Genesis 24-26

Genesis 24-26…Isaac marries Rebekah, Abraham dies, Jacob and Esau are born to Isaac and Rebekah, and Isaac interacts with King Abimelech.

Abraham sends his senior servant out to find a wife for Isaac. He gives specific instructions, and the servant demonstrates a model of prayer encouraged throughout the Bible. Since it was unknown what the will of the Lord was with regard to the specific person Isaac should marry, Abraham’s servant prays this prayer in Genesis 24:42:

“Lord, God of my master Abraham, if you will, please grant success to the journey on which I have come.”

This is exactly how we’re instructed to pray in James 4:13-17, particularly when we don’t know what the Lord’s will is:

“Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

The Lord answers the prayer of the servant, and Rebekah is brought back to marry Isaac.

Abraham dies in chapter 25, and then Rebekah and Isaac have twin sons; Jacob and Esau. The doctrine of election is revealed in Genesis 25:23, where the Lord says to Rebekah:

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the elder will serve the younger.”

God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy. The doctrine of election is true, and good, and is often resisted and/or denied because it puts into perspective how small and helpless we are to save ourselves. Based on what we’ve seen so far in Genesis, it shouldn’t surprise us that election is resisted by humans. We like to think we’re ok, and that we don’t need to be rescued. However, a right view of the human condition, allows for a right view of the doctrine of election. This teaching is abundantly clear throughout scripture, and Paul further explains in Romans 9:10-13:

“Not only that, but Rebekah’s children were conceived at the same time by our father Isaac. Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad – in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls – she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ Just as it is written: ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”

It’s important to note that the elect will repent and believe in Christ and produce spiritual fruit, and that is how we know who is saved. Praying the sinner’s prayer, responding to an alter call, and/or being baptized means absolutely nothing unless there is a change. There is nothing magical about any of those things, and we need to be sure we’re not relying upon them for assurance of our salvation.

In Genesis 26, Isaac does the exact same thing his forefathers did; he lies because of his fear of man, and his unbelief. He tells King Abimelech that Rebekah is his sister, and the King banishes him from Gerar. What happens next is truly remarkable, and shows once again what God is like. Genesis 26:23-24 tells us:

“From there he went up to Beersheba. That night the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham.’”

God is unbelievably patient with His people. He has been patient with us too, consistently pulling us back to Himself, and preserving us for the day in which we will see Him face to face. One way to grow in godliness, is to approach our relationships with this perspective: Since God is patient with us, and since our own offenses against Him are far worse than those against us from others, we should exercise patience and humility with those offending us.

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Isaiah 40:27

Isaiah 40:27…”Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God?'” God asks this question here, because He actually knows all, and is omnipresent. When people are big and God is small, its easy to assume that an unanswered prayer means He doesn’t care or isn’t paying attention, or that we just didn’t believe hard enough or didn’t use the right words. Of course we cannot control God like a puppet, so there are no magical words, and He is glorified simply by our going to Him in utter dependence. So, the purpose of prayer, mainly, is for us to depend completely on our Father. It’s about our humbling ourselves and petitioning Him for help. Our prayers should regularly consist of praise and thanksgiving for our salvation in Christ, like in Ephesians 1:3; “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” If we’ve been saved, then He knew us before He spoke creation into existence (Ephesians 1:4), so our way has never been hidden, and we’re not disregarded at all.

Ephesians 1:4
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.”

Isaiah 40:12

Isaiah 40:12…”Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens.” The answer is God only. This verse is a powerful illustration, showing both God’s bigness and his power. His hand controls all things, and nothing is outside of his reach. This should bring us great joy with our current circumstances. God’s hand is on every last detail of our lives. If we consider this truth about God, and actually believe it, we’re left with a very hard reality about our complaints, both big and small. We’re complaining about God. We think we know better. We think we deserve better. However, if we were given what we truly deserve, we would all be in hell right now, under God’s eternal judgement. Thankfully, we have a Father who is also abundantly gracious and merciful, and has provided a rescue plan for us in Christ.

God in His own words explains it best in Ephesians 2:1-10:

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Titus 1:2

Titus 1:2…”In the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.” God promised us eternal life in eternity past. Election (or predestination) is implied in this verse, and is throughout the bible in addition to all the clear, explicit teachings on this doctrine (Titus 1:1 for example). For the elect, He has always known us, set His affection on us in eternity past, changed our hearts in rescuing us in Christ, and will sanctify us until we’re glorified. We should rejoice in this, knowing that although we have to battle every day, the war has already been won, and the fruit we see is assurance of our salvation! However, this can be a hard teaching if we try to limit God’s attributes and power according to our own finite knowledge, understanding, and abilities. Interestingly, we’ll get in a car or on a plane not fully understanding how everything works and believe that we’ll get to our destination. Our trust in these simple actions demonstrates that we’ll put our hope in something we don’t fully understand. We show our intellectual inconsistency with spiritual things when we treat God and His word differently. The doctrine of election is true because the bible says it is. And, according to this verse, God does not lie.

Titus 1:1

Titus 1:1…”Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness.” Sharpening other believers with the truth should be our goal as well. What is the truth that leads to godliness? That we have been rescued by the Father, through the Son’s atoning sacrifice, by the Holy Spirit being placed in us supernaturally. We were spiritually dead, and needed rescued. It’s not that we were floating helplessly, and God threw out a rope, and faith is the hand that grabbed the rope and we were rescued. No, that analogy implies that we had some capacity to save ourselves, which is false. We were dead at the bottom of the ocean, and Jesus dove down and brought us back up and breathed life into us without our doing anything to save ourselves. If we’ve responded with faith and repentance to the gospel, it had nothing to do with our choosing God, and everything to do with God choosing to elect us, out of His abundant grace and mercy. This is the truth that leads to godliness, and any other version of the “truth” does not come from scripture.

Ephesians 2:1-8

1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.

Malachi 1:8

Malachi 1:8…”‘When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty.” God’s people have always been saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, so the sacrifices were not for that purpose. As it is today, God wants our heart, and He wants all of it. The Old Testament sacrifices were God’s plan for a particular people to be set apart from the world in the way they lived. His church today is to be that way, growing in holiness. The Lord’s problem with Israel in this verse, is that they were holding back their best for themselves. We are no different, and it is mainly our time that we keep as “our own” today. Our time does not belong to us though, and when we make an idol of it, we rob God of what rightfully belongs to Him as our Creator and Lord. Our priorities are exposed when we treat our work time, or TV time, or hobby time as if they were more important than time with God and His people. The way you spent your time in this life will be scrutinized by the Lord when you die, and those who are in Christ will have a harvest to show the Lord. They will be rewarded with eternal life. For those who do not produce fruit, there will be eternal punishment:

The axe has been laid to the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. ~ Matthew 3:10

Malachi 1:2

Malachi 1:2…”I have loved you,’ says the Lord. ‘But you ask, “How have you loved us?” The minor prophet, Malachi, is a book outlining the ingratitude of God’s people. This is directly applicable to us, because we are no different today as believers. We do not trust or love God nearly enough, particularly in light of how much we’ve been given in Christ, as well as the peril from which we’ve been saved. If we are His, then His love never fails, it never gives up, and it never runs out on us. And yet, our view of His love for us is distorted. We often think that His love goes up and down based on our performance. This is false. If we are authentically His, then His affection was fully and powerfully fixed on us in eternity past, and will never cease.

Acts 28:24

Acts 28:24…”Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe.” This verse should encourage us in our evangelism. Even Paul, arguably the greatest evangelist in the history of the world, did not convert everyone to whom he preached the gospel. Of course this is because it is God who saves. We certainly want to be persuasive, but there is great freedom in knowing that our duty in evangelism is to present and live out the gospel. God will use us according to His will, and so our responsibility is to be faithful in evangelism, trusting that we are living and working where He has placed us, in part, for that purpose. Our finite humans minds struggle to grasp this truth: God’s elect were chosen before creation, but we are still used by Him to share the gospel with all, since the elect are not apparently obvious to us until after they are saved.

Acts 27:1

Acts 27:1…”When it was decided that we would sail for Italy, Paul and some other prisoners were handed over to a centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment.” It was determined by the counsel of God, before it was determined by the counsel of Festus, that Paul should go to Rome, because God had work for him to do there. A helpful exercise to build our trust in the Lord, is to trace all of the twists and turns in our life, and look at how the Lord has used them to grow us. Similarly, if we consider the circumstances surrounding our salvation in particular, it should give us reason to never complain. We were lost and in a very desperate place, and if the Lord had not revealed our absolute need for Him, we would still be there (Colossians 2:13). God’s history for each of His children is particular, and was planned before He even spoke creation into existence.

Ephesians 1:4
For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

Acts 26:20

Acts 26:20…”I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds.” In giving his defense to King Agrippa, Paul is able to share the gospel. This particular verse is extremely helpful for us in our evangelism as well. Sharing the gospel includes the following four key elements: God, Man, Christ, Response (details have been posted previously here under Acts 18:4). All four are equally important, and all four have been watered down in the contemporary American church. Paul clearly includes in his gospel presentation a right response, which specifically describes active repentance and obedience. There is a cost to the Christian life, and any gospel promising ease of life this side of heaven is extra-biblical (outside of the bible). Your life does not get easier when you follow Jesus, and we need to make this clear in evangelism. There is a cost to following Him, mainly that you’ll have to give up your previous life and pursue Him, submitting to His ways in all things. Thankfully, we’re not saved based on our own deeds being perfect, but we have a Savior who was perfect, and laid down His life for our justification before God. But, if we are truly saved, then we will pursue sanctification, imperfectly as it may be (Romans 8:30).