Day 021: Where’s Dr. Phil When You Need Him? (Genesis 27-29)

5 Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac spoke to his son Esau. So when Esau went to the field to hunt for game and bring it, 6 Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, 7 ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the Lord before I die.’ 8 Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 9 Go to the flock and bring me two good young goats, so that I may prepare from them delicious food for your father, such as he loves. 10 And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” (Genesis 27:5-10)

Family dynamics are super dysfunctional in Genesis.

I feel more than a little sorry for Esau in Genesis 27. It’s been pretty clear from the day they were born that their mom liked Jacob best (see Gen. 25:28). But maybe he thought to himself, “That’s ok. I’ll still have Dad’s blessing.” And as any modern day psychologist will tell you, the father’s approval is what matters most to a boy.

So it’s painful for me to read Genesis 27, in which Jacob, the mama’s boy, cheats Esau out of receiving the blessing his father wanted to give him, IN COLLUSION WITH HIS MOTHER.

Paging Dr. Phil…

Keep in mind Rebekah is Laban’s sister (Gen. 24:29). We see in Genesis 29 how Laban himself cheated Jacob, so apparently conniving and scheming run in the family.

But there’s something else to keep in mind, and it may help you feel better about Rebekah. God revealed to Rebekah, even before her sons were born, that the older brother (Esau) would serve the younger brother (Jacob; see Genesis 25:23). Significantly, this is the only time in the Old Testament the Lord spoke directly to a woman. You might be saying, “Hold up—didn’t we just read a couple of days ago how God spoke to Hagar?” (See Day 017) We did. But Genesis 16:7-8 says that is was the angel of the Lord that spoke to Hagar. In Genesis 24:22-23, Rebekah “went to inquire of the Lord” (also a one-time occurrence in the Old Testament), and the Lord Himself spoke to her.

Even if it is a distinction without a difference—most scholars equate “THE” angel of the Lord with a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ—then it is still significant that Rebekah is the only Hebrew woman to whom God speaks directly in the Old Testament.

So Rebekah gets a direct word from God that Jacob is to be the favored child. Scripture does not say that Isaac received that same prophetic word. So maybe Rebekah does what she does because she knows something Isaac doesn’t. Maybe she advocates for Jacob in order to help God out and make sure the prophecy comes true. After all, helping God out and taking matters into your own hands is another trait that seems to run in the family. Her mother in law Sarah did the same thing when she offered Hagar to her husband (see Genesis 16:1-8).

There’s enough drama in this family to fill an entire season of The Young and the Restless. And it’s okay to dislike Rebekah and Jacob, or even Isaac for being so easily deceived. What we will see over and over in this reading plan is that every human character is flawed and imperfect. Jesus is the only flawless character in all of Scripture.

Day 019: What Abraham’s Servant Teaches us About Discerning God’s Will (Genesis 22-24)

12 And he said, “O Lord, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. 13 Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 14 Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.” Genesis 24:12-14

The Bible reading plan I did three years ago was a chronological plan from a British pastor named Nicky Gumbel. Similar to The Bible Recap, it has a daily 10 minute or so podcast to go along with the day’s readings. I didn’t always agree with Nicky, but his teaching on Genesis 24, when Abraham’s servant goes to get a wife for Isaac, has been really, really helpful as I think about how to discern the will of God. I apologize in advance for the length of this, but it may be helpful to you guys as well. Nicky uses this passage to teach on the six “CS’s” of discerning God’s will.

  1. The Command of Scripture:

The servant had taken a vow that he would find a wife for Isaac from among Abraham’s kindred (24:3-4). He was following his master’s command. For us, our Master is God, and His command is found in His word. It is very intentional that this one is first. Because if what you think God is saying to you contradicts His Word, then I promise you, it isn’t God that is saying it.


2.The Compelling of the Spirit:

Verse 7 says that the “Lord, the God heaven” guided Abraham’s steps, and spoke to him. As believers, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Are you following His prompting?


3. Continual Seeking:

In verse 12, the servant prayed, “O God, grant me success today.” That’s a prayer to pray every day. We should be seeking God in prayer every day, but especially when we are facing a major decision.


4. Common Sense:

Rebekah met all the criteria of the servant’s search. She was Abraham’s kindred, was beautiful, was a virgin, and hard working. From a common sense perspective, she seemed like a good match. (Note– this isn’t a deal breaker. It isn’t as important as the first 3, but it can help clarify your decision.)


5. Circumstantial Signs and/or Supernatural Confirmation:

This one is tricky. The servant had prayed for a specific sign– that the woman God had for Isaac would say “Drink, and I’ll water your camels too.” And it happened. This could also be chalked up to common sense. It demonstrated Rebekah’s character, her work ethic, etc. But the servant received it as supernatural confirmation. It’s okay to ask for a sign, but again this one is pretty far down the list. It has to line up with the first four.


6. Counsel of Saints: 

In verse 50, God used another person (in this case Laban) to affirm that this was of the Lord. God can and will use other members of our faith community to affirm or refute what we are thinking and planning.


I hope this is helpful. While there is no formula for knowing God’s will, these are great principles to keep in mind.

Day 017: Seeking After The God Who Sees (Genesis 16-18)

13 So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her, “You are a God of seeing, for she said, “Truly here I have seen him who looks after me.” Genesis 16:13

Originally written January 17, 2021

Update, January 17, 2022: In the year since we buried her husband, this woman I wrote about in this post has remained a vital part of our church family. One of the ways she redeemed her grief was to sell a vacation property she couldn’t bear to use without him, and then gift part of the money to one of our missions partners.

Her generosity with her late husband’s estate has allowed us to set up a legacy fund which will one day fund the seminary educations of young men and women God calls into ministry from our church. She is one of my favorite people to pray with on Wednesday nights. She still seeks after the God who Sees, and I am so blessed to be her pastor.

Another week, another Covid widow. But also another day in which God demonstrates His kindness to me through this reading plan.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on the phone with a woman from our church whose husband was diagnosed with Covid on Christmas Day. He’s been on a ventilator since December 30. Through tears she tells me that she’s made the decision to discontinue life support for her precious soulmate, in accordance with his living will. And through tears I listened, because this godly woman was needing reassurance that she was making the right decision and that her decision wasn’t from lack of faith.

When I asked her if she wanted me with her when they disconnected the ventilator, the tears came again, and she said, “Pastor, I can’t go to the hospital. The morning the ambulance came for my husband, he had been normal, joking, kind, and “there.” But he has been unresponsive ever since. I want my last memory of him to be how he was then, and not how he is now.” And for the second or third time in the conversation, she asked the same pleading question: “Is that wrong?”

Here’s where our daily reading in God’s word has been such a lifeline. Today, we read about Hagar, Sarah’s maidservant, calling God “El-Roi:” the God Who Sees, saying “Truly here I have seen Him who looks after me” (Gen. 16:13). In tomorrow’s reading, we will see that Hagar had the same heart cry as this woman from our church. When Hagar and Ishmael were cast out of Abraham’s house and she thought they would die in the desert, she cried out to the God Who Sees: “Let me not look on the death of the child” (Gen. 21:16)

By the way, because so many of you who are reading this are women, don’t miss the fact that the only person who is allowed to name God is a woman. And not even a Jewish woman–an Egyptian slave. All the other names of God were either given by God or were altars to God that became accepted as names of God. But Hagar–Egyptian, slave, outcast, single mother–this woman dares to give a name to God. And God accepts her naming.

And the God Who Sees becomes the God who Hears. He hears the sound of her weeping, and He says, “Fear not, for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is” (Gen. 21:17).

I have wept with too many widows over these past few months. I’m weary and overwhelmed. I’m worried about my own mother, who was taken to the hospital with Covid on Friday. But the God who sees, still sees.

The God who hears, still hears.

And through His Word, we can say with Hagar, “Truly I have seen Him who looks after me.”

Day 016: Abraham the Hebrew (Genesis 14:13)

“Then one who had escaped came and told Abram the Hebrew, who was living by the oaks of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol and of Aner. These were allies of Abram.”
‭‭Genesis‬ ‭14:13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

As you are reading through the Bible, it’s always important to take note of the first mention of things. And this one is a biggie. Genesis 14:13 is the first time the word “Hebrew” is used.

Scholars aren’t in agreement about what it means. The NIV Biblical Theology study Bible suggests it may be associated with the name Eber, first mentioned in 10:21, from whom the Israelites are descended.

The online Encyclopedia Britannica puts a different spin on this. They don’t associate it with the proper name Eber, but with the word for “other side”:

… the term Hebrew almost always occurs in the Hebrew Bible as a name given to the Israelites by other peoples, rather than one used by themselves. For that matter, the origins of the term Hebrew itself are uncertain. It could be derived from the word eber, or ever, a Hebrew word meaning the “other side” and conceivably referring again to Abraham, who crossed into the land of Canaan from the “other side” of the Euphrates or Jordan River.

“The Hebrew People” in

The NIV Cultural Backgrounds study Bible suggests that it’s a social status designation, similar to a refugee:

The designation of Abram as a “Hebrew” may reflect a social status more than an ethnic identity. The term is usually used in the Bible to identify Israelites to foreigners (39:14 – 17; Ex 2:11; 1Sa 4:6; Jnh 1:9). As a social status it seems to have referred to dispossessed or disenfranchised peoples. This is the usage of a similar-sounding term throughout a wide range of ancient texts (often transliterated habiru, more accurately, Apiru, referring to various people groups throughout the second millennium BC). At times the label implies an “outsider” status and that the people are unsettled or even lawless renegades. Other times they are refugees or political opponents. In the Amarna texts they sometimes serve as mercenaries. The term cannot be considered as a reference to ethnic Israelites, but it is possible that ethnic Israelites (and here, Abram) are being classified socially as Apiru.

The Britannica article goes on to suggest that the name could be associated with the people referred to as habiru/hapiru in the el-Amarna tablets of the fourteenth century bc. However, from looking at various Biblical commentaries, it seems that conservative scholars disagree.

Review of Romans 1-7 For You by Tim Keller

Romans 1-7 for You by Timothy J. Keller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the “For You” series. I’ve read a lot of the books in this series, and have found they are helpful for preparing to lead Bible studies, small group discussions, preaching, or just generally learning more about a particular book of the Bible. Best of all, they are not so academically dense that I can’t put them in the hands of a layperson as a resource for teaching or understanding.

Each chapter covers a block of scripture verses, typically about half of the biblical chapter. And each of those chapters is divided into a part one and part two, with questions for reflection at the end of each. I’m not always clear on why the additional division, except to make them bite-sized and accessible.

Tim Keller is solid, as usual. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by him.

Basically, this is a great resource. As I was laying out my sermon series on Romans, this was the first commentary i reached for to help organize the structure of the series.

View all my reviews

Day 006: Zophar Away From God’s Heart (Job 11:1-3)

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:

2 “Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
and a man full of talk be judged right?
3 Should your babble silence men,
and when you mock, shall no one shame you? Job 11:1-3

Through the Bible: Job 10-13

We often hear about “the patience of Job,” But this morning I was convicted about the impatience of Zophar, one of Job’s friends.

As I read Zophar’s response to Job’s third cycle of complaints, I noticed that Job’s friends seem to be getting more and more impatient and aggravated with him the more he complains.

They start off tentative, walking on eggshells, worried that they are going to say something offensive. Listen to Eliphaz as he opens the first series of speeches:

2Should anyone try to speak with you when you are exhausted?… Your words have steadied the one who was stumbling and braced the knees that were buckling…Isn’t your piety your confidence,
and the integrity of your life[a] your hope?

Job 4:1-6, CSB

But as days pass and there seems to be no breakthrough, the gloves come off, the niceties fall away, and the frustration comes out. Bildad is up next, and he begins with, “How long will you go on saying these things? Your words are a blast of wind” (Job 8:2).

And then there’s Zophar:

Should this abundance of words go unanswered
and such a talker[a] be acquitted?
Should your babbling put others to silence,
so that you can keep on ridiculing
with no one to humiliate you?

Job 11:2-3, CSB

I love the heading in my ESV Bible: “Zophar Speaks: “You Deserve Worse.”

I have an ugly truth to admit as a pastor: I’m not nearly as nice as members of my church think I am. I start off full of compassion and concern for someone. I listen well. I pray fervently. But as time goes on and the situation doesn’t improve (or gets worse) my compassion can turn to aggravation.

You have probably realized the same thing about yourself from time to time. Have you ever groaned and gritted your teeth when you saw a call from a particular number? Have you ever seen someone in the break room at work and decided to take your break somewhere else? Not because the two of you don’t get along; just the opposite. You’ve been trying to help this friend for weeks with a personal issue, but there’s been no progress, no resolution, and you are out of answers.

Maybe its a reaction against feeling helpless. Nobody wants to feel like they can’t solve a problem. The helplessness first wearies, then irritates, then repels. So we begin going out of our way to avoid certain people. We find ourselves actually feeling angry at them for not getting better. We want to give comfort, but it’s uncomfortable.

Job’s criticism in 12:2 could be said of us: “No doubt you are the people,
    and wisdom will die with you.”

We realize how far we are from the heart of Jesus (sorry for the dad joke in the title of this post). I am a callous counselor; Jesus is a wonderful counselor (Isaiah 9:6). I’ll say, “Well, I will sure be praying for you,” as a way to communicate “We’ve gotta wrap this up. I’ve got things to do.”

Contrast this with Jesus, who “always lives to make intercession for us” (Hebrews 7:25).

How do you do it, Lord? How do you patiently hear the prayers of everyone in the world, when I can’t even pray consistently for one person? I want to be more like you, and less like Zophar.

If there is one prayer to pray over your pastor, pray that his heart stays tender toward those who are suffering without relief. Pray that as the Lord renews His mercies to us every morning, our mercy toward others would be renewed.

Day 005: Job’s Prayer for a Mediator (Job 9:33-35)

If only there were someone to mediate between us,
    someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
    so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
    but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
Job 9:33-35

Through the Bible: Job 6-9

We’ve already seen the first prophecy of the coming Messiah: Genesis 3:15, where God promises that the seed of the woman will one day crush the head of the serpent. Today, in what was most likely the first book of the Bible to be written, we see Job as the first one to long for the Messiah’s coming.

Job cries for a mediator who will remove God’s punishment (“God’s rod”) from Job. Someone who would bring God and man together. Someone who would allow humanity to speak to God without fear.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being the answer to Job’s prayer! Job longed for a mediator that could stand between Himself and God. You, Lord Jesus, are that mediator! (1 Tim. 2:5). You are the One that has brought the two together, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16)!

Job wished for one that would remove the rod of God’s punishment far from him. Lord Jesus, You did (Isaiah 53:5).

Job dreamed of a day when he could speak to God without fear of Him. Oh, Lord Jesus, You made a way! You tore the veil! Because of You, we can approach the throne of Grace with confidence that we may receive grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).

I praise you Lord Jesus, that what was prayed by a man who lived before Abraham was fulfilled by the Son of God, who said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (John 8:48-49)

Day 004: Have You Considered my Servant? (Job 1:8)

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? Job 1:8

Through the Bible: Job 1-5

Job is one of the most perplexing books in the Old Testament. It asks A LOT of big questions, and unfortunately leaves most of them unanswered. Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is all powerful, He could prevent evil. If God is all good, He should prevent evil. So why doesn’t He?

Chapters 1-2 raise another question for me: If God is completely holy, and if evil cannot even exist in God’s presence, how is it that Satan is allowed to present himself before God in the first place?

Job is one of those books that invariably comes up whenever anyone is arrogant enough to say, “You know, when I get to heaven, I’m gonna have some questions for God.” (Sidenote—if there was a “God rolling His eyes” emoji, I would use it here).

For a book about questions, let’s not overlook the question God Himself has at the beginning of the book. Satan presents himself before the Lord. God asks Satan where he’s been. Satan says, “Oh, you know—just walking around on earth.”

And then, the question which sets up the rest of the book. God asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?”

This would be the point where, if I was Job, I would want to say, “Lord, could you not mention me to the devil? I’m REALLY ok if Satan hasn’t noticed me. Let’s just let him do his thing, and I’ll do mine—k?”

Instead, God wagers His own reputation on Job’s response to suffering. Satan lays down a challenge. “God, let me mess with Job, and we will see how this so-called blameless and upright man responds to You. He praises You. Of course he does! Look how You’ve blessed him. But let me take away those blessings, and I’ll bet he blames You for it.”

And God says, You’re on.

For all the questions I might have about God, the one God has for me cuts me to the heart: could God stake His reputation on my response to suffering? Could God ever have the confidence in my character to point me out to the devil himself, and say, “Have you considered my servant James?”

Lord, today, let me be someone you could bet on against Satan, and win.

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