It all begins with God

Posted: 27/06/2013 in Law of Spiritualism
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God created a perfect world. Everything that God made was perfect. God examined his own work. And he saw that it was good.

God made things that are both beautiful and complex. The body of an animal or man has a very complex structure. Even today, people cannot make machines that are so complex as an animal’s body.

But God did not merely make these things from nothing. He caused them to live. This is very wonderful.

God did not work by accident or chance. He had complete control over everything. We can see this because of his control over time. God created the sun so that it would appear at the right time each day. He created the seasons of the year. He arranged the movements of the moon and stars in the sky at night. These things do not happen by chance. They all happen at the right time because this is God’s plan.

God still has a perfect time for things to happen. Jesus was born at the right time . And Jesus will return at the right time . God, our Father, has decided these things. And he still has a perfect plan.

God is perfect. God did not create the world so that there would be wars, cruelty or evil behaviour. He wanted men and women to be his friends. So, he gave them a perfect world. And he provided plants as their food. God was generous and kind. And God’s attitudes have never changed . But, as we shall see in chapter 3, men and women were not loyal to God. This is the reason for the troubles in this world. God never wanted people to suffer.

Everything that God created was perfect. And everything was wonderful. But men and women had a special place in God’s plan. Firstly, God created a perfect world for the first man to live in. Then God prepared a special home for the man. This home was in a beautiful garden (or farm) that God had planted. God made the man (called Adam) from dust that was on the earth. Then God breathed his Spirit into the man, so that the man was alive . Afterwards, God provided a wife (called Eve) for the man.

The world was perfect. People had not *sinned. They obeyed God. And they were friends of God.

Satan (the devil) used a snake to test the first people (called Adam and Eve). Satan told them that they should not trust God’s words. And Satan encouraged them not to obey God.

The results of their action were terrible. They were afraid and they tried to hide from God. They could not continue their friendship with God.

But, even afterwards, God was kind to them. He killed an animal so that they could cover their bodies. And he made a promise to Eve that seems to refer to Jesus. *Sin has been a real problem for every person who has ever lived. Because of *sin, our world is not perfect. Because of *sin, we have many troubles. But Jesus came to free us from our *sins. When he died, he suffered the punishment for our *sins. We need to confess our *sins to God. And we need to invite God into our lives. Then we shall be friends of God.

Adam and Eve had two sons, called Cain and Abel. God had promised in Genesis 3:15 that Eve’s *descendant would free people from the power of *sin. So perhaps Eve hoped that these *descendants would achieve this. If so, their lives would disappoint her. Cain, who was the first child ever to be born, became a murderer. And Abel, who tried to serve God, died at a very young age. Their lives show the effects of *sin.

The most important event in Cain’s and Abel’s lives happened when they decided to give a gift to God. After Adam and Eve *sinned, God killed an animal. Then, God used its skin as clothes, in order to cover Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). *Sin required a *sacrifice. Abel seemed to understand this principle. He realised that his own efforts could not please God. Something had to die. That is also why Jesus had to die for our *sins. Jesus is like the perfect *lamb of God . Nobody can please God by his or her own efforts. Instead, we must humbly confess our *sin to God. God forgives us because of Jesus.

But Cain did not realise that he needed to bring a *sacrifice. He chose some fruit as a gift to God. And Cain’s attitude was not humble. When God refused Cain’s gift, Cain was very angry. Cain did not try to find out his error. And he did not offer a *sacrifice. Instead, he felt very jealous. And that is why he killed Abel.

Cain’s *descendants were wicked people. They had many skills, but they refused to serve God. But Eve had another son. And his *descendants began to think about God again. Especially Enoch had a special relationship or friendship with God. In fact, his friendship was so special that God did not allow Enoch to die.

God allowed the people who lived before the flood to have long lives. He wanted them to have sufficient time to change their attitudes. He wanted them to pray to him and to trust him again. But most people did not use their long lives to turn to God. And they did not become better people as they became older. In fact, people were becoming even more evil.

So God decided that he would not allow people to live so long. And he decided to punish wicked people wherever they lived. God’s plan was to destroy everything that he had made. But God saw that there were a few good people among the vast numbers of evil people

Especially, God saw Noah. Noah was unlike other people. Noah ‘walked with God’ , like Enoch and like Adam before he *sinned. So God could not destroy the entire world. He always does the right things . And he will always save the people who trust him.

So God made a plan. He would still punish and kill the wicked people. But he would save the earth and he would allow some animals to live. God would separate the people who obeyed him from evil people. And God would save the people who trusted him. Noah would build a large boat, called the *ark. And Noah would protect his family, and each type of animal, in the boat.

God saved Noah and his family because Noah was *righteous. But the flood killed all the wicked people. This reminds us that God will be the judge of everyone. But God is not like a human judge. We cannot impress God by our efforts. And it does not matter whether we are rich or poor. But he will save us if, like Noah, we please him. We shall please him if we are *righteous. We do not become *righteous by our own efforts. We can only become *righteous because of what Jesus did for us. Jesus died to save us from the punishment for our *sins. So we must confess our *sins to God. And we must invite him into our lives.

God also rescued animals of all types. He arranged that they would come to Noah. The flood did not begin until they were all safely in the *ark.

One day, they were eating and drinking. And they were merry. But then the flood came and God punished them. Jesus added that people will act in the same way before his return. They will continue their evil lives. But then Jesus will return. When he returns, he will be their judge. Jesus’ return gives hope to everyone who trusts him. But it will be a terrible event for everyone who opposes him.

The terrible flood had destroyed the world that Noah knew. And Noah’s *ark (boat) was floating on the water. Noah might have been afraid. But this is not a story of despair. It is a story of hope. God had not forgotten the *ark and its inhabitants. God remembered Noah. And Noah trusted God.

At last, the rain stopped. And slowly, the level of the water went down. First, Noah felt that the *ark’s movement stopped. After some time, Noah could see the tops of the mountains. The mountains seemed bare, without any plants. But then plants started to grow again. It was as if God was creating a new world.

Each week, Noah carefully recorded the progress of the waters. He sent out birds so that he would know the situation. At last, God told Noah to leave the *ark. God would be kind to Noah and his family. And God would be kind to the animals and birds that left the *ark. They were few in number. But their numbers would increase.

Noah was grateful to God. Although there were only a few animals, Noah gave some animals as *sacrifices to God.

And God was pleased with Noah. God knew that people were still *sinful. God’s plan was that Jesus would die in order to forgive their *sins. But God made a promise to Noah. God promised to protect the earth. He will make sure that seasons and days continue. And this promise lasts until the end of the world.

God is perfect. But people often do wrong things.

God’s *covenant (agreement) with Noah reminds us about the wrong things that we do. It is not like God’s words to the first people in Genesis 1:28-30. God spoke those words before people *sinned. And he only promised good things then.

But God made the *covenant with Noah after people had *sinned. This *covenant promised many good things to people. But God also warned people in the *covenant. He spoke about murder. He warned people that they would be responsible for their evil behaviour. And he warned them that God would punish them for their evil deeds.

People would be evil. But God is kind. He promised never again to flood the whole world. And he used the rainbow to remind people about this promise.

Noah was a great servant of God. And Noah was a *righteous man. But Noah was not perfect. He did something that was very wrong. He drank too much wine. His son, called Ham, saw him. And Ham gossiped. This was terrible behaviour. He did not respect his father, although his father was a great servant of God. When Noah awoke, he spoke words about the future of his three sons. Noah spoke these words by the Holy Spirit, because Noah was a servant of God. Ham’s family would suffer because of Ham’s *sin. But Noah *blessed his other sons

People’s life on the earth was starting again after the flood.

The actual names are not very important to us. But they do show that this account is true. These people were real. They actually lived. The account shows how quickly new families were born. And it shows how quickly they grew up. Some names here are probably places’ names rather than people’s names. People did not stay close together. They moved to new places and they became many nations.

Japheth had 7 sons and 7 grandsons. Cush’s sons and grandsons together were 7 in total. People often used the number 70 to mean a large number. And 7 was a ‘special’ number too.

All the people spoke the same language because they were all Noah’s *descendants. And they wanted to live together. They were proud. They wanted to be more powerful. So they built a great city.

But God had not told people to live together. He told them to move across the world so that the whole world would have inhabitants. So the people were not obeying God’s commands. In fact, they were trying to oppose God.

God did not allow them to continue the construction of that city. He confused their languages and he ended their unity. They could not talk with each other. So they had to move to different places.

The chapter continues with the story of Shem’s family. People’s lives began to be shorter now. At last, the writer mentions Abram. Abram was different from other people because Abram believed God. This fact may not seem important when we have discussed the history of the whole world.  And Abram would join the list of men who pleased God. Their lives had a vast effect on the relationship between people and God. God said that all the people in the world would receive a *blessing by means of Abram

God had a wonderful plan for Abram and his *descendants. So, God told Abram to leave his home and his father’s family. Abram did not know where he was going. But he trusted God. So, Abram set out on his journey.

God promised that Abram’s *descendants would become a great nation. Abram did not know how this could happen. His wife, Sarai, had no children. But Abram trusted that God could make this happen.

God also promised that Abram, by his *descendant, would *bless everyone in the world. This was a great promise. Again, Abram did not realise how this would happen. But perhaps he knew about God’s promise to Eve in Genesis 3:15. Today, of course, we know about Jesus. He died so that God would forgive our *sin. Because of Jesus, everyone who trusts him becomes a friend of God. But Abram did not know about such things. He just heard God’s promise. He trusted God. So he obeyed God.

But Abram was not a perfect man. He did not always trust God completely. Soon, there would not be enough food. Abram did not stay in the place where God had taken him. Instead, he went elsewhere. And there was trouble for Abram in that other place, because Abram was not completely honest. It seems that he preferred to trust his own clever ideas. Instead, he should have continued to trust God.

Abram had travelled with his nephew, called Lot. Like Abram, Lot was a *righteous man . So, Lot wanted to do the right things. But there was a problem with Lot’s character. Wealth tempted Lot. In time, it became too difficult for Abram and Lot to live together. Lot wanted to live in a place where he could become more wealthy. He did not seem to care that he would be living near wicked men. Their deeds would upset Lot greatly. But Lot still chose to live with them.

Lot’s attitudes were like the attitudes of many Christians today. They are glad to be Christians. And the wicked behaviour of other people upsets them. But those Christians allow wealth to tempt them. They may even do things that they should not do, because of money. They themselves are not evil people. But their wrong attitudes cause them many troubles. And they cannot trust God completely because of their wrong ambitions.

Abram was different. He did not care about wealth. He knew that God had led him to Canaan. And he knew that God had given his (Abram’s) wealth to him. So, Abram allowed Lot to choose whatever land he (Lot) wanted. And Abram was confident, because he trusted God. God would give to Abram whatever land Abram needed.

Afterwards, God repeated his promise to Abram. God promised Abram the country in which Abram was now living. Abram was in the right place. This was the country that God had chosen for Abram and his *descendants

Many *tribes lived in the area. Each *tribe had its own chief man or king. Those kings sometimes came together to help each other. They came together because they wanted to fight against a more powerful *tribe. Or they wanted to defeat a smaller *tribe and then they would have power over that *tribe. Then the smaller *tribe that they had defeated had to pay regular taxes to them. Or that *tribe had to serve them.

At first, Abram did not join in with these battles. But then one side attacked Sodom, where Lot lived. That side overcame the men from Sodom. So, the people from Sodom, including Lot, became prisoners. Lot was Abram’s nephew. So, Abram decided that he would rescue Lot. Abram was not a king and he did not have an army. Abram was a farmer. But he was wealthy. He had many employees and many slaves. These men were strong men and they would fight for Abram. Abram also had three important friends, called Aner, Eshcol and Mamre. They too were willing to fight for Abram.

Abram attacked by night, and he was very successful. He managed to rescue all the people from Sodom, including Lot. And he also took back all their possessions. Abram could have kept these possessions. But he did not want to. These possessions belonged to wicked men. Abram trusted God. So, Abram did not want wicked men to make him rich.

As Abram returned, he met a king called Melchizedek. Like Abram, Melchizedek *worshipped the real God. In fact, Melchizedek was a priest of God. Hebrews chapter 7 explains the importance of this. Jesus was a priest like Melchizedek. Unlike other priests, Melchizedek did not become a priest because of his family. And Hebrews 7:7 even says that Melchizedek was a greater person than Abram. The Bible only mentions Melchizedek briefly. But we can learn many things about Jesus from the story of Melchizedek

Abram trusted God. And this attitude guided the decisions that Abram made.

Abram left his father’s family because Abram trusted God. Abram did not even know where God was sending him. Later, Abram refused any reward from the king of Sodom . Abram did not want an evil man to make him rich.

And so, God spoke to Abram again. God himself would be Abram’s reward. Or, the same words may mean that God would give a great reward to Abram. And so, Abram prayed for a son. This prayer was not a selfish prayer. God had already promised that Abram’s family would become a great nation. And God would *bless people from all nations by means of Abram’s special *descendant (Genesis 12:3). So, Abram’s prayer in verses 2-3 was that God’s promise would happen. God repeated his promises in verses 4-5. But Abram still had to trust God. Abram was already old, but he had no children yet.

Then God also promised the country called Canaan (later called Israel) to Abram’s *descendants. Abram was already living there. But Abram’s *descendants would not rule the country soon. They would have to wait for 400 years until the time that God had chosen. And those 400 years would end with an awful time. Abram’s *descendants would become slaves. And the inhabitants of Canaan would become very wicked. But God had a plan. And he would do everything that he promised.

God had promised a son to Abram. But Sarai, Abram’s wife, thought that she was too old to have a baby. So, she suggested that Abram should have a baby with Hagar. Hagar was a slave who worked as Sarai’s maid.

Sarai’s idea was a natural solution to Abram’s problem. But it was not God’s solution. God wanted Abram to continue to trust him. God’s plan was that Sarai would be the mother of Abram’s son. And God wanted that son to be born as the result of God’s promise .

There was an important reason for God’s plan. God’s promise was not merely to any son of Abram. It was to Abram’s special *descendant, who is Christ . And, by means of Christ, Christians become the sons of God . But nobody can please God by his or her own natural efforts. So, nobody can become a real Christian by natural methods. We have to trust God to become Christians. Then we shall receive the things that God has promised.

Abram too needed to learn to trust God. Abram made many mistakes. But, when Abram trusted God, Abram pleased God. And then God gave to Abram the things that he (God) had promised.

God still cared about Abram’s first son, although that son was born in the natural way. That son was called Ishmael, and his mother was Hagar. God even made promises about Ishmael. And Abram also cared about Ishmael. But Ishmael’s behaviour would cause trouble for Abram. Abram had to send Ishmael away in order to protect Abram’s second son, called Isaac. Isaac was the son whom God had promised to Abram .

This chapter is very important. In it, Abram’s name becomes Abraham. (See 17:4, 5.) God also changes his wife’s name from Sarai to Sarah. God told Abraham more about his (God’s) promises. God told Abraham that he (Abraham) would be the father (*ancestor) of many nations. So Abraham would not only be the father of just one nation! Abraham was already living in the country that God promised to him. God added that he had promised ‘the whole country’ to Abraham. God told Abraham that there would be kings in his family. And God told him that Sarah, his old wife, would be the mother of his child. God said that this *covenant will last always.

In two ways, God showed clearly that he had made the *covenant. He gave new names to Abram (Abraham) and Sarai (Sarah). And he ordered the male members of their family to receive *circumcision. That would show that they were joining into the *covenant with God.

Soon after Abraham received *circumcision, three visitors came to see him. Abraham did not know who the visitors were. But he gave them great honour. By means of the visitors, God gave a message to Abraham. Sarah would have her baby, called Isaac, during the next year. But Sarah did not believe God’s message. She laughed at the idea. She thought that she was much too old to have a baby.

Abraham’s visitors were travelling to the city called Sodom. The people in Sodom were very wicked. God had decided to punish them severely. But God did not want to do anything until he had discussed the matter with Abraham. So, God had a conversation with Abraham about Sodom. We can learn many things about Abraham’s relationship with God from that conversation.

Lot was Abraham’s nephew. Lot wanted to live near Sodom because the land there was better for his animals . But in chapter 19, Lot had moved his home into Sodom itself. Lot was a *righteous man, but the inhabitants of Sodom were very wicked. It seems that they made a bad impression on Lot’s family.

God had decided to kill the people in Sodom because of their wicked behaviour. But God does not punish *righteous people. God even promised Abraham that he (God) would first count the *righteous people in Sodom. If there were 10 *righteous people, God would save the whole city because of them. But there were not 10 *righteous people in Sodom. So when the *angels arrived in Sodom, their task was to save Lot and his family.

But even that task was difficult. The men in Sodom were so wicked that they tried to have sex with the *angels. And even Lot’s own family did not want to leave. The men who wanted to marry his daughters refused to leave. Lot’s wife looked behind her as she left. It seems that she still wanted to be in Sodom. So, she died with the people in Sodom.

Lot himself did not want to escape to the mountains. God saved a little town called Zoar so that Lot could go there. And when Lot was safe in Zoar, God destroyed the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah by fire. This event warns us that, in the end, God will punish evil people. God will only save us from this punishment if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.

We do not know why Abraham went to live somewhere else. Maybe he felt too close to the place where the cities called Sodom and Gomorrah had been. God had destroyed those cities. The ash and other substances that came from there probably affected a large area. Maybe those substances spoilt the land where Abraham’s animals ate grass. He went south to live just outside Canaan.

Abraham was again afraid. So he said that Sarah was his sister. Abraham had done that in Egypt too . He did not think about the trouble that it might cause to other people. The punishment for *adultery was death. Abimelech did not belong to the nation that God had specially chosen. But God showed his *mercy to Abimelech. God spoke to him in a dream. God warned him in that way. Abimelech did not *sin, because God prevented him. Therefore God did not make him die.

Abimelech acted very well. He said that he was innocent. He said that his people were innocent. He did not get angry and he did not blame Abraham too severely. Abimelech respected Abraham because Abraham was a *prophet

At last, the son that God had promised was born to Sarah and Abraham. Both parents were very joyful at the birth of their child. Everybody had thought that Sarah was too old to have a baby. So they were especially happy when her son was born. Abraham named his son Isaac. Isaac means ‘laughter’. But Abraham’s other son, Ishmael, was not glad. Until Isaac was born, Ishmael was Abraham’s only son. Ishmael had become a young man. And Ishmael thought that, after Abraham’s death, he (Ishmael) would lead Abraham’s family.

The birth of Isaac changed everything for Ishmael. Ishmael was merely the son of a slave. He knew that he would never be as important as Isaac. So, Ishmael was cruel to Isaac. Abraham had to send Ishmael away. God told Abraham that he (God) would make Ishmael successful. But Abraham must look after Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s special son. Isaac was the son that God promised to Abraham.

Abraham made another *covenant (agreement) at this time. This was a peace agreement with the leaders of the people called *Philistines. Abraham lived in their country for a long time. He made his home there. And in that place, he prayed to God.

During his whole life, Abraham was learning to trust God more and more. In this chapter, it is clear that Abraham trusted God completely.

Abraham did not know why God was testing him. But Abraham could recognise God’s voice. Christians too should be able to recognise when God is guiding them to do something. But God has also provided other methods to guide Christians today. We can read the Bible. God never wants us to do anything that is against his instructions in the Bible. And God has also provided church leaders to help us. They are not always right. But we should listen carefully to their advice.

We might ask why God wanted Abraham to offer Isaac as a *sacrifice. The Bible clearly teaches that murder is wicked. The answer is that God never wanted Abraham to kill Isaac. God stopped Abraham before Abraham could hurt Isaac. So God had a different plan. God was not really asking Abraham to kill Isaac. In fact, God was asking Abraham to prove that he (Abraham) would always trust God.

Abraham did not know about God’s plan to save Isaac. But Abraham realised that God had such a plan. He told his servants that he would bring Isaac back to them. He told Isaac that God would provide the *lamb for the *sacrifice . Hebrews 11:17-19 explains what Abraham was thinking. He knew that God could even make dead people live again. And Abraham knew the promises that God made about Isaac. So, Abraham was confident that he could trust God. And Abraham was right. Abraham soon discovered that God’s plan was to save Isaac.

We can only really understand this event if we think about Jesus. If God had not stopped Abraham, Isaac would have died. But God had a plan to save Isaac. God provided that a sheep would die instead of Isaac. In the same way, we all deserve God’s punishment because of our evil deeds. But God sent his son, Jesus, to die in our place. And God will forgive us if we trust him. We should confess our evil deeds to God. And we should invite him into our lives.

When Sarah died, it was Abraham’s duty to bury her body. It was the custom to bury bodies soon after death. So, these events may have happened on the day when Sarah died, or the day after.

Abraham was living in the country that belonged to the family of Heth. He did not own any land there to use as Sarah’s grave. So he asked to buy some land. He wanted to bury Sarah near Mamre, where Abraham used to live.

The members of Heth’s family respected Abraham and Sarah greatly. They offered to give the land to Abraham. But Abraham insisted that he would buy it. So, for the first time, Abraham bought land in the country called Canaan. Canaan was the country that God had promised to Abraham’s *descendants. Abraham knew that his *descendants would live away from Canaan for 400 years . But Abraham trusted God’s promises. So, Abraham bought the land. He was confident that his *descendants would return there

Abraham believed that he would soon die. So he made sure that there would be a good wife for Isaac. The *Hebrews always told their sons not to marry *Canaanite women. Abraham cared very much about that. But he did not want Isaac to leave the country that God had promised. So, Abraham sent his chief servant to arrange Isaac’s marriage. Abraham wanted Isaac to marry one of Abraham’s own relatives. This was the custom, but Abraham also had a more important reason. He wanted Isaac’s wife to be a woman who would help Isaac to serve God.

The account in this chapter is very long. The writer gives many details in it. We learn a lot about Abraham from it. We learn how Abraham’s servants trusted him and his God. And the servants respected Abraham and his God.

When Abraham was old, he married again. He did not want his new children to oppose Isaac. Abraham provided for them. But he sent them to live far away from Isaac.

Abraham was very old when he died. Isaac and Ishmael met again then. They buried his body together. This action showed that they both loved Abraham.

Ishmael had many *descendants, and they were successful. They lived across a large area. But the writer’s account continues with Isaac’s sons, called Esau and Jacob.

Esau was the oldest son. So, he had the right to benefit from God’s promises to Abraham . It seems that Esau did not care about this right. But Jacob recognised the importance of this right. And, even as a youth, Jacob was plotting how he could get this right, instead of Esau.

Every person needs to invite God into that person’s own life. It is not enough if that person’s parents were Christians. Each person needs his or her own experience of a relationship with God.

It was the same for Isaac. His father, Abraham, was a real friend of God. And Abraham had learnt to trust God completely. So, Isaac had always known about God. But Isaac still needed to know God for himself. And Isaac needed to learn many of the lessons that Abraham learnt.

But it seems that Isaac learned easily. He had a good character. He wanted to serve God. And Isaac tried not to argue with people. God was kind to Isaac.

Isaac became an old man. He thought that he might die soon. (But in fact, he would live for many more years.) Isaac wanted to give a special *blessing to Esau, who was Isaac’s first son. Esau was also Isaac’s favourite son.

The whole family realised that this *blessing was an important matter. Isaac was a holy man. God would be present when Isaac gave his *blessing. And Isaac’s words would not just come from his own imagination. Isaac’s words would be a *prophecy that came from God’s Holy Spirit.

Rebekah wanted Jacob to receive the *blessing instead of Esau. And Jacob himself was desperate for the *blessing. Previously, he bought the *birthright (the rights of the oldest son) from Esau .

Jacob obtained Isaac’s *blessing by methods that were not honest. But the *blessing that Jacob received really came from God. And it seems that Jacob received nothing from Isaac except the *blessing. Esau received great wealth in Canaan. But Jacob left Canaan with very few possessions.  Jacob left home quickly, because he had to escape from Esau.

But the *blessing was all that Jacob really needed. And, as Jacob escaped, he received an even better *blessing. God himself spoke to Jacob. The God of Abraham and Isaac became Jacob’s God too

Jacob had to leave home in order to escape from Esau. Isaac *blessed Jacob before Jacob left. This time, Isaac knew whom he was *blessing. He gave a wonderful *blessing to Jacob. Isaac said that Jacob would receive Abraham’s *blessing. And he said that Jacob’s *descendants would receive the country called Canaan.

Jacob really wanted to receive this *blessing. Now he received it. This was wonderful.

Jacob travelled alone on his journey. He had to sleep outside. He took few possessions. He even had to pray for his food and clothes. But something very special happened as he travelled. He had a special dream. And in the dream, God spoke to Jacob. God gave to Jacob the same promises that he (God) had given to Abraham and Isaac. And Jacob promised that he, too, would serve God. And so, we call God, ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’

It was God’s plan that Jacob would have a large family. God had already promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that they would have many *descendants. But perhaps Jacob did not realise that God wanted him (Jacob) to have many children. It was the custom at that time for an important man to have many wives. But Jacob’s father, Isaac, married only one wife.

Jacob’s intention was to marry Rachel. He loved her as soon as he saw her. And he tried to impress her. He moved a large stone so that he could give water to her sheep. Soon afterwards, Jacob offered to work for 7 years so that he could marry Rachel.

At the end of the 7 years, Laban (Rachel’s father) cheated Jacob. It was the custom that the bride would cover her face at the wedding. The morning afterwards, Jacob discovered that he had married Leah (Rachel’s sister). Jacob never really loved Leah. But he did not refuse to accept her as his wife.

Laban allowed Jacob to marry Rachel too. But Laban insisted that Jacob must work for another 7 years for Rachel.

All this time, Jacob was learning to be humble. At home, Jacob used schemes to get whatever he wanted. But on the journey, Jacob had decided to serve God . And now Jacob was learning to accept whatever God wanted to give him. In the end, God would give Jacob 12 sons. And their families would become the great nation that God had promised.

Jacob’s wives persuaded Jacob to accept their maids as *concubines. So, Jacob had children by 4 different women. Rachel, whom Jacob really loved, was the last of these women have babies.

Afterwards, Jacob wanted to leave Laban. God had promised Jacob that Jacob would return home . Perhaps Jacob wanted to bring up his sons in the country that God had promised to their *descendants. But Laban persuaded Jacob to wait. Laban offered to pay Jacob for his work. They agreed which animals would belong to Jacob in the future. And so, Jacob became wealthy.

Jacob had worked very hard for Laban. But Laban and his sons did not respect Jacob. Laban continued to cheat and he did not pay fair wages to Jacob. And Laban’s sons were starting to accuse Jacob. They said that Jacob stole his wealth from Laban. This was not true. In fact, Jacob had become wealthy. But it was God who made Jacob wealthy.

In the end, God told Jacob to leave Laban. Jacob did not delay. He took his family and his animals.

Jacob did not tell anyone else that his family were leaving. They did not even say goodbye to Laban.

After three days, Laban heard that Jacob had left. Laban gathered his relatives to chase Jacob. We do not know what Laban intended to do to Jacob. Probably Laban wanted to take back his daughters and the animals. But, that night, God warned Laban in a dream. So, God was protecting Jacob.

On the next day, Laban and Jacob met. They argued with each other. But Laban was careful about his words, because God had warned him.

Laban and Jacob decided to make a *covenant. But this *covenant was not an agreement of friendship. Instead, they promised to stay apart. Then, their sons would not fight each other.

When Jacob left Canaan, Esau was plotting to kill him. Now Jacob was returning to Canaan. And Jacob realised that he would have to meet Esau.

Jacob was afraid. He thought that Esau might still be very angry. And he heard that Esau had 400 men with him. Jacob knew that his family and servants could not defeat Esau’s men.

Jacob made plans in case Esau’s men attacked. Jacob separated his family into groups. He hoped that some would escape. And he sent his servants with gifts for Esau. Jacob hoped that the gifts would please Esau. And Jacob wanted to show that he respected Esau as his older brother.

Jacob had to depend on God. If Esau was angry, only God could save Jacob. Jacob prayed for help. Jacob had a special experience in prayer. He seemed to be fighting a man. That man was probably an *angel. The man was stronger than Jacob. But the man could not overcome Jacob. So, Jacob struggled with God in prayer. And Jacob continued until God *blessed him. Now, Jacob was trusting God.

At last, it was time to meet Esau. Jacob had been very afraid about this meeting. Jacob’s body was weaker because of his experience when he struggled with the *angel. But Jacob probably felt stronger, because he now had God’s *blessing. Jacob led his family as they approached Esau.

But Esau was not angry. In fact, he was kind to Jacob. Esau did not even want to accept Jacob’s gifts. But Jacob insisted that Esau should accept them.

Jacob stayed in Canaan. He bought some land near a city called Shechem. He prayed there. And nobody opposed him. But there would soon be more troubles.

Jacob served the real God . But Jacob’s family did not. They used *idols, which were images of false gods . And they were not behaving in the same manner as people who serve the real God.

This became a very serious matter when a man called Shechem *raped Dinah. Dinah was the daughter of Jacob and Leah. Simeon and Levi were brothers of Dinah. They became very angry when they heard about Shechem.

They made a cruel plot. They pretended that Shechem could marry Dinah. But first, Shechem would have to accept *circumcision. And they wanted every male in Shechem’s town to accept *circumcision. Shechem’s town was called Shechem too. The men agreed. But while the men were still hurting, Simeon and Levi attacked them. Simeon and Levi killed every man in the town, including Shechem.

Jacob was very unhappy about the behaviour of Simeon and Levi. They had acted in the same manner as very wicked people behave. Shechem deserved punishment. But the actions of Simeon and Levi were much too cruel. And now, Jacob’s whole family was in danger.

Before he died, Jacob *blessed his sons. But he did not *bless Simeon or Levi. Instead, he said that their anger was terrible. So, God would scatter their *descendants across the country called Israel

Jacob did not feel safe now near the town called Shechem. His sons, Simeon and Levi, had been angry, so they killed many men there. And Jacob was afraid that the relatives of those men might attack his family. God told Jacob to take his family to Bethel.

It seems that Jacob was pleased to take his family to Bethel. God first spoke to Jacob at Bethel. Jacob could teach his family about God during the journey. He explained to them how he met the real God. He told them that they should not keep their *idols (images of false gods). And he told his family that they were going to a holy place. So, they had to prepare themselves.

At Bethel, God repeated his promises to Jacob. And Jacob rebuilt the *altar that he made there.

Soon afterwards, Jacob’s last son, called Benjamin, was born. But Benjamin’s mother, Rachel, died at the birth.

A terrible event happened afterwards. It was the custom in Canaan that the oldest son should have sex with his father’s wives. Then, that son would become the leader of the family. Jacob knew that this action was very wicked. And he hoped that his own sons had learned about God. But Jacob could not control his sons. They were adults now. So, they were responsible for their own behaviour.

Reuben, who was Jacob’s first son, had sex with Bilhah. Bilhah was Jacob’s *concubine. She had been Rachel’s maid. Jacob heard about Reuben’s behaviour. So, Jacob decided that Reuben must not receive the *birthright. And Reuben did not receive a *blessing from Jacob .

Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But Jacob would not give them the *birthright because of their cruelty. So instead, Jacob chose Joseph

People try to discover what the names of Esau’s *descendants meant. People try to link the names with nations that people knew in that area later. But that is not very helpful. God always does the things that he promises to do. In this chapter, the writer reminds us about this principle. Esau was not the son that God had chosen. But God had made a promise about Esau . So, God gave many *descendants to Esau. Later, King David defeated the *Edomites and he ruled over them. So they did serve Jacob’s *descendants

Reuben was Jacob’s oldest son. So, Reuben had the *birthright. But Reuben had carried out a wicked deed against Jacob. So, Jacob decided that Reuben should not receive the *birthright. Simeon and Levi were the oldest sons after Reuben. But they too had upset Jacob . So, Jacob chose Joseph to receive the *birthright. Jacob’s other sons were angry. Except for Benjamin, who was still very young, they were all older than Joseph.

Jacob made a special coat for Joseph. This probably showed that Joseph had the *birthright. And Joseph had special dreams. These dreams were *prophecies. They showed that Joseph would become the leader of the family. But Joseph’s brothers hated the dreams. In fact, they hated Joseph.

Joseph’s brothers were working away from home. They were looking after Jacob’s animals. Jacob sent Joseph to them. Jacob wanted to know what was happening. This was an opportunity for the brothers to attack Joseph. Their first plan was to kill Joseph. But Reuben had a secret plan to save Joseph. Perhaps Reuben wanted to please Jacob. Then perhaps Jacob might change his mind about Reuben’s *birthright. But when Reuben was away, Judah made another plan. Judah and the other brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Then they pretended to Jacob that Joseph was dead.

Jacob was very sad. Nobody could comfort him. He felt as if his only *righteous son was dead. But Joseph was not dead. In fact, Joseph became a slave in Egypt. God allowed these things to happen because God had a plan to save the lives of many people

Reuben, Simeon and Levi had all upset Jacob. They were his three oldest sons. Jacob did not want them to have the *birthright. So, Jacob decided that Joseph would receive the *birthright. But now, Jacob thought that Joseph was dead. So, Judah became Jacob’s most important son. Judah was Jacob’s 4th son, after Reuben, Simeon and Levi. But much of Judah’s life would also disappoint Jacob.

Judah had three sons. The first son, called Er, married Tamar. But Er was so evil that God killed him.

The people then had a custom that they considered important. If a widow did not yet have a child, the unmarried brother of the dead husband would marry the widow. Then, they would have children together. So, Er’s brother, called Onan, married Tamar. But he too was evil, and God killed him.

Judah promised that Tamar could marry Judah’s last son, called Shelah. But when Shelah became old enough to marry, Judah did not arrange the marriage.

So, Tamar made a plan. She covered her face so that nobody would recognise her. She pretended to be a *prostitute. And she tempted Judah.

Afterwards, Judah discovered that Tamar was expecting a baby. He was very angry that she had acted as a *prostitute. He wanted to kill her. But she was able to show that Judah himself was responsible for her situation.

Judah felt very guilty. He confessed that he had been unfair to her. And he allowed her to live. In fact, she had *twins (two babies born together). The oldest, called Perez, received the *birthright among Judah’s *descendants.

Judah’s character and attitudes changed after this event. Before it, he was responsible for the sale of Joseph as a slave . Afterwards, Judah himself offered to become a slave in order to save Benjamin .

Among Jacob’s sons, Judah was the oldest son who received Jacob’s *blessing . And that *blessing was very special. Jacob said that Judah’s *descendants would include the kings of the *Israelites. And the special *descendant of Eve and of Abraham would be a *descendant of Judah too. This special *descendant means Jesus . God sent Jesus to free people from their *sins

Joseph was just a slave when he arrived in Egypt. But soon, he began to have a successful career. Joseph worked for an important man called Potiphar. Soon, Potiphar realised that Joseph had many skills. Joseph was responsible and capable. Everything that Joseph did was successful. So, Potiphar gave Joseph authority over everything in his (Potiphar’s) *household.

The promise that God gave to Abraham  was starting to happen. God was *blessing Potiphar because of Joseph.

Joseph even impressed Potiphar’s wife. She wanted to have sex with Joseph, who was an attractive young man. But Joseph knew that God does not permit such behaviour. So, Joseph refused. Potiphar’s wife was angry with Joseph. She lied that he tried to *rape her. So, Joseph became a prisoner.

Even in prison, Joseph impressed people. The guard realised that Joseph was responsible and capable. So, the guard gave Joseph authority over the other prisoners. Soon, Joseph was managing the prison. Joseph was still a prisoner. But even in the prison, God made Joseph successful.

Joseph was responsible for all the prisoners. So, Joseph was a skilled manager. But Joseph was also a holy man. And he knew that his relationship with God was very important. Even in prison, Joseph was still a *righteous man.

Two prisoners had strange dreams on the same night. They thought that their dreams had an important meaning. But they did not know the meaning. So, they were worried about the dreams.

Joseph told the prisoners that God knew the meaning of their dreams. Then God showed Joseph the meaning:

·     The *butler’s dream meant that *Pharaoh would free the *butler. And *Pharaoh would reappoint the *butler to his old job. Joseph asked the *butler to tell *Pharaoh about his (Joseph’s) situation.

·     The baker’s dream meant that the baker would soon die.

Three days later, these things happened as Joseph had said. But the *butler did not tell *Pharaoh about Joseph. It was not yet the right time for *Pharaoh to free Joseph. God had a plan for Joseph. But Joseph did not yet know about this plan.

Joseph was still a prisoner when *Pharaoh had two strange dreams. In the first dream, 7 thin cows ate 7 fat cows. In the second dream, 7 weak stems of grain ate 7 good ones. *Pharaoh tried to use magic to understand the dreams. But the magic failed.

In chapter 40, God had shown Joseph the meaning of the *butler’s dream. As Joseph had said, the *butler was now working for *Pharaoh again. So, the *butler suggested that *Pharaoh should speak to Joseph. The officials took Joseph from the prison into *Pharaoh’s palace.

Of course, Joseph himself did not know the meaning of *Pharaoh’s dreams. But Joseph was confident that God knew the answer. God showed Joseph that both dreams had the same meaning. For 7 years, the harvests in Egypt would be good. But afterwards, for another period of 7 years, there would not be enough food. So, Joseph advised *Pharaoh to store food from the good harvests. Then, this food would be available for the next 7 years.

Joseph’s wisdom impressed *Pharaoh. *Pharaoh was confident that Joseph’s advice came from God. So, *Pharaoh appointed Joseph to be a ruler of Egypt. Only *Pharaoh himself was more important than Joseph was.

Like everybody else, Joseph’s brothers had to go to Egypt to buy food. They did not know that Joseph was a ruler in Egypt. They had sold him as a slave. And now, they did not even know that Joseph was alive.

When Joseph saw his brothers, his emotions felt very strong. He loved his brothers. He did not want them to suffer while the harvests were poor. He wanted to share with them the good things that he had received in Egypt. But Joseph realised that this might not be a good idea.

Joseph knew that, in the past, his brothers’ behaviour had been terrible. They had been selfish. They had been cruel. They had killed other men because of their anger. In fact, Joseph’s brothers had even wanted to kill Joseph himself.

Joseph was a very responsible man. He would not allow his brothers to cause such trouble in Egypt. So, he made a plan that would test his brothers. He needed to be sure that their attitudes had now changed. If they were humble, he would forgive them. If they respected him, he would give them honour and wealth. But if their attitudes were still wrong, Joseph could not help them.

As the *famine continued, Jacob’s family became desperate for food again. But Jacob still would not let Benjamin go to Egypt. And the other brothers did not dare to go to Egypt without Benjamin. The *Egyptian ruler had warned them not to enter Egypt without Benjamin. Of course, the brothers did not know that this ruler was really Joseph, their own brother.

In the end, Judah persuaded Jacob to let Benjamin go. Judah promised that he would protect Benjamin. And Judah would accept the blame if anything bad happened to Benjamin.

Jacob ordered the brothers to take a gift for the *Egyptian ruler. Then, Jacob *blessed them. And he prayed for them.

When the brothers arrived in Egypt, Joseph prepared a wonderful surprise for them. He wanted to show his kindness to them. And he wanted to show them how wealthy he was. So, he provided a great meal for them. Joseph showed special honour to Benjamin, who was Joseph’s closest brother.

But Joseph still did not tell his brothers who he really was. He wanted to test them first. In the past, they had been jealous, cruel and selfish. So now, Joseph needed to know whether their attitudes had changed.

Joseph’s plan to test his brothers was a simple plan. But it was also very clever.Jacob had given the *birthright to Joseph. Joseph’s brothers were jealous and they hated him. So, they sold him to be a slave when they had the opportunity.

Now, Joseph would give his brothers the opportunity to make Benjamin a slave. Benjamin had become Jacob’s favourite son. So, perhaps they were now jealous of Benjamin. Perhaps they wanted Benjamin to lose the *birthright too.

Joseph arranged the test well. The brothers really believed that the *Egyptians wanted to take Benjamin as a slave. And perhaps the brothers even thought that Benjamin deserved this, as a punishment.

In Genesis 43:9, Judah accepted responsibility for Benjamin’s safety. Judah was the brother who actually sold Joseph as a slave. But now, Judah’s attitudes had changed. Judah wanted to become a slave himself, so that Benjamin could be free. So now, Judah was both noble and humble. He offered to lose everything in order to rescue his brother.

Joseph had to pretend that he was someone else. He did that in order to test his brothers. But now, Judah had shown that their attitudes had changed. In the end, Joseph could not control his emotions. He had to cry. And he wanted to hug his brothers. So, he quickly ordered his servants to leave the room.

Even when Joseph spoke to his brothers in their own language, they could not immediately recognise him. And they were afraid of him. But Joseph’s words helped them to feel more confident. Joseph was not angry with his brothers. He forgave them. He believed that, in fact, God sent him (Joseph) to Egypt. God sent Joseph there to save lives. And now, Joseph was able to save his own family from the terrible *famine.

*Pharaoh was pleased to hear that Joseph’s brothers had come from Canaan. *Pharaoh wanted the whole family to live in Egypt. *Pharaoh even sent wagons so that the weaker members of the family could travel to Egypt more easily.

The news from Egypt astonished Jacob. But, when he saw the wagons, he believed. He knew that God had been kind to Joseph. And Jacob saw that the events in Joseph’s dreams  really happened. Jacob could remember the promises that God gave about his family . So, Jacob was confident that God would do these things too. These things would happen after Jacob’s death, but Jacob still believed. But now, Jacob would go to see Joseph again. And, during the journey, God would speak to Jacob again.

On the way to Egypt, Jacob stopped at Beersheba. Beersheba was a special place for Jacob. There, God had spoken to his father, Isaac . Isaac had gone to Beersheba because God told him not to go to Egypt. But God’s message to Jacob was different.

In a dream, God spoke to Jacob. God told Jacob not to be afraid to go into Egypt. God had a plan for Jacob’s family in Egypt.

The chapter then contains a list of Jacob’s sons and grandsons. The numbers are difficult to calculate. But the final figure is 70 people. This was a very large family. In time, the family would become a great nation. God had promised Abraham that he (Abraham) would have very many *descendants . God made this promise before Abraham had his son. And Jacob was Abraham’s grandson.

Jacob and Joseph were very happy to see each other again. Joseph knew that Jacob would encourage him. Joseph still had his important work to do for *Pharaoh. Until now, Joseph was probably the only person in Egypt who served the real God. The *Egyptians served *idols. But now Joseph had Jacob to support him.

Joseph arranged a place where his brothers could work. They would continue to be *shepherds. So, they would not become rulers. But Joseph continued his important work for *Pharaoh

The right time came for Joseph to introduce his family to *Pharaoh. Joseph chose 5 brothers (on behalf of the whole family) to meet *Pharaoh. Then, Joseph introduced his father, Jacob, to *Pharaoh.

*Pharaoh respected Jacob because Jacob was a very old man. And *Pharaoh also gave honour to Jacob because of Joseph’s importance. *Pharaoh realised that Jacob, like Joseph, was a holy man.

Jacob explained to *Pharaoh that he (Jacob) did not consider himself a great man. Jacob referred to the lives of Abraham and Isaac. Jacob believed that they were really great men. He said that life on earth was like a journey. Perhaps he was desiring his permanent home in heaven . Then, Jacob *blessed *Pharaoh.

Afterwards, *Pharaoh became much more important as a ruler. This happened because of Joseph’s great skill. He bought the land in Egypt for *Pharaoh. And Joseph also arranged regular taxes that made *Pharaoh much more wealthy.

At the end of the chapter, Jacob was very old. Soon, he would die. So, he called Joseph. Jacob asked Joseph to promise to bury him (Jacob) in Canaan. Jacob wanted his *descendants to realise that Egypt was not their permanent home. Instead, God had promised Canaan to them. Joseph made the promise. In fact, Joseph would ask his own *descendants to make a similar promise about his own body, too.

The *blessings that Jacob gave to his family start in this chapter. These *blessings were not just Jacob’s own ideas about his sons and grandsons. In fact, the *blessings were *prophecies about the future. Jacob spoke these things by the power of God’s Holy Spirit.

Many of Jacob’s *blessings are difficult for us to understand. Some phrases have several possible meanings. But we need to remember that the *descendants of Jacob’s 12 sons became the 12 *tribes of Israel. So, often the words in the *blessing describe the places where the *tribes would live in Canaan.

The *blessings were also a type of poetry. They use descriptions that may seem strange to us today. And they often repeat the same ideas in different words.

Jacob began with his *blessings for Joseph’s sons. Joseph received the *birthright because of Reuben’s *sin. So, Jacob gave a special *blessing to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob wanted people to include Ephraim and Manasseh when they made lists of his (Jacob’s) sons. So, the *descendants of Ephraim became another *tribe of Israel. So did the *descendants of Manasseh. And the *descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh would receive their own land in Canaan

After Jacob *blessed Joseph’s sons, Jacob *blessed his own sons.

In fact, Jacob did not give a *blessing to all 12 sons. Reuben, Simeon and Levi deserved no *blessing because of their evil deeds.

But God still gave Jacob a *prophecy about each son. All the sons belonged to Jacob’s family. And all the sons received the benefit of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God would make the *descendants of all the sons into a great nation. The *descendants of each son would become a *tribe in that nation. God would give them the country called Canaan.

And God would use them to *bless people from all the nations. Among them, Eve’s special *descendant  would be born. That *descendant would free people from *sin and from the devil’s power. God’s promises to Abraham were also promises to that *descendant . And that *descendant would be the real king of Israel . The Bible tells us that these promises were about Jesus. He was that special *descendant.

Jacob had asked his sons to bury his body in Canaan. So, after Jacob’s death, Joseph arranged for the funeral to be in Canaan.

It was not just Jacob’s family who attended the funeral. Many *Egyptians came to the funeral too. This fact shows how many people respected Jacob. It took several days to travel from Egypt to Canaan. And it was a difficult journey.

After the funeral, Joseph’s brothers became afraid of him again. They thought that he might be angry with them. They thought that he might punish them.

Joseph wept when he heard about their fears. He never wanted to be cruel to his brothers. He had forgiven them. He was sad that they did not seem to realise this. So, he explained that God placed him in Egypt in order to do God’s work. Their actions had been evil. But they could not prevent God from doing something good.

Joseph was an old man when he died. Before he died, he gave an instruction to his family. He did not want them to bury his body in Egypt. Instead, he asked them to store his bones. At the right time, God would take their *descendants back to Canaan. And Joseph wanted them to take his bones with them. Joseph showed by these instructions that he trusted God. And the *descendants of Joseph’s family did what he wanted.

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Comments
  1. darion says:

    your articles impresses me and a lot more.

  2. mike says:

    Genesis ! Amen !

  3. Spot on with this write-up, I really feel this site needs
    much more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through
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