dust of the earth that can’t be counted. They will spread out to the west and to the east. They will spread out to the north and to the south. All nations on earth will be blessed because of you and your children after you. 15 I am with you. I will watch over you everywhere you go. And I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” 16 Jacob woke up from his sleep. Then he thought, “The Lord is surely in this place. And I didn’t even know it.” 17 Jacob was afraid. He said, “How holy this place is! This must be the house of God. This is the gate of heaven.”

As Jacob was obediently following his father’s directions to get a wife from among the extended family, God appeared to him in an incredible dream. Jacob witnessed the glory, majesty and power of God and also encountered the blessing and goodness of God. What amazing promises God made Jacob, to provide land, descendants and to be with him. Jacob did not deserve this supernatural intervention, he had previously stolen his own brother’s birthright. God’s promises to Jacob were a reflection of God’s goodness and plans, and not something that Jacob had earned.

God, please help me to remember that you are the same glorious & supernatural God that Jacob saw, please help me not to shrink you in my mind. Help me to receive & grab hold of your promises, as a free gift from you, and not something that I can ever hope to earn. Amen.

Written by Beth Waugh

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Monday 23 November, 2015

Genesis 28:6-9

6 Esau found out that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram. Isaac wanted him to get a wife from there. Esau heard that when Isaac blessed Jacob, he commanded him, “Don’t get married to a woman from Canaan.” 7 Esau also learned that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Then Esau realized how much his father Isaac disliked Canaanite women. 9 So he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath. She was the sister of Nebaioth and the daughter of Abraham’s son Ishmael. Esau added her to the wives he already had.

One of the things I absolutely love about studying the Bible is that I can read a passage that I have completely glossed over many times before, but if I reflect on it, God speaks.

As I read this little passage with an absurd detail about Esau’s choice of wife, it dawned on me that sometimes in the rat race of life, I try to copy what someone else is doing because they seem to be getting blessed.

I am naturally a fairly analytical person and I like to try to understand trends and interpret phenomena when they occur, and then when the trend or phenomena looks good, I try to work out how to learn from it and apply it. It seems reasonable.

God has spoken to me through this verse suggesting that there is wisdom in my approach, but that sometimes I miss an all-important step: Filtering the application through God’s hands.

I don’t believe that God wants us to go to him with every little day-to-day decision (like what to eat for a snack) but lately I have realised that I need to get better at being more in tune with the Holy Spirit in my decision-making process.

I think there have definitely been times in my life when I have wasted a bunch of time and effort pursuing something that was a great idea for someone else instead of just asking God what he wants.

Lord, thanks that you relate differently to every person as an individual. Help me to get better at knowing myself as I grow in my knowledge and understanding of you.

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

2 replies
  1. Andrew Wilson says:

    Perhaps it was your line about looking for trends, but I did note that Esau went to Ishmael to get a wife.
    Ishmael was the oldest son of Abraham but did not receive the blessing and later we were told lived in “hostility “.
    Esau was the eldest son but did not receive the blessing and responded with rage. Then later married Ishmael’s line.
    I’m worried about the gene pool.

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Sunday 22 November, 2015

Genesis 27:41-28:5

41 Esau was angry with Jacob. He was angry because of the blessing his father had given to Jacob. He said to himself, “The days of sorrow over my father’s death are near. Then I’ll kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said. So she sent for her younger son Jacob. She said to him, “Your brother Esau is planning to get back at you by killing you. 43 Now then, my son, do what I say. Run away at once to my brother Laban in Harran. 44 Stay with him until your brother’s anger calms down. 45 When he forgets what you did to him, I’ll let you know. Then you can come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?” 46 Then Rebekah spoke to Isaac. She said, “I’m sick of living because of Esau’s Hittite wives. Suppose Jacob also marries a Hittite woman. If he does, my life won’t be worth living.” 28 So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him, “Don’t get married to a Canaanite woman. 2 Go at once to Paddan Aram. Go to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Find a wife for yourself there. Take her from among the daughters of your mother’s brother Laban. 3 May the Mighty God bless you. May he give you children. May he make your family larger until you become a community of nations. 4 May he give you and your children after you the blessing he gave to Abraham. Then you can take over the land where you now live as an outsider. It’s the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 Isaac sent Jacob on his way. Jacob went to Paddan Aram. He went to Laban, the son of Bethuel the Aramean. Laban was Rebekah’s brother. And Rebekah was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

The story of twin brothers – Jacob the younger of the two was a submissive boy, while Esau was the stronger and the more rebellious.

Previously, Jacob had taken the father Isaac’s blessing which normally would be the right of the elder brother. Because of this Esau was very angry at Jacob and planned to kill his brother after their father died.

Jacob’s mother Rebecca short-circuited the situation by sending Jacob away to visit her brother Laban, with the hope that he would find someone to marry. She reasoned that Esau’s angst would subside over time and then Jacob could return home. Isaac sent Jacob away with his blessing.

Like Esau many of us find it difficult to manage our emotions. This creates situations which easily develops bitter and division within relationships. We remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit lives within us in order to mould us into the image of Jesus. If we don’t yield to Him and allow Him to deal with anger and/or bitterness we will forfeit the promise of “abundant life” which Jesus promised us.

Father we ask you to guard our hearts and deliver us from any emotions which will spoil intimacy with You. Forgive us when we have allowed bitterness or anger to continue in our hearts.

Written by Keith Bennett

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Saturday 21 November, 2015

Genesis 27:30-40

30 When Isaac finished blessing him, Jacob left his father. Just then his brother Esau came in from hunting. 31 He too prepared some tasty food. He brought it to his father. Then Esau said to him, “My father, please sit up. Eat some of my wild meat. Then give me your blessing.” 32 His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I’m your son,” he answered. “I’m Esau, your oldest son.” 33 Isaac began to shake all over. He said, “Then who hunted a wild animal and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came. I gave him my blessing. And he will certainly be blessed!” 34 Esau heard his father’s words. Then he yelled loudly and bitterly. He said to his father, “Bless me! Bless me too, my father!” 35 But Isaac said, “Your brother came and tricked me. He took your blessing.” 36 Esau said, “Isn’t Jacob just the right name for him? This is the second time he has taken advantage of me. First, he took my rights as the oldest son. And now he’s taken my blessing!” Then Esau asked, “Haven’t you saved any blessing for me?” 37 Isaac answered Esau, “I’ve made him ruler over you. I’ve made all his relatives serve him. And I’ve provided him with grain and fresh wine. So what can I possibly do for you, my son?” 38 Esau said to his father, “Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!” Then Esau wept loudly. 39 His father Isaac answered him, “You will live far away from the fruit of the earth. You will live far away from the dew of heaven above. 40 You will live by using the sword. And you will serve your brother. But you will grow restless. Then you will throw off the heavy load he has caused you to carry.”

There are 2 parts to this story of Esau, the eldest son, losing his rightful inheritance from his father Isaac. In the first part Esau does the wrong thing and in the second part Esau has the wrong thing done to him.

In the first part of the story, he sells his birthright to his brother Jacob for a single meal of stew. Poor choice with big consequences.

In second part of the story he is tricked out of his rightful position as the elder brother through a collaboration plot between his own mother and his younger brother Jacob. That’s got to be rough to deal with having your own family plot against you.  We see here that Esau does not handle it well, becoming bitter and hateful towards his brother. He cries, he rants and raves, but cannot change what has been done.

All of us are faced with disappointments in life – some through our own poor choices and some through what others have done to us. Anger and sadness are a natural response, but we can’t stay in that place or discouragement and bitterness will ensnare us.

God has promised us that He will vindicate us when we have been wronged, and that He will restore us when we have done wrong. These both require faith from us because often we can’t see how He can possibly restore or bring a positive outcome from a bad situation. But I know in my own life I can look back and see that time and time again He has done just that. And so today, once again I choose to believe for the future that my God will work all things together for good as I follow Him and trust Him for the outcome.

Written by Shelley Witt

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