The last time Jacob saw his brother, Esau had it in his heart to kill him for taking away his blessing and birthright (Genesis 27:36, 41). Now Esau is on the march to meet Jacob with four hundred men! Jacob forms three different droves of family, with distance between them to meet Esau with certain gifts and certain words in his attempt to appease his brother. It grieves our heart to see the way Jacob separated his family, and even the way they were separated, revealing Jacob’s favoritism. We read Jacob’s reasoning back in:
Genesis 32:8 (NKJV) “And he said, ‘If Esau comes to the one company and attacks it, then the other company which is left will escape.’”
Esau had been blessed over the past twenty years, so his anger had subsided and his heart had changed. He was happy to see his brother Jacob, and in an amazing display of grace, they didn’t even have to hash things out in a long drawn out debate or conversation. God worked it out.
Every once in a while, God genuinely works things out like that, and love covers a multitude of sins.
Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV) “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”
The previous night Jacob wrestled with God until the breaking of day! (Genesis 32:24) As a former wrestler myself, who left six-minute matches thoroughly exhausted, I can’t even imagine begin to imagine what it would be like to wrestle all night long. But Jacob did just that, he was a fighter. Of course this was one of those wrestling matches, similar to a father and his little boy – dad was playing with His kid but simultaneously teaching him. In the end, Jacob shows his resilience “I will not let you go unless you bless me!” So God blessed him by changing his name and touching his hip, Jacob would limp for the rest of his life and therein have a perpetual reminder of his need to lean on the Lord.
I’ve heard many different meanings of the two names over the years, but the ones that seemed to make the most sense in my assessment is that Jacob means, “heel catcher and conniver,” while Israel means, “Governed by God.” (Big difference) We see God change names frequently in the Bible, it’s His way of stimulating some sort of new beginning that would go beyond a changed name, but a changed life.
The story of Dinah, Shechem, and the Shechemites is heartbreaking all the way around. It goes to show the depth of depravity and how there really is no easy answer to such sin. Jacob seemed as if he was open to his daughter marrying the man who raped her and then mingling with the people – that’s not right. Jacob’s sons, on the other hand (Dinah’s brothers) deceived the citizens of Shechem and murdered, not just the offender, but all the men. That’s not right either.
God doesn’t condone their action; He’s simply recording the history of a very fallen, broken, and wicked world.
Although John the Baptist had his doubts, Jesus lifts him up and commends him as the greatest prophet under the Old Covenant, most likely because of the fact that he was the forerunner to the Messiah. But then Jesus begins to open the door into something new, the New Covenant, and Jesus says something fascinating about all Christians in this context:
Matthew 11:11 (NKJV) “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”
Benson explains, “That is, in the gospel dispensation, when fully opened, understood, and enjoyed in all its privileges and blessings, is greater than he — for Christ’s ministers, and even His real people in general, under the gospel, were to receive superior supplies of the Spirit, and know many important truths respecting our Lord and His kingdom which had not been revealed to John himself.”
Jesus exposes the hard heart of the religious leaders of the day – they weren’t open to the message of either John or Jesus, even though they had such different approaches and styles of ministry. John was more of an ascetic and they criticized him for that, while Jesus was in the midst of the people and they criticized him for that.
Another reminder, it’s not the Sower or the Seed that’s the problem, it’s the condition of the Soil.
It should absolutely amaze and astound us that the cities (citizens) who saw our Savior in Person did not repent. They will receive a greater condemnation than those who didn’t have such a wonderful witness.
The religious leaders had placed heavy burdens upon the people, they were guilty of absolute legalism. Jesus’ heart ached for the people who were being crushed by the innumerable amount of man-made rules and regulations, so He invited the people to Himself with some of the most wonderful words in all the Bible.
Matthew 11:28–30 (NKJV) “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
When the religiously weary come to Jesus, He will give us rest. Rather than bearing the yoke of others, we get joined to Jesus, we learn from Him. He’s not legalistic or overbearing, He’s gentle with us, He’s humble, and we will find rest for our souls (salvation and freedom). With Jesus helping us through life His promise is (relatively speaking) it will actually be easy-growing.
There are positional atheists and practical atheists. The positional atheist says with his lips, “There is no God.” The practical atheists says in his heart, “There is no God,” and his life reflects that. The symptoms of practical atheism range anywhere from evil works, to evil worry.
How foolish to say in our heads or our hearts, “There is no God.”
One day God will make believers of everyone, but for some it will be too late.
God created this amazing universe, the earth, the heavens, the waters of this world – all by His wisdom…and just think, He offers that same wisdom to us! What can WE DO with God’s wisdom? We can’t make a world but I’ll bet we can make a difference in this world! (for good)
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.