Thursday, January 31, 2013

Genesis 30 - Substituting God's Provision

It probably happens to most of us at some point. We buy into the philosophy that God helps those who help themselves - this is not Bible wisdom by the way. We say we trust God and can be content in any circumstance, but when we don't get our hearts desire, instead of looking up we often go into self help mode.

In this chapter we see three stories unfolding:

1. Rachel is distressed because her sister is bearing children and she is not. Like Sarah , rather than moving to prayer and looking to God for his blessing, she offers up her servant to sleep with her husband and to bear a child on her behalf. Since the deal worked once for her she repeats the process.

This sets into motion a competition between Rachel and Leah each of them offering their servants and themselves in an effort to win the baby making competition. Jacob is no longer the husband but the baby maker that can be bargained for between the sisters.

2. We also see Laban is unhappy to hear that Jacob plans to move away with his wives and children. Rather than seeking God's will he comes to Jacob with a very spiritual sounding offer. "I have learned that The Lord has blessed me because of you - name your wages and stay with me"

Laban didn't really have such fond affection for his son in law, but craves more wealth and saw Jacob as his wealth builder.

3. Jacob didn't pray to God for his decision but saw if he was going to have anything without getting tricked by Laban he would have to make the distinction so clear that there would be no arguing. So he offered to stay and take any speckled animals born to the flocks.

Once again, Jacob didn't trust God to provide for his needs but cut tree branches and placed them in the water to assure him of getting speckled animals. He then separated the strong from the weak and worked to strain the best for himself and to assure that Laban only got the less desirable animals.

Jacob had helped him to gain wealth and then he took it for himself according to their agreement.

The lesson here I believe is that we can create all kinds of distortion and twisted conditions when we don't seek out God's direction and follow it. Where God's word is unclear related to your situation pray and see if God doesn't give you wisdom for the day. If you don't get answers apply yourself to walking in fellowship with God. Make every choice his to direct and make peace with him be your goal and all the rest will fall into place.

We need to guard against creating our own forms of provision and justice. God is our provider. He gave us talents and intends for us to use them but not to disadvantage someone else but to work diligently and witness boldly for Him.

May God richly bless you as you seek Him and as you serve Him.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Genesis 29 - Role of Work

In this chapter there are several stories from which we can draw application but in this chapter there are some work principles that seem to leap off the page. How we apply our talents and skills is just as much a matter of stewardship as how we spend our money.

1. Teamwork. There are some tasks that are much easier when done as a team. Take rolling the stone off the well to water the sheep for instance. All work is not about competition it is about applying wisdom to achieve the greatest good.

2. Women and work. We see Rachel didn't just stay home to polish her nails to look good for a potential suitor. We find also in this chapter that Rachel is the good looking one as well. The work with the sheep did not diminish her beauty. No wonder when Jacob stayed at his uncles house for a month he worked for free. I think he just wanted to be close to Rachel. He hadn't been an outdoorsman before.

3. Work deserves wages. Laban recognized that he should pay Jacob for his labor. Jacob was on a mission for a wife so no surprise he asks for Rachel. I can't imagine a man working for 7 years to earn favor with the father so he could have the daughters hand in marriage, but that is precisely what Jacob did.

4. Wage negotiations. Sometimes we don't get exactly what we bargained for in employment. Each party working in their own best interests sometimes stacks the deck in their favor. Notice how Jacob didn't take vengeance to try to bring justice himself but he went to reason with Laban. Now Laban introduced a new rule to Jacob that hadn't been made known prior but he does concede to give Jacob what he really wanted - for a price.

5. Look to The Lord for provision. Notice The Lord is not mentioned in this chapter until the unfolding of Leah's plight. She is the unloved wife but The Lord sees and blesses her with children and she names them in a way that gives credit to The Lord for her blessing. Leah may not have been beautiful or had a lot of talent but she lived a life of dependence upon God and he honored that. All our efforts are futile if we are not looking to our provider for our provision.

May Gody richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Genesis 28 - Giving God His Due

In this chapter we find Jacob feeling terribly alone as he is sent away to find a wife. Yet God meets him in a dream where he sees angels ascending and descending a stairway to heaven. He awakes and declares that this must be the House of God and the stairway is the gateway to Heaven.

In his dream God assures him that God is with him and that he will inherit the land - him and his descendants. What a wonderful blessing that he had. Of course he didn't know how challenging his next few years would be and the turns his life would take. In those times I am sure his meeting with God was a great comfort.

Jacob's response to God has become a practice that has been maintained throughout the ages to give God recognition for his provision. Jacob declares he would give God a tithe of anything God gives him. Even before the law was established, Jacob vowed the tithe as a free will offering.

Many Christians have established this practice and I personally think this is a great starting point. There are two dangers of the tithe that I would like to point out here.

1. The tithe doesn't make any provision for your salvation. As we read in the prophets, the nation of Israel continued the tithe and other religious practices but God was repulsed because they were practicing outward religion without any real commitment of heart. When practicing the tithe be sure that this is a heartfelt demonstration of gratitude for the Lord's provision and not a mechanism for acquiring favors from God.

2. We live under grace. Jesus paid it all for our salvation. He didn't give a tenth of his life he modeled giving with love and giving fully of himself. A tenth should be the minimal starting point for our giving to God in recognition of His personal sacrifice for us. It isn't a matter of tithing on gross or net, but how much can we give to advance the gospel in our time. We have been uniquely blessed for such a time as this.

As an extension of this point I do recognize that there are families who are financially oppressed and are hard pressed to be able to maintain even a meager existence and give a tithe. For these individuals, I believe the church should undertake to minister to their needs as a way of demonstrating our live for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. This support might even include assisting them in finding new employment opportunity and help with services that can minimize their financial burdens. Our support should go beyond financial to tangible involvement in their affairs to help them in their need.

In future posts we will address Biblical principles for the offerings over and above the tithe, but I believe Jacob established a wonderful tangible way for us to express our affection and gratitude to God for his loving kindnesses toward us.

May God richly bless you as you seek him and as you serve him.