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Free Daily Bible notes by Rev Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 1756: Monday 10th September 2018: Genesis 35:16-19/27-28: Loss.

Genesis 35:16-19/27-28: Loss.

Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).”

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. ” NIV

 

‘Human life begins with sorrow, and the roses of its joy are surrounded with thorns.’ Matthew Henry.

Walking in the will of God, as it seems Jacob was now doing, may bring blessings of many kinds, and most of all a wonderful experience with God. But it will not prevent the inevitable brushes with death, grief and loss. We all must face these at some time or other. Bereavement comes to us all. ‘Death is the ultimate statistic,’ someone said. ‘One out of one dies.’ There is a time to be born and a time to die. God does not promise to shield us from these harsh realities, but we know that He will walk with us through them. In a chapter which is full of blessings, we note these significant losses for Jacob: the deaths of Deborah, Rachel and Isaac.

I believe C.S. Lewis said something like this: ‘The pain of grief we feel after losing someone is a part of the price we pay for loving.’ We want to know the joy, but not the sorrow. This is understandable, but the truth is that however abundantly we are blessed by God, death will intrude into our lives at some point. We will lose loved ones; we ourselves must die. However, we can take heart from knowing that Jesus died and rose again. In and through Him we conquer death, and, finally, all will be well.

‘Lest Jacob should be lifted up with the visions of the Almighty with which he was honoured, this was sent as a thorn in the flesh to humble him. Those that enjoy the favours peculiar to the children of God must yet expect the troubles that are common to the children of men.’ Matthew Henry

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1755: Friday 7th September 2018: Genesis 35: 9-14: Blessing in obedience.

Genesis 35: 9-14: Blessing in obedience.

“9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob,but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel. ” So he named him Israel. 11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty ; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from himat the place where he had talked with him. 14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it.” NIV

After Jacob responded to God’s Word, and went to ‘Bethel’, he had another special encounter with the Lord, and heard wonderful promises from Him. There was blessing in obedience. There always will be – for you and me too. I’m not saying your experience will be identical to Jacob’s, but do not hesitate to go where God directs, to follow where He leads.

‘’As he had done years before at Bethel, Jacob set up a pillar and dedicated it to the Lord (28:18). He not only poured oil on the pillar, but he also poured out a drink offering of wine. The drink offering was a supplement to the regular sacrifices and was poured out on the altar as the sacrifice was burning (Ex. 29:40-41; Num. 6:17; 15:5-10, 24; 29:22-38). It was a symbol of dedication, the worshipper’s life poured out for the Lord (2 Sam. 23:16; Phil. 2:17.’’ Warren Wiersbe

PRAYER: Lord, please help me to put myself in a place to meet you and hear your voice; and when you speak, enable me to respond with whole-hearted obedience.

Daily Bible thoughts 1754: Thursday 6th September 2018: Genesis 35:1-8: Get back!

Genesis 35:1-8: Get back!

“Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altarthere to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother. Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.” NIV

There can come a time where you recognise that you need to ‘get back to where you once belonged.’ You once had an experience of God which was real, meaningful and unmistakable. He spoke to you; you know it. Furthermore, you spoke to Him in response and made certain promises. But somehow you have lost your way; you have ‘backslidden’ from that high point. You haven’t walked as closely with the Lord as you intended. Like Jacob, you too can get back. But the process will not be without pain. It will entail real repentance – the jettisoning of some things which ought not to be in your world. You cannot worship God and idols at the same time. Jacob showed strong spiritual leadership in his household. The ceremonies they went through expressed a change of heart.  You will not regret coming back to God. His blessing will be upon you. But there are no guarantees that you will not face sadness. Loss is an inevitable part of life in this world. There is more to come in this chapter.

PRAYER: Holy Lord, help me to return to you with all my heart.

Daily Bible thoughts 1753: Wednesday 5th September 2018: Genesis 35:1:1: A new beginning.

Genesis 35:1:1: A new beginning.

“Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altarthere to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.” NIV

This is what we didn’t see when Jacob went to live near Shechem. There was no clear direction from God on that occasion, as far as we can see. But now there was. (By the way, this word from God came immediately after an episode which was not Jacob’s finest hour. Such manifestations of God’s presence do not come because we deserve them. They don’t mean we are especially good people-or that we are spiritual giants. They do show the graciousness of God).

As I read this today my heart says anew, ‘Lord, please guide my steps. Don’t let me take a decision out of your will.’

Of course, in life we have to think things through. We regularly must choose, make decisions. But I want to go into each day committing my way to God; telling Him that I want Him to rule, and overrule, in all my decisions. Otherwise I may find myself living near Shechem, causing all kinds of problems for others, as well as for myself.

God was reminding Jacob of his experience at Bethel and the promises he had made at the time (28:10-22). ‘As many as God loves he will remind of neglected duties, one way or other, by conscience or by providences.’  Matthew Henry

Daily Bible thoughts 1752: Tuesday 4th September 2018: Genesis 34:11-31: A strange matchmaker.

Genesis 34:11-31: A strange matchmaker.

“11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.” 13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. 14 They said to them, “We can’t do such a thing; we can’t give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us. 15 We will enter into an agreement with you on one conditiononly: that you become like us by circumcising all your males. 16 Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We’ll settle among you and become one people with you. 17 But if you will not agree to be circumcised, we’ll take our sister and go.” 18 Their proposal seemed good to Hamor and his son Shechem. 19 The young man, who was the most honored of all his father’s family, lost no time in doing what they said, because he was delighted with Jacob’s daughter. 20 So Hamor and his son Shechem went to the gate of their city to speak to the men of their city.21 “These men are friendly toward us,” they said. “Let them live in our land and trade in it; the land has plenty of room for them. We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours. 22 But the men will agree to live with us as one people only on the condition that our males be circumcised, as they themselves are. 23 Won’t their livestock, their property and all their other animals become ours? So let us agree to their terms, and they will settle among us.” 24 All the men who went out of the city gate agreed with Hamor and his son Shechem, and every male in the city was circumcised. 25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeonand Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city,killing every male. 26 They put Hamor and his son Shechem to the sword and took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the dead bodies and looted the city where[a] their sister had been defiled. 28 They seized their flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs in the city and out in the fields. 29 They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children,taking as plunder everything in the houses. 30 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me obnoxious to the Canaanites and Perizzites, the people living in this land. We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed.” 31 But they replied, “Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?” NIV

The Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, observed that covetousness is ‘the greatest matchmaker in the world.’ In the case of Hamor and his sons, greed was their undoing (23).  It’s been said that ‘revenge is a dish best served cold.’ The Bible has a totally different angle:

‘’Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘’It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’’ says the Lord. On the contrary:

 ‘’If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.’’

 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’’ (Romans 12: 17-21).

Viewed in this light, the response of Jacob’s sons was wrong (13). It’s also important to note that the Israelites were never intended to become ‘’one people’’ (17) with the surrounding nations, and circumcision would not have made the Canaanites true Israelites. But I believe the inference is that this was never the intention anyway. They were leading their neighbours into a trap.

It seems that Jacob’s main concern was safety (30, 31). However, note his death bed words recorded in Genesis 39:5-7. He knew the action of these boys was wrong. It could not be justified.

But if Jacob had not moved there in the first place would any of this have happened?

Prayer: Lord, I see that so much turns on our decisions. I pray that all my choices will be guided by you.

 

Daily Bible thoughts 1751: Monday 3rd September 2018: Genesis 34:8-10: Marketing strategy.

Genesis 34:8-10: Marketing strategy.

“8 But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.” NIV UK

Just a few moments ago, I heard someone say, on a radio programme, that in marketing you take an object and link it to motive in order to sell it. You have to give people a reason to want it. Advertisers do this skilfully, seductively and continually, regularly using powerful images intended to pull us in emotionally.

There is always ‘the sprat to catch the mackerel.’

Temptation comes with a marketing strategy. Sin is such a dark and destructive reality, we would not listen to its offers if we could see it clearly. But the devil’s work is to ensure we can’t, and he is a master when it comes to making a compelling case for doing wrong. He is great at offering a deal.

They children of Israel’s were not to intermarry with the Canaanites. That was clear from God’s Word. But along with the temptation, there was an offer that could appeal to selfish motives. Look out for that ploy the next time Satan tries to sell you something.

PRAYER: Lord, please give me eyes to see through the deception of temptation.

Daily Bible thoughts 1750: Friday 31st August 2018: Genesis 34:1-13: Family troubles.

Genesis 34:1-13: Family troubles.

“Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done. But Hamor said to them, “My son Shechem has his heart set on your daughter. Please give her to him as his wife. Intermarry with us; give us your daughters and take our daughters for yourselves. 10 You can settle among us; the land is open to you. Live in it, trade in it, and acquire property in it.”11 Then Shechem said to Dinah’s father and brothers, “Let me find favor in your eyes, and I will give you whatever you ask. 12 Make the price for the bride and the gift I am to bring as great as you like, and I’ll pay whatever you ask me. Only give me the young woman as my wife.”13 Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor.” NIV UK

There is is no excuse for what Shechem did to Dinah, and I am certainly not trying to say ‘she was asking for it’. Not at all. Not for one moment. But it is right, I think, to question whether she should have gone ‘’out to visit the women of the land’’ (1). The people of Israel were distinctively different, as Dinah’s brothers were later to point out (14-17). In some aspects of conduct we may place ourselves in moral danger, and it would be better for us to keep our distance. If you get too near the fire you may be burned.

So there is warning here. But you may also find encouragement in this thought:

‘Jacob’s children were circumcised, were well taught, and prayed for, and had very good examples set them, yet some of them proved untoward.’ Matthew Henry. If your children give you grief, realise you are not alone – and keep on praying, and loving!

Daily Bible thoughts 1749: Thursday 30th August 2018: Genesis 34: 5-7: Disgraceful!

Genesis 34: 5-7: Disgraceful!

“5 When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled, his sons were in the fields with his livestock; so he did nothing about it until they came home. Then Shechem’s father Hamor went out to talk with Jacob. Meanwhile, Jacob’s sons had come in from the fields as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious, because Shechem had done an outrageous thing in Israel by sleeping with Jacob’s daughter—a thing that should not be done.”

 

‘’Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter’’ Isaiah 5:20

In our culture, the boundary line of things ‘’that should not be done’’, of ‘’disgraceful’’ behaviours, is getting pushed further and further back. More and more things are regarded as acceptable, where once we would have seen them as shameful. Because there is a Holy God, that means there are moral absolutes: things which are clearly right or wrong. The society that forgets this is as liable to come under God’s judgment as those civilisations we find in the Bible.

What Shechem did was wrong. However, the way her brothers sought to repay was also wrong – and ‘two wrongs do not make a right.’

Warren Wiersbe, in his commentary, makes the point that the Name of the Lord isn’t mentioned once in this chapter, and that the wisdom of the Lord is surely absent also. When we disobey the Lord, he says, we put ourselves and our loved ones in danger.

Daily Bible thoughts 1748: Wednesday 29th August 2018: Genesis 34:1-4: Guard your heart

Genesis 34:1-4: Guard your heart

“Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and raped her. His heart was drawn to Dinah daughter of Jacob; he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. And Shechem said to his father Hamor, “Get me this girl as my wife.” NIV

Jacob’s decision to move close to the city of Shechem may have been a pragmatic choice (33: 18-20), as he tried to keep a safe distance from Esau. There is no indication that he was specifically led by God to this location. He may have ‘’arrived safely at the city of Shechem in Canaan’’ (33:18), but it proved to be a dangerous place for his daughter, Dinah (and her brothers – in a different way). Although Jacob prayed and worshipped in the place (33:20), should he have been there? ‘We make our decisions, then our decisions turn around and make us.’  Shechem, reading between the lines, was a spoilt brat. He was used to getting what he wanted. No doubt he had been brought up with a sense of privilege as ruler’s son, and he thought he could have any girl he wanted. It’s a brutal opening to the chapter, but what started out as lust turned to love (3) – quite an unusual thing to happen.

‘’His heart was drawn…’’ (3). Shechem’s problem was with his heart. It is everyone’s dilemma. Jesus taught that sins of behaviour and speech start in the heart; overflow from the heart. In an excellent book entitled ‘You can change’, Tim Chester shows that our challenge is not to change our behaviour but to have our hearts changed. Love is not automatically sinful, but disordered, inordinate affections will lead us astray. We can love too much and set up idols in our hearts. The heart will be ‘’drawn to’’ whatever it is we love. Let’s set our hearts on God.

Steve Green, on one of his discs, has an unusual, but powerful, song about adultery, and it has this refrain:

‘Guard your heart, guard your heart, Don’t trade it for treasure, don’t throw it away.Guard your heart, guard your heart, For a moment of pleasure, it’s a high price to pay. Guard your heart.’

PRAYER: Help me Lord to always guard my heart

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