Genesis Day Twenty Eight

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 38:6-11
And Judah took a wife for Er his firstborn, and her name was Tamar. But Er, Judah’s firstborn, was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord put him to death. Then Judah said to Onan, Go in to your brother’s wife and perform the duty of a brother-in-law to her, and raise up offspring for your brother. But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his. So whenever he went in to his brother’s wife he would waste the semen on the ground, so as not to give offspring to his brother. And what he did was wicked in the sight of the Lord, and he put him to death also. Then Judah said to Tamar his daughter-in-law, Remain a widow in your father’s house, till Shelah my son grows up—for he feared that he would die, like his brothers. So Tamar went and remained in her father’s house.

The commentaries of old are often shy to discuss this passage for obvious reasons.

But it is necessary. It highlights that Judah’s sons were evil.
And God struck them down, one by one.

Onan, seemed to have an opportunity to do right though.
Back then, when a husband dies, it’s the duty of the husband’s family to send his brother to take his place, so the widow would not be defenseless and prone to mistreatment from society.

She would have a husband again.
But any children conceived, would be considered descendants of her dead husband’s line.

Strange to us, but that was their custom back then in the Middle East.

But here, we read that Onan did not want children, that were not listed in the books, or seen as of his own.
Even if it was his brother’s line of descent, that was not good enough of him.

So … he slept with Tamar but did not want to complete the reproductive act.
He used her body but did not desire to give her descendants.
It was not family planning; it was pure selfishness …

And for that, God struck him down too.

Then we read that Judah becomes worried and makes up an excuse to Tamar.
He does not want to seem cold and heartless and does not cast her out as a defenseless widow, but he is reluctant to let his next son marry her too.

He somehow thinks she might be the cause of why her husbands are each dropping off dead!!

Strange behavior.
Either he cannot see that his sons were evil and that is why they all died, when judged by God.
Or he knew they were evil but feels helpless to prevent their descent into sinfulness that culminates in their deaths.

I think it’s the former and not the latter …
Perhaps sometimes we are blind to not just our own sinful state but that of those around us.
We are blind because we love them too much, to the extent that we think they can do no wrong or aren’t that bad …
So when God acts to correct this evil, we still seem clueless as to why things happened the way they did …

Like Judah.

Keep reading the next few chapters and see what folly he gets up to next …

Genesis Day Twenty Six

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 35:10
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.

Strange …
This is not the first time, God has said this.

He said it earlier when He wrestled Jacob.

Genesis 32:28
Then he said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel,[a] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

And it’s not the first time God repeats phrases and instructions either.
Look at what He said to Joshua –

Joshua 1:6-7
Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success[a]wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

In a teenager’s terms, they would call this “nagging”.
To a Singaporean Chinese, he may say its “loh soh”.

But John Wesley knew better.
Here is what he believed about teaching-
“And finally, if teaching is to bear any fruit, teach patiently. You must tell them the same thing ten times over or you do nothing.” – John Wesley
(from ‘The Works of the Reverend John Wesley, Vol. II, cited by Elmer L. Towns in his work ‘John Wesley and Religious Education’)

After all, he remembered his own father saying to his mother about raising him-
Why do you tell that blockhead the same thing twenty times over?” asked John Wesley’s father. “Because,” replied his mother, “if I had told him but nineteen times, all my labor would have been lost, …”

We are all prone to forgetfulness- kids and adults alike.
God our Father knows this.
That is why much of Scripture contains instructions from Him to institute reminders for ourselves, about what God has done:

Exodus 12:23-27
For the Lord will pass through to strike the Egyptians, and when he sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord will pass over the door and will not allow the destroyer to enter your houses to strike you. You shall observe this rite as a statute for you and for your sons forever. And when you come to the land that the Lord will give you, as he has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.

Joshua 4:5-7
And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

1 Corinthians 11:24-25
and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

What deliberate reminders do you follow on a daily, weekly and even monthly basis to remind yourself of who you are, whom you serve and what you exist to do?

Genesis Day Twenty Five

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 33:18-34:2
And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.

Jacob was now in Canaan.
Dinah, his daughter, thought she would go out, presumably alone- to see how the women dressed, did their hair, or even how they danced.

It was natural to yearn to do so- being a curious young woman.
But this passage highlights the sinful state of the land as well- for it was the royalty of the land that raped her.
The leadership being corrupt, signified how evil the land was.

The sons of Jacob plot their revenge, and when Shechem asks to marry the poor rape victim, Dinah- they deceive Shechem by pretending to agree and ask for circumcision of all their males as a condition, for agreeing to intermarry.

Look at the Canaanites’ response:

Genesis 34:21-23
“These men are at peace with us; let them dwell in the land and trade in it, for behold, the land is large enough for them. Let us take their daughters as wives, and let us give them our daughters. Only on this condition will the men agree to dwell with us to become one people—when every male among us is circumcised as they are circumcised. Will not their livestock, their property and all their beasts be ours? Only let us agree with them, and they will dwell with us.”

They agree to do so! But they were not getting circumcised so that they could follow God but so that they could garner more crops, more livestock, more wives! It was a fleshly motive that drove them to agree.

They had no interest in following God at all.
This is exactly the reason why God forbade intermarrying amongst the Israelites and the people of other nations- it would dilute their faith and eventually cause the Israelites themselves to no longer follow God!

Watch how Simeon and Levi responded –

Genesis 34:25-29
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.

The fleshly motivations of Hamor, Shechem and their people clouded their perspectives and they wound up dead- unable to discern that Shechem’s crime was severe in the eyes of Jacob’s sons and not easily brushed away by proposal of marriage.

What Simeon and Levi did, wasn’t right either.
They acted deceitfully and were also bloodthirsty in their vengeance, wiping out the entire city as a result.

This passage is one of many examples of the sinful state of a world that is unsafe (for the likes of curious Dinah), that is untrustworthy (instead of being hospitable, Shecem raped a female stranger in the land), that does not deliver on its word (Simeon and Levi managed to wipe out an entire city, beginning with their lies)

But it also highlights a world so much in need of God’s light, His truth and His ways …

Genesis Day Twenty Four

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 33:1-4
And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming, and four hundred men with him. So he divided the children among Leah and Rachel and the two female servants. And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all. He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.

I wonder what Esau thought, when he prepped his 400 strong contingent.
Were they armed? Or was it just a massive welcoming party?

The general view was that, in payment for what Jacob had done years ago, Esau planned to hurt him.

This is, after all, how Esau and Jacob last parted ways.

Genesis 27:41
Now Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him, and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are approaching; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”

When someone hurts you, particularly someone close to you, the cut goes deep.
It can take a long time, and even years later, the memory of the incident brings deep-seated pain.

But Jacob thought up a plan, to try to placate Esau.
He put himself in a humbled position, like a servant, whilst addressing Esau as a lord, in his messages sent via his servants.

He gave lots of gifts, sending them ahead of him, to Esau.

Jacob, was in essence, making restitution for all he had ‘stolen’ from Esau previously, when he took the blessing of the firstborn from their blind father, Isaac.

What about you?
Who have you wronged and in what way?
What would attempts at making restitution look like?
Remember, Jacob’s attempts addressed the loss which was inflicted on Esau.

It’s the beginning of peacemaking efforts.

But mind you, it also depends on whether the other party accepts.
He did not know how Esau would respond, so he divided his family into groups, hoping that if Esau attacked, at least 1 group may survive.

So if the other party does not accept, take heart at least you tried. The key word here is TRY …

Hebrews 12:14
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Voice of the opposition

by Rev Jason Phua

Bible Reading: 2 Chronicles 35:1-36:23; Psalm 104:24-35

READ (verses chosen for meditation)
2 Chronicles 35:20-22 “After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo.”

King Josiah did what most kings would have done. He stopped the advancement of a foreign army as it attempted to march through his own land. Yet, Josiah died for such an act. What did he do wrong? Even if Neco sent envoys to Josiah; Josiah was not obligated to let the army through.

Perhaps the only thing that Josiah did wrong was the failure to seek God concerning Neco’s claims that he had heard from God. The enemy from Egypt had claimed that he had heard from God, but Josiah failed to seek God if he was speaking the truth. He took things into his own hands and suffered demise. The truth is that God can use even our “enemies” or people who seemingly oppose us to speak into our lives. We will need to consult God for His wisdom to learn the truth through such conversations.

In my previous workplace and current ministry as a pastor; I faced the voices of those who opposed to what I was trying to do. I also faced those who are opposed to the ways of God. While the “biblical” way was to seek God on what had been communicated; the natural tendency was to take things into my own hands. There are times when I would think that this person was just out to oppose me. This person was just trying to further his or her agenda. This person did not really understand what I was trying to say or do. This person was just trying to be nasty to those who believe in Jesus.

Today’s passage reminded me that I would need to go deeper with God about the voices of those whom i do not agree. Are they placed here to help me do better? What was it that they are really saying? Have God spoken to them as well? Am I wrong? Let me hear God with what was being said or done and let God provide His discernment on how to handle the situation. Let me also be humble to accept that the message of God can come through the voice of an opposing party. That would be the best. For the Lord can use the most unimaginable and creative way to speak with us.

Help me Lord to see what You see and discern Your ways. This is so I can depend more on You. Amen.

Genesis Day Twenty Three

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 31:1-5
Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah into the field where his flock was and said to them, “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me.

When Laban saw that Jacob was doing better, than himself, he started to think less favorably of Jacob. Even Laban’s sons became jealous and antagonistic towards Jacob in their attitudes.

Don’t bet your future on being in someone’s good books, in order to either advance your career or to find security and stability in life.

People change.
They have always been doing so, for thousands of years.

Here is the great news though …
Check out the last verse of today’s passage.
“I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me. ”

God is always with us.
Even when people turn against us.

People are unpredictable but God is always the same, yesterday, today and forever.