(Genesis 25, Matthew 24; Optional Psalm 20, Proverbs 5:15-19)
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GENESIS 25 – In one chapter, we have significant references to all three founding Hebrew patriarchs. We hear of the last days and death of Abraham (Gen 25:1-10). Then we hear some about his son of promise, Isaac (Gen 25:11, 19-28). And a bit about Abraham’s son Ishmael and how God is fulfilling His promises to make Ishmael also into a great nation (Gen 25:12-18). Then we get glimpses of the early part of the life of Jacob (renamed “Israel” in Gen 32:28).
Gen 25:11 – Don’t miss the pointer back to Gen 16:14, where Hagar named this well in honor of “the Living One who sees me.” At the beginning of hearing about Isaac walking with God without his earthly father Abraham, this is a precious reminder.
Gen 25:21 – AGAIN in the line of promise (also Gen 11:30 about Isaac’s mom), we see an apparent obstacle to God keeping His promise. And a reminder that all things are possible with God. Don’t miss some vital insights into PRAYER. 1) The sovereign God who has planned every detail has ordained that He responds to our prayers. So pray! Don’t get twisted up about HOW can God be absolutely in control AND still respond to prayer. It’s repeatedly clear in Scripture that this IS the reality, so PRAY! 2) Be PERSISTENT in prayer. When you compare Gen 25:20 and Gen 25:26, you see that this answer to prayer took 20 years!
Gen 25:22-23 – In a time that often demeaned and devalued women, God repeatedly made clear that He created men AND women EQUALLY in His image (Gen 1:27). He is well pleased to relate to ANYONE who cries out to Him. Also see Gen 16 where God meets with Hagar (who was a lady AND an oppressed servant).
Gen 25:26 – “Jacob” – literally means “heel-grabber,” and gives a preview that Jacob tends to use fleshly wiles / tricks to get his way. We’ll see more of this when the twins were young men in the next paragraph…
Gen 25:29-34 – Jacob (renamed Israel in Gen 32:28) will continue the line of promise, while Esau (also called “Edom” meaning “red” – Gen 25:30) will lead to the Edomites, often in opposition to Israel throughout the OT (Old Testament). There are things about Jacob’s trickiness in this story that God will deal with later (God brings in Laban as Jacob’s father-in-law, even trickier than Jacob). But the inspired summary of this paragraph is “Thus Esau despised his birthright.” I grew up with a helpful saying: “Don’t sacrifice the FUTURE on the altar of the PRESENT.” Compare the warnings in Prov 5:11-14 (see notes at yesterday’s readings there) about trading momentary pleasure for final destruction. And tremble at how Hebrews 12:14-17 applies Gen 25:29-34.
MATTHEW 24 – Because Matt 24-25 was a teaching given by Jesus on the Mount of Olives (Matt 24:3), these two chapters about earth-shaking end times events are often called the Olivet Discourse. When discussing the last days (often called “Eschatology,” because the Greek word for “last” things is “eschatos”), believers that love each other tend to get very divided and angry. No matter your end times view, two things should give us ALL a strong dose of humility. 1) All believers agree that much end times language is SYMBOLIC but disagree about how much. In Mark 9, after spending 3+ years with Jesus and just after a spiritual high point (the Transfiguration), Jesus’ three closest followers in ONE conversation with Jesus are both too literal (Mk 9:11-13, compare Mt 11:14) AND not literal enough (Mk 9:9-10)! 2) End times events can APPEAR to be only one event but as you get closer you see it’s actually multiple parts. But other believers insist “No, you’re making it too complicated. It’s NOT multiple parts.” Again, Jesus’ closest followers made both mistakes. They had so focused on the triumphant prophecies in the OT about the Messiah that they were confused when Jesus kept preparing them for His suffering and death. Well, it turned out that His first coming involved BOTH suffering AND triumphant rising from the dead and ascension to His heavenly throne. But in Acts 1:1-11, those same apostles thought that the FULL restoration of the kingdom of God to Israel was all happening in the same coming of Jesus (Acts 1:6). But they find from angelic messengers that Jesus will actually RETURN one day to FINISH end times events He began by His first coming.
Some general thoughts about eschatology (end times), but APPLIED to the Olivet Discourse in Matt 24-25… 1) Remember that the FIRST coming of Jesus BEGAN the “last days” (Heb 1:2, 9:26; 1 Pet 1:20). And in light of ETERNITY, all these end times details until the new heavens and the new earth will happen “soon / quickly” (see the last several verses in the Bible). The promises made in the last several verses of the Bible were made 2,000 years ago, but that’s STILL “soon” in comparison with FOREVER. This should help us be patient with different ideas about Matt 24:32-34 and what “soon” and “near” and “this generation” means.
2) ALL extended prophecies about eschatology (end times) are either given to God’s people DURING incredible suffering, or to PREPARE them for suffering that’s soon to come. Matt 24-25 is just before Jesus’ death and intense persecution about to start for His followers. Daniel’s prophecies were given to him while during the Babylonian captivity. Revelation was given to John after being tortured for the faith and exiled to a rocky prison island (Rev 1:9-11). A significant reason for eschatology is to help us trust God in tough times NOW.
3) In all the controversy over DETAILS, don’t miss the MAIN THINGS that are CLEAR. A) Clear and terrifying WARNINGS for those that aren’t prepared (Matt 24:51, 25:10-13, 25:30, 25:41, 25:46) and clear PROMISES for those who do love Jesus and are prepared for His return (Matt 24:31, 25:10, 25:21, 25:23, 25:31, 25:34, 25:46). B) Clear ENCOURAGEMENT that all these things (including the suffering) are according to God’s unstoppable plan (Matt 24:35) and it will be gloriously clear to ALL in the end that Jesus is King and His followers were wise to trust Him (Matt 25:31, 34)! C) Clear COMMANDS… i) “See that no one leads you astray.” (Matt 24:4; see also 24:11, 23-28) ii) “See that you are not alarmed” (Matt 24:6 – don’t miss that this command is for Jesus’ followers; those that are NOT ready for His return SHOULD be alarmed enough to repent and trust Him) iii) “Be ready” (Matt 24:44). This one command (and variations on it like “stay awake” in Matt 24:42, “watch” in Matt 25:13, etc) summarize much of eschatology. BE READY both to suffer (Matt 24:9-13, etc) AND be ready for the Lord’s return (Matt 24:36-25:13). And “BE READY” involves active involvement in OUR TIME (Matt 24:14, 24:45-46, 25:14-45). So beware the temptation to get distracted by anger over debated DETAILS while missing what the CLEAR and AGREED ON big picture.
Optional Psalm 20 – A prayer of blessing for those that belong to God. Don’t miss the TWO PATHS and the TWO ENDINGS in Ps 20:7-8.
Optional Proverbs 5:15-19 – Commands about sex that surprise many who think believers are prudes. God invented sex and gives commands that a husband and wife are to thoroughly enjoy each other in marriage. If you’re NOT in a marriage between a man and a woman (the ONLY kind of marriage recognized in the Bible), you can still use this section to PRAY for your married friends. And don’t listen to our culture that says you have to be having sex to be fulfilled! The ONLY perfectly whole human was Jesus, and He never had sex. And He points out that SOME are given by God the calling to be single in order to focus on HIS kingdom in this life (see Matt 19:9-12 and compare 1 Cor 7:7-9, 25-38). But if you’re married, enjoy obeying the commands in Prov 5:15-19 (compare 1 Cor 7:2-5).