Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 15 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 29:25 – “Why then have you deceived me?” Another theme you see throughout the Bible is that God often allows people to be treated the same way they treat others. Jacob deceived others, and now he is the victim of deceit. Ironically, the deception he committed was very similar to what he experienced – both involving misrepresentation.
2. Genesis 29:26 – “Laban said, ‘It is not so done in our country, to give the younger before the firstborn.’” Another theme throughout the Bible is a warning not to confuse traditions, customs, social norms, or even morality (what society says is right and wrong) with God’s commands and will. Colossians 2:8 says, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Laban followed worldly principles over what he should have done, and it would contribute to the breakup of his family.
3. Genesis 29:30 – “So Jacob went in to Rachel also, and he loved Rachel more than Leah, and served Laban for another seven years.” Jacob’s polygamy caused great pain and suffering which would have an impact for generations. God’s plan for marriage is that one and man and woman would marry, become “one” in spirit, and raise up godly children, passing faith from generation to generation. (see Malachi 2:13-16)
4. Genesis 29:35 — “’This time I will praise the Lord.’ Therefore she called his name Judah.” Only God can fill the love void in your heart. People cannot fulfill your need for love that only God can give.
5. Genesis 29:35 – Ultimately, God would settle the matter between Rachel and Leah — Leah is in Jesus’ lineage, not Rachel.
6. Genesis 30:1 – Envy is a very powerful emotion that can cause a person to do terrible things to others as the Bible warns from beginning to end. In envy, Cain killed Abel, and envy was behind the crucifixion of Jesus. Envy is a form of hate that is outwardly directed at other but inwardly is a deep resentment of God because God gave someone something that you think you deserve instead. Envy comes from deep within your heart. The Bible says, above all else, guard your heart. You cannot address what you are not willing to be honest about. Search your heart diligently for any envy. As God said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7)
7. Genesis 30:24 – Receiving God’s blessing brings expectation and faith in God’s future provision and blessings.
8. Genesis 30:25 – Jacob constantly makes plans with no reference to God’s leadership. (See also Gen 25:23)
9. Genesis 30:42 – “So the feebler would be Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.” Jacob became wealthy at Laban’s success. He was a conniver with a grudge, and he further contributed to family divisions.
10. Proverbs 15:1 — “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Christians should be masters at handling conflict and bringing out the best in people. Our mission is reconciliation, and we are God’s priests on earth. How well do you handle difficult people?
11. Proverbs 15:8 – “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.” Don’t let unrepentant sin stand in the way of your prayers.
12. Proverbs 15:11 – “Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” God knows everything about your heart, far more than you do. Pray that God will expose your heart to you and create in you a pure heart that loves Him wholeheartedly.
13. Proverbs 15:12 – “A scoffer does not like to be reproved; he will not go to the wise.” Scoffers despise Christians who call for repentance.
14. Proverbs 15:16 – “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” Jacob got it all along with great trouble. Better he had simply waited upon the Lord and received it all without sorrow. Getting all that you want is never a blessing unless all that you want is Jesus.
15. Proverbs 15:19 – “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns.” Laziness prevents us from achieving all that we could.
16. Matthew 11:2 – Even John the Baptist had moments of doubt. Concerning John the Baptist, Jesus said there was no greater man born of woman. Don’t be surprised by your doubt, Jesus isn’t. We are all like the man who said to Jesus, “I believe; help me my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) Your sanctification involves growing in your faith, which only happens through challenges. Stepping out in faith is hard – it requires trust. Trust requires “knowing” Jesus – the more you know Him, the more you love Him and trust Him. Jesus said, that the path (an proof) of loving Him is obedience, which will require you do often do what you don’t want to do. The more you are willing to “trust and obey” the more the faithfulness of God is revealed, and the more your faith grows that you will be willing to take another step forward in faith and closeness to Jesus. Trust and obey!
17. Matthew 11:4, 5 – Miracles are not primarily for those who are blessed by them but rather for the purpose of bringing glory to God.
18. Matthew 11:11 – Jesus acknowledged the fidelity of John the Baptist but did not save John from physical death. God does not remove life’s challenges from our lives. He walks with us through them and draws us closer to Him in an eternal love relationship.
19. Matthew 11:11 – “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” John’s ministry on earth only lasted about six months, and he gladly watched most of his disciples leave him to follow Jesus; then he was wrongly accused, imprisoned, and executed. While some might call him a flash in the pan, Jesus said that John was greater than all the Bible greats – Noah, Moses, Elijah, David, etc. Beyond this surprising statement, Jesus goes on to say that you and I can do even greater things than John the Baptist – we have the Holy Spirit within us, and the authority of Jesus Christ. Our mission is the same mission John the Baptist had – to proclaim Jesus. John gave it all he had for six months and received Jesus’ highest compliment. What will you do in your day?
20. Matthew 11:12 — “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”
– This unusual statement made by Jesus appears to be related to two other verses:
— Luke 16:16: The Law and the Prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached, and everyone forces his way into it.
— Matthew 23:13: But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.
– The Greek for ‘suffered violence’ is ‘biazō’, meaning, ‘to force, crowd, or press oneself into’. The Greek for ‘the violent’ is ‘biastēs’, meaning, ‘the forcer’ or figuratively, ‘the energetic’. I believe that when Jesus speaks of the violent taking the kingdom of heaven by force, he is talking about the total commitment of the true believer who puts everything on the line for heaven and presses towards to kingdom with all of their might, even at the price of their lives. In Matthew 11, this verse marks a contrast between the attitude of John the Baptist (not a wind-blown reed in soft clothing) and the majority of his generation who act like children in the marketplace playing games. (Matthew 11:16) Jesus then announces ‘woe’ to the unrepentant cities. (Matthew 11:20-24) In Luke 16, Jesus talks about those who force their way into the kingdom after a discussion on wholehearted commitment – “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much…. No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Luke 16:10-13) Immediately following Luke 16:16, Jesus says, “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one dot of the Law to become void.” Finally, in Matthew 23:13, when Jesus proclaims ‘woe’ to the Pharisees for attempting to “shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces”, he is condemning those who use religion to exalt themselves above others and who maintain the appearance of godliness but whose hearts are selfish and unloving; these do not enter the kingdom themselves because they have not truly committed in their hearts to God but rather are serving the master of self. Jesus’ message is that the true Christian is all-in, fully, wholeheartedly committed. This is serious business – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27-33) Are we children playing in the streets or are we warriors?
21. Matthew 11:17, 18 – People come up with a million reasons why they don’t accept Jesus and follow Him, but the truth to Jesus is self-evident.
22. Matthew 11:19 – Jesus led a joyful lifestyle, though at times he went with absolutely nothing, had no place to call home, and continually challenged the hypocrites. His joy came from His relationship with the Father.
23. Matthew 11:20 – Jesus expected repentance.
24. Matthew 11:20-26 – God has given men all the evidence they need to believe in Jesus. It is a heart issue, not an intellectual issue that separates men from the Truth.
25. Matthew 11:27 – If you don’t know Jesus, you don’t know God. There is only one way to God – Jesus Christ.
26. Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” If Christianity exhausts you then you are practicing religion rather than enjoying a relationship. There is a greater exhaustion beyond physical exhaustion – emotional and spiritual exhaustion. Sleep and temporary sabbatical will not rejuvenate your soul – you must find rest in Jesus. Jesus was essentially homeless, always on the go, and often with very little to eat. He often prayed throughout the entire night, and He rarely had any privacy. He also faced relentless opposition. However, He was at peace. He wasn’t grumpy, didn’t complain about not having enough time in the day, didn’t complain about being underappreciated, didn’t complain about being treated unfairly, and didn’t go into self-pity mode. He was a beacon of peace, joy, and rest. In the midst of it all, He received the rest and strength that could come only from the Father. If you are weary, find rest in Jesus.
27. Matthew 11:28-30 – Those who know Jesus can be recognized by the peace that they have which transcends understanding, a peace that makes them gentle, humble, and calm. How do people see the impact of Jesus Christ on your life?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 Jan 18: Today, consider what is robbing you of joy and peace and surrender it to Jesus. Walk with Jesus and have peace in your soul. (Matthew 11:28-30)