Sunday 21 July, 2019

Genesis 30:37-43

37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38 Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39 they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 40 Jacob set apart the young of the flock by themselves, but made the rest face the streaked and dark-colored animals that belonged to Laban. Thus he made separate flocks for himself and did not put them with Laban’s animals. 41 Whenever the stronger females were in heat, Jacob would place the branches in the troughs in front of the animals so they would mate near the branches, 42 but if the animals were weak, he would not place them there. So the weak animals went to Laban and the strong ones to Jacob. 43 In this way the man grew exceedingly prosperous and came to own large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

To read this passage by itself is a bit weird. But to read it as “a day in the life of” Jacob makes more sense. Jacob is known as “the deceiver” and here we see why. He has crafted a plan to ensure his success at the expense of his family.

He’s plotted. He’s exploited. He has done things to suit his own purposes.

Maybe if Jacob was sitting with us here today, he’d be embarrassed by such behaviour. But then it would actually be Israel sitting with us because – spoiler alert – as we find out later, Jacob becomes Israel and from his children a nation is formed. Despite such behaviour Jacob is used by God to bring about His purposes.

I find this encouraging because it means that God didn’t disqualify Jacob based on his behaviour found in this passage. This challenges my wrong thinking and beliefs that I disqualify myself by moments/days of poor behaviour and choices.

Instead, knowing that Jacob is used by God speaks of God’s patience and grace towards him. Towards me. God isn’t stuck in this one moment in time, this “one day” in Jacob’s life. Nor is He with mine.

Father, I am forever grateful that You are patient and gracious towards me. Your grace allows me space to live and learn – without condemnation when I do the wrong thing. Thank you!

Written by Gab Martin

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Saturday 20 July, 2019

Genesis 30:25-36

25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland. 26 Give me my wives and children, for whom I have served you, and I will be on my way. You know how much work I’ve done for you.” 27 But Laban said to him, “If I have found favor in your eyes, please stay. I have learned by divination that the Lord has blessed me because of you.” 28 He added, “Name your wages, and I will pay them.” 29 Jacob said to him, “You know how I have worked for you and how your livestock has fared under my care. 30 The little you had before I came has increased greatly, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I have been. But now, when may I do something for my own household?” 31 “What shall I give you?” he asked. “Don’t give me anything,” Jacob replied. “But if you will do this one thing for me, I will go on tending your flocks and watching over them: 32 Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. 33 And my honesty will testify for me in the future, whenever you check on the wages you have paid me. Any goat in my possession that is not speckled or spotted, or any lamb that is not dark-colored, will be considered stolen.” 34 “Agreed,” said Laban. “Let it be as you have said.” 35 That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. 36 Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

Sounds like some crazy voodoo magic going on in this story. Stripy branches in water troughs that made the offspring stripy? Crazy right?

But what if it was God’s idea? What if God knew that Jacob was getting cheated by Laban and he was saying “ok that’s enough now. You need a miracle, Jacob”. Because, of cause, all of Jacob’s “pay” had been herded away!

But God!

What impossible situation are you facing right now? When you’ve done everything right, but it still turns out wrong. I need to remember this story – and do what God says. Even if it seems a little crazy! Maybe my Father in Heaven, who loves me, is about to say, “here comes your miracle”.

Father, please help me hold on. To have faith that you love me and will work on my behalf because I’m your son – even when the odds are stacked against me. But God! Thank you.

Amen

Written by Boudy Van Noppen

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Friday 19 July, 2019

Genesis 30:14-24

14 During wheat harvest, Reuben went out into the fields and found some mandrake plants, which he brought to his mother Leah. Rachel said to Leah, “Please give me some of your son’s mandrakes.” 15 But she said to her, “Wasn’t it enough that you took away my husband? Will you take my son’s mandrakes too?” “Very well,” Rachel said, “he can sleep with you tonight in return for your son’s mandrakes.” 16 So when Jacob came in from the fields that evening, Leah went out to meet him. “You must sleep with me,” she said. “I have hired you with my son’s mandrakes.” So he slept with her that night. 17 God listened to Leah, and she became pregnant and bore Jacob a fifth son. 18 Then Leah said, “God has rewarded me for giving my servant to my husband.” So she named him Issachar. 19 Leah conceived again and bore Jacob a sixth son. 20 Then Leah said, “God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons.” So she named him Zebulun. 21 Some time later she gave birth to a daughter and named her Dinah. 22 Then God remembered Rachel; he listened to her and enabled her to conceive. 23 She became pregnant and gave birth to a son and said, “God has taken away my disgrace.” 24 She named him Joseph, and said, “May the Lord add to me another son.”

This passage occurs in the midst of a competition between two sisters (Rachel and Leah) married to the same man (Jacob). Whilst Rachel has Jacob’s heart, Leah is the one bearing him sons. So an exchange occurs – Rachel asks for Leah’s mandrakes in exchange for a night with Jacob. I wasn’t sure of the importance of mandrakes so I looked up what they were used for in ancient times, and found out that Rachel probably hoped they’d act as a fertility drug. However doing things in her own strength doesn’t pay off. Leah ends up pregnant yet again and Rachel remains childless. In fact Leah has another two children before God finally blesses Rachel with a son, Joseph, who goes on to do amazing things for God and his people.

Reading this today I’m reminded of the importance of waiting on God, even when it seems He’s being slow to respond. When I try to make things happen in my own strength so often I find myself fighting an uphill battle, struggling and definitely not bearing the fruit I’d hoped for. But when it’s God’s timing doors open and things fall into place and I’m always left amazed.

God, thank you that you know what you’re doing. Thank you that you don’t call us to strive for blessing but instead to wait on you. Help me to trust you and your timing.

Written by Rhiannon Mellor

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Thursday 18 July, 2019

Genesis 30:1-13

30 When Rachel saw that she was not bearing Jacob any children, she became jealous of her sister. So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” 2 Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” 3 Then she said, “Here is Bilhah, my servant. Sleep with her so that she can bear children for me and I too can build a family through her.” 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, 5 and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has vindicated me; he has listened to my plea and given me a son.” Because of this she named him Dan. 7 Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. 8 Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali. 9 When Leah saw that she had stopped having children, she took her servant Zilpah and gave her to Jacob as a wife. 10 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a son. 11 Then Leah said, “What good fortune!” So she named him Gad. 12 Leah’s servant Zilpah bore Jacob a second son. 13 Then Leah said, “How happy I am! The women will call me happy.” So she named him Asher.

Jealousy and comparison can often make us do strange things!

This passage shows us just how jealousy can have an impact on family and relationships, with Rachels servant bearing two sons for her with her husband Jacob as she is barren. Rachel does this as her sister Leah has children and she has none, making her jealous and angry with her own situation. When Leah see’s this, she does the same thing with her servant!

In verse 13 Leah says, ‘How happy I am! The women will call me happy’. This makes me wonder, would Rachel have been truly happy within this situation? Competing with your own sister and allowing your servant to sleep with your husband to give you children doesn’t make for the happiest of circumstances to me. Instead of turning to God while feeling overlooked, Rachel took matters into her own hands to satisfy her wants.

I wonder how many times we have done something out of jealousy, to present ourselves to the world as ‘happy’? How many times have we changed our situation, so other’s will look at us and think we have our lives sorted, are on top of everything, and have it all under control?

It’s always a challenge, but I am reminded from this passage it is important to turn to God, pray in the midst of what we might be going through, and trust that he in control, as He has a plan for everything.

Lord, help me to continue to rely on You. When I am jealous, or start comparing my life to someone else’s, remind me that You have a unique plan and purpose for my life. Remind me You are in control even when I can’t see it and help me to always trust in You.

Written by Rachel Tomc

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Wednesday 17 July, 2019

Genesis 29:31-35

31 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” 33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon. 34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi. 35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children.

Appreciate Leah’s concerns and respect her response. She feels unloved, left out, without a future and without value. God is the God who notices the unloved, God notices the fringe dwellers, God is kind and compassionate to the outsider. The children Leah has she names according the story that God is shaping in her life and these names also echo the themes of the grand history that God is creating for Abraham’s descendants. They are not only answers to Leah’s prayers but also answers to Abraham’s prayers. Leah’s boys are the tender and direct response of God to the cry of her heart.

Remember today God’s attentive gentleness towards you, especially in the midst of feeling unloved and alone. Pour out your heart to God in prayer. Be patient – the answers to Leah’s prayers were not instantaneous, but were worked out gradually over the course of years. Leah is a spiritual ancestor to us and her story has become our story through Jesus. The pattern of Leah’s story carries over into our lives for hope in any number of situations and challenges. Where are you feeling forgotten and alone?

Jesus, I bear my heart to you – I hold nothing back. I don’t hide from you and I want to patiently wait for your answers to my prayers. Sustain me as I wait. Fill me with your joy, even in the tough times. Amen

Written by Sam Stewart

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Tuesday 16 July, 2019

Genesis‬ ‭29:14b-30‬

After Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, 15 Laban said to him, “Just because you are a relative of mine, should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wages should be.” 16 Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Leah had weak[a] eyes, but Rachel had a lovely figure and was beautiful. 18 Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.” 19 Laban said, “It’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.” 20 So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her. 21 Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife. My time is completed, and I want to make love to her.” 22 So Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a feast. 23 But when evening came, he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob, and Jacob made love to her. 24 And Laban gave his servant Zilpah to his daughter as her attendant. 25 When morning came, there was Leah! So Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?” 26 Laban replied, “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. 27 Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.” 28 And Jacob did so. He finished the week with Leah, and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. 29 Laban gave his servant Bilhah to his daughter Rachel as her attendant. 30 Jacob made love to Rachel also, and his love for Rachel was greater than his love for Leah. And he worked for Laban another seven years.

I take a few lessons from this passage of scripture.

The first lesson is that I can avoid some major regrets in life simply by avoiding drinking too much alcohol. Many biblical characters were either fooled or made grave mistakes while drunk.

Second, it is amazing how fast time flies when we have purpose, hope and a vision. Jacob was able to work so long for Laban because he had his heart set on marrying Rachel. If my heart has no investment in my work, this is a danger sign… I am probably going to get sick of my work in the very near future. I need a heart connection, a sense of purpose, hope and vision in the work I do, otherwise I will find the work drudgery. This phenomena is a little like a double edged sword, because if my end goal and hope is not of God, I could quickly spend many years of my life fully engaged doing something of no eternal value.

Finally, I see how easy it is for us to be hypocrites. Jacob had ripped off his own brother of his birth-right as the firstborn son, he deceived his own father in order to do this (Genesis 27). Now, Laban deceives Jacob, and Jacob is indignant. In reality Jacob had no righteousness of his own to stand on when he complained to Laban. Ironically, Jacob used deception to claim a birth-right that was not his to claim, and now Laban uses deception to enforce the birth-right tradition onto Jacob by tricking him into marrying Leah, his first born daughter.

Lord I thank you that your Holy Spirit reveal lessons for life and knowing you. May your Word and your Spirit have priority in my life. Amen.

Written by Andrew Mellor

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Monday 15 July, 2019

Genesis 29:1-14a

29 Then Jacob continued on his journey and came to the land of the eastern peoples. 2 There he saw a well in the open country, with three flocks of sheep lying near it because the flocks were watered from that well. The stone over the mouth of the well was large. 3 When all the flocks were gathered there, the shepherds would roll the stone away from the well’s mouth and water the sheep. Then they would return the stone to its place over the mouth of the well. 4 Jacob asked the shepherds, “My brothers, where are you from?” “We’re from Harran,” they replied. 5 He said to them, “Do you know Laban, Nahor’s grandson?” “Yes, we know him,” they answered. 6 Then Jacob asked them, “Is he well?” “Yes, he is,” they said, “and here comes his daughter Rachel with the sheep.” 7 “Look,” he said, “the sun is still high; it is not time for the flocks to be gathered. Water the sheep and take them back to pasture.” 8 “We can’t,” they replied, “until all the flocks are gathered and the stone has been rolled away from the mouth of the well. Then we will water the sheep.” 9 While he was still talking with them, Rachel came with her father’s sheep, for she was a shepherd. 10 When Jacob saw Rachel daughter of his uncle Laban, and Laban’s sheep, he went over and rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered his uncle’s sheep. 11 Then Jacob kissed Rachel and began to weep aloud. 12 He had told Rachel that he was a relative of her father and a son of Rebekah. So she ran and told her father. 13 As soon as Laban heard the news about Jacob, his sister’s son, he hurried to meet him. He embraced him and kissed him and brought him to his home, and there Jacob told him all these things. 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

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Sunday 14 July, 2019

Genesis 28:18-22

18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz. 20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

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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Saturday 13 July, 2019

Genesis 28:10-17

10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. 12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it stood the Lord, and he said: “I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever 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 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”

This is an intriguing story and is the origin of the sayings ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ and ‘stairway to heaven’. The imagery describes a bridge between two realms, the realm of man and the realm of God. It is the stuff of movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark with an appeal that touches deep desires.

It is not until John 1:47-51 we discover the bridge is not a place but a person. It’s Jesus.

However, for me the most striking aspect of this passage is that until it was revealed to Jacob, he had no idea he was standing on Holy ground. This has left me wondering how often I am standing on Holy ground and don’t know it. Many times, I have faced difficult situations that have later turned out to be the provision of God. If Romans 8:28 is true, then much of our life we are walking on Holy ground without realising it.  Do you agree?

Lord, I ask you to help us see how great an influence you have in our life and through us others may know your presence in their lives.

Amen!

Written by David Newton

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Friday 12 July, 2019

Genesis 28:6-9

6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

In the middle of a narrative about Jacob we get a small aside about Esau. Esau is reeling from loosing his fathers blessing but has heard that Jacob has been told not to marry Canaanite women rather marry a relative on his mothers side. Possibly Esau is trying to win back some favour and so goes and marries another wife from his fathers side of the family.

The expression ‘too little to late’ comes to mind for Esau, though what also comes to mind is my ability to also quickly cast off my God given gifts and position in His family. How many times have I not walked in, lived out or taken hold of the authority and inheritance He has given to me through my faith in Jesus? (Gal 4:6). I can be quick to dismiss Esau but I think I maybe more like him than I realise.

Father forgive me for all times I have not lived in or stepped up to the life, inheritance & blessing that you have freely given to me through my faith in Jesus. I pray that I would be a better steward of the inheritance You have so freely given to me.

Written be Suzie Hodgson

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