Wrestling with God

Jacob & Esau: Two Roads | Genesis 35-36


God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” (Genesis 35:1)

God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” (Genesis 35:9-12)


Our present study began with Isaac learning that his wife, Rebekah, became pregnant with twins after being barren. When the two boys began to battle in the womb, Isaac inquired of God, who declared that the younger child would usurp the older. Esau was born first, then Jacob. The two were destined for conflict. Over the span of two events, Jacob deceived his older brother out of the blessing and birthright of the firstborn. Esau was furious, so he plotted Jacob’s murder, which was sufficient reason for Jacob to flee to his mother’s homeland to look for a wife. In the land of Haran, Jacob found his wife, but he was tricked by his father-in-law, Laban, into also marrying her older sister, leading to intense family drama.

After living with Laban for 20 years who repeatedly tried to cheat Jacob out of his work, Jacob fled back to the land of his father. Once there, Jacob was forced to confront Esau, who was coming to meet him with 400 men. In fear, Jacob sent large gifts to his brother, hoping to appease him. But a personal wrestling match with God finally gave Jacob the courage to meet Esau face to face. Shockingly, his brother met him with love and open arms. God softened Esau’s heart and finally gave Jacob the peace of reconciliation.

We now conclude this third section of Genesis with God appearing to Jacob once again, the deaths of Rachel and Isaac, and the prosperity of Esau. Though Jacob will continue to appear in Genesis, chapter 37 will begin to focus on the narratives of his children, particularly Joseph. As the narrative reflects upon the lives of Jacob and Esau, we find that they both lived prosperous lives; however, Jacob’s life was also molded by God’s grace and faithfulness.

Read chapter 35 and discuss the following.

  1. After God appeared to Jacob again, Jacob responded by ensuring that his household and servants put away their foreign gods in order to purify themselves before the LORD. What are some false gods that are common today?
  2. When Jacob arrives at Bethel, God once again declares that Jacob’s new name is Israel and pronounces the blessings of Abraham upon him. How, in particular, does God’s promise of nations and kings coming from Jacob apply to us today?

Read chapter 36 and discuss the following. 

  1. Though genealogies tend to be quite boring, all of Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for us. In general, what can we learn from the Bible’s genealogies?
  2. Verses 6-8 reinforce what we suspected in chapter 33, that Esau was in fact quite wealthy. How can wealth, prosperity, and ease of life actually become a curse for us?


  • Obey. Just as Jacob called for his household to forsake their idols before he built an altar to God in Bethel, take time to consider any false gods in your heart and how you can forsake them to follow God fully.
  • Pray. Consider the struggle-filled life of Jacob and the Esau’s life of prosperity. Give thanks to God for His grace of stripping us of our lesser gods, so that we might know Him as our eternal treasure.

Jesus’ Genealogy | Day 22

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. (Matthew 1:1 ESV)

Even though genealogies can be quite boring, Matthew has a significant reason for beginning his Gospel with one.

The listed genealogy intrinsically ties Jesus to the entirety of the Old Testament. As we have seen, God promised in the midst of humanity’s first sin that He would send a Savior to crush the serpent along with the sin, evil, and death that he represents.

The story then moved forward to Abraham as God declared that the Serpent-Crusher would come from his lineage. When David stepped onto the scene, he seemed to fit the bill for being the Messiah; however, being conquered by sin himself, David received promise that the Christ would be his descendant.

Matthew, therefore, understands fully the weight of his Gospel’s first sentence: “Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” The apostle is opening his book by declaring that Jesus meets the biological qualifications for Davidic kingship and for the Messianic promises.

This genealogy is presented in no uncertain terms as an argument for Jesus being the Serpent-Crusher, the offspring of David, Abraham, and woman.

Not to mention that Matthew calls Him Christ, which is Greek for Messiah.

If for no other reason, we must be able to read Jesus’ genealogy in thankfulness to God for preserving Christ’s family line.

Yet we must also note that Jesus’ lineage does not end here; instead, Paul tells us that in Christ we are children of God, which means being “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17).” If we are saved in Christ, then we are a part of Jesus’ forward-spanning genealogy, being adopted as sons and daughters because of Jesus’ crushing of our sins.

Read all of Romans 8, paying careful attention to verses 12-17. Do your prayers reflect the attitude and weight of what Paul describes in these verses? Why or why not?


The Bringer of Rest | Day 3

When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” (Genesis 5:28-29)

Genesis 5 is the Bible’s first genealogy, and within it, we see the passage of time and generations. The chapter concludes with Lamech’s prayerful naming of his son, Noah, which means rest. Lamech called his son Noah because he hoped that Noah would be the one to break humanity free from the sin’s curse, and unlike Cain, Noah seems to have potential.

Genesis 6-8 tell how humanity became so wicked that God destroyed them all with a great flood, but in His mercy, God spares Noah and his family. After the flood, Noah almost seems to be a new Adam upon a new earth.

Could this be how God would defeat sin and evil?

For all of Lamech’s hope, Noah was no better than anyone else on the planet. God saved Noah from the flood only because of His mercy and grace.

In Genesis 9, Noah shows that he was no better than Adam by getting drunk on the first vineyard that he planted after the flood. Noah failed to be the bringer of rest that his father hoped him to be.

But where Noah failed, Jesus would succeed.

By living a sinless life, Jesus would truly be the new Adam, and He would die, not as punishment for His own sins, but for the sins of everyone else.

Noah’s life pointed toward Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, which truly bring us relief from sin’s curse.

Though God used Noah for His glory, Noah still sinned along with the rest of humanity. How has God been faithful to use you even though you still sin?


How Should We Read Genealogies in the Bible?

As I approach Luke 3 for preaching this week, I find myself staring down upon one of the dreaded begats found throughout the Bible. As a pastor, I am uncertain if I am allowed to say this, but the genealogies in the Bible can be pretty boring. Often, they are simply scattered throughout certain places, yet occasionally, we find ourselves reading texts like the first nine chapters of 1 Chronicles and end up wanting to curl into a little ball out of boredom.

Though I believe that it is fine to admit our lack of enthusiasm for particular parts of Scripture, we must do so with 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in mind. Therein, the apostle Paul writes, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” These verses remind us that genealogies are a piece of Scripture and, therefore, are just as Spirit-inspired as any other text from the Bible. But notice that Paul does not stop at inspiration, he also claims that all Scripture is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, and training. Once more, genealogies are not exempt from this statement. The genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 is just as much God-breathed Scripture as, for example, the Christ hymn of Colossians.

Of course, it is one thing to claim that genealogies are profitable for teaching and such, but it is another entirely trying to figure out how to profit from them. I aim, therefore, not to leave you simply with the truth that genealogies are important; rather, I hope to give some guidance for understanding their presence in Scripture and how to study them well.

1. They Remind Us of the Bible’s Historicity

The Bible is not a book of ancient myths and folk tales, as some may read it; instead, we believe that the Scriptures are completely accurate portrayals of history. Reading the Bible’s genealogies can help remind us of the Bible’s historicity. We may find it boring to read about some guy named Maath or Mahalaleel, but in seeing their names, we should remember that they were living, breathing people that walked this earth.

2. They Show That God Keeps His Promises

We are told repeatedly throughout the Bible that the promises of God are true, yet sometimes we have difficulty seeing them as such. Often in the Scriptures, God’s promises are not fulfilled within one generation. Look at Abraham, for example. Yes, God did accomplish the promise of giving him a son within his life; however, he died having never seen the great multitude that came from him nor did he ever possess the land promised to him. These do not make the promises of God untrue; rather, God fulfilled them over the course of many generations. Genealogies can aid us in understanding that God is faithful, even if we do not see some workings in our lifetime.

3. They Reflect the Nature of Life

This one is a little bit Ecclesiastes-esque, but hear me out. Viewing a list of generations should remind us of the brevity of life. Even though some men in Genesis lived for over nine hundred years, the fact is that all of them are now dead. Regardless of our age, power, wealth, or status, each of us will face the same end. Very, very few of us will ever be remembered in a substantial way. Some of us might be fortunate enough to have our name in a list for future generations. Most of us, however, will pass through this life, leaving behind little or nothing to be remembered.

Of course, this does not have to be terribly depressing. As followers of Christ, we do not live life for our own glory or legacy; instead, we are more interested in furthering the fame of Jesus. Countless Christians have died and been forgotten on earth, but because of their work for the kingdom of God, their lives were not wasted or without meaning. Thus, genealogies can also be a reminder for us to disciple others, so that the glory of Christ might be known throughout each generation.

4. They Give Us a Bird’s Eye View of Grace

Genealogies also provide for us a large lens for viewing the grace of God. For example, Jesus’ genealogy in Matthew lists people like Ruth and Rahab. Ruth was foreigner from the pagan Moabites, and Rahab was a prostitute. Yet through the grace of God, both of these women became a part of the lineage of Jesus! Our view of grace, however, is not limited to individuals. Genealogies also show the breadth of God’s common grace upon humanity. Even through generations of sin, we might find times when God would be completely justifiable in issuing another flood-level wipeout; however, generation after generation, we find our God patiently bearing with us.

5. They Are Ultimately Pointing to Jesus

This is the most important aspect to understand regarding genealogies. In listing the generations of people, we see the storyline of the Bible unfold. From Adam to Joseph, God promised a savior to the humanity. After the Fall, God told Adam that this savior would be the offspring of woman. Abraham was promised that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his offspring. God, further, declared that David’s offspring would sit upon the throne forever. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of these. The end and goal of the entire Bible, really of all of history, is Jesus, and genealogies display God’s faithfulness is sending Christ.

The End of the Matter

With that said, one question still stands: will this make genealogies any less boring to read? If we are honest, maybe not, but perhaps, this will help you to see the depth of meaning and grace that can be found within them.