Genesis Day Twenty Two

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 30:1-8
When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan. Rachel’s servant Bilhah conceived again and bore Jacob a second son. Then Rachel said, “With mighty wrestlings I have wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.” So she called his name Naphtali.

The wives were competing to see who could provide more children, to add to the family line.
They felt it would bring them honor and glory if they did.

Back then, the servants of these women, if taken to be their husband’s concubine- then any subsequent children they produced, would be credited to this particular wife’s name!

You can read about this intense competition and the chaos it creates.

Try and imagine how the servants felt as they were implicated in this race, and made to become concubines.
Try and imagine how this story got retold to the kids subsequently.

The reason why kids were being birthed – was not out of careful intent for their welfare, but out of competition.

Be careful of the motives, out of which you birth, not just children, but projects, endeavors and other such things in life.

Birthed for the wrong reason … it only leads to subsequent strife, whereby you reap the effects of your impure motives for doing so.

The sons of Jacob were a mess in so many ways.
Read about how Jacob summarizes a few of their exploits at his deathbed.

Genesis 49:3-4
“Reuben, you are my firstborn, my might, and the firstfruits of my strength, preeminent in dignity and preeminent in power. Unstable as water, you shall not have preeminence, because you went up to your father’s bed; then you defiled it–he went up to my couch!

Genesis 49:5-6
“Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their council; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger they killed men, and in their willfulness they hamstrung oxen.

And let us not forget, these brothers sold one of their own into slavery, out of jealousy- they sold Joseph and returned to their father, lying that he had been killed by wild animals.

Are you starting on a new project or endeavor in life?
Examine your own motives for doing so.

Unless you do so, it may yield generations of chaotic mess that you end up trying to undo!

Genesis Day Twenty One

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 27:45
until your brother’s anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Then I will send and bring you from there. Why should I be bereft of you both in one day?”

This puzzles me.
She was sending Jacob away because she feared that Esau would kill Jacob in anger, for having deceived their father and taken a blessing meant for Esau.

In her mind, Esau is lost to her …
Now Jacob could be lost too, if his brother slays him.

But wait …
She was the mastermind behind this scheme, for Jacob to steal Esau’s blessing!

Genesis 27:5-17
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, Rebekah said to her son Jacob, “I heard your father speak to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me game and prepare for me delicious food, that I may eat it and bless you before the LORD before I die.’ Now therefore, my son, obey my voice as I command you. 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. And you shall bring it to your father to eat, so that he may bless you before he dies.” But Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, “Behold, my brother Esau is a hairy man, and I am a smooth man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be mocking him and bring a curse upon myself and not a blessing.” His mother said to him, “Let your curse be on me, my son; only obey my voice, and go, bring them to me.” So he went and took them and brought them to his mother, and his mother prepared delicious food, such as his father loved. Then Rebekah took the best garments of Esau her older son, which were with her in the house, and put them on Jacob her younger son. And the skins of the young goats she put on his hands and on the smooth part of his neck. And she put the delicious food and the bread, which she had prepared, into the hand of her son Jacob.

Sooo what was she thinking?
Did she not realize she was creating sibling rivalry with her malicious deed?
Was she blinded in seeking the best for her favorite son and not the other?

Jacob would go on, to play favorites too.

Genesis 37:3-4
Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his sons, because he was the son of his old age. And he made him a robe of many colors. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him and could not speak peacefully to him.

He wasn’t the only one.
Even Abraham would do so, and send Ishmael into the wilderness, keeping only Isaac.

Genesis 21:14-16
So Abraham rose early in the morning and took bread and a skin of water and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away. And she departed and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. When the water in the skin was gone, she put the child under one of the bushes. Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot, for she said, “Let me not look on the death of the child.” And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.

Ishmael grew up to father a people, that would become enemies of the descendants of Isaac.

Genesis 16:11-12
And the angel of the LORD said to her, “Behold, you are pregnant and shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, because the LORD has listened to your affliction. He shall be a wild donkey of a man, his hand against everyone and everyone’s hand against him, and he shall dwell over against all his kinsmen.”

So how did all these sibling rivalries start?
The parents had a hand in it!

What do we as parents think, will happen when we treat our kids in unequal terms, valuing and rewarding one over another?

It breeds strife.

God is not like this.
He loves all His children. He chose Israel, intending for them to be a light to the world, so that all nations might see their example and come to know God too.

Acts 10:34-35
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

He urges us to do the same, through James.

James 2:1-3
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place, “while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,”

The foolishness of playing favorites, leads to dissension, divides people and causes strife.
Be fair … you need not treat people the same, but be fair to all, treating them equally.

Discipline them when they have erred. Reward them when they have done well.

Genesis Day Nineteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 25:29-34
Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

Esau was driven by his senses.
If he was hungry, it made sense to him to placate his growling stomach.
He could not see beyond that.

That’s why he said: “What good is my birthright?”

Esau was shallow.

Successful athletes tell us they have made sacrifices to time- training hard when they would rather be sleeping.
They also make sacrifices in terms of food- they cannot just eat whatever they choose, they are on strict diets to ensure their bodies are properly fueled/conditioned for top level competitions.

They cannot just live to placate their urges.
Successful athletes look beyond the present, envisioning a future that they press on towards.

Esau lost his birthright because he could not see far enough.
He had no vision.

Vision, is a picture of the future that produces passion in the present … someone once said.

What is that vision which God has placed in your heart?
Don’t live shallow- led by the desire to pleasure your senses.
Live purposefully, making sacrifices needed in the present for success in the future.

Remember

When I was training for the marathon, I told my running friends that my wife does marathon. They were utterly surprised. And I qualified it’s the Korean Drama Marathon. She can spend hours on end watching over 50 episodes of a Korean drama all the way to the finish line.

Occasionally I join my wife to watch not the entire drama but few episodes where she will bring me up to speed the characters and the plot.

It wasn’t long I noticed there is always the typical scenario.

Boy loves girl. Girl loves boy. But there is a rival love interest. Developing situation has caused the boy and girl to seriously consider breaking away from their relationship and turn towards their competing interests. It was a critical moment because both knew it would be a decision of no return.

RememberAt that crucial moment as they were about to walk away, the flashback came. Repeated scenes from earlier episodes came on. That’s why Korean dramas are so long. And the couple’s minds went back to that day they met each other. They remember that moment they fell for each other. The surrounding blurred as they eyeballed each other with googly eyes. They remember falling into each other arms. They remember embracing each other. They remember holding each other tight.

Typically the outcome of that remembering changes everything. It halts them from gravitating towards the pull of competitive rivals. It guides their decision. It influences their outlook. Eventually they return to what they hold most dear.

And the viewers sob, tear and cry with relief as the tissue box emptied out.

There is something deeply powerful about remembering.

The Lord in the institution of the Holy Communion said twice, “Do this in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:24-25).

He also said to the Church of Ephesus, Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (Revelation 2:5).

Can you remember when you first met Jesus?

Can you remember how in love you were with Jesus?

Can you remember how fervent you were in witnessing for Him?

Can you remember how you longed to share the Gospel with everyone you know?

Can you remember how fervent you used to pray – often kneeling on the bedside or on chair?

Can you remember how you used to read the Bible as if it was a love letter from God?

Can you remember how enthusiastic you were in serving the Lord, giving to the Church and going on mission trips?

Can you remember how passionately you used to worship God with teary eyes?

Can you remember that first love?

Since we are in the month of September, there is a popular song by Brothers Four. If you know this song you are the Merdeka Generation (those born in the 50s).

The lyrics go:

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh so mellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When grass was green and grain was yellow.
Try to remember the kind of September
When you were a tender and callow fellow.
Try to remember and if you remember
then follow … follow.

Note the ending of song: and if you remember then follow … follow.”

The point is remembering is not complete unless you follow through and act on what you remember.

Remembering is never nostalgic. It is not enough to remember how far you have fallen. You need to do something about it. You need to repent. You need to make amends.

Remember that.

Genesis Day Eighteen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 24:12-15
And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. 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.” Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham’s brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder.

I wrote to the primary school principal …
Once, to offer to donate money to a pocket money fund, if any.
Another time, to enquire if the latest change in the Mandarin teacher (it was the 3rd teacher in 3 terms), would be the last one.

Both times she chose to ask one of her vice principals to reply, without she, herself even acknowledging that she had seen my email.

No “Thank you, I have seen your email and will get X to reply …”

Maybe she was too busy.
Maybe she felt this was too lowly a task, to reply to a parent’s query.
Maybe she never checks emails.

Ever been there?
You send out a message and you wonder if the other party saw it?
You wonder if they are still pondering their response or if they just cannot be bothered …

I don’t like that hanging feeling …
So sometimes when there is no reply, after a few days, I do a resend – in case for some inexplicable reason the email goes missing …
After all, who knows …

Aren’t you glad that God isn’t like that primary school principal, I encountered?

When Abraham’s servant prayed, while he was still praying, the answer appeared … and Rebekah walked out.

It was not a one-off either. See what the angel says to Daniel.

Daniel 10:12
Then he said to me, “Fear not, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand and humbled yourself before your God, your words have been heard, and I have come because of your words.

God always answers.
He might answer with a YES or a NO or a WAIT. But your prayers NEVER fall on deaf ears and if you pray in faith, He will respond- even if it’s in the NEGATIVE or if a DELAY is mandated.

He won’t leave you hanging or out in the cold.
That is NOT the God we follow.

Moses pleaded to go into the Promised Land and God responded. He would not be the one leading Israel into it, but Joshua would be the one taking them to the next level. But in God’s mercy, He allowed Moses to see it.

Deuteronomy 3:23-28
“And I pleaded with the LORD at that time, saying, ‘O Lord GOD, you have only begun to show your servant your greatness and your mighty hand. For what god is there in heaven or on earth who can do such works and mighty acts as yours? Please let me go over and see the good land beyond the Jordan, that good hill country and Lebanon.’ But the LORD was angry with me because of you and would not listen to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘Enough from you; do not speak to me of this matter again. Go up to the top of Pisgah and lift up your eyes westward and northward and southward and eastward, and look at it with your eyes, for you shall not go over this Jordan. But charge Joshua, and encourage and strengthen him, for he shall go over at the head of this people, and he shall put them in possession of the land that you shall see.’

God ALWAYS answers His children.
The only wall that can come between us and Him, is when we build a wall of sin, repeatedly ignoring the prompting and direction of the Spirit and engage in constant rebellion against Him.

Isaiah 59:1-2
Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

Call to Him today … He hears you.

Genesis Day Seventeen

by Rev Joel Yong

Genesis 22:13-14
And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.”

He was to provide a sacrifice to God.
Initially he thought it would have to be his beloved son, Isaac.

But at the final moment, God stops Abraham and provides THE sacrifice instead.
Abraham looked and saw a ram with its horns caught in the thicket.

Now this is very specific and deliberate imagery.
A sacrifice provided by God, with its head, surrounded by thorns.

Sound familiar?

Matthew 27:27-29
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!”

Why a crown of thorns?

Thorns, in Genesis, are the image of suffering and hardship.
In particular, they were first spoken of, when Adam and Eve sinned and fell.

Genesis 3:17-19
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Because sin had entered the world, the ground ceased to be always fruitful, even yielding thorns and thistles, despite Adam’ s hard labor.

Jesus came to take this cursed state, this fallen state away from Creation.
He came to save Mankind from our sinful state.
So instead, of having us bound and caught in the thicket of the sinful fallen condition – Christ came, and took our place.

Sometimes we are so used to paying our own bills, taking care of our own meals – that some of us, are actually uncomfortable at the thought of being given a free meal, receive a treat from a friend, or have someone clear our debt.

But that is what Jesus did.
He came because God saw, we could not afford the bills/debts brought on by our own sinful nature.

Romans 6:23
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And so God provided.
Just like He did for Abraham, He did it again when Jesus went up on the cross for you, and for me,

Take time, to give thanks, and to praise Jesus right now.