Genesis 32-33, Psalm 18, Proverbs 30, and Matthew 12:38-50
Jacob has just been delivered from the house of Laban his father-in-law who dealt with Jacob the same way that Jacob dealt with his family. Now, Jacob finds himself in a precarious position. He has amassed a great amount of wealth in possessions and family, but he is in a sense homeless. Jacob has no land from which to call his own. Now, he is heading back to reunite with Esau and he has no idea how Esau will react to his coming. Actually, Jacob is portrayed as extremely cautious and scared of Esau’s reaction to his presence and homecoming.
However, God has worked out the situation between Jacob and Esau. Jacob does not know this, but Esau is no longer at odds with him and does not seek him any harm. Instead, Esau will send an enormous welcoming party to great Jacob. Jacob in turn interprets this welcoming party as a war party sent to destroy him, his family, and his possessions. Jacob goes back to his old tricks and starts scheming. He seeks to protect the greatest amount of his assets in case Esau is coming with an assassin squad.
Jacob’s plan was to divide his camp into two, so that if Esau attacked then only half of his possessions would be taken by Esau and the other half could escape. Jacob also reached out to God and sought his protection. Jacob’s plea to God was riddled with doubt, and he sought to secure God’s protection by forcing his hand. Jacob does not realize that God will protect his obedient children. Jacob had not come to the place Abraham had in Genesis 22 when God called him to sacrifice Isaac. Jacob’s faith was still very weak. However, Jacob’s argument was sound. He could rely on God’s promises to him to protect him and bless his off-spring. Jacob’s argument did reveal that he was riddled with guilt for his actions and in fact he had been quite disobedient to God. He had reason to fear if God’s protection was based on his performance and obedience. Jacob did not realize that God’s protection was based on God’s fidelity to the covenant and not his fidelity to the covenant. God was going to protect Jacob not based on Jacob’s faithfulness, but based on God’s faithfulness.
Jacob finished his prayer, but he still did not realize God’s protection. So, he devised a plan to buy Esau’s acceptance through extravagant gifts. Jacob set out several waves of livestock as gifts that would encounter Esau’s entourage first. Jacob hoped that these elaborate gifts would buy Esau’s acceptance. Jacob sent these waves of presents ahead to soften Esau’s response to him.
To culminate Jacob’s preparation to meet Esau, Jacob fought all night with an unnamed man. Jacob and this man fought all night, and at dawn the man dislocated Jacob’s leg. However, Jacob would still not let go of the man. Jacob demanded that the man bless him in return he would let him go. In fact the man does bless Jacob with a new name, Israel, which will become the name of the nation. God is telling Jacob that he will be faithful to his promise to him. Jacob does not have to fear Esau. Yet, Jacob responds in fear when his meeting of Esau is on the horizon.
At last, Jacob meets Esau and all of Jacob’s jockeying for Esau’s acceptance was not needed. Esau accepted him without need of all the precautions that Jacob took. God was at work in this situation, and Jacob could have trusted God. Yet, Jacob did not even trust Esau’s initial response and persuaded him to allow Jacob and his family to travel slower to Esau’s land. Jacob was buying more time so he could plan in case of problems. Instead of responding in faith to God’s protection, Jacob left himself to his own devices and cunning to protect himself. He would indeed pay a great price.
Jacob’s lack of faith is startling in contrast to Abraham and Isaac. Even though Jacob has received the same promise from God, he is not willing to embrace that promise through obedience. Instead, he embraces the promises of God through his own cunning, and in fact due to his own cunning he faces many obstacles that would hinder him for many years. Jacob teaches us that God is true to his promises, but if we do not rely on God through faith then we will suffer many pains and problems brought on by our own doubt. God will come true on his promises, but our path will not be as joyous and happy as if we had been obedient. Obedience and faith make for a life that is joyous and fulfilling. The lack of faith and disobedience leads to a life of looking over your shoulder and of thinking that God’s judgment is right around the corner. We should not respond to life’s troubles by utilizing our own cunning, but by obediently relying on God and his plan for our life. Obedience will lead to a fulfilled and joyous life. Faithlessness and disobedience will lead to a life of looking over your shoulder.
Psalm 18 is a majestic proclamation of God’s sovereign protection of David while Saul sought to destroy him. David uses words like: rock, fortress, deliverer, shield, horn of salvation, and stronghold to describe God’s protection of him. David declares that God is worthy to be praised, because he delivered David from his enemies. David portrays God’s sovereignty and power with imagery like: the earth reeled and rocked, mountains trembled and quaked due to God’s anger, and he bowed the heavens and came down. All of these images point to the fact that God is in sovereign control of all things. It was God that protected David in his time of need.
David directly attributed his protection to God. David stands in stark contrast to Jacob in the sense that David did not need to look over his shoulder due to his disobedience. Instead, David was strong in his faith, because he could stand before God with a guiltless heart. He had been obedient and he knew that God was on his side. David was obedient and it brought him great confidence in a very tumultuous time in his life.
The sum of David’s confidence is revealed in verse 30. He says, “This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” David’s confidence came in the fact that he knew God to be trustworthy and he knew that God was on his side. David did not have to fear Saul even though Saul seemed to be more powerful and greater then David at the time. Instead, David could be confident in the protection and provision of God. David was secure in the promise of God and he was focused because of his obedience.
We should seek to know the Word of the Lord and obediently live it; because, it will provide the confidence to live a life of faith. Without the Word and David’s obedience to it, he would not have been able to stand strong against the attacks of Saul. David would have been like Jacob and left to his own devices. Instead, David was left with the confidence of the Lord being on his side. His confidence came from his knowledge of God through is Word and his faith in God’s protection. David was obedient and his obedience fueled his faith. God was real to David and he did not have to fear his judgment; because, David had been obedient. David is a picture of faith, while Jacob is a picture of fear and trembling.
Proverbs 30:7-9 is vastly important in understanding the biblical view of wealth. At the heart of this proverb is the understanding that both poverty and riches bring their own temptations and problems. The writer seeks to avoid both by asking the Lord for neither extreme.
First, the writer addresses the problem of riches. The primary temptation that comes from riches is the heart attitude that there is no God. The writer identifies this as a grave danger. The reader of this proverb should understand that wealth leads one to be deceived concerning their own self-sufficiency. The wealthy person is tempted to think that their life has come about due to their own hard work and success and not through the blessing of God. They may even be tempted to think that God had no part in their wealth. The problem with this attitude is that it leads to denying the existence and the worship of God. At the root of anyone’s wealth is God. God gives wealth and takes it away. If anyone doubts this fact, then the book of Job has much to say to them.
Second, the writer warns of the problems associated with poverty. The primary temptation that comes about due to poverty is to doubt God’s provision for you and to steal for your sustenance. Doubt creeps in and the result is stealing and forsaking the provision of God. Again, the result of poverty is much like that of wealth. One’s condition leads them to falsely think that there is no God.
The writer recognizes the inherent danger in both of these positions and asks God to mediate these dangers by delivering him from either of these states. The writer seeks to avoid the temptation to think that God does not exist because of his own efforts, and that God does not exist because of his state of life. The temptation is to think that God does not exist, but that is a falsehood that leads straight to the depths of hell. The writer correctly leads us to reject both of these positions and seek to acknowledge God in all that we do and in our financial situation. We should be thankful to God for our blessings and reliant on God for our shortfalls financially. God will provide and our faith is at stake when doubt creeps in. We need to fight doubts and keep our eyes on God and remain faithful to him.
Seek neither poverty nor riches, but seek a life faithful to God. The writer exposes the temptation to deny God based on our financial situation, and we need to fight against this urge and seek to maintain our faith in God’s provision for us. It is paramount that we be people of faith.
Jesus begins his indictment of those who do not believe him. The religious elite, who were mounting in opposition against him had to be in Jesus’ mind while delivering this passage. Matthew 12:38-50 reveals the heightened judgment that would be for those who rejected Jesus. First, Jesus warned those that would reject his message that their judgment would be worse than Nineveh’s. At least Nineveh heard the words of Jonah and repented. In contrast, Jesus’ generation had the Messiah and many of them still wondered in disbelief. The Messiah was greater than Jonah; therefore, the judgment of Jesus’ generation would be greater than the judgment of Nineveh.
Second, Jesus declared the judgment of his generation as greater than the judgment on the people of the south. Jesus identified that at least the queen of the south came to Solomon to learn of his great wisdom, yet Jesus was greater than Solomon and many would not listen to his message.
Third, Jesus declares that the state of his generation would be worse than a person possessed by seven demons. Jesus points to the hopelessness that is found when people reject him. When Jesus comes and cleans their house and reveals all the problems that they have, and they reject him and let in the evil one once again, then they are even more culpable then before. Jesus is pointing to the depth of his generation’s rejection.
Fourth, Jesus reveals who his family is. Jesus is not denying his familial relationship with his mother and brothers. Rather, he is seeking to teach his followers that if anyone would want to be a part of his family then they must obey him. They must believe and their belief is their entrance into the family of Jesus. No longer is the entrance by familial lineage, but the entrance is through faith and obedience.
We are to accept Jesus by faith and seek to obey his word. A life apart of faith and obedience is a life that is destined for judgment. We should run from judgment and run to faith in Jesus.