(Genesis 33, Mark 4; Optional Psalm 25:8-15, Proverbs 6:32-35)
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GENESIS 33 – After God had brought Jacob completely to the end of his strength and given him the new name “Israel” and blessed him, he looks up and sees Esau coming toward him with 400 men. The last thing Jacob had heard from Esau 20 years ago was that Esau was going to kill him (Gen 27:41-44). Here’s how the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible summarizes this section:
[“…when Jacob does finally meet Esau, he can do so without the profound existential anxiety that had made him the deceiver he had been all his life. He had seen God’s face and had been delivered. Nothing could really hurt him now. Perhaps this is why Jacob “himself went on before [his wives and children]” (33:3). His own welfare and acceptance was no longer uppermost in his mind. His own identity had been settled. Strong in body and weak in soul before wrestling with God, Jacob was now weak in body and strong in soul. When Jacob meets Esau, Jacob insists that Esau keep the gifts, “because God has dealt graciously with me” (33:11).”]
Gen 33:2 – It’s NOT as if Jacob has achieved sinless perfection – note the clearly favored protected place where he places Joseph (the ONLY named child in this section). This clear parental favoritism will lead to huge problems in Gen 37 (and you’d think Jacob would remember what pain parental favoritism brought between him and Esau – see Gen 25:28). But, that being said, the Jacob here is so different from the prideful, scheming, grasping Jacob in Gen 25:29-34. Encountering God (Gen 32:22-31) radically changes us!
Gen 33:8 – Referring to the carefully spaced-out gifts that Jacob had sent ahead (see Gen 32:3-5, 13-20).
Gen 33:18-20 – God HAS brought Jacob back into Canaan, the promised land, just as He promised He would 20 years ago when Jacob had to flee (Gen 28:12-15). Jacob had made a vow in response to God’s promise (see Gen 28:20-21), and he’s recognizing that the God who changed his name to Israel in Gen 32:28 is the same God that kept his promise from years ago. The translation of the Hebrew in Gen 33:20 is “God, the God of Israel.”
MARK 4 – One of the longer teachings in the Gospel of Mark, followed by another reminder that Jesus is God in the flesh, as He rebukes and calms the storm.
Mk 4:1-33 – Jesus teaches with parables (“an earthly story with a heavenly meaning”). The surprising, sovereignty-of-God reason behind the parables is in v 10-12 (so I’ve written “S” in my margin there). The parables are a sifting device so that many in the “very large crowd” (v 1) only hear an interesting story. While those whom God has given “ears to hear” will stay around to learn more (see Mk 4:9-12, 34).
Mk 4:3 – “Listen!” – Careful HEARING and APPLYING of God’s Word is the theme of this whole section (notice all the words about listening / hearing – Mk 4:3, 9, 12, 15, 16, 18, 20 23, 24, 33). The last chapter (Mk 3:34-35) closes with Jesus saying that the family that ultimately and eternally matters is the family of those that careful HEAR and APPLY Jesus’ teaching. He’s expanding on that in this chapter. Notice: 1) The COMMANDS about careful hearing (Mk 4:3, 9, 23, 24). 2) The three DANGERS to hearing that’s not fully applied (v 14-15, 16-17, 18-19). 3) The FRUITFULNESS of God’s Word when it is applied (v 20, 25).
Mk 4:24-25 – I’ve written “R” in my margin here, because this command to “Pay attention to what you hear” is OUR responsibility. We must recognize the fundamental reality that it is the sovereign God who has “given” “ears to hear” (Mk 4:11, 9, 23, 34). But this does NOT let people shirk their responsibility to careful hear and apply. And there’s a spiral of understanding (see v 25) – the more you carefully hear and apply the more you’ll be given, and vice versa. This is the same balance in 2 Tim 2:7 (Timothy was responsible to careful think over what he was taught, but it was the Lord who will GIVE understanding).
Mk 4:26-29 – Again, BOTH 1) the responsibility of man (to sow the seed in v 26 and harvest in v 29). AND 2) the sovereignty of God (once the man has done his part, he SLEEPS in v 27, not being able to explain the miracle of growth in v 28). Don’t miss that Jesus, after doing all this work of sowing the seed sleeps (even with a growing crisis) in v 38!
Mk 4:35-41 – A story packed with teaching – be careful to hear all that’s here!
Mk 4:35 – For those with ears to hear, there’s a PROMISE here (and it’s FULFILLED in Mk 5:1). Don’t disciples of Jesus today have a promise that we will make it to the other side with Jesus? See John 6:37-40, 10:27-30.
Mk 4:38 – An important part of faith is to trust that God CAN do what we ask. But the disciples had that confidence, or they would have just let Jesus sleep (compare the parallel account in Mt 8:25). The OTHER vital part of faith is trusting that God CARES enough to do what is best, in HIS timing. THIS is the aspect of faith the disciples were missing (“do you not CARE that we are perishing”). THIS is why Jesus scolds them for their fear and lack of faith in v 40. Faith is BOTH trusting 1) that God CAN do what we ask and 2) that God CARES enough to do what is best, in HIS timing.
Be encouraged that we CAN learn and grow… Peter learned at least two lessons over time from this story. 1) He was able to rest in God and sleep on the evening before his scheduled execution (Acts 12:1-7). He had learned that sleep means that you’ve done your part and are resting in God the Father, NOT a lack of care. 2) In 1 Pet 5:7, God uses Peter to teach the church about leaving all our worries in God’s capable hands in prayer “because He CARES for you.”
Optional Psalm 25:8-15 – In all that we just read in Mk 4, don’t miss the importance of a HUMBLE, teachable spirit (v 9). And I’ve written “F” next to v 12, 14 as I’m tracing the vital theme of proper FEAR OF GOD through the Bible. Notice all the BLESSINGS linked here with fearing God. This is NOT a cringing, shrinking fear!
Optional Proverbs 6:32-35 – Sin is wrong, and it’s also stupid / foolish!