In Genesis 12:2, God calls Abraham. “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.” As we move forward in the story of Abraham, we begin to see God delivering on this promise.
Monday – September 17th
Genesis 18: 1-3, 9-13
1The Lord appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby. When he saw them, he hurried from the entrance of his tent to meet them and bowed low to the ground.
3 He said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, my lord, do not pass your servant by.”…9 “Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. 10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” 13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”
In Genesis 17, God tells Abraham that he would have a son by Sarah and Abraham laughed at the idea given both he and Sarah’s ages. God tells Abraham to name his son Isaac, which when translated means “he laughed”. Now God has sent His messengers to repeat this promise but this time for Sarah’s benefit. Her reaction is much the same as Abraham’s – disbelief and laughter! Imagine for a moment that you are Sarah. Would you believe a promise like this one? Remember, Abraham has faithfully responded to God’s call and has had previous encounters with God, but as far as we know, this is the first encounter for Sarah. If I was Sarah, I think I would have my doubts! We do not know if she recognizes the visitors as God’s agents. We do know that God does not admonish her for her laughter but instead asks a rhetorical question – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” (v.14) For Abraham and Sarah, God makes good on this promise as Sarah conceives and has a son. The answer to that question is no, nothing is too hard for God. Do we think of God in these terms or are we so crushed by life’s disappointments that we forget this promise? The God of history promised a blessing to the entire world ultimately fulfilled through the line of Abraham in our Lord Jesus. We all may have moments like Sarah did, when we doubt God and His promise for our lives, but faith is trusting and believing that God’s promises are true, and that His blessings are genuine. Hold onto that promise this week.
Tuesday – September 18th
Genesis 21: 1-7
1Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised. 2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him. 3 Abraham gave the name Isaacto the son Sarah bore him. 4 When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him. 5 Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. 6 Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” 7 And she added, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”
There are three simple lessons in this passage. First, God was kind to Sarah. Even though Sarah had faced, and perhaps even accepted the disappointment of infertility, as well as the ridicule of being childless in a culture where children were considered a sign of blessing, God had not forgotten Sarah. He was “gracious to Sarah” (v1) and made the impossible possible. Second, not only did Sarah have a child in her old age, but also she had a son, heir to Abraham. Third, the name given to the son, Isaac, illustrates how the Lord has turned around the reproach of Abraham and Sarah, and turned it into a blessing. Now instead of being the object of laughter due to Sarah’s childlessness, Sarah and Abraham name their son Isaac, the name that means laughter. The laughter that might have been joyless before is now filled with joy as Sarah invites others to laugh with her at the graciousness of God. God was faithful to His promise for Sarah and Abraham and the God of history in the scriptures helps us to trust that He is just as faithful today.
Wednesday – September 19th
Genesis 25: 19, 27-34
19Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was childless. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.
27 The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. 28 Isaac, who had a taste for wild game, loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.29 Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. 30 He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)31 Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”32 “Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”33 But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob.34 Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left.So Esau despised his birthright.
The line of Abraham continues, but our story takes a turn as the two sons of Isaac have an encounter that will set their progeny against each other in the future. Jacob now convinces Esau to give up his birthright. Esau, as the eldest of the two, stands to be first in line to inherit, as was the custom of that day. But for Esau, it seems that satisfaction in the moment took precedent over security in the future. I think we can see ourselves in this story. As a culture, we seem to be very impatient; we desire immediate gratification and in doing so, we often put ourselves in ethical or financial peril. Read the words of warning found in Hebrews 12: 15-17; “ 15See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, when Esau wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, hecould not change what he had done.” As Christians, I think we may minimize the results of our choices. We are promised eternal life, and while God’s promises ring true, the impact of our decisions on our temporal lives can be harsh, difficult, and as with Esau, far-reaching. So we have two lessons in this story. First God continued to fulfill his promise to Abraham by answering Isaac’s prayer for children. Second, we are given the ability to make choices – choices for our benefit or choices for our detriment. Remember this story and choose wisely.
Thursday – September 20th
Genesis 33: 1-4
1Jacob looked up and there was Esau, coming with his four hundred men; so he divided the children among Leah, Rachel and the two female servants. 2 He put the female servants and their children in front, Leah and her children next, and Rachel and Joseph in the rear. 3 He himself went on ahead and bowed down to the ground seven times as he approached his brother.4 But Esau ran to meet Jacob and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept.
As the story of Jacob and Esau continues, Jacob tricks his father Isaac into giving him a blessing that was meant for Esau the oldest. Esau is angry and threatens to kill Jacob, so at Rebekah’s urging Jacob flees and begins a new chapter in his life (Genesis 27-32). Time has now passed and Jacob and Esau are set to meet again for the first time and Jacob is fearful of Esau so he puts his wives and children in the rear of his procession and humbly approaches Esau. Again, we have a surprising turn in our story. Esau, who has been successful and built his own wealth and status, approaches Jacob not in anger but in reconciliation, embracing Jacob and kissing him. Reconciling with those who have hurt us or whom we have hurt is not an easy step to take but it is a necessary step if we are to be in a right relationship with God and with each other. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus says this: “So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” Consider the story of Jacob and Esau this week and read again this admonition from Jesus then ask yourself if there is someone that you need to reconcile with? If that answer is yes, do not let any more time pass. Be brave, trust that you are following God’s lead, and approach that person in gentle humility seeking God’s Spirit in reconciliation.
Friday – September 21st
Genesis 37: 1-5; 17b-20
1Jacob lived in the land where his father had stayed, the land of Canaan. 2 This is the account of Jacob’s family line…3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made an ornaterobe for him.4 When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. 5 Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more….17bSo Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.19 “Here comes that dreamer!” they said to each other. 20 “Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.”
As we will read in tomorrow’s scripture, the brothers did not kill Joseph but they did sell him into slavery. As this story continues, God uses their jealousy and hatred and turns it for the good, as Joseph becomes a powerful agent of the Pharaoh of Egypt and in the end is able to help his brothers, opening the door to reconciliation. (Genesis 38-47) As people, we all will experience times when we become angry, hurt, or offended and while we won’t try and murder our adversary, we may hold onto grudges and hatreds. Admittedly, it is often hard to forgive those who have hurt us, particularly if those individuals truly intended physical or emotional harm, but when we hold onto anger we may do more harm to ourselves. Forgiveness does not come easy but when we do forgive, we open the door to allow God’s tender mercies to heal us. God can overcome evil and we are instructed not to be overcome by evil, but to overcome evil with good. (Paraphrase Romans 12:21)
Saturday – September 22nd
26 Judah said to his brothers, “What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let’s sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood.” His brothers agreed.28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekelsof silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
We began our week with the promise of God to make Abraham a mighty nation and as the week continued, we saw God repeatedly move forward with that promise – albeit in ways we may not have imagined. If we continued to read to the end of the story of Joseph, we could sum up both Jacob and Esau’s relationship and that of Joseph and his brothers in these words of Joseph’s, “ 19But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? 20 Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…” And indeed,God continues to make good out of the broken relationships and mistakes of humanity. Give thanks this day for a God who continues to show us how to live and how to love. Put God at the heart of your relationships and see what wonders God can do.