January 18, 2016
In the middle of the Joseph story, the Bible takes a detour to offer details about Judah and his twin boys, Perez and Zerah, born to his daughter-in-law, Tamar. This story is disturbing, not only because of the sudden change of topic, but because it seems so immoral and foreign to modern ears. The tradition of the brother providing a son to his deceased brother’s wife is foreign to us, but it was a way of preserving the family line and inheritance, and also a provision for the widow. Yet, the way that Tamar tricked Judah into fulfilling this tradition, after he withheld his third son from her, seems even more strange. What’s the moral of such a story? Why does the Bible include this story filled with deceit, masturbation, fornication, prostitution, and hypocrisy? Perhaps the Gospel of Matthew provides the answer. In his genealogy of Jesus, he says, “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah, whose mother was Tamar” (Matthew 1:1-3). You see, the Bible is not so much a story about humanity. It is a story about God, specifically, God’s Son. Tamar is the first of five women mentioned in Christ’s lineage. Perhaps the Bible included her story in Genesis because of its connection to the promised Messiah, who came into this messy, sin-filled world to save sinners like us. Tamar needed a son to rescue her. The Son born into her family line would rescue not only her, but all those willing to receive Him.
January 16, 2016
After a sleepless night wrestling with God, Jacob went to bed with one name and woke up with a another one. Instead of the name “Jacob,” a name that came from his grasping his twin brother Esau’s heel at birth, (Perhaps we get the phrase “you’re pulling my leg” from this), his name became “Israel” (“one who prevailed with God”). God gave Jacob a new identity. He went from being the schemer to the spiritual founder of the twelve tribes of Israel. Along with his new name, God caused him to walk with a limp for the rest of his life. Ironically, God “pulled Jacob’s leg” until it popped out of joint. From that day forward, Jacob began to learn to lean on God rather than his own effort.
January 15, 2016
As Jacob returned to the land of Canaan with his wives, children, servants and flocks, he remembered how he had left there with only the clothes on his back and the staff in his hand. His prayer reflected that it wasn’t only the outward blessings that were different. His heart was changing too. He credited God’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” for all that he had, not his own scheming or self-effort. The Hebrew word, “chesed” (חָ֫סֶד – kheh’-sed), is the word translated, “steadfast love.” It is the Hebrew word that comes closest in meaning to the New Testament Greek word “agape,” which speaks of God’s unconditional love. Jacob recognized that it was God’s faithfulness and favor that had brought him thus far. When have you had a moment like this, when you became aware that it was God who has blessed you with all that you have?
January 13, 2016
Jacob, sleeping on a rock for a pillow, dreamt of a ladder that connected heaven and earth. He heard God promise that his offspring would fill the earth and that through them all peoples would be blessed. He awoke and named the place “Bethel,” which is Hebrew for “House of God” (“beth” house + “el” god). I’m sure he meditated on this vision for the rest of his life. I wonder, did he foresee that God’s Son would be born into the line of his son, Judah? Did he understand that God would send Jesus as the Ladder of Love to open the way to heaven for those who would believe?
January 10, 2016
Abraham instructed his servant to get a wife for his son Isaac from his “father’s house,” not from the Canaanites which surrounded them. Abraham wanted to make sure that his son’s spouse believed as they did, not only for marital compatibility, but also for the future upbringing of their children. We have to be careful in drawing an application from a narrative passage, but there does seem to be one here. Believers should choose to marry other believers who belong to the “Father’s house,” and not choose a spouse from this world. Another application might be that we should let the Father help in selecting our future mate. These are practical applications. We might also see a spiritual foreshadowing in this beautiful story of God the Father, sending His Spirit to bring the bride, which is the church, to His awaiting Son, Jesus.
January 9, 2016
When Isaac asked his father about the sacrifice, Abraham’s faith-filled response was: “God will provide the lamb.” Surely, Isaac had accompanied his father on many occasions as he made sacrifice to the Lord. Yet, on this day, they brought no offering. Fire and wood they brought, but no lamb. What a long, difficult climb up the mountain this must have been, as Isaac watched his father’s face for a hint of explanation and Abraham listened for the Lord to whisper some new instruction. Both Abraham and Isaac passed this test of faith. Abraham, obedient to God, took his promised son, the child that had brought laughter to his old age, and prepared to offer him as a sacrifice. And Isaac, obedient to his father, willingly surrendered himself, going silently to the slaughter. But God did provide. Isaac didn’t have to die. This story of Abraham and Isaac foreshadows God’s offering of His only Son, Jesus, as the Lamb. God has provided for “himself” (not from us, from “Himself”) a Lamb, so that we don’t have to die. As John the Baptist declared when he saw Jesus approaching the Jordan river, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29).
January 7, 2016
The Lord’s visitation to make a birth announcement concerning Abraham’s wife, Sarah, began a pattern of such divine announcements in the lineage of Christ. Isaac, the child of laughter and of promise, was clearly a miraculous birth. God opened the womb of a woman “advanced in years,” one in whom the “way of women had ceased to be.” This birth announcement was a foreshadowing of the announcement Gabriel made to Joseph and Mary. For in a similar fashion, God chose the young virgin Mary, and caused her to be with child, also visiting Joseph to call him to accept her and to name the boy child, “Jesus,” adopting him as his own. The birth of Isaac points to the birth of Jesus. In fact, the whole Old Testament points to Christ’s coming.
January 2, 2016
Even within the curse of sin, God gave a promise. Some have called Gen. 3:15 the “protoevangelium,” the “first good news,” because it speaks of an “offspring” of the woman that will “bruise” the head of the serpent. That this promised “offspring” or literally, “seed,” will come through the woman foreshadows the virgin birth of Christ, as women have no “seed.” That this one should be bruised of the serpent (or Satan), points to his suffering on the cross. But that the serpent’s head shall be bruised of him, points to his ultimate victory over evil through the resurrection. God removed humanity from the garden because of their sin, but He left them with a promise that one of their descendants would save them from their sin. In Christ, God has kept that promise.
January 24, 2015
On his deathbed, Israel (Jacob) blesses (prophesies over) each of his sons. This blessing over Judah is one of the clearest Messianic prophecies that the Christ would be born to the line of Judah. From that day forward the tribe of Judah took the image of the lion as its symbol, flying it on a banner above their camp. The “scepter” indeed came to the tribe of Judah when David became king. Yet, the description that it “shall not depart” speaks of an eternal king. “Shiloh” (Hebrew for “He whose it is”) is Jesus, the Lion of Judah, the Messiah, the Christ, Son of Man, Son of God and King over all, “and to him shall be the obedience of the people.”