Genesis 28:1-29:35 ~ Matthew 9:18-38 ~ Psalm 11:1-7 ~ Proverbs 3:11-12
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Old Testament - Today's Genesis chapter 28 readings begin Jacob's adventure as he leaves the land promised to Abraham and Isaac and heads for Paddan-aram to stay with his uncle. Jacob's dream at Bethel is awesome in this chapter! While this dream is often referred to as "Jacob's Ladder," many commentaries say it was probably stairs that Jacob dreamt of - similar to the stairs of a ziggurat (think tower of Babel) that winded around the outside of the tower on the way up. Have you ever had a dream anything like this one? :)
I do have to admit - Jacob's story and the parallel stories of his uncle Laban, Jacob's wives, and his sons - culminating with Joseph in Egypt - is one of my favorite parts of the Old Testament. This is just good narrative! I think one thing that really opened my eyes to all of the small details of the story of Jacob is that I was in an amazing Bible study for about a year going through this part of Genesis. I don't know if you've been in a group Bible study before? If not, let me encourage you to join one! They are incredible. You get so many different perspectives from each person in the group - similar in some ways to what you are getting here on this blog - but more personal and I think far better. You get to go through the text with other people and really dive into things - and even have some fun joking around about things. If the church you attend has some sort of Bible study, will you consider checking it out this month of January? I know you will be incredibly blessed by this decision!
I found verses 21 & 22 intriguing: "Then Jacob made this vow: "If God will be with me and protect me on this journey and give me food and clothing, and if he will bring me back safely to my father, then I will make the LORD my God." Do you notice the "if" / "then" statement in this vow from Jacob? Jacob is putting some conditions on what it will take for him to make God his God. Do we do this in our lives sometimes? Do we try to put "conditions" on God? Does this really make sense to do? What if our conditions are not met? What if things don't go as planned? Will we still love God as our God, even if the "conditions" in our life are not met or are not ideal?
In Genesis chapter 29 Jacob arrives at Paddan-Aram, which was close to Haran. See this map below for where Jacob will spend the next 20 years of his life. All 12 of his children besides Benjamin will be born in this land! Note that this map below shows arrows going from right to left - because it's really a map of Abraham's early journey. :) But, you can see how far Jacob traveled from Bethel - where he had the dream discussed above - to Haran / Paddan-Aram at the top of the map.
In this chapter Jacob meets Rachel and Laban, and works for 7 years to marry Rachel - except for the fact that Jacob was deceived by Laban on the wedding night! Which is a bit ironic, as we have seen in recent chapters that Jacob did some deceiving himself... I read one commentary that said for most of his life Jacob was so focused on getting the rights of the first born from his father Isaac - and now he must accept the rights of the first born in this surprise marriage to Leah! At the end of today's readings we see that Leah is beginning to have sons - including Levi who will be the ancestor of the Aaronic priestly line of Israel, and Judah who will be the ancestor of King David and ultimately Jesus Christ. Below is an oil painting from 1836 by Bohemian painter Joseph von Fuhrich of Jacob encountering Rachel with her father's herds in verses 9 - 11: "As this conversation was going on, Rachel arrived with her father's sheep, for she was a shepherd. And because she was his cousin, the daughter of his mother's brother, and because the sheep were his uncle's, Jacob went over to the well and rolled away the stone and watered his uncle's flock. Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and tears came to his eyes."
New Testament - In Matthew chapter 9 today we read about Jesus healing in response to people's faith - the faith of the father, the faith of the woman, the blind men, and many others. It is amazing to remember that the Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted these types of healings would take place in the Messianic age. Check out Isaiah chapter 35 verses 5 & 6: "Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy." This image below of the woman reaching for Jesus' tassels from today's readings is one of my favorite images of faith. Have you ever reached out in faith to Jesus like this woman did?
Verses 37 & 38 are so powerful in today's readings: "He said to his disciples, "The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields." I think each of us can reflect on this teaching from Jesus. Do you agree with Jesus that the harvest is so great? And the workers are few? Will you pray to God for more workers for his kingdom work? Are you one of God's workers in his kingdom work?
Psalms - Today we read Psalm 11, which is one that you might miss the full meaning of if you didn't know some of the commentary behind this Psalm. Basically in this Psalm King David is expressing his unshakable trust in God to other people around him who are very scared of enemy attacks. Knowing this - check out verse 1: "I trust in the LORD for protection. So why do you say to me, "Fly to the mountains for safety!" Like David, do we really trust in God for our protection? Or do we sometimes rely on others or our own cunning - or, our own fear - for protection? Are there times when we are faced with a challenging situation that we feel like running away from it? “Fleeing to the mountains” for safety? When, instead, should we simply trust in God for our protection and move forward in spite of the fear within us? Is there an area of your life where you need to turn over more trust in God for ultimate protection? Will you flee to God only instead of fleeing to the mountains?
Proverbs - Wow! Proverbs chapter 3 verses 11 & 12 today are so amazing and true... Please meditate on these verses and what they mean to you and your life: "My child, don't ignore it when the LORD disciplines you, and don't be discouraged when he corrects you. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights." I have come to realize in recent years that correction and discipline from God is such a blessing! No, it is not fun at the time that you are going through it. But, it is so necessary for us to move forward in our relationship and walk with God this side of heaven. We need God's holy and divine discipline! I think oftentimes we avoid it. Or run away from it. Or refuse to go through it. Can you see why this Proverb starts off with "My child," :) Please let me encourage you to joyfully accept and go through God's discipline in your life. In some areas of your life it may be the only thing that will break you through to victory. One book I found helpful in thinking through the benefits of discipline from God - or pruning as the author called it - is Bruce Wilkinson's "Secrets of the Vine". If you'd like to learn more about staying close to God and Jesus - and allowing God to discipline you, please check out this book! It's a quick read - yet very thought provoking. You'll love John chapter 15 forevermore after reading this book...
Worship God: Today's readings in Matthew 9:37-38 about the harvest being plentiful but the workers being few reminds me of the Brandon Heath song "Give me your Eyes:"
Do you have eyes for the harvest? Click here for new eyes!
Please join me in memorizing and meditating on two verses of Scripture today: "Then Jesus said to his disciples, "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Matthew 9:37-38 NIV
Prayer Point: Pray that you would see the harvest in our world today as God sees it. Pray that you would be a worker in God's fields this year. Pray daily for your family and friends that don't yet know Jesus. Pray that they would come to know Him.
Comments from You and Questions of the Day: Based on our Proverbs reading today, do you believe there is such a thing as godly discipline? Do you believe that God corrects those that he loves? Can you think of any areas of your life or times where God has corrected you? Is there perhaps an area of your life today where God is correcting you? Will you not ignore this correction any longer? Will you allow God to correct you? Also, what verses or insights stand out to you in today's readings? Please post up by clicking on the "Comments" link below!