Category Archives: Theology

God Remembered Israel (Exodus 1-2)

Scripture reading: Exodus 1-2

Exodus 1 – The Twelve Tribes of Israel in Egypt

A change in leadership can be a perilous time for institutions, corporations, and nations.  Inexperienced leadership, coupled with a lack of appreciation for legacy and history, will invariably lead to decisions and course changes that are detrimental.  Such is the case in the opening verses of Exodus when we read,  Joseph died, and all his brethren, and all that generation…[and] there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph” (1:6, 8).

Joseph had been a gifted administrator, and God blessed his rise to power in Egypt where he had become second only to Pharaoh (Genesis 41:40-43). He was God’s man for the hour, and the tribes of Israel prospered under his care, and long after his death (1:7).

The new Pharaoh did not “know” Joseph, nor was he interested in the policies that had made him and Egypt prosper. He was, however, concerned the population growth “of the children of Israel” posed a threat to the nation (1:9-10). Pharaoh issued a series of commands to limit the population growth of Israel, and tasked the children of Israel with heavy burdens and hardships (1:11-14).  He then ordered the genocide of the sons born of Hebrew women (1:15-21). Finally, he demanded the drowning of every son born of a Hebrew mother (1:22).

Some might ask, “Why would God allow His people, His chosen people, to suffer such calamity?”   My answer: The sufferings and sorrows Israel faced as a people were part of God’s plan to move the Hebrews from the comfort and riches of Egypt to the land He had covenanted to give the descendants of Abraham.

Exodus 2 – Moses, Prince of Egypt

Exodus 2 introduces us to Moses, a man whom I believe was one of the greatest leaders in human history. The prosperity of the tribes of Israel during Joseph’s lifetime, had become only a distant memory when Moses was born. The children of Israel had become slaves in Egypt, and Moses was not only born in a slave’s household, but he was born under the threat of infanticide (1:15-22; 2:1-4).

Moses’ parents were pious believers of the priestly tribe of Levi. His mother, Jochebed, risked her life, and “hid him three months” (2:2) after he was born. She eventually made a small vessel of reeds, and placed him in the basket, then set her son adrift on the Nile River, entrusting his life to God’s providential care (2:3-4).

Reminded that God is sovereign, infant Moses drifted to the place where Pharaoh’s daughter was bathing, and his cry pierced her heart where he found favor and compassion (2:5-6). She realized the baby boy was a Hebrew, and at the suggestion of Moses’ sister, she employed Jochebed, to be his nurse (2:7-10).

Moses spent the first forty years of his life in the palace as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, and therefore an Egyptian prince. He was favored not only with the finest education of his day, but had become a great leader, “mighty in words and in deeds” (2:10; Acts 7:21-22).

In spite of his Egyptian facade, the heart of Moses was knit with the suffering of the Hebrews (2:11-15a; Acts 7:23-29a). There was a day when he became so incensed by the abuse his brethren suffered, that he took the life of an Egyptian (2:11-13). Realizing Pharaoh would soon know his crime (2:14-15), he fled into the wilderness, and there he spent the next forty years of his life (2:16-22; Hebrews 11:24-27).

In the providence of God, Moses, the prince of Egypt, assumed the lowly role of a hireling shepherd, to a Midianite named Reul (also known as Jethro). “Content to dwell with the man” (2:21), Reul gave his daughter Zipporah, to be the wife of Moses, and she gave birth to two sons, Gershom (2:22), and Eliezer (18:4).

In their sorrows, the children of Israel began to cry out to God, and He “heard their groaning, and God remembered His covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (2:23-24).

God remembered Israel, and He had not forgotten Moses.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“God Meant it Unto Good” (Genesis 50)

Scripture reading – Genesis 50

“[When] Jacob had made an end of commanding his sons, he gathered up his feet into the bed, and yielded up the ghost, and was gathered unto his people” (49:33).

Named Jacob when he was born, he fulfilled the definition of that name in the early years of his life, for he had been a trickster and deceiver. His life, however, was changed at a brook named Peniel (32:27-30), and God changed his name to Israel. Transformed into a man of faith, he became a man upon whom the power of God rested.

He had borne the weight of great sorrows, but he died surrounded by his family, and was comforted in the embrace of his son Joseph, the second ruler of Egypt (50:1). Embalmed in the manner of Egypt, even “the Egyptians mourned for [Jacob] threescore and ten days” (50:3). Joseph requested, and received, Pharaoh’s blessing for his father’s body to be taken up to Canaan and buried in the ancestral tomb of his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham (50:4-6).

Imagine the funeral procession that came out of Egypt, and made its way to Jacob’s tomb (50:7-13). His body, borne in an Egyptian coffin, was escorted by “all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8And all the house of Joseph, and his brethren, and his father’s house: only their little ones, and their flocks, and their herds, they left in the land of Goshen (50:7-8).

The Canaanite people of the region observed the royal procession of mourners, and named the place Abel-mizraim, meaning a “mourning or meadow of Egypt” (50:11). Arriving at the tomb, the sons of Jacob buried their father (50:12-13), and then returned to Egypt (50:14). Understanding the evil they had committed against Joseph, his brothers feared in their father’s absence, he might exact revenge for their wrongs against him (50:15-17).  Instead of revenge, however, “Joseph wept” (50:17b).

Though abused and rejected in his youth, Joseph had looked past the trials with eyes of faith, and rested in the providence of God. He comforted his brothers, and said, “Fear not: for am I in the place of God? 20But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:19-20). He went on to assure them, “fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them” (50:21).

Sold as a slave when he was seventeen, Joseph lived the rest of his life in Egypt. Though a ruler in Egypt, his heart longed for the land God had promised, and in death he assured his brethren: “God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob” (50:24). Joseph, repeated the promise, and requested, “ye shall carry up my bones from hence” (50:25). “So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt” (50:26).

A Concluding Thought: I close this commentary, thanking you for accompanying me on this journey through the Scriptures.

Beginning with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), and closing with Joseph’s death and the request that his bones be taken up and buried in Canaan (50:25-26), we have witnessed God’s sovereignty and loving devotion to those who turn from sin to Him. Joseph confessed to his brothers, “ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (50:20).

It was God who worked to save Jacob, his sons, and the Tribes of Israel that He might fulfill His Covenant Promise to Abraham, that “in [him] shall all families of the earth be blessed,” (a promise fulfilled in Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world, 12:3; John 3:16). It is God who desires all men would be saved, and “is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

God is working, and He invites you to “confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus,” and “believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You are invited to share your decision of faith, or your thoughts with this author by emailing: HeartofAShepherdInc@gmail.com.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Forsaken by Man, But not By God! (Genesis 45)

Scripture reading – Genesis 45

Joseph, unable to contain his emotions, cried out suddenly, “Cause every man to go out from me” (45:1b). With only his brethren present, he wept so forcefully that his servants, and even those of Pharaoh’s household heard of it (45:2). Speaking for the first time without an interpreter, Joseph cried out in Hebrew, “I am Joseph; doth my father yet live?” (45:3)

Imagine that moment! They had betrayed, sold their brother as a slave, but now he stands before them. He is a powerful ruler in Egypt, and a man to whom they bowed in fear and reverence. With the authority of a sovereign, and the compassion of a brother, Joseph stated in their tongue, “Come near to me, I pray you”(45:4a). With fear, awe, and dread, his brothers drew near, and he confessed, “I am Joseph your brother, whom ye sold into Egypt” (45:4b).

Calming their anxieties, he consoled his brothers, saying, “be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Take a moment, and meditate on the last phrase: “God did send me before you to preserve life” (45:5).

Rather than bitterness, and vengeance, Joseph’s words conveyed a reassuring spirit of faith and forgiveness. He had come to see the hand of God’s providences in his life. Confessing his faith, Joseph said, “8So now it was not you that sent me hither, but God: and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house, and a ruler [with power and authority] throughout all the land of Egypt” (45:8).

There were yet five years of famine (45:6, 11); therefore, Joseph commanded his brothers, “Go up to my father, and say unto him, Thus saith thy son Joseph, God hath made me lord of all Egypt: come down unto me, tarry not” (45:9). He promised his brothers, “thou shalt dwell in the land of Goshen, and thou shalt be near unto me, thou, and thy children, and thy children’s children, and thy flocks, and thy herds, and all that thou hast” (45:10).

When he had finished speaking, Joseph “fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck, and wept; and Benjamin wept upon his neck. 15Moreover he kissed all his brethren, and wept upon them: and after that his brethren talked with him” (45:14-15). Imagine the conversation that passed between Joseph and his brothers. Through tears, and laughter, Joseph conveyed all that had passed in the twenty-two years he had been apart from them.

The news of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers had reached Pharaoh’s household, and the king of Egypt was pleased (45:17-18). Pharaoh decreed that wagons should be taken to Canaan, and the children, wives, and Joseph’s father be conveyed to Egypt (45:19).  He promised that the “good of all the land of Egypt” would be theirs, and they would have need of nothing (45:21-25).

Stunning News: Joseph is Alive! (45:25-28)

Imagine the spectacle when an Egyptian wagon train came within sight of Jacob’s encampment in Canaan (45:25). When he heard that Joseph was alive, and was “governor over all the land of Egypt, [his] heart fainted, for he believed them not” (45:26). Seeing the wagons, and all the provisions that had been sent to him by his son, Jacob’s spirit was revived (25:27). “Israel (Jacob) said, It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: I will go and see him before I die” (45:28). He was content. The LORD had preserved his life into his old age, and answered the longing of his heart: He would be reunited with Joseph.

Let us take a moment and reflect on God’s providences in Joseph’s life.

His mother died giving birth to his brother Benjamin. He grew up resented, and hated by brothers who would have killed him had they not elected to sell him as a slave. He was falsely accused by his master’s wife, and was a prisoner, until the LORD directed Pharaoh to promote him to the second most powerful throne in Egypt.

Joseph was rejected, tried, and forsaken by man, but not by God!

Psalm 34:1919Many are the afflictions of the righteous: But the Lord delivereth him out of them all.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Getting Back to Bethel, the House of God (Genesis 35-36)

Scripture reading – Genesis 35-36 

The LORD had commanded Jacob to return to Canaan after an absence of 20 years (Genesis 33). Receiving news his twin brother was coming, Esau came to meet him, and instead of exacting revenge, gave Jacob a loving embrace and they wept for joy. Although he had been received in peace, Jacob refused his brother’s invitation to enter the land, and traveled instead to Succoth where he lived among the heathen of the land (33:17); a decision that brought great sorrow upon his household (34:1-2, 13-29).

Genesis 35 – Journey to Bethel

Genesis 35 opened with the LORD commanding Jacob to go up to Bethel (“the house of God”), and fulfill the promise he had made to the LORD two decades prior (28:19-22). Knowing he and his family were returning to the place where the LORD had first appeared to him, Jacob commanded his family to make ready to be in the presence of the LORD.

Genesis 35:2-4 records three preparatory steps Jacob commanded his family to observe before going to Bethel.

The first step, was to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (35:2b).

How did these “strange gods” come to be with Jacob’s family? Remember that Laban, Jacob’s father-in-law, had accused him of stealing away with his gods (31:30, 34). Unbeknownst to Jacob, Rachel had taken her father’s idols. There is also a possibility that the people who had been taken captive after Simeon and Levi killed the men of Shalem, had taken their gods with them (34:28-29).

The second step in preparing to go to Bethel was to “be clean” (35:2c). Jacob commanded his people to put their lives and households in order, and to purify themselves and be holy according as God had said.

Finally, the people were to “change [their] garments” (35:2d). They were to replace the old robes that would have reminded them of their past, and put on new garments. Such is to be true of believers when Paul observed, “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Arriving at Bethel, Jacob built an altar, and most assuredly offered sacrifices, and led his family to worship the LORD there (35:6-7).

Jacob’s return to Bethel, however, was not without its sorrows, and was marked by the deaths of three loved ones.  Deborah, the elderly nurse of his mother Rebekah, and who might have assisted with raising Jacob, was the first to die (35:8). Jacob honored his beloved servant by burying her under an oak tree, and calling the name of the place “Allonbachuth,” “oak of weeping” (35:8).

Jacob’s beloved wife Rachel, the mother of Joseph, died giving birth to Benjamin, Jacob’s twelfth son (35:16-18).  Adding to his sorrows was the death of his father Isaac, the longest living patriarch, who died “being old and full of days” when he was 180 years old (35:28-29). Isaac’s death gave occasion for his sons to be reunited, and give him a proper burial (35:29).

Genesis 36 – Esau’s Lineage

Genesis 36 is the record of the births of Esau’s five sons, born of his three wives (36:1-5), and the births of his son’s sons (Esau’s grandsons).

Following their father Isaac’s death (35:29), Esau accepted that the birthright and inheritance of Canaan belonged to Jacob, and soon after moved his family to Mount Seir, in the land of Edom (36:6-8).

Genesis 36 gives no more of Esau’s history; however, the title “Duke,” given his grandsons (36:15-19), indicates they were commanders of men, and soldiers who, as was prophesied of Esau, would live by the sword (27:40).

The Edomites, who were the descendants of Esau, will play a significant role in our future study of the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

God Must Break You, Before He Will Fully Bless You! (Genesis 32)

Scripture reading – Genesis 32

The Backdrop to Events in Genesis 32

After twenty years of shepherding his father-in-law’s flocks, the LORD commanded Jacob to go home: “Return unto the land of thy fathers…and I will be with thee” (31:3).

Fearing his father-in-law would forbid his parting, Jacob secretly departed Padanaram, the place he had served his father-in-law Laban (31:17-20). Crossing the Euphrates river, and putting as much distance between himself and Laban, Jacob set his face toward Canaan, and arrived at Mount Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (31:21).

His stealth parting had given Jacob a three-day start before news reached Laban that he and his family had taken flight (31:22). Laban set out in anger, and pursued Jacob for seven days, before overtaking him at Mount Gilead. What ill intentions Laban might have had, were confronted by God who came to him “in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad” (31:24).

The verbal confrontation between Jacob and Laban is recorded in Genesis 31:26-42, and the amicable resolution between the two is recorded in Genesis 31:43-55. Setting a pillar of stones as a memorial to their covenant of peace, “Laban departed, and returned unto his place” (31:55)

Genesis 32 – Facing Your Greatest Enemy, and Greatest Fears

Jacob set out on his journey, and God gave him a vision of an angelic host that would accompany him, and he named the place, Mahanaim, “God’s Camp” (32:1-2).

Twenty years had passed since Jacob stole his brother’s birthright, and fled Canaan. His return home would take him through Edom, his brother Esau’s land and country (32:3). Though two decades in the making, his reunion with his brother had revived the memory of Esau’s threats and his fears. I am reminded of the proverb, “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle”(Proverbs 18:19).

Knowing his brother was a warrior (27:40), and he a shepherd, Jacob feared Esau. Understanding he might face his brother’s wrath, Jacob plotted and planned how he might defuse his brother’s fury (32:4-8). When he received news that Esau was coming with four hundred men (32:6), Jacob prepared for the worst, and divided his household, hoping to spare his family and possessions from a total loss should Esau attack (32:7-8).

Jacob had evidently forgotten about the host of angels that had appeared to him along the way (32:1-2), and he prayed to the LORD, reminding Him how He had commanded him to return to his homeland, with the promise, “I will deal well with thee” (32:9-12).

Jacob then sent gifts to his brother, in hopes of appeasing his wrath (32:9-23). Knowing he would face his brother the next day, Jacob spent the night alone, perhaps pondering what the morning might bring upon him and his family (32:13, 24-32).

It was in the solitude of the night that the LORD appeared to him in the physical form of a man, and wrestled with both Jacob’s body and soul (32:24-32).  Even with his hip out of joint, Jacob wrestled with the LORD until he was assured of His blessing (32:25-28).

The LORD blessed Jacob (whose name meant trickster or schemer), and gave him the name of “Israel,” meaning one who has power with God (32:28).

The next morning, it was Israel, a man transformed by the grace of God, that faced his enemy. He had spent his life scheming, and wrestling with God; however, he was transformed after seeing “God face to face” (32:30).  No longer a man that relied on his wit, the painful limp in his stride was as a reminder of the night God broke his will (32:30-31).

Jacob had come to the end of himself, and the God of his grandfather Abraham, and his father Isaac, was his God. Jacob’s life was so transformed. If you saw him, you would know him; for he was a man with a limp, whose faith was in the LORD.

In the words of A.W. Tozer, “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

When the Chickens Come Home to Roost (Genesis 29)

Scripture reading – Genesis 29

Fleeing from his brother who had vowed revenge (27:41-43), Jacob had arrived at Bethel (28:17-19), where the LORD appeared to him in a vision. Facing an uncertain future, and far from home, the LORD affirmed to Jacob that he was chosen to be heir to the Abrahamic covenant (28:12-15; 12:1-3).

Genesis 29:1-14 – Jacob is United with His Mother’s Family

Jacob continued his journey eastward, and “came into the land of the people of the east” (29:1). Having traveled four to five hundred miles, “he looked, and behold a well in the field, and, lo, there were three flocks of sheep lying by it; for out of that well they watered the flocks: and a great stone was upon the well’s mouth” (29:2).

Considering the precious nature of water, there was a policy that the stone over the well’s mouth would not be removed until all the shepherds gathered with their flocks (29:3). Far from home, Jacob asked the local shepherds, “Know ye Laban the son of Nahor? And they said, We know him. 6And he said unto them, Is he well? And they said, He is well: and, behold, Rachel his daughter cometh with the sheep” (29:5-6).

Breaking the rule to keep the mouth of the well-sealed until all the flocks were present, Jacob “rolled the stone from the well’s mouth, and watered the flock of Laban his mother’s brother” (29:10) which was tended by Rachel, the daughter of Laban.

Unable to contain his joy, Jacob “kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice, and wept…[and] told [her] that he was her father’s brother [relative], and that he was Rebekah’s son [Rebekah and Laban were siblings]: and she ran and told her father” (29:11-12). When Laban received news that his nephew, the son of his sister Rebekah had come, “he ran to meet him, and embraced him, and kissed him, and brought him to his house” (29:13).

Jacob remained in his uncle’s home for “the space of a month” (29:14), when Laban proposed to his nephew that he should not continue serving him “for nought [and requested] tell me, what shall thy wages be?” (29:15).

The Scriptures reveal a detail that will become the basis of an unfolding drama in the next several chapters: “Laban had two daughters: the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17Leah was tender eyed [weak; unattractive]; but Rachel was beautiful and well favoured” (29:16-17). Laban, as we will see, was a sly businessman, and reasoned, “It is better that I give her to thee, than that I should give her to another man,” Laban agreed that Jacob would labor seven years for the hand of his youngest daughter. (29:19).

Jacob was smitten with Rachel’s beauty, and the seven years he labored for her to be his wife, “seemed unto him but a few days, for the love he had to her” (29:20). When his seven years were ended, Jacob demanded that Laban give him Rachel to be his wife (29:21).

Genesis 29:22-30 – Be sure your sin will find you out!

Jacob, a deceiver and trickster in his own right (having taken his brother’s birthright and his father’s blessing), soon learned he had met his match with Uncle Laban, the master of trickery and chicanery.

Because the bride’s face was veiled in modesty for the wedding feast, Jacob did not discover he had married Leah, Laban’s oldest daughter, (29:23-25) until the morning after the wedding. Jacob confronted Laban the morning after his wedding night; however, his marriage to Leah, though made under fraudulent circumstances, was nevertheless binding (29:25).

Laban excused his deceit, supposedly citing a local tradition that a younger sister was forbidden to marry before the older sister (29:26). Laban slyly suggested an arrangement for Jacob to labor another seven years, and if he agreed, he would give him his beloved Rachel for his second wife (29:27). Jacob agreed, and one week later he took Rachel as his wife.

Herein is a lesson: Consorting with men like Laban, a man void of integrity, is treacherous business!

Laban kept his agreement, but Jacob now found himself the husband of two wives, and committing the sin of bigamy. We read that Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah… 31And when the Lord saw that Leah was hated [despised], he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren” (29:30a-31).

One passing phrase in this narrative forewarns us to the troubles that will follow Jacob’s household: Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah” (29:30).

There is an old idiom that reads, “Chickens come home to roost!”  In other words, as it is the nature of chickens to come home to their roosting place each night, it is also true that the consequences of sinful choices invariably catch up with us all.

While his journey had taken him hundreds of miles from home, Jacob’s sins against his father and brother had come to be mirrored in the schemes of his father-in-law into which he fell victim.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith

A Not So Happy Family (Genesis 27-28)

Scripture reading – Genesis 27-28

When we concluded our study of Genesis 26, we found Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and his family living in Gerar, a Philistine area of Canaan, that he named Beersheba (26:32-33). Knowing he was 60 years old when Rebekah conceived twin sons, we can assume Isaac was one hundred years old at this time, for his sons were forty years old. Esau the older son, had committed bigamy, by taking two Hittite women to be his wives (26:34). Those heathen wives were from a lineage of idolaters, and “were a grief of mind unto Isaac and to Rebekah” (26:35).

Genesis 27 – “Esau the Carnal, and Jacob the Conniver”

Time marches on for all, and Genesis 27 opens with a sad statement: Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see” (27:1a). Nearly blind, perhaps due to cataracts from the effect of the desert sun and sand, he had determined it was time to put his household in order, and prepare for his death. Calling for his oldest son, Esau came to his father and said, “Behold, here am I” (27:1b).

Isaac engaged Esau to take his bow, and go out “to the field, and take some venison” (27:3), stating his purpose was to eat, and then bless Esau before he died (27:4). Now, the father’s blessing in ancient times carried a far greater meaning, than it does today. The blessing was essentially a statement of the father’s “Will and Testament,” the passing of the torch of leadership, and the dispensing of his possessions.

Rebekah, Isaac’s wife, had overheard Isaac’s instructions to Esau, and she realized her husband’s plans were contrary to God’s will (25:23). Rather than trust the LORD to providentially work His will according to the divine promise that Jacob, the second born son was his chosen heir (25:23), Rebekah determined to deceive her husband (27:6-10). She readied Jacob to masquerade as his brother Esau (27:11-17), and prepared a meal for him to present to his father. Isaac, although he had his doubts, nevertheless gave his blessing to Jacob, and not his oldest son (27:18-29).

When Esau returned from the hunt, and came before his father (27:30-32), Isaac physically trembled when he realized he had been deceived (27:33). Esau, overcome with grief, bewailed the loss of his father’s blessing (27:34).

The consequences of Jacob’s scheming had infuriated Esau. Jacob had not only taken his birthright (i.e. the spiritual priesthood of the family which Esau had despised and sold for a bowl of soup, 25:33-34), but now his inheritance. Learning of Esau’s threat to kill Jacob (27:41), his mother appealed to Isaac, and requested that Jacob be sent away to her family in Haran, not only for his safety, but also to find a wife among her people (27:42-46).

Genesis 28 – On the Run, and Alone: When God Speaks—Listen!

Knowing the blessing he had bestowed upon Jacob was irrevocable, Isaac confirmed God’s covenant blessing on his youngest son, and commanded him to flee to “Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel thy mother’s father; and take thee a wife from thence of the daughters of Laban thy mother’s brother” (28:2).

Jacob’s flight from Beersheba to Bethel, where he stopped for rest, was a distance of some forty miles (28:10). Physically and emotionally exhausted, Jacob went to sleep, and the LORD came to him in a vision of a ladder that reached from heaven to earth, and upon the ladder he beheld “the angels of God ascending and descending on it” (28:11-12).

The LORD confirmed to Jacob that He had been chosen by God, and the promises of the Abrahamic covenant would pass through him to his heirs (28:13-14). With the promise, “I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of” (28:15), Jacob awoke, and recognized that as God had been with Abraham, and his father Isaac, he would be with him (28:16).

Fearing God, and revering the place where the LORD had appeared to him, Jacob dedicated the place, calling it Bethel, “the house of God” (28:17-19). Jacob then dedicated himself to the LORD (28:20-21), promising. “I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (the “tenth” being a tithe, 28:22).

The next chapters in our study will follow God’s work of grace as Jacob, the deceiver, is transformed into the man whom God will call Israel, the man who had “power with God.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

Confess Your Bitterness, and “Dig Another Well” (Genesis 25-26)

Scripture reading – Genesis 25-26

Our chronological study of the Scriptures continues today as we come to some major spiritual crossroads in the Genesis account of Abraham, his chosen heir Isaac, and Ishmael, Abraham’s son born to Hagar, Sarah’s handmaiden.

Genesis 25 – The Death of Abraham, and Isaac and Rebekah Become Parents

With Sarah dead, and Isaac happily married to Rebekah, Abraham was no doubt lonely, and took a second wife named Keturah (25:1). The Scriptures do not say, but perhaps she was one of Abraham’s maidens in his household. Keturah gave birth to six sons (25:2-4), and they were a further fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham would be a father of nations (Genesis 12). Though a father of many sons, Abraham remembered that Isaac was the son whom God had chosen to be his heir.  Therefore, “Abraham gave all that he had unto Isaac” (25:5) his spiritual and legal heir. The other sons he sent away with gifts, and therefore settling his obligation to them as a father (25:6).

Abraham lived an incredibly long life, and when he was “hundred threescore and fifteen years (175 years old),[he] gave up the ghost, and died in a good old age, an old man, and full of years; and was gathered to his people” (25:7-8). He was content with his life, and ready to entrust his spirit to the LORD.

As is so often true, their father’s death gave occasion for Isaac and Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar, to be reunited and give their father a proper burial in the tomb he had purchased for Sarah (25:9-10). Ishmael’s lineage is recorded (25:12-16), and true to God’s promise to Abraham and Hagar (21:13, 18), his twelve sons were fathers of tribes, and nations (25:16). Ishmael died when he was “an hundred and thirty and seven years: and he gave up the ghost and died; and was gathered unto his people” (25:17).

The Bible narrative now focuses upon God’s providences in Isaac’s life. Isaac had taken Rebekah to be his wife when he was forty years old; however, another twenty years passed before she conceived. (25:26).  Like his father before him, Isaac longed for children to be born to his beloved Rebekah, and when she conceived she was blessed with twin sons (25:21). Taking her concerns to the LORD (25:22), He revealed that the sons in her womb were opposites in almost every way imaginable (25:23), and contrary to the culture, the older son would become servant to the younger).

Those two sons had not only struggled in their mother’s womb, but when they were born the younger son, Jacob, took hold of the heel of his firstborn brother, Esau (25:25-27). Esau was red haired, and stunning in his physical appearance, preferring the outdoors, he was a skilled hunter (25:25, 27). Jacob, was plain in his appearance, and preferred a quiet, pastoral shepherd’s life (25:28).

The most stunning difference, however, was in the brother’s spiritual values. As the firstborn son, Esau was the rightful heir of the “birthright,” meaning he was destined to be the spiritual leader, the priest of the family clan. Esau, placed no value on his spiritual birthright, and for the price of a bowl of soup, sold his birthright to Jacob (25:29-34).

Genesis 26 – Famine, Conflict, a Peaceful Resolution, and Unhappy Parents

Isaac and his household faced the hardship of famine, the first noted in the Scriptures since Abraham had gone down into Egypt one hundred years earlier.

Like Father, Like Son (26:1-11)

The famine had forced Isaac to move his household, and he relocated to Gerar, where the Philistines lived. Lest he be tempted to do as his father, the LORD warned Isaac that he must not go down into Egypt (26:1-2). Commanding him to remain in Gerar, God renewed his covenant promise to bless Isaac, and give him and his lineage “all these countries” (26:3-4).

Fearing for his life, Isaac was frightened that men in the land might look upon Rebekah’s beauty and desire her, and he would be killed (26:7). He foolishly sinned as his father had, and told others, “She is my sister” (26:7). His deceit was exposed when King Abimelech (the title of Philistine kings), confronted him for “sporting with Rebekah his wife” (meaning the familiarity of a husband who loves the wife of his youth, 26:8-9). Abimelech rebuked Isaac for his lie, and took Isaac’s household under his protection (26:10-11).

“Dig Another Well” (26:12-33)

God continued to bless Isaac, and “the Philistines envied him” (26:14). Moved by envy, they began to stop up the wells that Abraham had digged in his days for his flocks and herds, and “filled them with earth” (26:14-15). Rather than the warring spirit with which Ishmael was born, Isaac was a peacemaker and he continued moving from one well to the next seeking peace (26:12-22).

Isaac’s response to the Philistines’ aggression is a worthy model for us all to follow when conflicts arise. Fresh water wells were invaluable in a land known for its deserts, and we can imagine the hardships and personal offence Isaac felt as the wells dug by his father were destroyed.

How did Isaac respond?  Did he become embittered?  Did he plot a way and path of revenge?  

No, he kept digging wells (26:18, 21, 22), and not only built and repaired the wells of his father, he also “builded an altar there, and called upon the name of the LORD” (26:25).

I invite you to follow Isaac’s example, and set aside bitterness and disappointments, and “dig another well.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Here Comes the Bride” (Genesis 24)

Scripture reading – Genesis 24

Faithful to His promises, God had blessed Sarah in her old age, and as a 90-year-old wife, she had given Abraham a son when he was 100-years-old. She died when she was “an hundred and seven and twenty years old” (Genesis 23:1), meant that Isaac was 37-years-old at the time of his mother’s death.

Genesis 24:1-9 – An Urgency to Find a Suitable Wife for Isaac

We read, “Abraham was old, and well stricken in age: and the Lord had blessed Abraham in all things” (24:1). The three years that had passed since Sarah’s death (25:20), had impressed Abraham with an urgency to prepare his son to become not only the master of the household, but also the heir of God’s covenant with Abraham’s lineage. An essential part of that preparation was the choosing of a wife for Isaac.

Burdened that Isaac would have a fitting wife, Abraham summoned his eldest servant (24:2), and charged him that Isaac “shalt not take a wife unto my son of the daughters of the Canaanites [a heathen, idolatrous people], among whom I dwell: 4But thou shalt go unto my country [the country out of which God had called him, Genesis 12:1-3], and to my kindred, and take a wife unto my son Isaac” (24:3-4).

The servant questioned Abraham concerning the considerations for choosing Isaac’s wife, and was admonished that, should a young woman be unwilling to return with him to Canaan (24:5), he must not permit Isaac to leave the land God had given him as an inheritance (24:6-9).

Genesis 24:10-67 – The Search for Isaac’s Wife

A caravan of ten camels, servants, and supplies accompanied Abraham’s trusted servant for the 500-mile journey across the desert, from Canaan to the city of Nahor in Mesopotamia (24:10).

Arriving at the well in Nahor in the evening, the servant was aware the young women of the households would come to the well for water, and there he compelled the camels to kneel (24:11-13). Abraham’s servant made a passionate plea to the LORD to guide him (24:11-14), and “before he had done speaking…Rebekah came out, who was born to Bethuel, son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, with her pitcher upon her shoulder” (24:14).

Rebekah was God’s answer to the servant’s prayer, for she was “very fair to look upon, a virgin, neither had any man known her: and she went down to the well, and filled her pitcher, and came up” (24:16). Beautiful, chaste (24:16), considerate (24:18), diligent in serving (24:19-20), and of a household that called on Jehovah (24:31a), the servant broke out into a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, testifying, “I being in the way, the LORD led me to the house of my master’s brethren” (24:27).

Rewarding Rebekah with “a golden earring of half a shekel weight, and two bracelets for her hands of ten shekels weight of gold” (24:22), she invited Abraham’s servant to her family’s household where he would meet Laban, Rebekah’s brother (24:23-29).

The servant refused to be comforted by food or shelter until he had stated his mission, and given testimony of God’s providences in leading him to their home (24:30-50). Declaring, “I am Abraham’s servant” (24:34), he shared how God had blessed his master with great wealth (24:35), and a son who would be his heir (24:36).

Hearing how God had providentially led the servant to Rebekah, her brother and father gave their blessing for her to become Isaac’s wife (24:50-56). When Rebekah was requested to give her consent to depart with Abraham’s servant, and to be the wife of Isaac, she consented saying, “I will go” (24:58). With the blessing of her family (24:59-60), Rebekah departed with her attendant, and journeyed with the Abraham’s servant to Canaan (24:61).

As they entered the land Abraham and Isaac called home, they spotted Isaac coming toward them (24:62-63), and Rebekah covered herself with a veil, expressing both modesty and humility (24:64).

Isaac listened to the servant’s report, and how the LORD had led him to Rebekah (24:66), and “Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent… and she became his wife; and he loved her” (24:67).

Though their marriage was not always a picture of peace and happiness, the union of Isaac and Rebekah has served as an enduring testimony of God’s personal interest in our lives, and His providential leading in our marriages, and families.

Oh that we all might choose to walk in righteousness, be able to say with Abraham’s servant, “I being in the way, the LORD led me” (24:27). 

Do Right, and you will not only do the will of the LORD, you will be confident in it!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith

“Where is the Lamb?” (Genesis 22-23)

Scripture reading – Genesis 22-23

We cannot be certain how many years passed between the close of Genesis 21, and the events recorded in Genesis 22. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Isaac was a young man, and perhaps in his early twenties at this point in his life.  One thing is for sure, he was “the apple of his father’s eye,” and the joy of his old age. Abraham’s task was to prepare his son to become not only the master of all that he owned, but also the heir of God’s covenant that promised “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (12:3).

Genesis 22 – Faith Tested: Abraham Commanded to Sacrifice Isaac

Genesis 22 puts Abraham to the test, and God determined to prove his faith by commanding him to take Isaac (22:1-2), “and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of” (22:2).

With a spirit of submission, Abraham obeyed God, and early the next day set out on the journey with his son, and the wood that would be used for “the burnt offering” (22:3). The trip from Beersheba (21:33), to the place where God had commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, was a three-day journey (22:2). Arriving at Moriah, Abraham instructed his servants to stay while he and Isaac went up the mount to worship, promising they would “come again” (22:5).

Placing the wood on his son, much like Jesus carried the beam of His cross, Abraham “took the fire in his hand, and a knife [symbols of judgment]; and they went both of them together” (22:6). Isaac questioned his father, “Where is the Lamb?” (22:7), and Abraham assured him, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering: so they went both of them together” (22:8). Two thousand years later, John the Baptist would answer Isaac’s question, pointing to Jesus Christ and saying, “Behold the Lamb” (John 1:29, 36).

We might wonder what emotions stirred in Abraham’s heart as he climbed the Mount, knowing he had been commanded to, “take now thy son…whom thou lovest” (22:2), and sacrifice him (22:8-9). Arriving at “the place which God had told him,” Abraham built the altar, laid the wood in place, and “bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood” (22:9).

Faith, trust, and hope are readily identified in that event on Moriah. Abraham’s faith went beyond himself, focusing on God who would “provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” (22:8). Isaac’s trust, went beyond himself and focused on submission to his father’s will who placed him on the altar (22:9). The hope was that God would be faithful to His covenant promises, and Isaac would be Abraham’s heir (Hebrews 11:17-19).

When “Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (22:11-12).

When Abraham looked up, he spied a ram “caught in a thicket by his horns,” and he took it and “offered him up for a burnt offering” in Isaac’s stead (22:13). Abraham “called the name of the place Jehovah-jireh,” meaningthe LORD will provide (22:14).

What spiritual lessons did Abraham and Isaac take from this trial of faith?

Abraham learned how far he was willing to trust God, and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7), even at the sacrifice of the one he loved. He and Isaac learned, in the moment of trial and testing, God is there, and He will provide.

The LORD renewed His covenant with Abraham, and said, “for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son… I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven…18And in thy seed [Isaac, and his lineage] shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice” (22:16-18).

Genesis 23 – The Death of a Mother: “Sarah Died in Kirjatharba” (23:2)

Reminding us that we are all sojourners in this world, we read, “Sarah was an hundred and seven and twenty years old: these were the years of the life of Sarah. 2 And Sarah died in Kirjatharba; the same is Hebron in the land of Canaan: and Abraham came to mourn for Sarah, and to weep for her” (Genesis 23:1-2).

To my knowledge, Sarah is the only woman in the Bible whose age is given at her death. She has served as a model for godly women who aspire to be wives and mothers down through the ages (1 Peter 3:1-6). In a figurative spiritual sense, she is the mother of all believers, and her loving submission to her husband as the head of her household, evidenced her enduring love and commitment not only to her husband, but to her God.

To honor his wife, with a proper burial, Abraham purchased land on which there was a cave (23:3-20).  That cave would serve as a tomb for Sarah, Abraham, Isaac and his wife Rebekah, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob, and his wife Leah.

Hebrews 11:11–1211Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised. 12Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith