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Soldier4Christ
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« Reply #60 on: July 16, 2006, 12:01:05 AM »

Read: Genesis 26:15-33
We saw clearly that the Lord was with you. - Genesis 26:28
TODAY IN THE WORD
In today's world, when a man finds success everywhere he goes, he usually gets the credit. If a coach in sports wins championships with multiple teams, he's declared a mastermind. If an actress appears in many top-grossing films, she's labeled box-office gold. A businessman who has success in several businesses is considered an entrepreneurial genius. But in the time of the Patriarchs, people linked continued success with a power beyond that person.

The Philistines could see that something was different about Isaac, and it frightened them. The persecution of God's people began so early in their history; the Philistines attempted to cut off Isaac's water supply and force him and his household out of the area (vv. 15-16). Recall that a famine in the land had driven Isaac into the area in the first place (v. 1), so the search for water in the arid Negev region looked like a dire situation indeed.

The successful discovery of new water sources also appears all the more miraculous given the circumstances—and being repeatedly thwarted by the people native to the land may have struck Isaac and his people with great frustration and fear. When at last he was able to find a well with ample room for his people and herds, Isaac gave credit to God, not his own divining abilities (v. 22).

Once again God reassured Isaac that He would be with him and would bless and multiply his offspring (v. 24), a gesture met with appropriate worship from Isaac (v. 25). After all that God had done for Isaac, it's not surprising that he recognized God as the source of blessing. But what should catch our attention in this passage is that as a result of Isaac's faith and obedience, a foreign king and his people would have a proper understanding of who God is and how He is faithful as well.

Abimelech's persecution turned to an attitude of respect when he realized that the Lord was with Isaac. He and his men understood that it was better to have such a blessed man as an ally than an enemy.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Isaac didn't fight over wells that he could have claimed as his own, and eventually the king's heart softened. When people you know show hostility to you because of your faith, ask God to grant you a spirit of peace. Even when others take advantage of you for their own selfish desires, look for God to give you everything you need—including the possibility for reconciliation. No one can threaten God's promises to you. Take comfort in His gift of faith.
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« Reply #61 on: July 16, 2006, 12:01:33 AM »

Read: Genesis 26:34-27:13
Isaac . . . loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob. - Genesis 25:28
TODAY IN THE WORD
Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote, “ 'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” If he had met this family, Tennyson might realize that he underestimated the negative effects of love gone bad.

The love we read about today distorts the selfless nature of true love. Esau loved women that wisdom should have kept him from marrying. God's covenant to Abraham suggested that Abraham's descendants were to keep separated from the people of Canaan, including the Hittites (Gen. 15:19-21). How could God give them victory over these nations if they were intermarried beyond recognition.

But the grief caused by Esau's wives (26:35) was not enough to change Isaac's high opinion of his eldest son. His favoritism moved him to give Esau his blessing, although it's unclear where he got the idea to do it. Esau and Jacob's troubled relationship may have reminded Isaac of himself and Ishmael. Just as Abraham's covenant was to be established with Isaac, Isaac could have been trying to duplicate that honor—or he could have been trying to mimic the blessing God gave him after his father's death (25:11). But it's unclear whether Isaac's blessing had any effect on future events other than widening the chasm between the feuding twins.

Whatever tradition Isaac had in mind, Rebekah's thoughts were running along the same track, just in the opposite direction. She was willing to trick her husband, taking advantage of his old age in order to see her favorite son prosper, even if it meant risking a curse (v. 13). Rebekah may have been motivated by her own interpretations of past messages from God. She may have taken it upon herself to fulfill the prophecy from her pregnancy (25:23).

But God's prophecy to Rebekah didn't require trickery for fulfillment. The future of Israel didn't rest in the blessing from Isaac—that blessing came from the Lord. All Isaac and Rebekah managed to pass on to their children was an attitude of greed and self-service.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Selfishness and pride disfigure the face of virtue, turning faith and love into deception and jealousy. Sinful motives like those in Isaac and Rebekah show up in our lives in ways more subtle than blatant trickery. Sometimes we play favorites with the gospel, reaching out only to those unbelievers we find attractive because of their style, popularity, or personality. Ask God to fill you with His unconditional love for all people and avoid the trap of false love and distorted faith.
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« Reply #62 on: July 16, 2006, 12:02:02 AM »

Read: Genesis 25:27-34; 27:15-40
“Are you really my son Esau?” he asked. “I am,” he replied. - Genesis 27:24
TODAY IN THE WORD
As Marie Antoinette and her family attempted to escape France during the revolution of 1791, her entourage disguised as poor commoners was easily apprehended. The royally vain woman, it is commonly believed, couldn't bear to make the escape without wearing her expensive perfume.

The key players in today's reading couldn't disguise their skewed priorities either. Esau's preferences—trading his chief inheritance for a bowl of stew—are unmistakably depraved. But let's not overlook what it reveals about Jacob's character: he preyed on his brother's foolish greediness.

In his shortsightedness, Esau chose to eat now rather than keep his birthright later. The birthright seems to differ from the blessing in that it was probably the human portion of inheritance—possessions, favor, and honor—whereas the blessing encompassed that which came from God—success, dominion over enemies, and the role of headship in the family (27:27-29).

How ironic that the price of both the birthright and the blessing was food. In his hunger, Isaac allowed the gratification of the meal, the smell of Esau's clothes, and the feel of animal skin to override what he plainly could tell was Jacob's voice. By acting without more closely considering the facts, Isaac showed little more regard for bestowing his blessing than Esau showed for his birthright. But Jacob exposes his priorities as well; he chose personal gain over integrity.

As for Esau, the news of the betrayal of blessing caused him and his father a great deal of grief. Apparently, the blessing was irrevocable, which left Esau with a lesser blessing from his father. The nature of these blessings is elusive. They carry too much force to be just the predictions of a dying man. If they were divine prophecies, how could trickery have played a part? God works through—and sometimes despite—our own conniving. God honored Isaac's blessings as part of His own act of blessing Jacob. He certainly had done little to deserve such grace.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
We all, on occasion, follow the fallen example of these Patriarchs, choosing instant gratification over the blessing of God when we set our sights on anything lower than eternity. Or perhaps you've been guilty of trying to win God's favor at someone else's expense. While these attitudes and actions don't preempt God's grace, they always introduce negative effects like dissension, distrust, and missed opportunities for glorifying God. Thank God for His faithfulness and seek His blessings (see Matt. 5:1-12).
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« Reply #63 on: July 16, 2006, 12:02:28 AM »

Read: Genesis 27:41-28:22
I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. - Genesis 28:15
TODAY IN THE WORD
Black lights, lamps that emit long-wave ultraviolet light, can be very useful for detecting counterfeits and forgeries in antiques and art. By using a black light, appraisers can make fractures, glue, and touch-up paint stand out like a neon sign. The righteousness of God and the sinfulness of His chosen people stand in stark contrast to each other in our readings lately, and that trend will continue. Even though His character is far removed from theirs, God's faithful commitment to His covenant with Abraham's descendants remains steadfast. We need the light of God's Word to discern between their sinful actions and the blessings God gives them despite it all. God was with Jacob as he journeyed toward the land of his relatives, but that doesn't mean God was in the decision to send him. Rebekah once again tricked Isaac, hiding her true reasons for wanting Jacob to leave Canaan (27:46). Apparently she didn't want Isaac to know what Esau had planned to do after Isaac's death. From the text, it seems that Rebekah must have died before Jacob returned to bury his father many years later (35:29). Isaac didn't share his father Abraham's fear of seeing his son return to Mesopotamia (cf. 24:5-8). Had Isaac employed the same discernment Abraham did, perhaps he could have spared Jacob from Laban's deception. At least he made the right choice in ensuring that Jacob avoided intermarriage with the Canaanites. At first glance, Jacob's dream seems out of place—the visuals, the ladder or staircase of angels going to and from heaven, bear little relation to the message. It's not until Jacob sets up his conditional test that we realize the importance of the vision (v. 21)—Jacob was not yet fully committed to God. The grandson of Abraham, who had been so devoted to God alone, now required more than God's word to verify God's claims. The vision of angels was enough to convince him of God's presence, but he still wanted to test God's faithfulness.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
In some ways, Jacob looked the part of God's chosen one. He was blessed by Isaac, he didn't marry a Canaanite, and we recognize him as the father of God's people, the Israelites. But Jacob's heart was desperately sinful and his faith was barely noticeable. Don't allow your faith to be simply cosmetic. Ask the Holy Spirit to search your heart today and expose every sinful thought and attitude. Confess your sin and let God change you from the inside out.
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« Reply #64 on: July 16, 2006, 12:02:54 AM »

Read: Genesis 29:14-30
I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me? - Genesis 29:25
TODAY IN THE WORD
Justice J. Michael Eakin of the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court has a tradition of rhyming his opinions on court cases. In one ruling on a fraudulent prenuptial agreement, Eakin wrote, “A groom must expect matrimonial pandemonium when his spouse finds he's given her a cubic zirconium, instead of a diamond in her engagement band, the one he said was worth twenty-one grand.”

Jacob also had a faulty “prenuptial” agreement. Not getting the ring you expected is one thing—discovering you married a different woman than you thought is quite another. He was fine with mistaken identity when he tricked his father for Esau's blessing, but felt differently when he was the one being tricked.

The story begins with Jacob in an unfamiliar position of servitude. If Isaac would have given Jacob some valuables for a dowry—or sent a servant to find him a wife as his father Abraham had done—Jacob would not have owed Laban a debt of service. But Jacob had not yet received any inheritance from Isaac's considerable wealth, and Laban took full advantage of the opportunity.

Jacob served seven years to earn Rachel's hand in marriage . . . or so he thought. Laban brought him his elder daughter Leah, and Jacob was apparently still distracted to pay attention to details like who he was actually taking as his wife. After Jacob's angry reaction and a week's wedding celebration, Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel in exchange for his promise to serve another seven years. The second seven-year stretch probably didn't pass nearly as quickly as the first.

Jacob also showed Isaac's tendency for playing favorites. His preference for Rachel over Leah would cause a deep jealousy between the sisters and a very contentious and strange chain of events involving the two maidservants Laban provided each of his daughters. All four women and their efforts to one-up each other would wind up producing Jacob's twelve sons.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Hopefully it takes a certain stretch of the imagination for you to relate to Jacob and Laban's deceit, but consider this: God used these acts of deception and foolishness to construct the foundation of His chosen nation, Israel. If you've ever felt like God couldn't use you to achieve His purposes, look at these people! He can use anyone. That should change how you look at other people, too. Learn to appreciate those around you as potential vessels for His glory.
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« Reply #65 on: July 16, 2006, 12:03:22 AM »

Read: Genesis 29:31-35
Now I will praise the Lord! - Genesis 29:35
TODAY IN THE WORD
In his essay, “The Efficacy of Prayer,” C. S. Lewis wrote that God's desired end for answering prayer isn't that our requests themselves will be met but rather that our faith will be increased. He wrote, “Little people like you and me, if our prayers are sometimes granted, beyond all hope and probability, had better not draw hasty conclusions to our own advantage. If we were stronger, we might be less tenderly treated. If we were braver, we might be sent, with far less help, to defend far more desperate posts in the great battle.”

Leah's weakness and suffering were met with unexpected grace from God. She didn't need to ask for her first son, Reuben, who was given an appropriate name meaning, “Look, a son.” He just came in response to what God saw as a measure of His mercy on Leah for being the less-loved wife of Jacob. Leah acknowledged God's kindness, but hoped that this son would increase her esteem in her husband's eyes.

Her second son, Simeon, which means “hearing,” was so named because God had heard of Leah's struggles. Once again, Leah connected the provision of a son with her desire for Jacob's love. The same occurred with Levi, which means “attachment.” Leah thought that surely, the provision of three sons would be enough to solidify her standing and force Jacob to love her . . . but it didn't.

With Leah's fourth son, Judah, she didn't mention Jacob in her response to God. She just praised God for what He did and gave her son the name that meant “praise.” Although further events would change Leah's attitude, at this point in her life Leah's satisfaction with what God gave her coincided with the temporary conclusion of God's provision. God's desire for Leah was not simply for her to produce sons—He desired her praise. If only Leah could have sustained her content spirit of praise, she may have responded with stronger faith and more godly character when she was again tested by difficult circumstances. But we'll later see that Leah's hope was still tied to the fulfillment of her earthly desires for the affection of her husband rather than for the love of God.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Have you ever made a prayer list with two columns, one for “prayer requests,” and the other for “praises”? It is most definitely appropriate to praise God for answering our prayers, but our praise shouldn't hinge on a response from God. Answered prayer is a reminder to praise God, but it shouldn't be the reason we praise God. Spend some time today praising God for who He is. Our Savior, King, Comforter, Redeemer—the list of reasons to praise Him is endless. Let our praise for Him never cease.
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« Reply #66 on: July 16, 2006, 12:03:49 AM »

Read: Genesis 30:1-24
So she said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” - Genesis 30:1
TODAY IN THE WORD
Frank Sinatra was known for his extreme passion, which sometimes got out of control. One of his most infamous tirades ended with him ripping the telephone off of his office wall and setting the room on fire. Allegedly, the offense that sparked his anger was that the color of his telephone clashed with his outfit.

It may be just as hard for us to identify with Rachel's overreaction to the birth of Leah's children, but her desperation shows the high value that had been placed on a woman's capacity for bearing children, especially boys. Part of God's promise to Abraham was a multitude of descendants, and the women who married into his line apparently took that promise to heart.

If Jacob loved Rachel more than Leah, he had a poor way of showing it. His anger against his wife reflected rather than diffused his wife's emotion. As his grandfather had done, Jacob took his wife's servant as his wife to produce his fifth and sixth sons, Dan (which means “justice”) and Naphtali (meaning “wrestling”).

Not to be outdone, Leah gave her maid to Jacob as a wife, and she bore him sons Gad (“luck” or “fortune”) and Asher (“happy”), bringing the total number of sons to eight. The tactic of increasing Jacob's wives brought him a growing family, but it had unsurprising negative effects as well. For example, Leah didn't just stop bearing children—she had to resort to petty bargaining just to spend a night with her husband (v. 16).

Nevertheless, God granted grace to this family, blessing Leah with two more sons (Issachar meaning “reward” and Zebulun meaning “dwelling”) and a daughter, Dinah. Finally, after all the jealous plotting and scheming, God gave Rachel a son of her own, Joseph, meaning “may God add.” God would indeed add later, eventually bringing Rachel a second son, the twelfth for Jacob.

Perhaps most notable element among all the discord in this family is the silence of Jacob. His utter lack of leadership allowed unbridled envy to run amok in this dysfunctional family.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Today's reading is a good spot to remember that God planned to bring His Son to the world through this line of people. If the plan had depended on the righteousness of Abraham's descendants, it would have failed. But the success of God's redemptive plan relied on His faithfulness—and that never fails. Today, thank God for His faithfulness, especially the gift of Jesus Christ. While we inherited our faith from the line of Abraham, we place our faith in Jesus.
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« Reply #67 on: July 16, 2006, 12:04:16 AM »

Read: Genesis 30:25-31:12
God has taken away your father’s livestock and has given them to me. - Genesis 31:9
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the Aesop fable of the goose that laid the golden eggs, a man and wife who owned a golden-egg-laying goose decided to cut open the bird to see if they could get all the golden eggs at once. In their greed, they ended up killing the goose and losing the source of their growing wealth. Aesop's moral: Much wants more and loses all.

Laban treated Jacob like his own little golden goose, attempting to reap the benefits that came from God's blessing of Jacob—he didn't even try to hide his motives (30:27). He then made every effort to keep Jacob's agreed-upon wages from multiplying by removing all the livestock that he thought would produce offspring that met the criteria they discussed (30:35-36). All the dark or spotted sheep were placed in the care of Laban's sons. Essentially, Jacob was left to tend all-white flocks and was allowed to keep only the ones with any color—seemingly an impossible situation.

But Laban's scam couldn't prevent God from providing. While chapter 30 tells us of Jacob's methods for breeding the flocks, chapter 31 explains an added dimension to the story. Apparently, a supernatural dream allowed Jacob to see the males that would produce spotted or dark offspring. Somehow, God gave Jacob the ability to produce a wealth of livestock that could not be confused with Laban's, not only because of their color but also due to their superior strength.

The principle that emerges from these details is clear—God blessed Jacob despite Laban's dishonest dealings, and this time, Laban wasn't able to abuse his position over Jacob. Laban didn't benefit at all. In fact, he and the rest of his family began to resent Jacob and his growing wealth. After acquiring enough wealth to survive on his own, and having entered a situation where he was no longer welcome, Jacob's time to return to Canaan had come.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
What God wants to give you, no man can take away. Try not to be discouraged when people in a position above you abuse their power or use you for their own personal gain. God is able to bless you no matter what others may do to you. Stay true to God and keep your eyes and ears open for His wisdom. You'll be surprised what He can do to improve your situation. Also, don't forget the eternal inheritance you have through Jesus Christ that cannot be destroyed or stolen.
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« Reply #68 on: July 16, 2006, 12:04:44 AM »

Read: Genesis 31:13-55
Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. - Genesis 31:13
TODAY IN THE WORD
Jacob may not have behaved in a godly way, but he did what the Lord asked of him. He was essentially retracing Abram's journey—although his grandfather wasn't being chased at the time because he hadn't left in secrecy.

Jacob, on the other hand, chose to obey God through the back door. He managed to flee with his entire household without Laban's knowledge until the third day of his journey. The Hebrew phrase translated “deceive” in verse 20 (and again in v. 26) literally reads that Jacob stole Laban's heart from him. Translators traditionally interpret it as an expression for deception, but it seems to convey a nature of cruel betrayal as well. By not telling Laban that he was fleeing, Jacob robbed him of any chance to say goodbye to any of his descendants (whom he would never see again after this chapter). Jacob had no reason to fear that Laban would prevent his departure, as the Lord proved with His message of protection when He appeared to Laban in a dream.

Rachel, though, robbed Laban of his idols, and many scholars debate why she would have stolen them. The fact is that Scripture doesn't give a clear indication that Jacob's wives, or even Jacob himself, had been solely devoted to God. They had seen Him protect them and bless them, but they had yet to make a clear commitment to worship Him exclusively.

The reunion between Laban and Jacob started bitterly. The search for the stolen idols is a strange story because Jacob made a very risky vow that unknowingly placed Rachel at risk—but justice was never served. Rachel's crafty lie may have saved her life and preserved the idols for herself, and beyond that, the case of the missing idols was never solved. Jacob and Laban then made a covenant that sealed their separation for good. More important, it guaranteed that Jacob would continue on his return to the land of his father, the land of the inheritance. It also would bring him face to face with the brother he had so strongly offended.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
By leaving in secret, Jacob did the right thing in the wrong way. We should never feel ashamed or afraid of doing God's will. When you find yourself in a hostile situation, ask God for the conviction to do the right thing, the courage to do it openly, and the humility to do it in a way that glorifies God rather than yourself. If the Lord wants you to take a certain action, He will certainly make it possible for you to succeed.
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« Reply #69 on: July 16, 2006, 12:05:13 AM »

Read: Genesis 32:1-32
“I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” - Genesis 32:30
TODAY IN THE WORD
Before leading his troops across a river, Oliver Cromwell proclaimed, “Put your trust in God. . . . But mind you, keep your powder dry.”

When Jacob learned that Esau was coming, he prayed, but then he took every precaution to help God protect him. But at the end of that day, Jacob found himself grappling not with his brother, but with the angel of God (v. 24, cf. Hos. 12:4).

Even though Jacob had for the second time witnessed the presence of angels in his camp (28:12), he still feared the wrath of Esau. In his message to his brother, he ignored the leadership role that Isaac had assigned to him in his blessing (27:29) and instead called Esau his master. He planned an extravagant gift for his estranged brother and resigned himself to the possibility that half of his company might be destroyed. Then he prayed.

Taken on its own, Jacob's prayer resounds with the heartfelt expression and genuine humility of a devout man of faith, and it shows a thorough understanding of the promises of God. Funny how a life-threatening situation can revitalize one's prayer life. But after the prayer was over, Jacob still took every precaution to save his own skin rather than relying on the faithfulness of God to save him. He prepared Esau's gift and sent out everyone else, even his wives and children, ahead of him to face the potential threat of Esau and his 400 men.

The reason for the nighttime wrestling match is unclear, although it may have been to teach Jacob and his descendants a lesson about his relationship with God. His new name, Israel, meant “God fights” or “he fights with God.” The wound the angel inflicted on Jacob after the fight was over showed that God was superior in strength, but had not used His power to defeat Jacob. In effect, it communicated grace, as did the blessing. He did not need to tell Jacob His name. He had shown Himself to Jacob. As the limp would prove, this was no dream. Israel had come face to face with the God who would fight for him!
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
It's one thing to ask God to protect you and sustain you. It's quite another to live like you believe it. Jacob had been privy to special revelations of God Himself, and he still lacked confidence in His protection—so how much more difficult is it for us? On our own power, we can't hope to improve on the faith of Jacob. But with the Holy Spirit, we have infinitely more help than we can imagine. Submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and He will give you strength.
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« Reply #70 on: July 16, 2006, 12:05:38 AM »

Read: Genesis 33:1-20
Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him. - Genesis 33:4
TODAY IN THE WORD
Most people remember Esau for two main things: the foolish trade of his birthright and his angry reaction at being swindled out of his blessing. Basically, Esau's weak spot was a lack of self-control, a quality that thankfully can develop over time. Jacob, on the other hand, had a more chronic heart issue—he was deceitful, and indeed lies and distrust seemed to surround him all of his life.

Twenty years after running away from his angry twin (cf. 31:38), Jacob didn't expect much to change in the heart of Esau. But Esau's anger had actually dissipated—his heart had softened, although we never learn exactly why. But Jacob's heart hadn't changed. He was still frightened of Esau. He arranged his family in order of importance, putting his most beloved family members farthest away from Esau's approaching clan. Notice who was at the back of the line: Joseph and Rachel. Even as he was about to meet his brother—who had wanted to kill him as a result of their parents' favoritism—Jacob singled out his own favorite.

At least Jacob had the nerve to move ahead of his family and greet Esau first, bowing to him as if he were royalty. But Esau didn't want to be treated like a king, nor did he want to be feared. His only desire was to have his brother back and to see his children. But Jacob still couldn't trust his brother. Esau was essentially inviting Jacob to accompany him to his home in Seir, just south of the Dead Sea. At the time, they were probably less than a hundred miles away from Esau's home. Jacob made excuses why he wouldn't travel with Esau and even rejected his offer of a guard. He assured Esau that he would meet him there, but Scripture gives us no record of Jacob ever making the trip. Instead of heading south, Jacob eventually settled west.

This incident, which might seem like a joyful reunion of brothers, was actually a sad, awkward parting between twins separated by selfish, twisted love. However, despite Jacob's inability to truly reconcile with Esau, God did provide a crucial element in their relationship—peace.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Have you ever found yourself at a family gathering or social setting where your only desire was that there would be no fighting? Sometimes in those situations, we sacrifice honesty and genuine personal connection for the sake of keeping the peace. Wouldn't it be better to rely on God to soften the hearts of those around you, as he did with Esau, and use the opportunity to openly, sensitively communicate your faith? Ask God to help you glorify Him by showing His love.
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« Reply #71 on: July 16, 2006, 12:06:04 AM »

Read: Genesis 35:1-7
I will build an altar to God . . . who has been with me wherever I have gone. - Genesis 35:3
TODAY IN THE WORD
High school science teacher and baseball coach Jim Morris made a conditional promise to his team, the Reagan County High School Owls. He vowed that if they won the league title, he would try out as a pitcher for a major league team. The team held up their end of the deal, and even at the age of 35, Morris tried out and in 1999 earned a position on the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. He said, “God has a funny way of bringing some things around and knocking you in the head with the ultimate destination. Something I should have achieved quite easily took me a long time to get around to.”

Jacob's promise to God at Bethel was a long time in being fulfilled, but finally he came around to doing something that should have been quite easy—making the one true God his only God.

When God called Jacob to return to Bethel, what memories must have flooded his head! Jacob had sworn that if God protected and provided for him on his journey to Mesopotamia and back, then he would worship God alone. Since making that vow, God had more than fulfilled his request. He had given him eleven sons and great wealth—far exceeding the food and clothes that Jacob had requested (28:20). And He had also given him miraculous protection. Although we didn't have time to study it in this month's reading, Levi and Simeon massacred every male in the city of Shechem to avenge their sister Dinah (see Gen. 34). But the fear of the Lord prevented the surrounding cities from retaliating against Jacob or his family despite the fury it must have caused (35:5).

Jacob's cleansing of his household's idols just may be the crowning achievement of his life, for it was motivated not by distrust or selfishness, but rather by faithful allegiance to the Lord. He rightly prepared himself and his people to worship God—what higher calling is known to man?
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Jacob gave his heart to God, and that allowed him to cleanse his family. Make today a turning point in your life by taking an inventory of anything that detracts or distracts from your worship of the Lord. This isn't an exercise in legalism—you don't need to make a list of what is okay and what isn't. Just allow the Holy Spirit to examine your heart and point out to you any attachments you may be grasping instead of pursuing the Lord with all your heart.
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« Reply #72 on: July 16, 2006, 12:06:34 AM »

Read: Genesis 35:9-20
A community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body. - Genesis 35:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
When Mozart was two years old, he visited a farm with his family and heard the squeal of a pig. The toddling prodigy instantly proclaimed, “G-sharp!” After consulting a piano, his family verified that he had correctly noted the pig's pitch. At such a young age, Mozart left no doubt that greatness awaited him.

Israel was still in its infant stages, far from being a full-fledged nation and only recently receiving its name—but through God's blessing, Jacob knew that great things would come from his descendants. Yesterday we studied Jacob's decision to finally commit himself and his family to God alone. Today we read God's response, which was no small “thank you” for Jacob's allegiance.

Some of the blessing would have already been very familiar to Jacob, including his new name, Israel. He also would have recognized the exhortation to “be fruitful and increase in number,” since it was the same assignment God gave to Noah after the flood (9:1). And the fact that the land of Canaan would belong to Jacob's descendants was a renewal of the promises given to Abraham and Isaac. But this blessing contained a new fact—Jacob's line would include kings (35:11). This fact would take on additional importance after Israel conquered the land. When the people eventually sought a king for their nation, their command was not an inherent violation of God's plan (even if the spirit of their request was; see 1 Sam. 8:7).

Couched at the end of this reading is a miraculous blessing mixed with tragedy. We're given no warning that Rachel had conceived for a second time, but her life ended giving Jacob his twelfth son, Benjamin. When the text says that Rachel's tomb is marked “to this day,” it's almost prophetic. Although a series of renovations have added a dome, walls, and other barriers, Rachel's Tomb continues to this day to be a beloved attraction for tourists and would-be mothers and fathers praying that God would give them sons and daughters as He did for Rachel.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Especially here in the “New World” of North America, where eighteenth-century structures are considered old, we often lack a sense of the ancient—and we also fail to understand the enduring consequences of our actions. But the mark that Jacob and Rachel left on this world included kings, even the King of kings, and vast cultural implications. How will your life and the lives you touch affect the world, especially since you're armed with the truth that brings eternal life?
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« Reply #73 on: July 16, 2006, 12:07:02 AM »

Read: Genesis 37:1-36
His brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. - Genesis 37:11
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the Gospel of John, Jesus said, “The truth will set you free” (8:32). The statement caught Jews off guard because, as descendants of Abraham, they claimed not to be slaves to anyone. Jesus informed them that they were indeed slaves to sin.

Throughout our study of the Patriarchs, we've seen them act as slaves to one sin in particular—the sin of deception. Interestingly, in today's reading we see that telling the truth indirectly led to their enslavement in Egypt for over 400 years.

At seventeen years of age, Joseph had yet to master his family's art of deception. He gave his father what was surely a candidly honest report of his brothers' work—it's hard to tell if this was one incident or just a developing trend, for it seems as though Joseph was never assigned to work with his brothers. It may have just been his role to report on their progress (vv. 13-14). His honesty gave him favor with Jacob, but certainly not with his brothers (vv. 2-4). Joseph's brothers hated him even more after his next bit of honesty, telling them his dream that saw their sheaves of grain bowing to his. But then his free expression of the truth of his second dream crossed the line even with his doting father (v. 10). While Joseph's decision to relate his dream to his father and brothers may have been unwise or even arrogant, it stands in stark contrast to the pattern of secrecy and deception that dominated Jacob's life.

Jacob's other sons didn't have a problem with bending the truth. They took their first opportunity to plan his death and blame it on wild animals. Reuben attempted to save Joseph's life, and his method included tricking his brothers (v. 22). The only way that Joseph actually emerged from the cistern or well was because of his brothers' greed (v. 26). The cycle of favoritism and jealousy was made complete by the sale of Joseph to the descendants of Ishmael, whose departure from Abraham came as a result of Sarah's jealousy and preferential treatment of Isaac.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Jacob's mourning was in many ways his own doing. He passed on to his sons his habit of telling lies, and it caused him considerable pain. This circus of lies told in today's passage stands as a stern warning to us to tell the truth. Joseph survived his brothers' attack—and so did his integrity. The rewards of deception are the inability to trust, the indignity of being deceived, and the infliction of deep, enduring suffering. The truth will set you free—cling to it.
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« Reply #74 on: July 16, 2006, 12:07:29 AM »

Read: Genesis 45:1-28
It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. - Genesis 45:5
TODAY IN THE WORD
One day in 1999, a New York nurse named Penny Brown just happened to get the day off at the last minute so that she could attend her son's Little League baseball game. During the game, batboy Kevin Stephan's heart stopped after being accidentally hit in the chest with a bat. Penny performed CPR and saved his life. Seven years later at a restaurant in New York, it was Penny's life that needed saving. She began to choke, and employees at the restaurant called for a volunteer firefighter who just happened to work there. He performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved her life. That hero just happened to be . . . seventeen-year-old Kevin Stephan.

Of course, that kind of thing doesn't just happen. God in His sovereignty orchestrates the acts of men to accomplish His purposes, and that was obviously the case in the life of Joseph.

By the time we see Joseph here, his own brothers couldn't recognize him. Their imaginations were too limited to consider that Joseph could possibly be in charge, even though they knew that the last they had seen of him he was headed to Egypt. Joseph knew that God had planned his stay in Egypt because it ultimately gave his family the means to survive a seven-year famine. They could live in peace and luxury because of Joseph's position, and the nation that would rise from these twelve brothers was given safe harbor . . . for now. But that wasn't the only providential benefit. Without Joseph's disappearance into Egypt, the reconciliation in their family would have been impossible, and that's what they needed more than any food.

No two brothers in the history of the Patriarchs had ever coexisted for the long term. Abraham and Nahor, Ishmael and Isaac, Esau and Jacob—they had all gone their separate ways. But these twelve brothers and their ever-growing families were destined by God to stay together as one nation. Joseph couldn't have known that by the time his family left Egypt they would be a nation of some two million people, but he did know that it was God, not his brothers, who was in control.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Complaining is easy. Seeing the plans God has in store to use your trial as a means for His purposes may be impossible—but you can know that He can use anything to accomplish His ends. While you may not have control over your circumstances, you can control your attitude and your availability to be used by God. Whatever might be troubling you today, bring it before the throne. No earthly problem can thwart the plans God has for you.
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Joh 9:4  I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.
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