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The Message of The Bible - Part Three
by Dave Miller In our last lesson, we worked our way through the book of Genesis to chapter twenty-one where the child of promise was born, Isaac, the son of Abraham and Sarah. Then God told Abraham to take him out and execute him. Abraham, out of simple trusting faith, made every preparation to do that, but God stopped him. We turn then from chapter twenty-two to the next chapter where Sarah was one-hundred twenty-seven years old. Lifespans were longer back at this point in history, especially prior to the flood. After the flood, they began to decline, and people didnít live as long as they did prior to the flood. At this point in history, there is still quite a bit of length to human ages. Sarah was one-hundred twenty-seven when she died. Now remember that Abraham had come from Ur, over five-hundred miles away. So he is in a foreign country. Therefore, he does not have a place to bury her. There were no funeral homes on street corners like there are now. Therefore, he had to make a deal with some of the locals that lived in that part of the world, in order to purchase a piece of real estate, some acreage, that he could use as a family entombment plot. He purchased a piece of property that is described as wooded. It had a cave situated at one end, called the cave of Machpelah, and thatís where he gently laid the body of his wife to rest.
Then the Bible turns our attention to Abrahamís concern about his son, Isaac. Isaac is now forty years old. Abraham is getting up in years and heís concerned about his sonís well being and his future. Heíd like to get the boy settled into life before he, himself, exited this life. Therefore, he selects one of his servants, and he sends him all the way back to their homeland, Ur, in order to select a wife for his son Isaac. So this servant goes back and does some investigation and some interrogation, and he finds this woman, Rebecca. She is described in the Bible as a beautiful woman. He convinces this woman to come over five hundred miles in order to meet and marry a man whom she has never seen. Isnít that incredible? Yet she agrees to do that, and that chapter closes with us being informed that Isaac was comforted by this marriage, even in the face of the death of his mother.
Next we are told that Abraham was well up in years, one-hundred seventy five years old. After the death of Sarah, Abraham remarried. He married a woman named Keturah, and had some children by her. But then he, himself, came to the end of his life, and the Bible informs us, his two sons, Isaac and Ishmael, took their fatherís body and placed it beside Sarah in the cave of Machpelah.
Now the Bible turns our attention to the next phase of Godís outworking of His redemptive purposes. The Bible is not merely recording history. Itís not merely a book of historical curiosities, just telling you some things that happened. God is selectively, through inspired men, reporting to us certain events in the lives of certain people at certain points in history, all of which forms a complete picture of Godís redemptive purposes, His unfolding scheme of redemption, His plan by which human beings can be saved from sin and reconciled to their Creator. Therefore, God chose to work through certain individuals, beginning with Abraham, ultimately to bring Jesus into the world. Thatís what is going on in these stories. Notice that these people are not always perfect people. Theyíre not sinless. In fact, many times early in their lives theyíre very immature and do inappropriate things, make wrong decisions, just like people today. Yet many times God will work with them over a period of time, mature them, help them to grow in their spirituality and eventually as they approach the end of their life, many times they are paragons of spiritual strength, the great patriarchs that we typically think of in the Old Testament.
The Bible now turns our attention to the fact that Isaac and Rebecca have been married for twenty years and yet they have no children. Isaac is sixty years old, and his wife is tormented. Women in antiquity were bothered a great deal more than they are today if they are not able to have children. That has been the case in different cultures in ancient times. She was very bothered by that, so Isaac interceded on her behalf, and prayed to God that his wife might be permitted to have children. You had better be careful what you pray for.
The Bible informs us that she became pregnant with twin boys. When the first boy was born, the Bible says he had hair all over his body. Therefore, that is what they named him, hairy. That is the meaning of the Hebrew word Esau. When his twin brother was born, curiously enough, the Bible informs us that he had in his grasp, his grip, the heel of his older brother. So that is what they named him, the Hebrew word Jacob, means heel grabber, heel clutcher. That expression came to be used figuratively to refer to a person who is a con man, a deceiver, somebody who is a shyster, who will slip up behind you and trick you behind your back.
It is interesting as we read through the early lives of these two boys, Jacob lives up to that name. As they were approaching adulthood, the Bible informs us that Esau grew up in those adolescent years enjoying the outdoors. He became a hunter and a fisherman. Whereas Jacob, more of a mamaís boy, liked to stay around home, around the tents, and learned how to cook. One day Esau came in from an extended hunting trip. He had apparently been out away from home for some time, and he came in famished. He thought he was going to starve to death. Here is his brother cooking up this pot of stew, and like typical brothers, here was the conversation. Esau said, "Iím hungry. Will you please give me some of that stew?" Jacob said, "No, why should I? What will you give me?" Isnít that like brothers? Esau said, "What do you want?" Jacob said, "I want your birthright." Now here was a prize possession. This was to be bestowed only upon the firstborn son in Hebrew families. Esau said, "What good is a birthright, if I die of hunger?" Therefore, he sold it to his brother. Turn to Hebrews chapter twelve. There we are informed that Esau was a profane man. When he sold his birthright, that was an act of profanity. Profanity is where you take something that ought to be held up in reverence, respect, high esteem, and treat it as if it is trivial, common and doesnít matter. Thatís why when people use Godís name in vain, thatís profanity. Godís name ought to be held up in reverence and used respectfully and honorably. Yet people just use it as if it means nothing, in disrespect. Thatís profane.
Esau was pronounced a profane man because he allowed physical hunger to override a higher concern, a greater consideration in his life. Notice that hunger, thirst, breathing, all of these are legitimate physical needs. God created our body where we need these things. However, we are never permitted to allow our fleshly desires to offset or to conflict with spiritual concerns. Thatís why when Satan approached Jesus in Matthew four, the great temptation, he said "Here are stones; why donít you turn them into bread?" Jesus had been fasting for forty days, the limits of human endurance. Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy and said, "Man shall not live by bread alone (food alone), but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." Even the legitimate need of hunger is not to be allowed to go against or to set aside the need to be responsive to God, whenever there are certain requirements that He places upon us. What a tremendous lesson. So Esau sold that birthright. Of course, after he was well fed, he regretted that he had done that.
Sometime after that, it came time to bestow what was called the family blessing. This is different from the birthright. But this also was to be bestowed upon the firstborn of the Hebrew sons. This time Jacob, in league with his own mother, Rebecca, conspired to swindle Esau out of the family blessing. They were successful in doing so. This made Esau so angry that he was fit to be tied. In fact, he entertained murderous thoughts toward his brother. When Rebecca found out about that, she went to Jacob and said, "Your brother is very upset with you. You need to leave here for a few days until he cools down." She recommended that he go visit with some of her relatives. Jacob took his motherís advice and he traveled out of Palestine back up into the vicinity of their ancestral homeland. But instead of staying gone for a few days, he ends up being gone for twenty years.
When he arrived up there where his ancestors had come from, he arrived at a central watering hole, a well where all the locals would gather at one time before they would unseal the well in order to water their livestock. When he arrived at that location, he struck up a conversation with some of those locals. He said, "Do you know the family of so and so?" (referring to the people that he was kin to and that he was looking for). They said, "Yes, we know that family. In fact, here comes his daughter." Sure enough here came a beautiful young woman with the family sheep. Her name was Rachel. When she arrived at the watering hole, the Bible says that Jacob convinced her to sit down and they began having a discussion. He was instantly struck by this beautiful young girl and the Bible says that before that conversation was over they kissed. He stole a kiss from this girl. She ran home and he sat there and wept over how moved he was by this girl.
Then he went on in the direction of where this family resided, and he encountered his future father-in-law. The fellow welcomed him in, glad that he had come for a visit. After about a month, having helped around the estate, Laban said, "Just because you are kinfolk there is no reason why you shouldnít be compensated for the assistance that you are giving to our life here. What would you like for me to pay you? Name your wages." Jacob said, "Iíd like to marry that youngest daughter of yours." Laban said, "Okay, if you will work for me on the estate for seven years I will let you marry that girl." Jacob agreed to those terms. The Bible says that those seven years of hard labor seemed like a few days to Jacob, so in love was he with Rachel.
Yet when the day of his wedding came, he had done to him what he had done to others. He had acted as a con-man, a deceiver, and that is exactly what happened to him. The women were switched and he was married to the wrong woman, Leah, the sister of Rachel. The Bible tells us that in order for him to go ahead and take Rachel as his wife, he had to work an additional seven years. So there were fourteen years of labor in order to have the right to be married to Rachel, the one true love of his life.
The Bible tells us that during those fourteen years and an additional six years, that he and his father-in-lawís relationship deteriorated. Laban would make promises and say okay if you will do this, I will do this, and then he wouldnít keep his word. Yet in spite of all of that, and in spite of Jacobís own immaturity, God had a plan that He was working out for Jacob. The Bible indicates that God blessed Jacob, increasing his wealth and livestock. Those things that were considered, at that point in history, the signs of a wealthy man, Jacob was able to accumulate. There were moments in the life of Jacob where God would have a direct interaction with him and work with him and talk with him and shape him spiritually. Finally, at the end of twenty years, Jacob had enough of his father-in-law adjusting the terms and not following through on his word. Therefore, he decided he was going to pack up all his belongings, all of his wives and children, and just leave. He did so. It was a few days before Laban, who lived in the vicinity, found out what had happened. So he set out to overtake this caravan of his son-in-law and his daughters and grandchildren. But, before he did, God spoke to him in a vision and said, "Donít hurt Jacob when you find him, because I have plans for him."
So when Laban overtook him he was kind of in a huff. He said, "Why did you leave without even allowing me to kiss my children and grandchildren goodbye?" They had a kind of a patching up of their differences and then Laban went on back home. Jacob turned in the direction of his home, which you remember he had left twenty years earlier, two decades before, under very unpleasant circumstances. He left with his own brother angry enough to kill him.
As we continue reading in these chapters of Genesis, guess what we find out? We find out that Jacob is so concerned about being reunited with his hostile brother that he begins making arrangements to deal with his brother in the event his brother still holds ill will toward him. Hereís what he does. He takes his entire estate, all of his livestock, all of his possessions and people and he divides them into two groups, two bands. The idea is that if Esau is still angry and he attacks one, then perhaps the others will escape. Then he arranges for successive waves of gifts to go out in front of the household estate. Each one of these gifts, consisting of various livestock, are attended by a particular servant. Each one of these servants is given the same instructions from Jacob. Whenever they encounter Esau, they are to make a little speech. They are to say, "These are gifts from your servant Jacob, your slave, Jacob, for my lord Esau." Isnít that interesting how people operate in trying to patch up their differences?
Then after arranging for these waves to go out in front of the family, as they approach Esauís home, Jacob takes his entire family and moves them across a natural barrier, a little stream. The night before he is to meet his brother, he has another direct encounter with God that is life-changing, life-transforming. Weíre seeing a maturing going on in Jacobís relationship with God and his determination to truly place himself under the directions of God. Before he meets his brother, he arranges his family this way. This is a fascinating tidbit from history. He takes the two handmaidens with their children and puts them out in front. Then he takes Leah and puts her next with her children. Then he puts Rachel, the girl that he really wanted to marry, at the very back of the pack with her one child, Joseph. This is how he arranges them as they prepare to meet Esau.
The Bible teaches that the next morning when it came time for him to encounter his brother, he saw Esau coming and his brother had four hundred men with him. That must have unnerved Jacob. But he was trusting in the God of heaven. As he came within eye shot of his brother, the Bible tells us Esau ran at Jacob. I know that must have scared Jacob to death. He must have thought, "I am dead. My brother is still angry. Heís going to do away with me." Yet the Bible says when Esau met Jacob, that he embraced his brother and kissed him. After that tearful reunion, Esau said, "What were all these gifts that you sent out here in front of your estate?" Jacob gave the same speech. He said, "Oh, these are gifts for my lord, Esau, from your servant, slave, Jacob." Esau said, "I donít need this stuff, I have plenty". Yet Jacob insisted. He kept pressing his brother to accept these gifts, no doubt out of guilt. He had swindled his brother out of his birthright and out of the blessing. I suppose that haunted him. Heís now older, heís more mature, and he was regretful for what he had done. Therefore he insisted that his brother receive these gifts. So Esau graciously accepts and then turns around and goes back. Jacob takes his time, because he has a lot of livestock and small children.
The Bible then turns our attention in Genesis chapter thirty-seven to the next phase of God working out His redemptive will. We are informed in chapter thirty-seven that Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter. From chapter thirty-seven clear to the end of Genesis, chapter fifty, we have tremendous focus being brought to bear upon a single individual. The single most important character from this point forward in the book of Genesis is a fellow named Joseph, who at the time we meet him is but a teenager. I want to suggest to you that Joseph was a type of Christ. There is a lot of typology in the Bible: events, circumstances and people in the Old Testament who prefigure, anticipate and symbolize some of the New Testament events where Godís will was brought to climax, to fruition. That is certainly the case with Joseph. He is a type of Christ. You remember the statement that was made about Jesus in the New Testament? "He came to His own but His own received Him not." That describes Joseph. Do you remember how Jesus came to save people from their sin, and yet the very ethnic group, the very people that He had actually initially come to save, ended up killing Him? Yet He became their savior. Thatís like Joseph. Joseph, even though his brothers wanted to kill him, and ultimately mistreated him sorely, turned right around and became their savior.
In Genesis thirty-seven we are introduced to him when he is but seventeen years old. We are informed that the family climate was not good. The other brothers were very jealous of Joseph. Joseph had been born to his father when his father was getting up in years, so he had special feelings for the boy. He gave Joseph gifts that he didnít give the other brothers, for example, that multi-colored tunic, that famous "coat of many colors". Joseph had the ability from God to interpret dreams. He made the mistake one day of telling his brothers about some dreams he had that placed them in a subservient position under him. That didnít set well with them. Overall we have a very unhealthy family situation in which the brothers really hated Joseph. They were jealous of him. They were envious of him. They could not speak a kind word to him.
That sets the stage for that day when all those brothers were out on family business. Jacob came to his young teenage boy, Joseph, and said, "I need you to go out and check on your brothers". They were at Shechem, a good sixty miles from home. He was concerned about them, and so he sent the boy out. Whenever he arrived there, they were nowhere to be found. One of the locals saw him wandering around out in the field and said, "Who are you looking for?" He said, "Iím looking for my brothers". The man said, "They were here, but I heard them say they were going on further to the north, another ten or twelve miles, toward Dothan."
So, Joseph turned his attention in that direction and off he went. When his brothers saw him coming, their response was not good. One of them said, "Behold, here comes the dreamer," talking about the dreams that he had had. "Weíll kill him and then weíll see what becomes of his dreams." What a terrible way to view your brother. Weíll continue this story in the next lesson.This item originally appeared in The Truth In Love Television Program
The Message of The Bible - Part One
The Message of The Bible - Part Two
The Message of The Bible - Part Three
The Message of The Bible - Part Four
The Message of The Bible - Part Five
The Message of The Bible - Part Six
The Message of The Bible - Part Seven
The Message of The Bible - Part Eight
The Message of The Bible - Part Nine
The Message of The Bible - Part Ten
The Message of The Bible - Part Eleven
The Message of The Bible - Part Twelve