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Reading plan & guide - week 8


After Jacob fled from his murderous brother, Esau, he went north of the river Euphrates to Abraham’s family from among whom he obtained a wife. In fact he married two wives, the sisters Leah and Rachel, and returned to the promised land, twenty years after leaving, with eleven sons and one daughter. These sons, together with another born later, became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel, the people of God, of whom we read in the rest of the Bible.

During his stay in Padan-aram Jacob was maltreated by his father-in-law but God, according to his promise as Jacob left the promised land, protected him, as Jacob said to that father-in-law, Laban: "Except the God of my father, the God of Abraham, and the fear of Isaac, had been with me, surely thou hadst sent me away now empty. God hath seen mine affliction and the labour of my hands, and rebuked thee yesternight" (Genesis 31:42).

Sunday: Genesis 32

Returning to the promised land with his family and servants, Jacob made contact with his brother Esau not knowing if, after so long a time, he still harboured murderous intention against him. He soon heard that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred armed men, and his reaction is instructive. He first prayed to God, citing the LORD’s promise to him and seeking his protection vs.9-12, but he did not then sit back doing nothing to leave everything to God. While trusting in the LORD, he acted prudently to protect his family from the potential danger: sending abundant presents to Esau to conciliate him and organising his company for the maximum safety of his wives and children.

Nevertheless, God also strengthened and encouraged him by sending an angel to wrestle with him -- for if Jacob could contend with an angel he would not fear any man, even his brother Esau. At the end of this episode Jacob’s name was changed to Israel, meaning "prince with God". This passage well illustrates the use of the word "God" in the scriptures: it is applied not only to the Creator himself but also to those who act as his agents, such as the angels and Israel’s rulers (John 10:34-35). Thus, Jacob saw the face of an angel, a manifestation of the Creator, and therefore he called the place "the face of God". It is impossible for mortal man to see the Almighty and live, therefore he has manifested himself in other "Gods", including angels and the Lord Jesus Christ, whom men have seen and from them learned what the Creator himself is like.

Monday: Genesis 33

With Esau approaching with many armed men, Jacob divided his company so that, should Esau attack, some could escape. He placed his family in the rear for protection and, significantly, put his son Joseph furthest from danger, because he was the one entitled to the birthright (1 Chronicles 5:1). In the event Esau had prospered during Jacob’s absence and, happy with his worldly possessions, no longer sought Jacob’s death. Nevertheless Jacob still pressed him to accept his bountiful gifts because his desire was not for material possessions but for God’s promises to be fulfilled. His major concern was for the survival of his children through whom the promises would be realised and he was therefore willing, if necessary, to lose everything in order to receive the promised blessings, even if those blessings would not come for a very long time. Indeed Jacob, and all the faithful of old, knew that the promises would not be fulfilled till long after they had died. Their hope was that God would raise them from the dead when that time came. Jacob knew that by then the promised seed, which is Christ, would have come and the faithful seed of Abraham would have become a great multitude. He therefore expressed this purpose of God in the name of the altar he built after returning to the promised land. He called it: "El Elohe Israel" which is "The Power (God) of the Powerful Ones (the Saints) of the Prince of Power (Christ)" v.20.

Tuesday: Genesis 37

Jacob travelled through the land of promise and when he came to Bethlehem his beloved wife, Rachel, died in childbirth (Genesis 35:18-19), and this is significant for Bethlehem was the intended place for the birth of the Messiah, and the new-born baby boy was given prophetic names. Rachel, before she died, called him Ben-oni, "the son of my sorrow", while Jacob called him Benjamin, "the son of my right hand": so, in due course, God’s own Son was first "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isaiah 53:3), and then exalted to sit at God’s right hand (Psalm 110:1).

Because of God’s covenant, Jacob was content v.1 to live as a stranger in the land God promised to give him for an everlasting possession. This attitude is contrasted with that of his brother Esau who had despised the birthright and who set his heart on this life, possessing lands, building cities, and settling his children in dukedoms (ch.36). The birthright had passed through Jacob to Joseph, Rachel’s eldest but the eleventh of Jacob’s sons, and it was in Joseph’s life that God chose to illustrate that of Christ. Only God could make a man’s life an enacted parable to illustrate the suffering of his Son and the glory to follow. Like Jesus, Joseph was the beloved son of his father v.3 who observed his brethren’s wicked behaviour and denounced it, v.2; who was inspired to express parables; whose parables foretold the future in which they would all bow down to him when he reigned over them v.8; whose brethren envied him v.11 (compare Mark 15:10) and conspired to kill him v.18 (Matthew 26:3-4).

One of the most remarkable characteristics of the scriptures is the way in which God represents the death and resurrection of Christ in the lives of men in the past. Joseph was thrown into a pit v.24, representing the grave into which Jesus was later placed; but he was afterwards brought up out of the pit to represent Christ’s resurrection. These events are a shadow of good things to come (Hebrews 10:1) but not an exact representation. Looking carefully at the record, we can see how God illustrates different aspects of Christ’s life. For example, both Joseph and Jesus were sold by their brethren for silver money v.28, their blood was shed, as it were, by men acting like beasts vs.31-33, their deaths brought grief to their distraught loved ones who were unaware at first of their rising out of the pit vs.34-35.

Wednesday: Genesis 39

The purpose of God was that Joseph, following his symbolic death and resurrection, would be greatly exalted just as Jesus would be; but before the glory both men had to pass through great suffering. Like Jesus, by his character and behaviour, Joseph found favour with God and man vs.2-5, although both men were falsely accused of crime and cast into prison. Nevertheless, despite Joseph’s suffering he maintained his trust in the LORD who preserved him and he, like Christ and many men and women in the scriptures, is set forth as an example of enduring adversity in the right spirit. He was able to do this because he knew the purpose of God and, like the apostle Paul, reckoned: "that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Romans 8:18).

Thursday: Genesis 40

One of the ways in which God made known his purpose was by dreams. While Joseph was in prison he was joined by two personal servants of Pharaoh who were accused of serious crime. Each had a dream from God, but neither understood its meaning. Joseph, inspired by God, interpreted the dreams, telling the baker and butler what would happen to them. And so it transpired: within three days the baker was executed and the butler was restored to his former position.

Joseph’s hopes of release must have been raised, for the dreams clearly came from God and the butler promised to speak to Pharaoh concerning his unjust imprisonment, "yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him" v.23. This apparent delay in the outworking of God’s purpose is a recurring feature of the experience of faithful men and women throughout the ages. Today the faithful await the return of Christ and the promised time of salvation and blessing, but it seems a long time coming. Nevertheless, God will certainly do what he has promised and in the meantime his true servants do not fall away into unbelief, but endure unto the end as exhorted: "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh" (James 5:7-8).

Friday: Genesis 41

Two years after Joseph correctly interpreted the butler’s dream, Pharaoh also had impressive dreams but could obtain no interpretation from his magicians. Only then did the butler remember Joseph and recommend him to Pharaoh. Joseph, again inspired by the LORD, told Pharaoh that the dreams were from God v.25 specifically to inform him of seven years of famine to follow seven years of plenty. Pharaoh was greatly impressed and, adopting Joseph’s scheme to store food in the good years in preparation for the coming famine, appointed him administrator, and exalted him to be the highest ruler in the land, second only to Pharaoh himself v.40. This is typical of Christ who, after years of suffering, was brought out of the prison house of death and appointed, under God, ruler over all.

These events in Egypt show us how God is in absolute control both of nature and of activity among the nations so that everything works out according to his predetermined purpose. Those today who understand that purpose can see the hand of God at work in history and in events taking place in our own time. They can see that the present state of the nations is as God describes in the Bible and can anticipate events about to happen with the return of Christ and the establishment of God’s kingdom in the earth.

Saturday: Genesis 42

The worldwide famine brought people, including Joseph’s own family, from afar seeking food out of the store houses he had built in Egypt. God had told Joseph’s great grandfather, Abraham, that his descendants would leave the promised land temporarily to live an a strange land before returning in the fourth generation (Genesis 15:16). The seven year famine was the means by which Israel was brought down to Egypt. These events also illustrate the greater purpose of the LORD with Israel and the Jews’ relationship with God’s son.

Joseph was highly exalted in Egypt, but Israel believed he was dead: Christ is now exalted at God’s right hand, but the Jews think he also is dead. Joseph’s brethren did not realise that the great personage they were dealing with in Egypt was their very own brother. Joseph did not immediately reveal himself to them because they had to recognise the enormity of their crime against him and to learn that their treatment of him and his exaltation in Egypt was part of God’s plan of salvation. These events also foreshadowed the way in which Jesus will soon come to Israel as a great saviour, delivering them from all their enemies, but only after their full acceptance of him as their Messiah will it be borne in on them that he is Jesus of Nazareth whom their fathers crucified two thousand years before. Not only should Jews therefore be prepared for the Messiah’s coming, but all of us also, for it is "unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).


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