But the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son and said to him, “Behold, your brother Esau comforts himself about you by planning to kill you. Now therefore, my son, obey my voice. Arise, flee to Laban my brother in Haran and stay with him a while, until your brother's fury turns away— until your brother's anger turns away from you, and he forgets what you have done to him. Genesis 27:42-45a
Jacob’s deception doesn’t stop at the bowl of stew for the inheritance. Later when their father, Isaac, is old, poor in eyesight, and about to die, the time comes to give the family blessing to the firstborn son. This is a big thing! It is like the head of household transfer. Isaac tells Esau to go hunt game to prepare a meal and he will receive his blessing.
Though God had already told Rebekah (the mother of the twins) that Esau (the elder) would serve Jacob (the younger), she conspires with Jacob to deceive Isaac into giving him the blessing. She encourages Jacob to pretend to be Esau, complete with putting goatskins on his body to be hairy like Esau. It works. Jacob gets the blessing.
Naturally, Esau is angry, causing Jacob to escape to the land of Rebekah’s family to avoid Esau’s revenge. Jacob may have gotten the blessing, but now he is fleeing the place he grew up and his family for fear of his life.
But God uses all of it. His plans won’t and can’t be deterred by our bad decisions. The Messiah who will make all things right is coming from this family line; from the heel-grabber currently running for his life.
God’s flawless plan is worked out through incredibly flawed people. We get to rest in knowing that God has a purpose for us and it doesn’t depend on us being perfect (we never will be!) or manipulating our way into it.
Questions: Did you ever think the family line of Jesus was surely full of upstanding people who always did the right thing? Does it surprise you that Jacob plays such an important role in the story of Jesus, given his early deception?
When her days to give birth were completed, behold, there were twins in her womb. The first came out red, all his body like a hairy cloak, so they called his name Esau. Afterward his brother came out with his hand holding Esau's heel, so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. When the boys grew up, Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field, while Jacob was a quiet man, dwelling in tents. Genesis 25:24-27
About a dozen times in the Bible God is referred to as the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” We’ve met Abraham and Isaac. Today we meet Jacob. He’s kind of a big deal, but you may be surprised at his journey. His name means “heel grabber” if that gives you any hints.
Isaac grows into a young man. His mother (Sarah) dies and his father, Abraham, wants to make sure Isaac marries and continues the family line. He doesn’t want Isaac to take a wife from among the Canaanites (where they are currently living), but instead from his home country. Rebekah is the lucky bride to be. Abraham dies a happy man.
Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins, Esau and Jacob. Wrestling in the womb, God tells Rebekah that the older will serve the younger. As the firstborn, Esau had certain family rights to the greater inheritance (a double portion) and family blessing (this is a big deal…especially in this family rooted in God’s covenant promise!). But Jacob may have something to say about that…a heel is not the only thing Jacob will grab from his twin brother.
Esau comes home from the fields one day exhausted and hungry. Jacob says if Esau sells his birthright, he will give him some stew. Esau agrees. Must be some good stew!
Just like that, in a snap decision out of hunger and a devaluing of his much more valuable birthright, Esau trades it all to satisfy his immediate appetite.
Questions: Are you sometimes quick to make decisions that aren’t very wise…that satisfy in the short term, but have long term consequences? Do you often value the immediate over the eternal?
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad. John 8:56
Fast-forwarding to the New Testament when Jesus is walking the earth. In this passage we see a reference looking back to the story about the ram taking Isaac’s place as the sacrifice.
Jesus is talking to religious leaders at the time. He tells them Abraham rejoiced that he would see Jesus’ day; that he saw it and was glad.
When Abraham heard the angel and saw the ram that was to be the sacrifice to take Isaac’s place, he was indeed glad. Abraham believed God and knew that He would save Isaac. He didn’t know all the details, but He trusted and believed God. And God came through. The religious leaders would be very familiar with this story passed on from generation to generation.
Jesus is basically saying, “Hey, remember when Abraham rejoiced at the substitutionary sacrifice? Well, that was all a glimpse into an even bigger substitutionary sacrifice for all mankind. And it is about me. I’m here! I’m the one who will take your place. I’m the one who will be sacrificed so that you can be made right with God for eternity. I’m the one you have been waiting for. In all of your religious pomp and activity, don’t miss ME.”
The message is for us too. The Messiah has come. The one who takes away our sins and makes us whole. He loves us just the way we are…in our mess, confusion, disobedience, fear, anxiety…He alone knows how to keep us from staying there. He is the one our heart longs for, but can’t quite pinpoint. He is the one to make things right again. Don’t miss Him.
Question: How are we at risk of missing Jesus, even in our religious activities?
He [the angel] said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 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. Genesis 22:12-13
Just as Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac, an angel calls from heaven to stop him.
Why this test? This passage tells us it is to know that Abraham fears God and would not withhold his son. But God knows everything. It is Abraham who now knows his commitment to God. In the waiting, Isaac could have become an idol to Abraham; clinging to the promise over the promise-maker. We can think we know what we will do, but we aren’t certain until we are face to face with it. God has BIG plans for Abraham.
This is often a hard story for people to wrap their heads around. But it is a beautiful picture of what God has planned for us. He will be the one to sacrifice His only Son.
We see a glimpse of the power, relief, freedom of Jesus taking our place. The ram appears to be the sacrifice, just as Jesus appears to take our place. A substitution of our sin payment for His righteousness.
Mount Moriah, the mountain where Abraham takes Isaac, is the same mountain that will be the site of the Israelite King Solomon’s great temple where God will dwell with His people as they offer animal sacrifices for their sins, and later the place where Jesus will be crucified.
The Bible is a complete picture of God’s plan to save us. Through the lives of those who lived long before us, He is giving us a peek into how the story will play out. It shows us that Jesus was God’s plan from the very beginning and helps us understand the significance of what Jesus did for us when He came to die on the cross as the final and perfect sacrifice.
Question: How do you see Jesus and God’s plan for us in this story…the waiting, the testing, the trusting, the location, the sacrifice, the substitute?
After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. Genesis 22:1-3
At last, twenty-five years after the initial promise, Abraham (at 100 years old!) and Sarah have a son. Another chapter in God’s perfect plan is unfolding. Isaac is born. The beloved, and long-awaited, son of Abraham and Sarah. The lineage to which the great nation, and our ultimate Savior, Jesus, will be born.
Things are looking up, right? But then the unexpected happens. God tells Abraham to take Isaac to offer him up as a sacrifice.
Wait, what? The promised son? The heir? To be sacrificed (killed…on an altar and burned). How can this be?
This passage tells us that God is testing Abraham. It is important to know that testing is different than tempting. The Bible tells us God does not tempt us (James 1:13). The devil tempts us. Tempting is hoping for failure. Testing is hoping for success. It is to confirm and strengthen us. God needed Abraham to trust Him completely. God already knew, but He needed Abraham to know. God wanted Abraham to not only trust the promise, but also the promise-maker.
Abraham takes Isaac with him to sacrifice. Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering is. Abraham responds that God will provide. Abraham doesn’t have all of the details, but he trusts God. He can’t see how all the pieces will fit together, but he believes God is faithful and God can be trusted. To be continued…
Questions: Think about the difference between testing and tempting. Why do you think God sometimes tests us? Does it give you comfort that testing is for our benefit (vs. tempting from the devil that is meant to bring us down)?
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you…” Genesis 17:4-6
A great deal of time passes since God originally gave Abram the promise of many nations being blessed from his family (Abram was 75). Abram and Sarai still have no children after decades of trying, making the promise of anything coming from their family, much less a blessing, seem impossible. Barren and impatient, Abram’s wife Sarai takes things into her own hands.
Rather than wait and trust God’s plan, Sarai convinces Abram (now 86) to have a child with her servant for the two of them to raise as their own. Big mistake! Instead of satisfying the emptiness and longing in her heart, Sarai is filled with jealousy and anger over the child. Going outside of God’s plans to try to rush and orchestrate things her own way had painful consequences. In fact, this child, Ishmael, becomes the family line of Muhammad and Islam…a religion still fighting with the Jewish people and Christianity today.
Years pass and God appears again (Abraham is now 99). God changes Abram’s name to Abraham and reaffirms His promise to make Abraham a father of a multitude of nations. Even Sarah’s (Sarai gets a name change too) costly mistake won’t thwart God’s perfect plans or nullify His promises. God is a promise keeper. God tells Abraham he will have a son with Sarah within the year, upon which God’s covenant promise will flow through.
Waiting is hard. Especially when we know something is coming; something is promised to us. God’s plans and timing are so different from our own… so much better. Like Abraham, we have to trust and obey God. In our waiting, God is working. And God loves to work in situations where it can only be His power that accomplishes the impossible.
Questions: Are you in a season of waiting? How do you handle seasons of waiting?
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. Genesis 12:1-4
Genesis 11 walks through many generations and names from Noah’s children; names that remind us the Bible is a true story with real people who lived in real places. The lineage list lands on Abram (later named Abraham). About ten generations pass from Noah and the flood to Abram, or about 400 years. He becomes an important part of God’s plan to reconcile His people to Him.
God tells Abram to go and Abram obeys. God doesn’t tell Abram where he will be going yet, but He shares with Abram some of His plans – He will make Abram a great nation, He will bless him, He will make his name great so that he will be a blessing to others. He will protect him.
God further says that in him all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
All means ALL. That would include us. We were always part of the plan.
In Abram, we see God setting His plan in motion. We see a glimpse of Jesus, a future descendant of Abram many many years down the road, who will be the one to save us and bless the earth as God promised.
Question: Do you trust God to GO when and where He tells you?
Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4
Noah’s sons had many children, who had many children, who had many children…a new beginning from those who exited the ark. The whole earth is bustling with one language; with shared common words.
Meanwhile, the devil is still lurking around, continually trying to convince us we need more…more power, more stuff, more control, more security, more attention for ourselves. The people decide to build a city and tower to try to reach into the heavens. Their goal? To make a name for themselves and to consolidate their power base rather than spread out as God commanded them.
Not surprising, this little construction project did not please God. As a result of their disobedience, He confused their language and dispersed the people.
A tower now referred to as the Tower of Babel, built in an effort to make themselves more powerful, only made them weaker and divided. Common language became babel – a scene of noisy confusion.
Disobedience created a new, never experienced division, this one in location and languages. No longer does everyone have harmony associated with a single language to understand one another.
At no time was God threatened by their power or tower building, but He knew it was a threat to them and He had to stop it. When God disrupts our building plans and causes that which we fear to happen, it is an act of mercy in His wisdom and view of an unhealthy path we are on. It is not a ladder that will help us reach heaven, but instead a cross.
Questions: Have you ever thought about what it must have been like when the entire world had unity of language and culture? What do you think the impact of sudden different languages and cultures was like to these people?
The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. Psalm 103:8
It might feel a little harsh that everything except those in the ark were utterly and completely destroyed at the hand of God. Sin is a big deal to God and He doesn’t look on it lightly. It separates us from Him. It keeps us from living our best lives.
But there is another truth about God: He is slow to anger. He is merciful and gracious. He is patient with us. He has given us space and time to come to Him in our own free will. He knows we will mess up and we can’t fix things – fix sin – on our own. God wants us to come to Him and be reconciled. So much so that as God’s story unfolds, we will see He sends His Son to die to make the sin payment for us.
A time is coming when Jesus will return again and all will be judged; all those who have not accepted His payment for sin on their behalf will receive the punishment upon themselves. Sometimes we may wish for Jesus to hurry up His return to earth; to come quickly to defeat sin and suffering and death. But God is patient…for all those He loves who have yet to accept His gracious and merciful gift of salvation.
In our human nature, we are often quick to give up on things and people who continue to let us down. But God is patient.
God’s nature is love. He is abounding in STEADFAST – unwavering, unfaltering, resolute, persistent, committed-- LOVE for me and for you…and for that person you are praying for who is currently far from Him. He hasn’t given up on you or them.
God’s love is not for some perfect future version of who we could be, but who we are right here and now. Don’t waste this time you have been given. He is patient, but it won’t last forever.
Questions: What would things look like if God was quick to anger? How does God’s patience in the present often keep us from having a sense of urgency about others knowing Him?
Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Genesis 8:20-21
Noah’s faithfulness in trusting God and continuing to build the ark pays off. The rain comes. And comes. It comes for 40 days and 40 nights and then stays on the earth 150 days before it was possible to exit the ark.
Noah, his family, and the animals are out of the ark. Do-over time.
The first thing Noah does is build an altar and sacrifice an offering to the Lord. A sacrifice of thanksgiving and dedication of new life.
God makes a promise that He will never again curse the ground or strike down every living creature. He sets a rainbow in the sky as a sign of the covenant between God and the earth and the flesh on the earth.
A covenant is different than a contract. A contract is an agreement between two parties that is mutually beneficial and can be broken by one party, nullifying the contract. This unconditional covenant God made with Noah, however, is different. It is a pledge; a perpetual promise upheld regardless of what the other party does. God is faithful even when we are not.
God makes this promise fully aware that we will all mess up again. And again. And again. But God also knows He already has a plan for that.
It’s a hard thing to think about God destroying everything in Noah’s time, but it is important to know that God does not desire destruction. He desires redemption. He wants things to be set right between us and Him. Sin is destructive, but God is ALWAYS good.
Questions: Do you believe that God is always good? If this is something that is hard for you, take time to pray about it. Bring your thoughts to God. He delights in you coming to Him with your questions. He wants you to know the truth about who He is.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5
Sometimes studying the Bible can be confusing.
Sometimes LIFE can be confusing… and really really hard. Things happen that we just can’t understand.
Sometimes the pain and suffering can blur our vision.
Sometimes it feels like we are working so hard and doing all the right things, but nothing seems to be happening for us.
Sometimes we are at a fork in the road and we just don’t know which way to go or how to even move forward.
Sometimes we tend to be so critical of ourselves that it is hard to see ourselves as God sees us.
Sometimes we know a lot of things, but still don’t understand.
While God doesn't reveal everything to us, He doesn’t leave us stuck in a pit of confusion either. God promises to give us the wisdom we need if we ask Him for it and believe He will give it to us.
And not only does He give us a little wisdom, He gives it to us generously and without reproach, meaning He isn’t critical or hard on us because we ask Him to help us understand things. Actually, the opposite is true, He loves when we ask Him for things. He has so much He is wanting to show us and give us…but He wants us to be part of the process. He wants us to ask Him.
When you find yourself confused or unsure – which you will – remember that you can always ask God for wisdom!
Question: What is something you are struggling with that you can pray for God to give you wisdom about today?
The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the Lord said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Genesis 6:5-8
The people have forgotten God. The world gets so evil and corrupt that God wants a reset. He decides to destroy it all, leaving only a small remnant to start new. And God knows just the person to use to start over.
Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord. Oh, to find favor in the eyes of the Lord.
God tells Noah to build an ark with very specific instructions as to how it is to be built. He tells Noah to gather two of every animal to take on the boat with his family.
Scholars estimate that it took Noah about 70 years to build the ark. And also that they may not have ever seen rain in their lifetimes (they lived in the desert!). Imagine what people were thinking. And we know that they are evil people so Noah was surely the laughing stock of the town. Would you be able to do the same under these circumstances? Sadly, I tend to cave under much less. But Noah was faithful. He believed God and he kept working.
God wants us to have the faith to do hard things, even when everyone around us thinks we are crazy. We often can’t see God’s plan when we are in the working phase…we just have to be obedient to what He is telling us.
God, help us to be obedient to the things you have called us to do. We want to find favor in Your eyes. Give us faith and courage and conviction to do the hard assignments you put on our hearts…even when we can’t yet see how it will all come together.
Questions: Have you ever stuck with doing the right thing even when others might think you are crazy or foolish? What helped you stick with it? Is there a hard assignment God has given you in this season?
Cain spoke to Abel his brother. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know; am I my brother's keeper?” And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground. Genesis 4:8-10
Cain kills his brother. Only one generation from the first man, sin is taking its toll, stirring up jealousy, pride, anger, and even murder.
God gives Cain the opportunity to confess, but instead, Cain replies, “Am I my broker’s keeper?” Instead of being his brother’s keeper, he became his brother’s murderer.
God confronts Cain saying, “the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” Blood represents life. And blood also represents death. Blood is a sacrifice. On this day, Abel’s blood was crying out sin and judgment. Soon the blood of Jesus would cry out redemption and reconciliation. But not yet. Many sacrifices will be established and carried out leading up to Jesus’s arrival as the final and perfect sacrifice.
Am I my brother’s keeper? How we see the answer to this question changes everything. God wants His church to be a unified body. He commands us to love Him and love each other. He has given us all we need to collectively be our brothers’ keeper, but instead, we leave it government, or others, or any institution willing to step in, regardless of motives. Our brothers and sisters are hurting, barely surviving, suffering, and lonely.
What if Jesus asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” and refused the cross?
God, help us always be open to your truth and your voice when faced with the opportunity to be our brother’s keeper.
Questions: How would you respond to the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” How does this look in your life?
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.” Genesis 4:6-7
Cain doesn’t react so well to God’s lack of regard for his offering. It again reveals what is brewing in his heart and what God saw when Cain presented the offering. He has a heart full of anger and a focus on himself. God knows this is a recipe for disaster in our lives.
James, the half-brother of Jesus, tells us how these temptations from the devil grow in us. It starts with a desire that isn’t of God; a desire to focus on ourselves and/or to do wrong. If it is not addressed, it gives birth to sin. And sin grows and grows and gets easily out of control. (James 1:14-15) This is why God warns us to see it and nip it in the bud.
A quote I often repeat when I am angry like Cain is, “the level of your irritation often reveals the depth of your idolatry.” Think about the things that tend to irritate you the most. They are likely tied to things you are clinging to over God. Your reputation, your social status, your security, things you think you deserve and don’t have, work you are doing or want to do. Not necessarily bad things, but they become problematic when we elevate them to a higher position than they should be and care about protecting them at all costs; when we love them more than we love God.
God warns Cain (and us!) that sin is crouching at the door. We must rule over it. Here is some good news…While temptation is never from God (James 1:13), God promises that with any temptation, He provides a way of escape so we can endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). We have the power in God to rule over the sin crouching at the door.
Challenge: When you feel irritated this week, stop and examine the root of it. Is sin crouching at the door? Is an idol being revealed you need to address? Immediately pray about it and ask God to show you the path to overcome it.
In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. Genesis 4:3-5
The first humans, Adam and Eve, have two sons: Cain and Able. One is a hunter and one works in the fields. They each bring an offering to God, but it doesn’t go so well for Cain.
At first glance, this may seem a little harsh. From an outside observer, it looks the same…two people bringing an offering to God. Why does God favor the offering of Abel? It is because God knows what is in our hearts and He wants our first and best.
The passage tells us that Cain brings AN offering, while Able brings the firstborn. Able brings what is best and Cain brings what is leftover. It is an indication of what is in Cain’s heart.
God wants our full devotion. Our first and best. And not because He needs it, but because He knows what is best for us; what will give us a full, instead of empty, life.
Challenge: Think about how you spend your time…. maybe even pick a day and write down in detail what you do all day in increments of 15 minutes. How does God fit into your day? How do you prioritize Him compared to other things in your life? What if you decided to give Him your first few minutes of each day? Before you check email, texts, social media, or even get out of bed, what if you took five minutes to pray to God, to thank Him for your blessings, and to read the Bible?
And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Genesis 3:21
Back to Adam and Eve. Remember when they disobeyed God and took a bite of the fruit; when their eyes were open to sin and their nakedness so they made fig leaves to cover themselves?
God knew this wouldn’t cover them for long. Our own efforts can never save us. Their sin was out in the open, but He wasn’t going to leave them in it. He was going to provide coverings for them.
We see the first sacrifice, as God provides garments of animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve. Sin is such a big deal to God that it requires a sacrifice. A just God can’t look the other way when there is sin. And while sometimes when we sin, we might think we want God to look the other way, the truth is, we don’t want God to ever look away from sin and injustice. We need a God who loves us deeply, but who will also punish sin and make all wrongs right. It is comforting to know that when we are wronged there will be justice. A good and just God could not let sin go unaddressed.
Here’s another spoiler alert: Yes, God is just and requires punishment for sin; but He is also merciful and He provides someone to take the punishment we deserve and satisfy the debt we owe.
The animal sacrifice to provide a covering for Adam and Eve is a temporary fix for the moment. But as God’s story unfolds, Jesus will become the permanent sacrifice that will cover all of our sins – past, present, and future – and make a way for us to be holy and right with Him again.
Questions: Do you ever wish God would turn the other way when it comes to sin in your life? What about sin done to you?
He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies…The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 8:44, 10:10
There is this ongoing battle between good and evil; between God’s goodness and the evil schemes of the devil (the “thief” as he is referred to in this verse). God has allowed the devil to have this time to prowl around, wreaking havoc, but Satan also knows God keeps His promises and his destructive impact will come to an end. The devil isn’t about to waste this limited time he has.
God desires us to have a relationship with Him – to choose the good. But He doesn’t force it on us. He is always pursuing us, even when we are fighting it. God has good things in store for us, where the devil is only out for our destruction. Satan wants to pull us into the pit with him.
Jesus is the one talking in this verse, saying He, unlike the devil, came that we might have life and have it abundantly. Conversely, the devil is a deceiver, making things that are opposite of God’s desire for us look super appealing. He seeks only to steal, kill and destroy. Jesus calls him the father of lies.
There are only two paths we can be on. One leads to eternal life and one to utter destruction. It is a daily decision to choose which side we want to follow. The devil works hard to pull us on his team, or at least get us off track. But God’s way is the only way to abundant life.
Question: What can you do each day to serve as a reminder to choose God’s side and not fall for the lies of the devil to try to get us off track?
The Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. Genesis 3:14-15
Back to the Old Testament and the backlash of that dreadful bite of fruit. God tells Adam, Eve and Satan what the consequences of their actions will be. For women, there will be multiplied sorrows and pain in childbirth. For man, work will now be hard. For all of us, there will be no more eternal life on this side of heaven. We will experience pain and death.
Sin is a big deal to God.
To Satan (the devil), God says that although he will bruise the heel of God’s people (inflicting a wounding and negative effect, but not destruction), someone greater, from the seed of the woman, will bruise Satan’s head. A mortal wound with complete destruction and death.
This is the first hint of Jesus’ work on earth to come. He is the one who will be victorious over Satan. As we progress through the Bible, we will read many stories of God’s people, but know that Jesus coming to die on the cross to save us and defeat sin and death was God’s plan of restoration from the beginning.
Sin is now in the world. Satan is doing his “bruising” in all of our lives. We continue to fall for his lies and manipulation. We experience pain and hardship and suffering. The heel-bruising is brutal, no doubt.
But have confidence knowing that sin and Satan and death will be defeated. God has a plan. He always had a plan. A plan that leads reconciliation and for us to be wholly restored and with Him forever. Our job is to believe and put our faith in His perfect plan.
Questions: Have you ever given much thought to the destructive consequences of sin? Why do you think sin is such a big deal to God?
“Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops.” Luke 12:2-3
A brief fast forward to the New Testament. Here Jesus is talking to His followers. He is reminding them that we may think things are hidden and done in secret, but God always sees and knows.
If we are honest, we all have secrets. There are some things we only do in the “dark” (in private, or with those we know won’t challenge us and hold us accountable). Whispers, untruths, unkind thoughts, hidden desires, impure motives, rebellious attitudes toward someone or something. Some things we do in the dark because we want to and some things we don’t even want to do…they have a hold on us. Even Paul, one of the great early Christian leaders, wrote in Romans, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.” (Romans 7:19-20)
And you know what else? That thing that was done to you that no one knows about…God knows. It isn’t hidden. That person that seems to have gotten away with it…God knows. It isn’t in the dark.
We don’t have to feel condemned or hopeless as we step out of the dark places into the light. God is patiently waiting for us. He knows all we have ever done or will do, and He loves us very much.
As hard as it may be, we need to let God know that we know what He already knows. God desires our freedom. Shame, fear, and dread live in the darkness, but peace, restoration, and joy are found in the light.
Challenge: Take some time to reflect on things you may be doing in the “dark” – in secret, or maybe even in your thought life. Bring them to God. Ask for His power to help you get back on track. Make a commitment to live like everything is visible and out in the open; to not do anything in secret that you wouldn’t do in the presence of others – even God, who sees everything.
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. Genesis 3:6-7
We have freedom to decide whether or not we want to do what God says.
But because God is perfect and holy and just, our choices have consequences.
The first humans listened to the lies of Satan over the truth of God. They chose to do the ONE thing that was forbidden. They had everything they could ever want or need…but they wanted more. With that choice…that bite… sin entered the world.
Their eyes were open. What was once only good all around them was now corrupt. They recognized their nakedness, and filled with a new emotion – shame – they tried to hide and fix things on their own with fig leaves.
Instead of owning up to their disobedience, they tried to cover it up. We fall into that trap too, don’t we? We think we can hide from our sin and conceal it with what amounts to flimsy fig leaves.
But God sees and knows everything. We will soon see that those figs leaves don’t really cover up their sin, just like our efforts on our own will never cover our sins. They – and we -- need a bigger and more powerful savior.
Questions: What is your first reaction when you realize you messed up and got caught? Do you quickly confess or try to cover it up?
He [Satan] said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1b-5
So, things are pretty good for the first several pages of the Bible. There is no sin, no pain, no heartbreak, no toil in work, no jealousy…not even death. But it doesn’t last long. The devil is lurking around in the form of a serpent. We are told he is more crafty than any other beast of the field that God made. He seeks to plant doubt in our minds and destructive desires in our hearts. Satan’s initial words to Eve (the first woman God created to live with Adam) were,” Did God actually say…”
Oh, the pain that is caused by a strategically planted seed of doubt about who God is and what He says! The devil only has a few tricks he uses, but they are very effective: questioning the goodness of God and dangling things before us that are pleasing to the eye and ego. All rooted in pride, pleasure, and power. He does it by shifting our focus on things that look, seem, feel good…but we know are only destructive. Encouraging us to look out for ourselves instead of others. Convincing us we need something we can’t or shouldn’t have. Cheering us on to chase an upper hand or elevated position. Demanding we deserve revenge. Whispering doubt about God’s love for us.
The devil became the devil in rebellion against God, seeking a name and empire for himself. He is on a mission to drag us into his hell of the ongoing quest to find satisfaction and fulfillment in these things. Only our Creator can provide what truly satisfies us. Our job is to believe, trust, and obey Him.
Questions: What things generally tempt you the most? Do you see the root of the devil’s tactics in what draws you to these things?
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:15-17
Did you catch what one of the first assignments God gave man was? It was to work in the garden. We were created to work and it is a good and pleasurable thing.
God also told Adam all of creation was his to enjoy. There is only one requirement…one tree is off limits for eating. Only ONE thing was prohibited. He mustn’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
In order for us to have free will, we must have choices. Without something being forbidden there is no choice. And God wants our love for Him to be a decision we make. He could have created us without the choice and forced us to obey Him, but that wouldn’t be genuine love. God wants our obedience and love to be something we willingly do, not something forced on us.
The forbidden tree is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Can you imagine a world where not only is there no evil, but you don’t even know of its existence? It sounds perfect, doesn’t it?! God doesn’t just tell Adam not to eat of the tree, He also tells him the consequences…death.
Absent of sin, there is no death.
As long as Adam obeys this ONE command – avoiding the fruit of the ONE tree among ALL of the abundance around him – he remains in the eternal and perfect presence of God.
Questions: Have you ever been in a situation where there were a million things you could do and one thing you couldn’t? Where does your mind usually go…to all of the things you have or the one thing you don’t?
But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:8
There is ongoing debate about whether creation occurred in six days as we know 24-hour days versus days as representative of an extended period of time. Regardless of where you stand on this debate, one thing we do know from the apostle Peter’s 2nd letter is that God’s time frames often differ from ours. It is part of His all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-present character. He is not constrained by time and space as we are.
Imagine you only knew flat two dimensions and someone drew a big line on a piece of paper with a dot on either side of the line. They told you to create a path from one dot to the other without crossing the line. You would naturally assume the only way to do so was to go from the first dot all the way around the line to the second dot.
But… what if someone that knew three-dimensional space told you there was another way. You would think it was impossible due to your limited view of things stuck in only two-dimensions. They would tell you how you could go through the air over the line making a path from one dot to another. Suddenly your eyes are open to this new reality that you never fully understood but was there all along.
God’s vision is bigger than ours. God sees things that we can’t see. He has a wider and deeper view of all things... bigger than even three dimensions to the person who formerly only knew two. In our earthly bodies, we have a limited view of the world, but God is always patient, knowing how all the pieces will come together. His promises can feel slow to come to fruition in our eyes, but He sees it all and everything He promises will come to pass in the perfect time. Never lose hope.
There are realities around us that our eyes are closed to until we are in heaven. Until that time, we trust God, His good Word, and His promises.
Questions: Are you in the waiting for a promise from God that isn’t happening in your timeframe? Have you ever thought about what limited understanding we have? How does this open your mind to the possibilities of what God can see and do?
And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. Genesis 2:2-3
Back to the creation story… God creates everything in six days and on the seventh day of creation, God rested. Have you ever thought much about this? Do you think God NEEDS to rest?
The Hebrew word translated as rest means “to cease or stop; to abstain.” God rested because His work was finished; His creation was good. And while God doesn’t need rest, He modeled for us the importance of taking time to rest…to stop; to soak life in; to worship Him at a slower and more intentional pace.
The statistics are overwhelming about the number of kids, teens, and adults who are just plain stressed out. We are anxious and full of worry. We are killing ourselves by going non-stop and putting excessive pressure on ourselves.
Even at the beginning of everything being created, God knew this. He knew we needed to pause. He knew we were prone to burn out without rest. He knew we wouldn’t take the time to stop and look around and see the good among all of the stress and worry and work. He knows we need to rest. He knows we need to be filled with His truth, and grace, and love, and wisdom.
God would soon command Sabbath rest, but on this day, He models it for us.
Challenge: Take intentional time today or at some point this week to rest. Slow down with no agenda or to-do list and simply sit quietly with God.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
The one who created us has also prepared good works for us. Who better to create us than the one who knows what we need to be equipped to do; what we were created to do?
So often we spend much of our time comparing ourselves to other people. We want what they have or what they can do. And if you’ve ever fallen in this trap, you know it is only exhausting, depressing, and unfulfilling.
We don’t know everyone else’s story. We don’t know what everyone else has gone through or what God’s purpose and plans are for them. Believe me, no one has it easy. Everyone has trials and burdens and obstacles they have to overcome.
When we waste our precious time and energy comparing or trying to copy someone else’s looks, talents, personalities, achievements, social media life, etc., we miss out on who God created us to be. Because other peoples’ callings don’t quite fit us right.
God has good works – good things -- that He has set out for us to do. These things require a unique skill set that only we have. When we ignore the development of these things by trying to be someone else, we miss out on really wonderful, God-ordained things prepared for us.
The good works have already been prepared by God...for us to do. Our job? To not miss them. To WALK IN THEM. Let’s do this!
Challenge: Pay close attention to your thoughts over the next few days. When you find yourself comparing or jealous, let this be a prompt for you to pray. Ask God to show you what unique gifts and traits He created in YOU that He wants you to further develop or put into practice. Ask for wisdom in walking in the good works He has already prepared for YOU.