Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed because of their iniquity. Some have argued that their destruction comes because of their inhospitality. We must recognize that there was a greater theme of wickedness (hence the conversation between Abraham and the Lord at the end of chapter 18), that exhibits itself most pointedly in their perverted lust. As God spares Lot, however, it becomes clear that Sodom has rubbed off on his family as his daughters perpetrate a despicable act leading to the birth of two nations, Moab and Ammon.
Abraham appears to lack faith in God to provide the protection that would be necessary to preserve His promise. God is gracious to Abimelech and his people and does not bring punishment upon them.
Even though Ishmael is not the one whom God has chosen to fulfill His promises to Abraham, God blesses him so that he becomes a nation himself. This blessing will lead to strife later on as Ishmael lives at odds with his relatives.
Here we are given a picture of the God who would give His Son for His people. But this also creates a problem of what to make of a God who would test Abraham by calling him to sacrifice his son. Here we should take clues from Abraham’s faith where he tells his servants, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you” (v5). Abraham believed that although he was called to sacrifice Isaac, Isaac would be returning. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Abraham believed that God could raise him from the dead if necessary (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Abraham looks forward to the promise that God will give the land to his descendants as an inheritance and buys a field in which to lay Sarah, his wife. This cave will play a role in future generations as Israel (Jacob) is brought from Egypt to be buried in this cave.
Abraham’s insistence that his servant finds a wife for Isaac who is not from the Canaanites demonstrates that God was making a distinction between His people and the people of the land. As the servant heads back to Abraham’s relatives, God superintends the entire episode and shows His favor to the servant. This distinction between the chosen people of God and the people of the land will become increasingly important in the coming chapters.
God’s choice of Jacob as the one through whom He would accomplish His plan is demonstrated in God’s words, “the older shall serve the younger” (v33). God continues to sovereignly orchestrate His plans through a particular family line, through which all the nations will be blessed. Moreover, Esau’s wickedness is displayed in despising his birthright.
Isaac follows the pattern set by Abraham and appears to forget the promises made by God in verses 2-5. If God has promised this great blessing, then one should assume that He will likewise provide the protection necessary to accomplish that pledge. Esau now marries outside of the family, showing that he does not make the distinction between the chosen people and the people of the land that his fathers before him have made.
Jacob, the deceiver, deceives his father and steals the blessing to go along with the birthright that Esau despised. Esau is a wicked son and has treated the things of God with contempt. As he looks to the death of his father for a time to avenge himself, Isaac and Rebekah send Jacob away so that he will not marry a woman of the land. Rather, he will keep the distinction. This time, instead of a servant going and getting a wife, Jacob himself will go and get a wife from his father’s family.
Esau takes more wives in an attempt to appease his parents, but here he shows himself to be spiritually dense. As Jacob goes and lays down his head, he recognizes the holiness of the place and calls it Bethel, meaning “house of God.”
God, once again, superintends the movement of His people and brings Jacob to the family and the girl whom God has chosen. In a twist of irony, the deceiver is deceived as he works for Rachel but is given Leah. He will then work another seven years to marry Rachel. These events highlight the difficulty of addressing a text with polygamy. While the Bible deals honestly with its existence, the Bible does not comment it and, as the end of this chapter and the whole of the next chapter make clear, very real problems accompany the practice.
The competition between the wives will lead to disfunction within the family in coming chapters. Here the Bible reveals some real problems with polygamy. Verses 37-43 causes many to scratch their heads. What is Jacob doing? Jacob, and many in the ancient world, appear to believe that whatever the sheep saw during their mating would be imprinted upon their offspring.
Rachel steals the gods of her father but, surprisingly, this does not appear to play a role on the family’s worship going forward. It appears that the idols will be put aside and the family will worship the Lord.
The chapter focuses on building tension leading up to the meeting of Jacob and Esau. Jacob has every expectation that his brother will continue to be angry and will seek to exact revenge. On the eve of meeting Esau, Jacob wrestles with God and is given the name Israel, meaning “he who strives with God,” or “God strives.” Such will be the way that the people’s relationship who God in the coming generations.
Jesus continues the Sermon on the Mount with some of the most famous words on the futility of anxiety. In essence, He exhorts believers to place their trust in the kind providence of a God who not only knows their needs but cares for them.
This chapter begins with some of the most misquoted and misunderstood words in the Bible. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged,” is not a blanket principle against ever judging something to be wrong or inappropriate. Rather, Jesus condemns hypocrisy in judging, as evidenced in his statement to “remove the log our of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck our of your brother’s eye.” Jesus assumes that there will be judgments, He seeks to ensure that hypocrisy is not the driving force behind it. The chapter concludes with what amounts to Matthew’s larger interest, “He was teaching them as one having authority.”
Entering chapter 8 the theme of authority is on display again, this time not about Jesus authority when teaching but his authority to cleanse lepers, heal the paralyzed servant, calm the sea, cast out demons.
The theme of authority will culminate here in chapter 9 with two demonstrations of His authority. The first is the healing of a paralytic where Jesus heals him by saying, “son your sins are forgiven.” No small commotion arises, but Jesus’ says the reason He said this was “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Jesus demonstrates His authority once more as He goes and raises the synagogue official’s daughter who had died. Thus Matthew has been on a mission to show the authority of Jesus to speak and teach, heal, forgive sins, and raise the dead because of His authority.
Jesus now gives some authority to His disciples to go and continue His work in other cities by sending them out. In some ways, the is a prefigurement of the work that He will give them after His resurrection when He says that, “all authority had been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore . . .” Yet, this road of discipleship will not be easy and they are to expect resistance, just as the Jesus does, although they will receive reward in the end.