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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1740: Friday 17th August 2018: Genesis 32:22-32: Solitary Refinement.

Genesis 32:22-32: Solitary Refinement.

“22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.” NIV

‘’So Jacob was left alone…’’ (24). Times alone with God can be life-changing. It will be, if we really engage with Him, and don’t just go through religious motions. Extended times of prayer are important. This one lasted through the night it appears. I’m not arguing that you have to pray for hours to be a good Christian, but I do want to say that if we will give God unhurried time, good things can happen.

…and a man wrestled with him until daybreak’’ (24). Although the text says ‘’a man’’, it quickly becomes clear that Jacob met with God. Note then how God took the initiative in this ‘prayer time’. Even though there was something Jacob wanted from God (blessing), even more important was what God wanted for Jacob.

Initially, in the wrestle, Jacob was struggling against God. In a way, it was the story of his life. But he ended up clinging. That is where God wants each one of us.

Daily Bible thoughts 1739: Thursday 16th August 2018: Genesis 32:22-32: Save me from myself.

Genesis 32:22-32: Save me from myself

“22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” 31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,  and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.” NIV

We’re going to spend a day or two in this pivotal section in Genesis. It records a major turning point in Jacob’s experience with God. Prayer changes people: both the one who prays, and the ones being prayed for. I believe it changed Esau. I think that is the inference. But even when others don’t change (or don’t appear to; or don’t change immediately) we who pray for them tend to be changed in a real encounter with God. Jacob was. There are two key references to prayer in this chapter. The first one is shorter (9-12), and then we come to this longer passage. Through prayer Esau’s heart was changed; but Jacob was also transformed.

‘Jacob was broken to be healed and weakened to be strengthened. When he surrendered, he won and became a ‘’prince with God.’’ His limp would be a constant reminder that God would be in control of his life. ‘’God fights against us with His left hand and for us with His right hand,’’ wrote John Calvin. When we let God have His way, it is the dawning of a new day (v.31).’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.38.

Prayer: Oh Lord, may I not merely ‘say prayers’, but meet with you deeply in the place of prayer, so that I am forever changed.

Daily Bible thoughts 1738: Wednesday 15th August 2018: Genesis 32:13-21: The schemer – again!

Genesis 32:13-21: The schemer – again!

“13 He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: 14 two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15 thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. 16 He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.” 17 He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ 18 then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’” 19 He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. 20 And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” 21 So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.” NIV

I remember how painful a time it was when I fell out with my best friend, John, at junior school. It was no doubt a ridiculous quarrel. I can’t remember the details now, but I do know that the distance between us hurt. I seem to recall lying in my bed, dreaming up ways I might reconcile with him. I think, in the end that all proved unnecessary, for we quickly shook hands and made peace!

Prayer does not rule out the need for action, but the best kind of activity is that which is born in prayer, whereby you are doing something because you sense God is leading you that way. Here it seems like Jacob is still the schemer; that he concocted this ingenious plan to ‘’pacify’’ his brother. The idea was to send ahead of him carefully spaced groups of different animals as gifts for Esau. It seems he intended that his estranged sibling would encounter these groups one by one and gradually be won over. As we will see in the next chapter, it wasn’t Jacob’s plan that won Esau over; it was rather that God changed his heart, in response to Jacob’s prayer.

‘One minute Jacob prayed for God’s help, and the next minute he devised some new way to appease his angry brother. He reminded God of His great promises and then acted as though God had never spoken. This is the conduct of a believer who needed to be broken before God. He prayed to be delivered from Esau (v.11), but his greatest need was to be delivered from himself.’ Warren W. Wiersbe: ‘With the Word’, p.38.

‘’I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me’’ (20b).

Many people seem to treat God this way. They try to win Him over, to get into his good books, by the ‘’gifts’’ they send ahead: the gift of their church attendance; the gift of their charitable deeds, and so on. But God cannot be bought off in that way. He simply calls us to trust in the Saviour, Jesus, and His work on our behalf at the cross.

Daily Bible thoughts 1737: Tuesday 14th August 2018: Genesis 32:9-12: A great prayer.

Genesis 32:9-12: A great prayer.

Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 10 I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps. 11 Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children. 12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’” NIV

As Jacob prepared to meet his brother Esau, he took some pragmatic steps. Whether or not he needed to do all he did is not clear, but he definitely did the right thing when he prayed. At the heart of chapter 32 we find this great prayer. In a few words it teaches us a lot about some of the essentials of prayer. Note a number of features:

  • Humility (10a): Jacob recognised that God had been good to him and he didn’t deserve any of the blessings he’d received. If he had to earn God’s kindness, Jacob could have staked no claim, and he knew it. It is the same for you and me;
  • Gratitude (10b): God had blessed him. It’s true that Jacob had worked hard, and he could have said that, but he gave all the glory to God for the good things which had happened to him;
  • Faith (9, 12): Jacob appealed to what God Himself had said. It is a powerful thing when we take hold of the Bible and turn it into prayer. We are on solid ground when we plead the promises of God. Of course, we must ensure we are not taking them out of context, or twisting them;
  • Definite (11): At the centre of the prayer there is a specific request. Jacob confessed his fear for himself and his family, and asked to be saved from Esau’s hand. There was nothing vague about this; it was not a hazy request. Jacob knew exactly what he was asking and so did God.

Did the Lord answer this great prayer? Well read on. But I think you know the answer already.

Daily Bible thoughts 1736: Monday 13th August 2018: Genesis 32:3-8: What fear does.

Genesis 32:3-8: What fear does.

Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lordEsau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.” NIV

 

It is undoubtedly true that fear distorts perspective. Because of anxiety we can put a wrong construction on things. We can fill in the gaps with our own thoughts about what is going on, and we are not always right. Sir Winston Churchill commented that he knew a man who told him he had known many problems in his life – most of which never happened! We can smile at that and identify with it. Most of us, if not all of us, have been there at some point. But I think Jacob had every reason to fear his brother (6,7).

I sometimes wonder if this story is a case of someone worrying unnecessarily. Yet I think the implication is that things changed in Esau after Jacob met with God in prayer. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer, nor the need, sometimes, to wrestle.

Daily Bible thoughts 1735: Friday 10th August 2018: Genesis 32:1,2: ‘Two camps.’

Genesis 32:1-2: ‘Two camps.’

“Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim.” NIV

Thank God for the ministry of angels. Jacob was afraid of meeting his brother Esau, but he had an angelic encounter which encouraged him. He called the place ‘Mahanaim’, which means ‘two camps’. He came to see that he was not alone. Yes, there was his camp; but angels also were camped around him and his family.  We are usually unaware of the ministry of angels. Their activity is regularly invisible – but no less real for being unseen. However, from to time, someone may recognise (or at least have an inkling) that they have met an angel. If the curtain could be pulled back, so that we were able to see all that is happening in the unseen realm of spiritual reality, we would be amazed, I’m sure.

Angels, or no angels, God knows when we need encouragement and the best way to send it. This morning I met a friend who bought me a coffee and took interest in my life. I can’t tell you what a gift that is. But if you have such a friend – and I hope you do – you will know well enough what I mean.

PRAYER: Lord, you are the God of all encouragement. Thank you for the tangible ways you bring encouragement to me.

Daily Bible thoughts 1734: Thursday 9th August 2018: Genesis 31: 54: Fellowship meal.

Genesis 31: 54: Fellowship meal.

54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. NIV

This little statement, towards the end of the chapter, seems to me to foreshadow the death of Jesus on the cross, and the establishing of Communion, the Lord’s Supper, as the memorial of what He did. It reminds me of a poster I saw a long time ago. It depicted a chalice of wine and some bread. The wording on it read:

‘Jesus of Nazareth invites you to a meal to be given in His honour.’

Jesus still invites ‘’his relatives to a meal’’.

Daily Bible thoughts 1733: Wednesday 8th August 2018: Genesis 31: 43-55: Truce

Genesis 31: 43-55: Truce

“43 Laban answered Jacob, “The women are my daughters, the children are my children, and the flocks are my flocks. All you see is mine. Yet what can I do today about these daughters of mine, or about the children they have borne? 44 Come now, let’s make a covenant, you and I, and let it serve as a witness between us.” 45 So Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar. 46 He said to his relatives, “Gather some stones.” So they took stones and piled them in a heap, and they ate there by the heap. 47 Laban called it Jegar Sahadutha, and Jacob called it Galeed. 48 Laban said, “This heap is a witness between you and me today.” That is why it was called Galeed. 49 It was also called Mizpah, because he said, “May the Lordkeep watch between you and me when we are away from each other. 50 If you mistreat my daughters or if you take any wives besides my daughters, even though no one is with us, remember that God is a witness between you and me.” 51 Laban also said to Jacob, “Here is this heap, and here is this pillar I have set up between you and me. 52 This heap is a witness, and this pillar is a witness, that I will not go past this heap to your side to harm you and that you will not go past this heap and pillar to my side to harm me. 53 May the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor, the God of their father, judge between us.” So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac. 54 He offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there. 55 Early the next morning Laban kissed his grandchildren and his daughters and blessed them. Then he left and returned home.” NIV

Someone pointed out that Jacob and Laban called a truce, which is better than all out war. But it is best of all when brothers ‘’dwell together in unity!’’ (Psalm 133:1). It wasn’t that these two men were now going to pursue friendly relations. They just agreed not to harm each other, and recognised that God was watching/listening to their commitment. It is a good thing to try to live consciously before God, recognising that He is the unseen observer of our thoughts, motives, actions…of everything.

‘Though these two men were far below the Christian ideal of character, it is evident that they lived in an habitual recognition of God and the eternal sanction of his presence. The Lord was to watch between them. God was to be witness and judge. They looked back on the days of Abraham with reverential awe and loyalty, and commemorated Abraham’s God.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.27.

Daily Bible thoughts 1732: Tuesday 7th August 2018: Genesis 31:38-42: Telling it like it is.

Genesis 31:38-42: Telling it like it is.

“38 “I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. 39 I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. 40 This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes.41 It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. 42 If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you.”NIV

Maybe Jacob cast himself in the best light possible, but it is an insight into his suffering under the hand of Laban. He was put into a furnace, but God had a purpose for him being there. He was in a refining process and the Lord was changing him.

That didn’t justify Laban’s dodgy behaviour though, and there is a time for laying it on the line; for telling someone the unpalatable and (maybe) unwanted truth. May God give us courage for direct speech when it is necessary, and wisdom to know the right time and the correct way. Truth delivered badly may not receive the hearing we would wish.

When people treat you unfairly, remember that God knows and cares, and He is able to intervene. We have seen this before, and it’s good to be reminded afresh this day, because it’s a tough world out there.

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