January 10, 2016

Genesis 24-26
Abraham spoke to his senior servant in his household, the one in charge of everything he had.  “Put your hand under my thigh and swear by God that you will not get a wife for my son from among the young women of Canaan here but will go to the land of my birth and a get a wife for my son Isaac....God will send his angel ahead of you to get a wife for my son.  And if the woman won’t come, you are free from this oath you’ve sworn to me.  But under no circumstances are you to take my son back there.”...The servant took 10 of his master’s camels and loaded them with gifts from his master....at a well outside the city, he made the camels kneel.  It was evening, time when the women came to draw water. He prayed, “O God, God of my master Abraham, make things go smoothly this day, treat my master Abraham well...let the girl to whom I say, ‘Lower your jug and give me a drink,’ and who answers, ‘Drink, and let me also water your camels’ --let her be the woman you have picked out for your servant Isaac.  Then I’ll know that you’re working graciously behind the scenes for my master.”  It so happened that the words were barely out of his mouth when Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel whose mother was Milcah, the wife of Nabor (Abraham’s brother) came out with a water jug on her shoulder.  The girl was stunningly beautiful, a pure virgin.  She gave the servant a drink and then offered to provide water to his camels.  The man watched, silent.  Was this God’s answer?  Had God made this trip a success or not?...He asked her, “Tell me about your family?  Whose daughter are you?  Is there room in your father’s house for us to stay tonight?  She told him of her family and that there was plenty of room for him and his animals to stay.  At this the man bowed in worship before God and prayed, “Blessed be God, God of my master Abraham.  How generous and true you’ve been to my master; you’ve held nothing back.  You led me to the door of my master’s brother!”

Rebekah had a brother named Laban...he welcomed the servant and brought him back to his house...The servant shared his purpose/story with Laban including that “God before whom I’ve walked faithfully will send his angel with you and he’ll make things work out so that you’ll bring back a wife for my son from my family, from the house of my father.”...Now tell me what you are going to do.  If you plan to respond with a generous yes, tell me.  But if not, tell me plainly, so I can figure out what to do next.  Laban and Bethuel answered, “This is totally from God.  We have no say in the matter either, yes or no, Rebekah is yours.  Take her and go let her be the wife of your master’s son as God has made plain.”  When Abraham’s servant hear their decision, he bowed in worship before God...He was ready to return the next morning but Laban and Rebekah’s mother requested that she be able to stay a while, 10 days, and then go.  Rebekah, however, informed them that she was ready to go.  So they sent them off- Rebekah and her nurse, Abraham’s servant and his men.  Isaac was living in Negev.  While meditating, he looked up and saw camels coming.  When Rebekah looked up and saw Isaac, she took her veil and covered herself.  After the servant told Isaac the whole story of the trip, Isaac took Rebekah into the tent of his mother, Sarah.  He married Rebekah and he loved her.  So Isaac found comfort after his mother’s death.   Abraham also married a second time; his new wife was named Kenurah.  She gave birth to 6 sons...but Abraham gave everything he possessed to Isaac. .. He gave gifts to these sons but sent them away putting a distance from Isaac.
Abraham lived 175 years...he died happy, full of years and was buried with his family.  Isaac and Ismael buried him in the same cave that he had purchased when Sarah died.  After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac.

The family tree of Ismael included 12 sons - Nebaioth (oldest), Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, Mishma, Dumah, Massa, Hadad, Tema,Jerur, Naphish and Kedemah.  Twelve princes with their twelve tribes.  Ismael lived 137 years.  His children settled near Egypt & eastward to Shur.  The Ismaelites didn’t get along with any of their kin.

The family tree of Isaac - Isaac was 40 years old when he married Rebekah.  Isaac prayed hard to God for his wife was barren...God answered his prayer and Rebekah became pregnant.  But the children tumbled and kicked inside her so much that she said, “If this is the way it’s going to be, why go on living?”  She went to God to find out what was going on.  God told her, “Two nations are in your womb, two peoples butting heads while still in your body.  One people will overpower the other, and the older will serve the younger.  At birth, the first came out reddish, as if wrapped in a hairy blanket, they named him Esau (Hairy).  His brother followed, his fist clenched right to Esau’s heel, they named him Jacob (Heel).  Isaac was 60 years old...Esau became an expert outdoorsman, Jacob was a quiet man - preferring life indoors.  Isaac loved Esau because he loved his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob.  One day, Jacob was cooking a stew.  Esau came in from the field, starved.  Esau traded his rights as firstborn for Jacob’s stew.

There was a famine in the land.  Isaac went down to Abimelech, king of the Philistines.  God appeared to Isaac and told him not to go down to Egypt, reminding him of his covenant to Abraham...So Isaac stayed put.  The men in Philistine questioned him about his wife.  He said, “She’s my sister.”  He was afraid to say she was his wife...One day after they had been there a long time, Abimelech looked out his window and saw Isaac fondling Rebekah.  Abimelech sent for Isaac and confronted him while asking what his actions might have done to the Philistines  by God if one of the country men had slept with Rebekah.  Then the king gave orders to his people for no one to lay hands on Isaac or Rebekah.  Isaac planted crops in the land and took in a huge harvest as God blessed him...so much so that the Philistines began to envy him and get back at him by clogging up the wells.  Finally Abilelech told Isaac to leave as he had become far to big for the area.  So Isaac left and camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there.  He re- rug the wells that his father had originally developed.  One day, his servants came on a well of spring water following which the shepherds of the area began to quarrel with Isaac’s shepherds.  After digging another well over which they argued, Isaac built a third well and called it Rehoboth since there there was no fighting over it.  From there he went up to Beersheba.  That very night God appeared to him and reiterated his covenant with Abraham so not to fear a thing because God would be with him.  Then Abimelech came to him and said how they realized that God was on his side so they’d like to make a deal with Isaac so that they departed as friends.  Later that day, Isaac’s servants came to him regarding a new well that was made.  When Esau was 40 he married Judith, a Hittite....They turned out to  be thorns in the sides of Isaac and Rebekah.

John 7:1-7:24
Later, Jesus was going about his business in Galilee.  He didn’t want to travel in Judah because the Jews  there were looking for a chance to kill him...His brothers asked why he didn’t want to travel so that his disciples could get a good look at his work.  “No one who intends to be publicly known does everything behind the scenes.  If you are serious about what you are doing, come out in the open, and show the world.”  His brothers were pushing him like this because they didn’t believe him either.  Jesus came back at them, “Don’t crowd me.  This isn’t my time...The world is against me because I expose the evil behind its pretensions....He said this and stayed on in Galilee.  But later, after his family had gone to the feast, he also went.  But he kept out of the way, careful not to draw attention to himself...There was a lot of contentious talk about him circulating through the crowds.

With the Feast already half over, Jesus showed up at the Temple, teaching.  The Jews were impressed but puzzled: “How does he know so much without being schooled?”  Jesus said, “I didn’t make this up.  What I teach come from the One who sent me....A person making things up tries to make himself look good.  But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality....So why are you trying to kill me?”  The crowd said, “you’re crazy!  Who’s trying to kill you?  You’re demon-possessed!”  Jesus said, “I did one miraculous thing a few months ago, and you’re still standing around getting upset, wondering what I’m up to...So why are you upset with me because I made a man’s whole body well on the Sabbath?  Don’t be nitpickers, use your head-- and heart!-- to discern what is right, to test what is authentically right.”