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God Corrects; He Doesn’t Punish

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cropped-3428453770_d10f34b9ab_o.jpgToday’s Bible reading: Genesis 28, 29; Matthew 9:18-38; Psalms 11:1-7; Proverbs 3:11-12

Old Testament

At the end of yesterday’s reading in Genesis Rebekah convinces Isaac to send Jacob away by telling him that she doesn’t want to see Jacob marry a Canaanite woman, like Esau did. These wives of Esau had been trouble to both Isaac and Rebakah. Isaac apparently agrees so he sends Jacob away to find a wife from his own people. While Rebekah really did not like Esau’s wives, she was really trying to keep Jacob from being killed by Esau. She loved Jacob more and now we see that her plan to trick her husband into blessing Jacob, rather than Esau who really deserved it, has backfired. She has to send her beloved Jacob away and will never see him again.

Its amazing how every little word in the Bible serves a purpose. In Genesis 28:8 we read (emphasis added): “It was now very clear to Esau that his father did not like local Canaanite women”. Apparently Esau didn’t know he wasn’t supposed to marry outside of his own people until now. He had been married (to two women) for some time but is now only learning about how he should have married. How can that be? I can only conclude that Isaac was not a very good spiritual leader. Apparently he had never had a talk with his sons about the will of God for their lives. We are seeing the beginning of a spiritual deterioration in Abraham’s descendants.

Esau goes and marries a third woman, this time a relative apparently hoping to be accepted by his father. While human acceptance may be conditional, God’s acceptance can never be earned. God accepts you and loves you just as you are.

On his way to find a wife Jacob has an encounter with God Himself. This encounter is very similar to the encounter Saul (later Paul) had with Jesus on the road to Damascus. We will see that story in Acts later this year. It may be that Jacob had no relationship with God prior to this point. Note back in Genesis 27:20 Jacob refers to his father’s god as “your God”. Maybe Jacob had no god. Maybe he was an atheist? It just goes to show that just because parents believe in God that doesn’t mean their children will. Parents need to teach their children about God and children have to make their own decision to follow God. By verse 21 Jacob seems convinced and declares that the Lord will be his God.

In Chapter 29 Jacob sees Rachel and falls in love with her immediately. He knew nothing about her so it was probably more lust than love. Notice the difference in how he found a wife as opposed to how his father found his. Rebekah was chosen based on her character. Rachel was chosen based on her looks. We see the continuing spiritual deterioration in Jacob’s generation. Spiritual health cannot be taken for granted. It takes work and effort to maintain. It seems to me that Isaac didn’t do a good job of raising his sons.

As opposed to Isaac’s servant who went in search for Isaac’s bride with a whole caravan of riches as a dowry, Isaac went alone since he had to leave in a hurry to escape Esau’s wrath. So he had no dowry to offer Rachel’s father. Instead he had to work for seven years to earn the right to marry her. In Genesis 29:21 we see that Isaac and Rachel had not had sex before getting married. Sex is a gift from God for a married man and woman. Jacob waited seven years for his wedding night and is probably quite excited now that his seven-year agreement has ended.

Unfortunately though Laban had other plans. He tricks Jacob into sleeping with Leah, his older daughter. It may be difficult to understand how Jacob could tricked this way. But remember he and Rachel had not been together up to this point. There was no electricity back then so it was obviously dark in the tent. Jacob was probably at least a bit drunk as well after the wedding party. In the end Jacob has to work another seven years to get the girl he really wanted, Rachel. All this could have been avoided if he hadn’t decided to deceive his father. We read in Proverbs a few days ago about how ill-gotten gain never turns out as good as we think it will. This story is certainly proof.

One more thing I thought of regarding Jacob. He had deceived his father and now he had been deceived by his father-in-law. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I think God often allows us to be mistreated in the same way as we mistreat others. He allows this not to be vengeful, but to show us the pain that we have caused others. If we experience the pain that we have inflicted we might be inclined to change.

In Genesis 29:35 Leah gives birth to Judah. It is through the line of Judah that Jesus will be born. So even though Jacob wasn’t really interested in her, God blesses Leah by placing her in the ancestral line of Jesus. God is pretty cool that way.


New Testament

Jesus heals a few more people today in Matthew 9. Notice that Jesus tells them that it is their faith that has healed them. It all comes down to faith, not works. These people could not earn healing. They didn’t deserve healing. They were healed simply because they had faith in Christ. Heaven is the same way. We don’t earn heaven. We don’t deserve heaven. We enter heaven through faith in Christ and nothing more.

In Matthew 9:34 we see that Jesus’s critics are now accusing him of working for Satan. How sad. They could not see the truth because of their own pride. Their argument makes no sense anyway. Why would the king of all demons cast out demons? As someone who used to oppose Jesus myself, I can say that my arguments against Him made no sense at all, although I didn’t see it that way at the time. If you are opposed to Jesus, please think through the reasons why. I can guarantee that those reasons can’t be defended.


Psalms

When reading Psalm 11 we find comfort in the fact that even though the world is ruled by those who don’t know God, He is still in heaven, still in control (verse 4). God knows exactly what is going on in the world and, more importantly, what is going on in people’s hearts. He knows who loves Him. He knows who hates Him. It may take time but eventually the former will be in His presence (verse 7) while the later will spend eternity out of God’s presence. They may think that is what they want. But life without God, with only sinful evil humans and angels, will not be a pleasant place.


Proverbs

Proverbs 3:11-12 is a great reminder that God never punishes us on this earth. He only corrects. As Andy Stanley likes to say “God isn’t trying to pay you back, He is trying to win you back.” God allows trouble in our lives to build our character and to draw us close to Him. The trouble He allowed in Jacob’s life wasn’t revenge. God allowed it do show Jacob the mistakes he (Jacob) had made in the hopes that Jacob would be a better person because of it. Verse 12 puts is plainly: God corrects those He loves.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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