It’s Providential – Genesis 30

Simply stated, providence is God’s intervention in His creation. The theological concept of providence incorporates the foreseeing care and guidance of God. In fact, the Latin root of the English word has the sense of  knowledge of the future.

So, because God knows the future, He controls the present.

Providence is probably the main point in which a biblical worldview comes into conflict with contemporary worldviews. Certainly, the Old Testament worldview was more respective of God’s providence than is the modern, scientific view that asks “Why” and “How” about every occurrence in life and nature.

The Old Testament writers seem to have a rich understanding of God’s providence. To the Old Testament writer, it’s all providential!

The two major events from the life of Jacob described in Genesis 30 illustrate the Old Testament perspective of providence.

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Focal Point – Genesis 28:18-22

focalpoint“Early in the morning Jacob took the stone that was near his head and set it up as a marker. He poured oil on top of it and named the place Bethel…Then Jacob made a vow: ‘If God will be with me and watch over me on this journey, if He provides me with food to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God. This stone that I have set up as a marker will be God’s house, and I will give to You a tenth of all that You give me'” (Genesis 28:18-22, HCSB).

Jacob was on a journey to Haran and at the end of one of the days during his journey he stopped and camped outdoors.

That night God appeared to Jacob in a dream of a stairway that started from where he was and reached to heaven. Angels were ascending and descending the stairway. In the dream God transferred to Jacob all the essential elements of the covenant He had established with his grandfather and father, Abraham and Isaac.

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Don’t Compromise God’s Grace – Genesis 25:33-34

don'tcompromisegirl“So Esau swore an oath, thereby selling all his rights as the firstborn to his brother, Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and lentil stew. Esau ate the meal, then got up and left. He showed contempt for his rights as the firstborn” (Genesis 25:33-34, NLT).

Esau and Jacob were twin sons of Isaac. As they grew up, Esau, the firstborn of the twins, was an outdoorsman and preferred by his father, Isaac. Jacob was a homebody and preferred by his mother, Rebekah.

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The Last Laugh – Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:2-3,5-6

LastLaugh“Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed, and said in his heart, ‘Will a child be born to a man one hundred years old? And will Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?’ … Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?’ … So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac….Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, ‘God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.'” (Genesis 17:17; 18:12; 21:2-3,5-6, NASB).

The name Isaac means, “He laughs.” And, each time the verb “laugh” is used in these verses, it is a wordplay on the name “Isaac.” So, this extraordinary and somewhat humorous story of the miraculous birth of Isaac is actually a story of who gets the last laugh!

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When God Pays You A Visit – Genesis 18

JesusAtTheDoor“Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him…He said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son’…Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?…Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, ‘Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’” (Genesis 18:1-2,10,16-18,22-23,25, NASB).

Genesis 18 is a critical juncture, a pivotal point, in biblical history in my view. It’s a theological nexus that reveals the link between God’s mercy and wrath, between human rebellion and redemption. And it does so in a most dramatic and memorable way. Three defining moments occur in this chapter that reinforce the interaction between mercy and wrath, rebellion and redemption: 1) the announcement of the birth of Isaac; 2) the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; and 3) God’s restraint for Lot and his family.

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An Offer You Can’t Refuse – Genesis 17:1-2

offeryoucantrefuse“When Abram was 99 years old, the Lord appeared to him, saying, I am God Almighty. Live in My presence and be blameless. I will establish My covenant between Me and you, and I will multiply you greatly” (Genesis 17:1-2, ESV).

Thirteen years after Ishmael’s birth, God again appeared to Abram, whom He renamed as Abraham during this appearance. In these verses God calls Himself “El Shaddai,” for which the meaning is unknown, but its translation as “God Almighty” is based on a tradition going back more than two thousand years.

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The Duality Dilemma, Part 1 – Romans 6


This meditation is Part 1 of a three-part series of meditations on Romans 6-8.

In Genesis 25 we read of the birth of Jacob and Esau. Isaac was Abraham’s son and Jacob’s (Israel’s) father. Isaac was forty years old when he married Rebekah. Though Isaac was the heir of the covenant God had with Abraham, he had produced no heir. Isaac’s wife, Rebekah was childless so Isaac prayed for his wife. God heard Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah conceived after almost twenty years of marriage to Isaac.

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Be a Blessing, Share the Gospel – Genesis 48:20

“So Jacob blessed the boys that day with this blessing: The people of Israel will use your names when they give a blessing” (Genesis 48:20, NLT)

Before Jacob (Israel) died, he blessed Joseph and his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim.

First, he adopted Joseph’s sons, which entitled them to part of the inheritance of the promised land. Then he gave Ephraim, the younger of Joseph’s son, the right-hand blessing, which was the right to inheritance entitled to the eldest son.

Centuries later when God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery and they possessed the land of Canaan, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh each received a portion of the land distribution.

Ephraim eventually became the leading tribe in the northern kingdom of Israel and the Old Testament prophets sometimes referred to the entire northern kingdom as Ephraim.

Blessing was used in the Old Testament to describe the conditions of covenantal relationships.

God, who is the ultimate Grantor of blessing, uses people to channel or convey His blessings. Thus, Abraham’s call by God to be a blessing was a missionary calling meant to convey God’s blessings to all the nations of the earth (Genesis 12:2-3).

When Jacob blessed Ephraim and Manesseh (and his other sons in vs. 49:3-28), he was conveying God’s blessing to the nation of Israel.

The nation of Israel, which was the successor to the Abrahamic covenant, was intended to be the channel for God’s blessing to all nations.

Declaring the gospel is the New Testament expression of the Old Testament blessing.

When Jesus commissioned His followers to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:18-20), theirs was a missionary calling under the new covenant.

Just as God called Abraham to be a blessing to all nations, Jesus called His disciples to be a blessing to all nations by proclaiming the gospel.

So, be a blessing, share the gospel!

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16, NLT)

Two Camps – Genesis 32:1-2

“Jacob went on his way, and God’s angels met him. When he saw them, Jacob said, ‘This is God’s camp.’ So he called that place Mahanaim” (Genesis 32:1-2, HCSB).

After spending twenty years in Aramea, God commanded Jacob to return to his homeland. As Jacob entered the country God promised to Abraham and his father, Isaac, he was met by the angels of God.

Jacob called the place where he met the angels, Mahanaim, which means in Hebrew, two camps.

Jacob may have designated the place as Two Camps because he was acknowledging the convergence of two realities at that place—the unseen world of God as represented by the angels and his own physical and material world consisting of his family, servants, and livestock.

Jacob consecrated and memorialized the place as Two Camps because he recognized God’s providence in his return to the Promised Land.

And the appearance of the angels authenticated that Two Camps was the place where the Divine Will crossed the path of human history.

Two Camps was a point in time where God’s plans for the future intersected with the everyday affairs of Jacob’s life.

Once Jacob encountered God, it was like he now lived in in parallel universes.

A new perspective had been superimposed on the old!

Like Jacob, when you encounter the unseen world of God’s reality, which is personified by Jesus, your perspective becomes drastically transformed.

Suddenly, your expectations for the future begin to impact how you live in the present!

When you encounter Jesus, you begin to live at at the crossroads of time and eternity:
 …the place where the Divine Will crosses the path of human history!
 …the point in time where eternal life begins!

When you encounter Jesus, eternal life becomes activated in your life. You begin to live in this present reality because of the way things will be in the future.

Now you live in two camps! Now you live for the future in the present!

“You have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God (the heavenly Jerusalem), to myriads of angels in festive gathering, to the assembly of the firstborn whose names have been written in heaven, to God who is the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus (mediator of a new covenant)” (Hebrews 12:22-24, HCSB).

Can It Be Ishmael? – Genesis 17:18

“So Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael were acceptable to You!'” (Genesis 17:18, HCSB).

Ishmael was Abraham’s son by Hagar, his wife’s servant. Ishmael’s birth was planned by Sarah, Abraham’s wife, as a way to have children in order to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham: “Now the word of the Lord come to him… ‘One who comes from your own body will be your heir… Look at the sky and count the stars, if you are able to count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘Your offspring will be that numerous'” (Genesis 15:4-5, HCSB).

Since Sarah was old and had not borne Abraham a child, she offered her Egyptian servant to Abraham so that they could have a child by her.

Abraham consented to a marital arrangement taking Hagar as his second wife when he was 85 years old. Customs of the time dictated that any child conceived by Hagar would belong to Sarah and Abraham.

When Ishmael was thirteen years old, God reaffirmed His covenant with Abraham and decreed that male circumcision would be the sign or seal of this covenant. Then God informed Abraham that his wife Sarah would give birth to a son, who he was instructed to name Isaac. God told Abraham that He would establish his covenant through Isaac.

When Abraham inquired as to Ishmael’s role, God answered that Ishmael has been blessed and that He “will make him fruitful, and will multiply him greatly… and I will make him into a great nation” (vs. 20).

Abraham was ninety-nine and Sarah was ninety when God made this promise!

Naturally, Abraham was skeptical and he instead proposed to God that Ishmael, his son by Hagar, Sarah’s Egyptian slave, be the acceptable heir of God’s promise.

When my youngest son was just a toddler, he was fascinated by sirens and emergency vehicles. Whenever we would see an ambulance, fire truck, or police car rushing to the scene of an accident with sirens blaring, he would ask, “Can we be them?”

Now I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by the question but assumed he wanted permission to pretend to be the people riding in the emergency vehicle. Not wanting to stifle the child’s imagination, I always answered in the affirmative!

“Yes, Son, we can be them!”

Abraham seemed to be asking God a similar question in this verse…

“Can it be Ishmael?”

Can we do this covenant on the pretense that the promises you have made to me are fulfilled through Ishmael?

Twenty-five years had passed since God told Abraham to go to the land of Canaan and almost fifteen years since God had promised him a biological heir. Abraham was now an elderly man who seemed to have God’s plans and purposes for his life behind him.

So, it would be much more convenient if it could be Ishmael.

And therein, lies the difference between our schemes and God’s plans.

Our schemes are always void of God’s supernatural intervention into our lives. Our schemes are usually a convenient pretense of God’s will.

Like Abraham, we want to make counter-proposals to God in which He accepts our will and what’s convenient for us as His will and we avoid the stress of obedience.

But God was undaunted by Abraham’s well-intended suggestion regarding Ishmael.

And God is not deterred from working His will through us when we obey as precipitously and precisely as did Abraham the light that God gives us regarding His plans for our lives: “He circumcised the flesh of their foreskin on that very day, just as God had said to him (vs. 23).

“The one who does God’s will remains forever” (1 John 2:17, HCSB).