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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

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July 2018

Daily Bible thoughts 1727: Tuesday 31st July, 2018: Genesis 31:10-13: God knows and cares.

Genesis 31:10-13: God knows and cares.

10 “In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. 11 The angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob.’ I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And he said, ‘Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.’” NIV

Are there people in your world who are treating you badly? It may be that, as in Jacob’s case, you haven’t always acted well either. Or maybe you are entirely innocent. Whatever, we must learn to trust God, and entrust these people to Him; indeed, to entrust ourselves to Him. Seek to be like Jesus, by His grace:

‘’When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly’’ (1 Peter 2:23).

People never abuse you behind God’s back. He sees what they do. May He help us to live like He is real – because He is!

PRAYER: Lord, please forgive me for the times I take matters into my own hands and fail to look to you. If there is a time when I should defend myself, help me to discern the moment; but help me to always remember that vengeance is yours, not mine, and ‘’leave room’’ for your wrath.

Daily Bible thoughts 1726: Monday 30th July 2018: Genesis 31:1-9: The frowns of providence.

Genesis 31:1-9: The frowns of providence.

“Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were saying, “Jacob has taken everything our father owned and has gained all this wealth from what belonged to our father.”And Jacob noticed that Laban’s attitude toward him was not what it had been. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent word to Rachel and Leah to come out to the fields where his flocks were. He said to them, “I see that your father’s attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that I’ve worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.If he said, ‘The speckled ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, ‘The streaked ones will be your wages,’ then all the flocks bore streaked young. So God has taken away your father’s livestockand has given them to me.” NIV

 

Tom Hale, in the ‘Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.176, admits that the verses we looked at last Friday (30:37-43) are confusing: ‘Jacob resorted to a superstitious belief that if animals mated in front of striped branches, their offspring would be striped or mixed in colour. True enough, when Jacob mated Laban’s single-coloured animals in this way, mixed coloured offspring resulted. (This is genetically possible, though unlikely) Furthermore, he had the stronger animals mate near the striped branches, but not the weaker animals…Did Jacob’s striped branches have any effect? No; God produced the effect by using the recessive genes already present in the animals. God, using natural means, caused Jacob’s flocks to grow and Laban’s to decline. Jacob himself later admitted that the credit belonged to God (Genesis 31:9). This entire episode was a fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacob back at Bethel that He would be with him wherever he went (Genesis 28:15).’  It was now God’s time for Jacob to return home (3). The Lord not only spoke to him about this, but also worked in his circumstances to give him a big nudge in the right direction (2, 5). He experienced something of the frowns of providence. It wasn’t a happy thing for Jacob to endure, but it emphasised that time was up. Here is something we can all identify with: someone (or certain people) have been friendly towards us; then (sometimes inexplicably) the ‘weather’ changes. The sunshine goes behind dark cloud. We can feel the temperature drop, and we know we have to take appropriate action: reach for a macintosh or an umbrella. In jacob’s case we can understand the change, but we can’t always pinpoint reasons why friends have cooled off. It can be exceedingly hurtful.

But remember this: although people maybe mercurial, God is always with us and He remains the same.  Rejoice in the Lord.

Daily Bible thoughts 1725: Friday 27th July 2018: Genesis 30:25-43: The scheming goes on.

Genesis 30:25-43: The scheming goes on.

“25 After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my wayso 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 journeybetween himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.37 Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane treesand 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.”NIV

 

If faith means ‘living without scheming’ this not a story about faith. It’s about two men trying to ‘get one over’ on the other; seeking to outwit the another. To be totally fair to Jacob, it seems to me that he didn’t start this. It was Laban again being tricky with his nephew. At that point it looks like Jacob thought, ‘Two can play that game’, and the situation escalated. What we can take from this is a negative example. This is not how believers should behave. This type of conduct is to be avoided. Although we repeatedly see God overruling even in human sin, and turning it for good, it cannot be an excuse for sin.

F.B.Meyer observes of Jacob and Uncle Laban that they ‘are well matched one against another; and if anything, Jacob excelled in cunning. The heir of the promise (Jacob) deals with the child of this world (Laban) on principles which men of honour refuse to use. We feel inclined to pity Laban, who had never seen the angel-ladder or shared the great promises which had surrounded the path of his relative. He trusted the man of the chosen tribe, but was to be woefully deceived.

But are there not many professing Christian’s who are playing Jacob’s part today? While holding high positions in the religious world, they stoop to practices to which men of the world would be no parties.’ ‘Devotional Commentary’, p. 26.

Daily Bible thoughts 1724:Thursday 26th July 2018: Genesis 30:14-24: Living without scheming.

Genesis 30:14-24: Living without scheming.

“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.” NIV

 

I’ve mentioned before how much I like Warren Wiersbe’s comment about faith, that it is ‘living without scheming.’ But here the manipulation goes on. There is evidence in the text that both Leah and Rachel were prayerful, but they also seemed determined to give God every possible help. I know that faith without works is dead, but there is a difference between doing certain things God’s Word commands, or that His Spirit within prompts, because we trust Him, and trying to control and manoeuvre circumstances for personal advantage. Sometimes the Bible storylines are even worse than what you might watch on some appalling ‘soap opera.’

In this passage, it appears Rachel believed that the mandrakes would help her with fertility. That’s why she wanted them so much. Jacob had not been sleeping with Leah, but Rachel came to an arrangement with her, in order to get her hands on those plants. It doesn’t make for pleasant reading really. If only both could have been content. Nevertheless God overruled in the machinations of this dysfunctional family to build the nation of Israel. You can’t be particularly impressed by the people in this storyline, but you can be amazed by God, and how He uses them in spite of everything.

Daily Bible thoughts 1723: Wednesday 25th July 2018: Genesis 30:1-12: Turning back the clock

Genesis 30:1-12: Turning back the clock

“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!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?”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.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife. Jacob slept with her, and she became pregnant and bore him a son. 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. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won.” So she named him Naphtali. 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.” NIV

There is something of a throwback in time in these verses, to when Sarah gave Abraham her maidservant (Gen.16:1,2) in order for him to have a child by her. Rachel did the same with Jacob, offering him Billah. Then Leah followed suit, giving him Zilpah. (Again, it is instructive tim see what the names of the children they bore mean. They tell a story about how these two wives of Jacob were thinking and feeling).

I was musing that in the church, we can have our own ideas about how to ‘’build a family’’ (3), and we can get it so wrong. We need to be as prayerful as possible, to seek to know God’s mind. But even here, where people got things so wrong, God graciously overruled and built up His nation.

Looking at this passage, it is worth noting the comment made by Tom Hale in ‘The Applied Old Testament Commentary’, p.175:

‘God never approved of man having more than one wife, and He approved even less of a man keeping a concubine – an ‘’unofficial wife’’ – which was what Billah was. God’s ideal from the beginning was that a man have only one wife (Genesis 2:24). Anything more than that comes from man’s sinful desires and schemings.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1722: Tuesday 24th July 2018: Genesis 30:1,2: Just one further thought…

 Genesis 30:1-2: Just one further thought…

“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!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” NIV

Recently, on an aeroplane flight, I watched a heart-warming film. In some ways it was sad, but it also had a slightly humorous undertone. One of the female characters, played by Joanna Lumley, quipped that her previous marriage had broken up ‘for religious reasons. ‘He thought he was God,’ she said, ‘but I disagreed!!’

Well here is just one further thought on these verses that came to me this morning as I read them again. It’s this: Christian marriages can flounder because they can’t take the weight of expectation one partner puts on the other. Sometimes, in a sense, we can want each other to be a kind of ‘god’. If your husband or wife is your ‘idol’, and you are looking to them to meet your deepest needs, they will sooner or later fall off the pedestal. They can’t take the place of Jesus. Only He is the all sufficient One in Whom you find the answer to all your needs.

Before you’re ready to marry, you need to be clear about this: Jesus is Lord of your life. He is the number 1. You recognise He’s the only One you really need. Then you’re not putting an unnecessary burden on your partner to be, or do, what is impossible for them. You are free to love them as they are, with their flaws and frailty

Daily Bible thoughts 1721: Monday 23rd July 2018: Genesis 30: 1, 2: Just a reminder.

Genesis 30:1-2: Just a reminder.

“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!” Jacob became angry with her and said, “Am I in the place of God, who has kept you from having children?” NIV UK

Just a reminder…you’re not God – never will be! Not that you thought you were, of course. People who do think like that tend to be mentally deranged. Nevertheless, we can sometimes think too highly of ourselves. We can forget our place. So it’s good to regularly call to mind Paul’s words in Romans 12: 3:

‘’Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.’’ (New Living Translation).

‘’…do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…’’ (New International Version).

We are not God. We never will be. We can’t do what God does. Yet, God can enable us to do God-like works, and when He does, let us humbly thank Him, and give Him the praise He alone deserves.

‘Where things impossible, by faith shall be made possible, let’s give the glory to Him now’ (Graham Kendrick).

PRAYER: Lord, help me to always remember who I am and stay low at your feet; and as someone said, ‘Should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary.’

Daily Bible thoughts 1720: Friday 20th July 2018: Genesis 30: 1: Jealousy.

Genesis 30: 1: Jealousy.

“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!” NIV UK

Here a sad scene is painted, but it is typical of the human condition. Both Rachel and Leah have something the other wants. Rachel has Jacob’s heart; Leah wants that. Leah has children; Rachel wants that. Discontent can lead to jealousy, and jealousy can make a person unreasonable. Both Leah’s desire to be truly loved by her husband, and Rachel’s longing for children were legitimate. But we regularly have to look at all we do have and be thankful for it, recognising that in life we can’t always have what we want. A contented heart is one that will be protected from unnecessary pain.

By the way, just because you don’t have that thing now, it doesn’t mean you never will. ‘Rachel’s anguish of heart led her to earnest prayer. Compare vv.1,22. Wait on God anguished ones; you will surely have reason to praise him. Was it not worth waiting for, to bear a Joseph, whose branches were to run over the wall in blessing? There are more compensations in life than we think. If Rachel had her husband’s love, Leah had a large family of boys. In the saddest lives there are glints of sunshine.’ F.B.Meyer: ‘Devotional Commentary’, p.26.

Daily Bible thoughts 1719: Thursday 19th July 2018: Genesis 29: 31-35: What’s in a name?

Genesis 29: 31-35: What’s in a name?

“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.” NIV UK

The names Leah gave to her children reflect insight into God’s care. She knew that He knew her heart’s tears. Laban may have thought he was doing a kindness to Leah, getting her married off, but it cut her to pieces inside to know that she was not her husband’s favourite. (Here is another indication that God’s original plan for marriage, involving one man and one woman, is the best. Polygamy, having more than one wife, is not condemned outright in the Bible. But in the stories we read about polygamous marriages, it is regularly evident that such an arrangement is not helpful or wise).

So, ‘’Reuben’’ sounds like the Hebrew for ‘He has seen my misery’;

’Simeon’’ probably means ‘one who hears’;

‘’Levi’’ sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ‘’attached’’.

These children’s names told of her experience with God: that He knew her pain, had heard her prayers. She also came to a point of believing that her husband would become ‘’attached’’ to her, after she had borne him three sons.

Then, she had another son. We are not told that anything had changed in her circumstances, but she made a declaration: ‘’This time I will praise the LORD.’’ She called the boy ‘’Judah’’, which sounds like and may be derived from the Hebrew for ‘praise’. In times of difficulty, whether things outwardly change or not, determine to praise the Lord. Choose praise. You will no doubt find that much will change inwardly, if not in your outer world. Again and again though, in the Bible, we see how praise brings victory. The main reason, however, for praising God is because He tells us to do so, and not for any longed for ‘outcomes’.

‘’Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus’’ (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

By the way, in all this pain, unhappiness and sin, the sovereign Lord was working out His purposes and building up the people of Israel. He is truly worthy of all our praise.

PRAYER: Lord God, I’m not going to be glib. I can’t pretend that this is going to be easy. But I do want to be the kind of person who chooses to praise you at al times, and in all situations. Please strengthen me, Lord, to be the person you want me to be.

 

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