We return this week to the life of Abraham, to learn more about his faith and the promises God made to him, and how these promises were passed down to his family.
Sunday – Genesis 22
God kept his promise to Abraham, and at the age of 90 Sarah did eventually give birth to a boy, Isaac (Genesis 21:1-7). In this chapter, Abraham faces a tremendous test of his faith. God asks Abraham to offer his long-awaited son as a burnt offering. This demonstration of Abraham’s faith is held up as an example to us (James 2:20-24) of our need to show our own faith by the things we do. In the book of Hebrews we are told that Abraham had faith in the resurrection of the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19). He believed that even if his only son was to die, then God would raise him from the dead to live again. This hope of resurrection is at the centre of the gospel for us too (see for example Acts 23:6, 24:15; 1 Corinthians 15).
God intervened and stopped Abraham from killing Isaac, and rewarded him for his faith by repeating the promises he had made, and extending them. We should note particularly the promise ‘in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed’, as we are told in Galatians 3:8, 16 that Jesus is the ‘seed’ and that the Gentiles will be blessed through him. Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son pointed forward to when God would offer his own son, Jesus, who died and then rose again from the dead so that we can have the blessing promised.
Monday – Genesis 26
Isaac is now grown, with two sons of his own, the twins Esau and Jacob. God appears to Isaac in this chapter, and the promises made before to Abraham are now passed on to his Isaac (verses 2-5). Like his father, Isaac never settled in a city, but lived in tents, moving from place to place (e.g. verse 17). The New Testament explains that they all lived as ‘strangers and pilgrims’ because they believed that God’s promise of the land was not for then but for a future time to come (Hebrews 11:9-10, 13-16).
Tuesday – Genesis 27
The book of Hebrews records that ‘by faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come’ (Hebrews 11:20). Initially Jacob wanted to bless the older of the twins, Esau, whom the New Testament describes as ‘a fornicator and profane person’ (Hebrews 12:16). However, Jacob’s mother Rebekah, possibly remembering the prophecy she had been given when the sons were born (Genesis 25:22-26), disguised Jacob, so that he received the blessing.
Wednesday – Genesis 28
As Jacob leaves home to seek a wife, Isaac passes the promise God made before to Abraham on to him. As he sleeps at Bethel, God himself repeats the promises, that Jacob’s seed will multiply and inherit the land, and that through his seed (Jesus, Galatians 3:16) all the families of the earth will be blessed. There is an echo of Jacob’s dream in John 1:51, where Jesus puts himself in the position of the ladder, as through him a way was to be opened between God and man.
Thursday – Genesis 29
Jacob has promised not to marry a Canaanite (chapter 28:1, compare with 2 Corinthians 6:14). He travels to Syria, where he falls in love with Rachel, who is his cousin. Laban deceives him, and Jacob ends up first marrying Leah, the elder daughter, and then Rachel. Leah’s first four sons are named here, and we see the start of the fulfilment of God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that their seed would become a great nation.
Friday – Genesis 30
With both Rachel and Leah giving their maids to Jacob as additional wives, Jacob’s family soon increases. The eleven sons here named give their names to the tribes of Israel (the last son, Benjamin, is born to Rachel in chapter 35:16:18). Jacob serves Laban, looking after his flocks, for a total of twenty years; fourteen years for the wives and then six years in which he was paid with livestock. We learn that Laban was deceitful and kept changing his wages ten times (chapter 31:7,41), but God looked after him throughout.
Saturday – Genesis 31
Eventually God tells Jacob that he should return to the land of Canaan, the land promised to his fathers. The words ‘I will be with you’ in verse 3 are an echo of what God promised him at Bethel (chapter 28:15); God is now going to keep his word and bring Jacob safely back again, just as he promised. We might compare this with the promises God made later through the prophet Jeremiah (for example Jeremiah 30:3, 31:10-11), where God says he will again cause the people of Israel (another name of Jacob) to return to the land of their fathers, promises which have been fulfilled in our day.
You have now completed Stage 3 of the Bible Reading Challenge. We hope you are enjoying reading God’s Word, and are settling into a pattern of regular reading. Don’t forget you are always welcome to email us with your thoughts, questions and comments. Let us know how you are getting on, and what we can do to help you with your reading.