Monthly Archives: January 2018

The Beginning of a Royal House

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs, and to him shall be the obedience of the people.   Genesis 49:10

Few people would know the name of Abilene, Kansas, if Eisenhower had not been born there.  Neither would the name of Judah have its present fame if it were not for the fact that David and the Lord Jesus were born to this otherwise inconspicuous tribe.

Judah, the man, was one of the least likely candidates as an ancestor for the Savior.  He was not a son of Jacob’s favored wife, Rachel, nor even the firstborn of Leah.  He did not have Joseph’s piety nor ability.  In fact, Judah was very easy-going about his own morals and marriage, but cruel in his enforcement of the seventh commandment as far as others were concerned.  (Genesis 38)

The reason God chose such an unattractive character and takes pains to report his immorality to us is in order to dramatize the depths to which the Lord Jesus went when He identified Himself with the wicked human race.  If Jesus had been born to some virtuous and noble family we might forget the fact of His humiliating birth.  But our Savior was born to one of the meanest branches (Matthew 2:4-6) of an immoral member of a family that were slaves to various heathen nations for hundreds of years.  And instead of glossing over these sorry details in his genealogy of Jesus years later, Matthew makes a point of them (Matthew 1:3, 4, 11) in order to demonstrate that “He who knew no sin was made to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God through Him.”  (II Corinthians 5:21)

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The Beginning of a Nation (2)

So Joseph said to his brothers….”I am Joseph, your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.  Now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.”            Genesis 45:4, 5

The book of Genesis consists of exactly fifty chapters, which divide themselves neatly into four almost equal quarters.  The first section summarizes the years from creation to Abraham.  The second tells the eventful life of that great man.  The third section reports the dramatic story of Jacob.  And the final quarter is the “biography” of Joseph.

The reason why so much space is given to a single one of Jacob’s many sons is the fact that had it not been for him they all would have died of starvation in the famine that struck their country.  If it had not been for Joseph there never would have been (humanly speaking) a Jewish nation from which our Savior was born, and by whom our Bible was written.

But “way down in old Egypt land” this little nation grew, until it was ready for independence.  And in order to prepare for his amazing providence, the best boy of Jacob’s family had to be hated by his brothers, sold as a slave, flung into prison, and forgotten until there was urgent need of his help.

If anyone had apparent reason for complaining, “All things are against me; evil have been all the days of my life,” it was Joesph.  But this was precisely the point at which he was different from ordinary people.  By faith he was able to say that while men meant evil against him, God meant it all for good. (50:20)  This is the triumphant note on which the book of Genesis ends.  And it is hard to find a better theme than that to describe this entire book of beginnings.

The Beginning of a Nation

I am not worthy of the least of all the stedfast love and all the fruitfulness which thou hast shown to thy servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan; and now I have become two companies.       Genesis 32:10

Many people assume that Abraham was a Jew.  If that were the case, all of his descendants would have been Jews, too.  But nothing is farther from the truth.  There are millions of direct descendants of Abraham in the world today who are anything but Jews. While it is true that Jacob, the father of the Jewish nation, was born of Abraham, so were Ishmael, Esau, and six prolific sons of Abraham’s wife Keturah.  (Genesis 25:1-4)  In short, Abraham is the ancestor of nations that have repeatedly tried to destroy the Jewish people.  The Midianites and Edomites, two of Israel’s most hated foes, were full-blooded sons of Abraham.  Herod – to mention only one individual enemy of God’s people – was a descendant of Abraham via Jacob’s twin brother Esau.

We may casually forget such important Bible facts today, but Jacob, who lived in the very crucial situation, was well aware that there were other heirs of Abraham, and that from a human point of view they all had prior claims to any Abrahamic blessings.  This is what prompted him to explain in amazement the words of our text.  He, the latest and least in the line of Abraham, had fled the ancestral home with only the clothes on his back as his belongings, and returned a few years later at the head of a caravan.  What is more, the “truth” which Jacob thanked God for revealing to him was the fact that this band of people was destined to become a nation of millions.  (28:14)

The Beginning of Tithing

Then Jacob vowed a vow, saying…….”of all that thou givest me I will give the tenth to thee.”                      Genesis 28:20, 22

New Year’s resolutions and others are often made fun of, because they are so poorly kept.  But this is not the fault of the resolutions, but of those who make them.

All Christians ought to covenant with God about many things.  One matter of special importance is that of our belongings.  Everything we ever owned belongs to God, for it was in the world in some form long before we were born, and it will certainly be here after we are gone.  This is true of the houses in which we live, the farms that men cultivate, the cars which we drive, and the air that we breathe.

Everyone ought to recognize this plain fact by paying “interest” to God, which is what tithing (another word for tenth) amounts to.  Tithing is not just giving a certain amount of money out of gratitude to God; it is simple recognition that everything belongs to Him, even ourselves.

All “cheerful givers” (II Corinthians 9:7) will soon find out, as Jacob did, that what is left after tithing will go much farther than if a person keeps everything for himself.  Of course, no one should tithe from such an ulterior motive, for then he is not really giving. But the person who gives from the right motive is not really giving either!  He is actually making an investment, which pays tremendous dividends both in time and for eternity.

When a doctor wants to evaluate our physical well-being he feels our pulse; when God wants to test our spiritual health He feels our purse.

The Beginning of Weddings

And Abraham said to his servant, the oldest of his house…..go to my country and to my kindred, and take a wife for my son Isaac.            Genesis 24:2, 4

Courtship, engagement, and marriage customs differ widely in various parts of the world.  Isaac’s betrothal to Rebekah, which is the first to be reported in Genesis, is a far cry from modern courtships.

But before we smile at the quaint and unromantic methods by which some people have found and do find their life partners, we ought to reflect upon the fact that the divorce rate is far lower in such systems than in systems where young people freely choose their own mates.  There are certain factors essential to marriage success which are far more important than the method by which the spouse is procured.

The first is that the partners to this most intimate of human relationships ought to be as similar as possible, particularly in their religious convictions.  We learned this lesson from the sad story of the mixed marriages which brought on the flood.  This is the reason Abraham sent faithful Eliezer on a long journey in search of a special wife for his son Isaac.

A second highly important factor is the matter of prayer.  Eliezer prayed very specifically about his serious assignment.  Read his moving request in verses 12 to 14, plus his testimony in verse 27.  Every person contemplating matrimony ought to talk over this important matter with God.

Nor is it accidental that Scripture makes a point of mentioning how old Isaac was when he married.  (25:20)  All things being equal, success in marriage is enhanced if one doesn’t not rush into it too early.  It is far better to be married well and less long, than to be wedded sooner but sorry.

The Beginning of Apostasy

…..Esau despised his birthright.                  Genesis 25:34

There are millions of people in the world who do not know the first thing about Christianity.  That is a shame.  But even sadder is the fact that many people who know a great deal about Christianity want nothing to do with it.

Esau may well be called the father of that kind of person.  There were many unbelievers before his day.  But most of them were born into unbelieving homes.  Esau, however, was a grandson of none other than “the father of all believers!”  Esau’s immediate father, Isaac, was an outstanding type of our very Savior.

Esau’s response to all this favor was that he couldn’t have cared less.  He was a thoroughgoing secularist, a humanist.  In his opinion a bird in the hand is always worth two in the sweet bye-an-bye.  The Bible calls him a profane person and a fornicator (Hebrews 12:16).  He carelessly married a woman who displeased his parents, and when he saw their disapproval he did it even more (28:8, 9).

Esau had no one to blame but himself for all this defiance of the faith.  Nothing makes more dramatic his equal opportunity with Jacob, who believed in God, than the fact that he was Jacob’s twin, and the older one at that.  Any prejudice was in his favor, for he was admittedly his father’s favorite.

It is no wonder that God’s reaction, expressed years later, was, “Esau I hated.”  Hebrews uses his sad example to warn us against taking our advantages for granted until it becomes too late to repent.

The Beginning of Funerals

Sarah, died….and Abraham went in to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her…..And after this, Abraham buried Sarah his wife in the cave of the field of Machpelah….      Genesis 23:2, 19

Genesis is a doleful dirge of many deaths.  Chapter 5 alone reports the passing of eight patriarchs.  But with the demise of Sarah we have the first account of the funeral and burial and mourning that accompany such deaths.

The casual Bible student is not unduly stirred by reading of the death of such saints as Seth, Shem, or even Noah.  But the account of Sarah’s passing is another story.  Sarah figures prominently in twelve of Genesis’ more interesting chapters, beginning with her departure from the comfortable life of Chaldea to take up the life of a wanderer in rough country.  Hers was a typical domestic life with all its typical problems: unexpected guests, uncooperative help, quarrels between children, worry about her husband’s affection, and doubt about her adequacy for motherhood.  Finally her tired body gave out at the ripe age of 127 years, and with the story of her death, the serious student of Scripture feels something of a personal loss by being bereaved of someone who seemed very real.

Imagine then the forlorn sorrow of father Abraham, with his added grief of having to pay an exorbitant sum for a little place in which to bury his beloved.  And imagine his faith in refusing to wonder at this last trial after God had promised that he would be the owner of the whole country! (13:17)

Somebody once remarked that faith is believing what God says, no matter what He does.  Try to imitate Abraham.