"Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak."
 
Jacob, on his journey back to Canaan, finds himself in an awkward position. Having sent all his flocks, servants and family across the river, now all alone, he encounters a visitor in his camp and grapples with him throughout the night. He eventually confesses that he has seen God, face to face. We too at times, wrestle with things of the Lord, but more often than not it's the thing of feeling all alone in difficult times. Covid and isolation along with lack of fellowship has brought tension or discouragement into homes, the fear of future events, lack of work, mounting bills, existing physical ailments and other relational difficulties all add to the stress of the times we live in. For the child of God, here is a reminder for us to surrender these things to the Lord, taking our eyes off of what we grapple with, and look to Him. In the Word, fellowship, prayer and communion. all good places to be.
 
Pastor Russell
And she conceived again, and bore a son and said, "This time I will praise the Lord." Therefore, she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing.
 
Leah, the young wife and mother, jockeyed fiercely for the affection and love of her husband, all the while embroiled in strife and jealousy with her competitor and sister Rachel. With much heartache and three sons later, she comes to the conclusion at the birth of son number four, Judah, or let Him (God) be praised. Within the heart of this woman, was drawn the conclusion that even though things were far from perfect, at times filled with doubt, loneliness, and discouragement, now turned to "I will praise the Lord." Choosing to turn her eyes upon the Lord brought a new resolve, a refocus on the Lord who brought a new hope and rest in the midst of the turmoil. We all can take a lesson in getting our eyes off of all the wrongs, and fixing our eyes upon the Lord and praising Him for all He already done for us.
 
Pastor Russell
Now it came about that Abimelech and Phicol, the commander of his army, spoke to Abraham, saying "God is with you in all you do......"
 
Here the Philistine king and his general come to Abraham to try and make an agreement for future peaceful dealings between the two parties. Recognizing God's blessing and His favorable dealings with Abraham, the king sought to stay in God's good graces via his relationship with the Lord's servant. Like His children in the world today, people may be attracted to God in us and the hope of His glory that we represent, or may become standoffish, even antagonistic because we represent the God they have rejected. In either case, we love, we pray for, we share the good news, we live our life for the one who so willing gave His life for us.
 
Pastor Russell
"Then Jacob went on his journey, and came to the land of the sons of the east."
 
The word "went" in this verse is translated as a Hebrew idiom meaning lit. "lifted up his feet". It speaks of young man's response to divine encouragement. And as Jacob received encouragement from the Lord, his journey, many hundreds of miles long, seemed of no real trouble. Although possibly hampered at times by weariness, cold, hunger, danger from bandits, bumpy and treacherous roads, he "went" it seems with no real trouble. Led and empowered by the Spirit, he had a spring in his step. For we today, whether young or older in the Lord, it's He who helps to lift our feet as we continue in this tenuous walk in this world, our journey of faith, our eyes fixed on Him, the author and finisher of our faith.
 
Pastor Russell

"and if He rescued righteous Lot, oppressed by the sensual conduct of unprincipled men...."

Lot, by choice, had embedded himself and his family within the confines of the city of Sodom, a city well known for their wickedness. The Lord in His righteousness, graciously would almost forcibly lead this family out of the city before raining down judgement. Yet, the final chapter of Lot and his family, is hallmarked by disaster, disgrace, despair and death. Indeed, a horrible epitaph brought on by poor decisions. In this, we are surely reminded that we take even the "slam dunks, the no brainers" to the Lord in prayer. The "obvious" choice of the well watered, lush and prosperous city of Sodom would eventually lead to a loss of witness and power, compromise and bring a love for the world.

Pastor Russell

And he said, "Are you really my son Esau?' And he said, "I am."
 
As filled with stories of heroes and mighty men, the bible also tells of failures and defeats of men of God. Shrouded in mystery and intrigue, we look at with wonder as Jacob falls to utter deception and trickery in lying to his father Isaac, rather than trusting the Lord to work all things out. But within the heart of men, are all the same propensities and foibles that tripped up and motivated Isaac. This demonstrates our need for total dependence in the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth, and to empower us that we may stay the course of trust and faith in the Lord, as we navigate the treacherous waters of life in this world.
 
Pastor Russell
"And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me," says the Lord Almighty.
 
For some, we've had good fathers, others bad, even abusive, some absent or part-time, while others multiples, or uncles or grandfathers stepping in. But for now, we who are in Christ Jesus, know the greatest joy of having a perfect heavenly Father. One who never fails, He always keeps His promises, He is the Father of lights who has given us every good and perfect gift in His Son, Jesus Christ. Look to Him, give Him the praise, honor and glory, so rightfully His.
 
Pastor Russell
"Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening; and he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, camels were coming."
 
As Isaac went out to ponder, to muse or wait upon the Lord, he lifted up his eyes and as it was, gazed I believe, into the face of God. Revealed in the pinks and oranges and the purples of the darkening sky, the setting sun revealing the glory of the Lord that brought peace and hope and a new found rest in the faithfulness of God. For Isaac, the Lord's answer lay close upon the horizon. For us today, it's much the same, although we too often miss God in the sunburst of daybreak, the full moon rising and illuminating the night sky, and yes, the glorious sunset and the twinkling stars, all declaring the glory of God. Busyness, rush, worry, discouragement, tiredness, all seek to rob God's people of the face to face encounters that await us in varying ways. Child of God, go seek Him today for all He has for you.
 
Pastor Russell
Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, "I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless."
 
Here, we hear the soft voice of the Lord as He invites the man Abram to walk with Him. But much more than just a physical walk, the Lord implies a much deeper fellowship and communion in an abiding ongoing relationship. So the Lord calls many today, that we would walk with Him in the same light of the love of Jesus Christ. His hearts desire that we would know His grace and mercy, that we would be washed and cleansed, being without spot or blemish, complete, whole in Him.
 
Pastor Russell
Then the man bowed down and worshiped the Lord, saying "Praise be to the Lord, the God of my master Abraham, who has not abandoned His kindness and faithfulness to my master. As for me, the Lord has led me on the journey to the house of my master's relatives."
 
Upon the arrival to his destination, Abraham's servant could only think of giving glory to the Lord who had successfully directed him to his destination. Thoughts of the long journey, on hot and dusty roads with temperamental camels in caravan, along with bandits and cutthroats made for a tenuous journey, all these were quickly forgotten. So too our journey as we traverse this world as aliens on this venture of faith the Lord has called us to. With great joy and triumph, tempered with hardship and trial, our eyes should remain fixed upon Him, with our final destination in mind, our lives giving glory to Him.
 
Pastor Russell
After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, saying, "Do not fear, Abram, I am a shield to you; your reward shall be very great."
 
Leaving the comfort and familiarity of his family and home, Abram was led into uncharted lands filled with unknown peoples, some with unsavory motives. Facing even dissension within his own camp, uncertainty and doubt may have crept in bringing fear. But God, in His faithfulness, comes with a word of reassurance and hope. Like our Lord today, He is faithful to remind us that He is a shield about us. Why fear? In Him are the great blessings of an abundant life, filled with love, joy, peace and hope even in the darkest of times. The days we live in bring opportunities for us to pray for those around us, and share the good news of Jesus.
 
Pastor Russell

Abraham said, "God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." So the two of them walked on together.

As father and son walked to the place of worship, Isaac asked his father where the lamb was for the burnt offering. To Abraham's credit, his unwavering trust and faith now lay upon God, who he considered, was able to raise people even from the dead. (Hebrews 11:19) Some two thousand years later, the Father did provide the Lamb of God, who would take away the sins of the world. Jesus came and was crucified, He died and rose again on the third day for the sins of all those who would believe in Him. Abraham we see, would offer up someone he counted so precious, and its in this precursor, we see the Lord offering up His all for us.

Pastor Russell

"They also took Lot, Abram's nephew, and his possessions and departed. for he was living in Sodom."
 
We see in this portion of scripture warring kings battling over lands and peoples, for setting free and bringing into submission of those around them. Like many, we believe Abram and Lot only sought only to live a life of peace, unmolested  from outside forces. But then as is today, these kings may have very well represented a spiritual battle ongoing for the souls of men. The likes of fear, doubt, discouragement, uncertainty, mistrust, pride, self sufficiency, hardened hearts and unsubmissiveness  wage war against believer and worldling alike. These all seeking to undermine the Lord's work, we recognize the ploys of the enemy, knowing that we have the tools in Christ as we ask Him to do battle in the heavenly places on behalf of His children  and those around us. The Lord would use Abram to rescue Lot, all to His glory.
 
Pastor Russell