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  • Pastor John

Week 5 April 29, 2020

What we are reading this week (beginning Wednesday, April 29, 2020):

• Genesis 29-35

• Isaiah 29-35

• Mark 1-7

• Psalms 29-35

Notes on Genesis

In Chapter 29, Jacob meets Laban, who will become his father-in-law (times two!). He falls in love with Rachel, but is deceived into marrying Leah, even though he had worked seven years to wed Rachel. He is willing to work another seven years for Rachel, but is married to her a week later.

Both of them will have maids, and Jacob will have children with all four of them. He will have his name changed to Israel, and the twelve sons from these four women will become the namesakes of the twelve tribes of Israel. This is NOT an ideal family situation!

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The name of each son is significant. Perhaps the two most notorious will be Judah (which means “praise” and will become the royal tribe, with the kings descending from him, including Jesus the Messiah); and Levi (“attached”): his descendants will become the priestly tribe, with all of the priests and Levites coming from his line, serving as the pastors to the other tribes.

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Chapter 30: Rachel’s jealousy of Leah led her to sending in a pinch hitter, her servant Bilhah. This led to Leah sending in her substitute Zilpah. After ten sons through these three, Rachel (Jacob’s favorite wife—and a lesson here is to not have favorites) gives birth to Joseph. Later, Rachel will give birth to Benjamin, but will die in childbirth.

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At the end of chapter 30, we see how Jacob had understood something about genetics and breeding, using his knowledge to fleece (no pun intended) his father-in-law Laban of most of his animals.

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This led to Jacob trying to run away, but with four wives and a large collection of small children, he didn’t get too far before Laban caught up with him. However, a sort of reconciliation ensued. Even so, Jacob and his tribe continued on their journey away from Laban’s household.

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Then Jacob meets his brother Esau (Chapter 32-33). They had not spoken since he left home, with Esau promising to kill him. Jacob fears only the worst, but his brother seems to desire reconciliation. However, Jacob keeps his distance to the end (see 33.16-17).

At the end of chapter 32, Jacob wrestles with “a man” (verse 24). This is another theophany, this is actually Jesus! His name is hidden, but Jacob knows that he was the Lord (29-30). Jacob is given the new name Israel.

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The horrible account of Dinah is given in chapter 34. We learn again that though the twelve tribes of Israel and the patriarchs are foundational to the emerging nation of Israel, it’s all about the promises of God; the actual players fall far short of the glory of God.

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In chapter 35, Jacob returns to Bethel, but his beloved wife Rachel dies in childbirth with Benjamin. This takes place just north of Bethlehem, and her tomb today is on the list of National Heritage Sites of Israel.

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Jacob’s father Isaac dies at the end of the chapter, as well. Like Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob meets with his brother Esau to bury their father together.

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Notes on Isaiah

Chapter 29 is addressed the people of Jerusalem (AKA Ariel), who suffer from the Religion of Man: Following rules with no heart intent, hoping to earn their own salvation without investing anything of themselves in the process:

“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught” (13). Jesus will use these words against the Pharisees and teachers of the law in our reading in Mark this week (See Mark 7.6-7).

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Running to Egypt for help is a continuing issue throughout the Old Testament. The Lord rebukes that attitude in 30.1-2, and all of chapter 31.

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30.15: This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” Encouraging words for us (but the Lord continues against them: “… but you would have none of it.”).

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God’s promises for his people through the storm may be a good reminder for us today:

“My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Though hail flattens the forest and the city is leveled completely, how blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free” (32.18-20).

This theme continues through chapter 33. The key to triumph in the day of distress is to “see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar” (17) and to “Look on Zion… a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved” (20). The Lord is our judge, lawgiver, king, and the one who will save us (22).

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God made a promise to Abraham that those who blessed him would be blessed, and those who curse him would be cursed. History has borne that out often and powerfully.

But that promise still stands, and a day is coming that will be very ugly for those nations who oppose his people: “For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause.” (34.8). The rest of the chapter fills in the gory details.

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Chapter 35 is a breath of millennial fresh air, as the Joy of the Redeemed is the theme. Verses 9b-10 form the text for an old chorus that we sang a million times: “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion, and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads. They shall obtain gladness and joy. And sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

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Notes on Mark

Mark appears to be written to the Romans. Lots of action and you find words like “immediately” throughout. He skips the birth of Jesus and goes right for the action. At Jesus’ baptism, heaven was “torn” open (1.10). In the desert, there was not only Satan, but wild animals as well (1.12).

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There are only 16 chapters, but a lot of detail in each one. Chapter One covers an entire year, and the broad spectrum of most of what Jesus did in his ministry.

Every year I point this out, so I’ll do it again: Verse 35 shows us that Jesus was not need-driven. With a large group of people waiting at his door in serious need, Jesus walks past them all and leaves town. “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there. That is why I have come” (38). He was led by the Spirit, not by the needs around him.

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It takes faith to be healed. However, this faith can come from a number of directions. Sometimes it is the person being healed, sometimes it is Jesus himself. In 2.5, we find that it is the faith of friends that led to the healing of the paralyzed man.

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Levi is Matthew. Levi is probably his Hebrew name, Matthew the nickname. Wonder if Jesus gave him that name? We don’t know.

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Jesus had strong emotions. We see him “in anger” even as he performs a miracle in 3.5. He is accused of healing on the Sabbath a number of times, but this is such a flimsy allegation that it is never brought up at his trial, even as they were desperate to find something, anything to pin on him.

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Demons recognized who Jesus was, but he would not let them bear witness at all. See 3.11-12. Who knows what they might say later? Their words are completely unreliable witnesses.

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John is always pictured as a young, soft, kind type of person. But he and his brother James were called Sons of Thunder (3.17). This doesn’t sound like he is the quiet “nice guy” we’ve been led to believe.

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Mary and Jesus’ brothers thought he was insane, and came to take him home (3.21). His own mother did not truly understand who he was until after the resurrection.

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The waves and wind still know his name! (4.35-41).

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Jesus destroyed an entire herd of pigs, about two thousand (5.13). This could have completely destroyed someone’s business. But pigs were unclean animals, even though Gadarenes was just east of the Sea of Galilee, outside of Israel.

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Jesus found out the names of demons before he cast them out.

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People were more afraid of the one who had authority over demons than the demons themselves. See 5.17.

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The mourners at Jairus’ house went from “crying and wailing loudly” (5.38) to laughing (5.40) within seconds. How so? They were professional mourners.

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Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters (6.3). Efforts to redefine these relationships as cousins are quite weak.

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The disciples had very effective ministry on their first time out (6.12-13). Realizing just how clueless they were at that time, this is quite remarkable.

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The feeding of the five thousand would have been a very big deal, with a lot of work involved and a lot of stress in distribution. However, the entire episode came out of an attempt for Jesus and the disciples to get away for a short break. See 5.31-44.

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Jesus was in great distress on the death of John the Baptist. He apparently was walking on the water to find a place where NO ONE could bother him (48b “…he was about to pass by…”). However…

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The encounter with the Syrophoenician woman is remarkable. She is not Jewish, but has an understanding of spiritual things that surpassed many who grew up in Hebrew school. See 6.24-30.

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Jesus feed four thousand miraculously, and then is immediately asked by the Pharisees to “show them a sign”. Go figure.

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We are not even halfway through Mark, but Jesus’ earthly life is already winding down here.

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Notes on Psalms

I like the phrase, “Ascribe to the Lord…” (29.1-2).

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One of the most powerful and comforting phrases in Psalms that Eileen and I have leaned on many times is 30.5b: “Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes in the morning.”

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God desires that we hear his voice and simply obey; not be guided by circumstances so that he has to put up a wall every time we end up walking the wrong way. See 32.8-9.

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“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (33.12).

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“Taste and see that the Lord is good” (34.8)

“The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (34.18)

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Have a blessed week in the Word!

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