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Genesis 28:1–29:35 (LEB)

Jacob Flees to Haran

28 Then Isaac called Jacob and blessed him. And he instructed him and said to him, “You must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan. Arise, go to Paddan-Aram, to the house of Bethuel, your mother’s father, and take for yourself a wife from there, from the daughters of Laban your mother’s brother. Now, may El-Shaddai bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, so that you become an assembly of peoples. And may he give you the blessing of Abraham, to you and to your descendants with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojourning, which God gave to Abraham.” Then Isaac sent Jacob away, and he went to Paddan-Aram, to Laban the son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, the mother of Jacob and Esau. Now Esau saw that Isaac had blessed Jacob and sent him away to Paddan-Aram, to take for himself a wife from there, and he blessed him and instructed him, saying, “You must not take a wife from the daughters of Canaan,” and that Jacob listened to his father and to his mother and went to Paddan-Aram. Then Esau saw that the daughters of Canaan were evil in the eyes of Isaac his father, then Esau went to Ishmael and took Mahalath, the daughter of Ishmael, son of Abraham, sister of Nebaioth, as a wife, in addition to the wives he had.

Jacob’s Dream

10 Then Jacob went out from Beersheba and went to Haran. 11 And he arrived at a certain place and spent the night there, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of the place and put it under his head and slept at that place. 12 And he dreamed, and behold, a stairway was set on the earth, and its top touched the heavens. And behold, angels of God were going up and going down on it. 13 And behold, Yahweh was standing beside him, and he said, “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father, and the God of Isaac. The ground on which you were sleeping I will give to you and to your descendants. 14 Your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west, and to the east, and to the north and to the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and through your descendants. 15 Now behold, I am with you, and I will keep you wherever you go. And I will bring you to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised to you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely Yahweh is indeed in this place and I did not know!” 17 Then he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is nothing else than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” 18 And Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up as a stone pillar, and poured oil on top of it. 19 And he called the name of that place Bethel; however, the name of the city was formerly Luz. 20 And Jacob made a vow saying, “If God will be with me and protect me on this way that I am going, and gives me food to eat and clothing to wear, 21 and if I return in peace to the house of my father, then Yahweh will become my God. 22 And this stone that I have set up as a pillar shall be the house of God, and of all that you give to me I will certainly give a tenth to you.”

Jacob Flees to Haran

29 And Jacob continued his journey and went to the land of the Easterners. And he looked, and behold, there was a well in the field, and behold, there were three flocks of sheep lying beside it, for out of that well the flocks were watered. And the stone on the mouth of the well was large. And when all the flocks were gathered there, they rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well. And they watered the sheep and returned the stone upon the mouth of the well to its place. And Jacob said to them, “My brothers, where are you from?” And they said, “We are from Haran.” And he said to them, “Do you know Laban, son of Nahor?” And they said, “We know him.” And he said to them, “Is he well?” And they said, “He is well. Now look, Rachel his daughter is coming with the sheep.” And he said, “Look, it is still broad daylight; it is not the time for the livestock to be gathered. Give water to the sheep and go, pasture them.” And they said, “We are not able, until all the flocks are gathered. Then the stone is rolled away from the mouth of the well, and we water the sheep.” While he was speaking with them, Rachel came with the sheep which belonged to her father, for she was pasturing them. 10 And it happened that, when Jacob saw Rachel, the daughter of Laban, his mother’s brother, and the sheep of Laban, his mother’s brother, Jacob drew near and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well and watered the sheep of Laban, his mother’s brother. 11 And Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted up his voice and wept. 12 And Jacob told Rachel that he was the relative of her father, and that he was the son of Rebekah. And she ran and told her father.13 And it happened that when Laban heard the message about Jacob, the son of his sister, he ran to meet him. And he embraced him and kissed him, and brought him to his house. And he told Laban all these things. 14 And Laban said to him, “Surely you are my flesh and my bone!” And he stayed with him a month.

Jacob’s Marriages

15 Then Laban said to Jacob, “Just because you are my brother should you work for me for nothing? Tell me what your wage should be.” 16 Now Laban had two daughters. The name of the older was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. 17 Now the eyes of Leah were dull, but Rachel was beautiful in form and appearance. 18 And Jacob loved Rachel and said, “I will serve you seven years for Rachel your younger daughter.” 19 Then Laban said, “Better that I give her to you than I give her to another man. Stay with me.” 20 And Jacob worked for Rachel seven years, but they were as a few days in his eyes because he loved her. 21 And Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife, that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” 22 So Laban gathered all the men of the place and prepared a feast. 23 And it happened that in the evening he took Leah his daughter and brought her to him, and he went in to her. 24 And Laban gave Zilpah his female slave to her, to Leah his daughter as a female servant. 25 And it happened that in the morning, behold, it was Leah! And he said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Now why did you deceive me?” 26 Then Laban said, “It is not the custom in our country to give the younger before the firstborn. 27 Complete the week of this one, then I will also give you the other, on the condition that you will work for me another seven years.” 28 And Jacob did so. So he completed the week of this one, then he gave Rachel his daughter to him as a wife. 29 And Laban gave Bilhah his female slave to Rachel his daughter as a female servant. 30 Then he also went in to Rachel, and he loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with him yet another seven years.

Jacob’s Children

31 When Yahweh saw that Leah was unloved he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren. 32 Then Leah conceived and gave birth to a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because Yahweh has noticed my misery. Surely now my husband will love me.” 33 And she conceived again and gave birth to a son. And she said, “It is because Yahweh has heard that I am unloved that he gave me this son also.” And she called his name Simeon. 34 And she conceived again and gave birth to a son. Then she said, “Now this time my husband will be joined to me, for I have borne him three sons.” Therefore, she called his name Levi. 35 And she conceived again and gave birth to a son. And she said, “This time I will praise Yahweh.” Therefore she called his name Judah. And she ceased bearing children.

Matthew 21:23–22:22 (LEB)

Jesus’ Authority Challenged

23 And after​ he arrived at the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him while he​ was teaching, saying, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” 24 And Jesus answered and​ said to them, “I also will ask you one question. If you tell the answer​ to me, I also will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 25 From where was the baptism of John—from heaven or from men?” And they began to discuss​ this​ among themselves, saying, “If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the crowd, because they all look upon John as a prophet.” 27 And they answered and​ said to Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

The Parable of the Two Sons

28 “Now what do you think? A man had two sons. He approached the first and​ said, ‘Son, go work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered and​ said, ‘I do not want to!’ But later he changed his mind and​ went. 30 And he approached the second and​ said the same thing. So he answered and​ said, ‘I will, sir,’ and he did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you that the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going ahead of you into the kingdom of God! 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did believe him. And when​ you saw it,​ you did not even change your minds later so as to believe in him.

The Parable of the Tenant Farmers in the Vineyard

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a man—a master of a house—who planted a vineyard, and put a fence around it, and dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower, and leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey. 34 And when the season of fruit drew near, he sent his slaves to the tenant farmers to collect his fruit. 35 And the tenant farmers seized his slaves, one of whom they beat, and one of whom they killed, and one of whom they stoned. 36 Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first ones, and they did the same thing to them. 37 So finally he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 38 But when​ the tenant farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and have his inheritance!’ 39 And they seized him and​ threw him​ out of the vineyard and killed him.​ 40 Now when the master of the vineyard arrives, what will he do to those tenant farmers?” 41 They said to him, “He will destroy those evil men completely and lease the vineyard to other tenant farmers who will give him the fruits in their season.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures,

‘The stone which the builders rejected,

this has become the cornerstone.

This came about from the Lord,

and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 For this reason, I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and will be given to a people who produce its fruits. 44 And the one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, and the one on whom it falls—it will crush him!” 45 And when​ the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they knew that he was speaking about them, 46 and although they​ wanted to arrest him, they were afraid of the crowds, because they looked upon him as a prophet.

The Parable of the Wedding Celebration

22 And continuing, Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man—a king—who gave a wedding celebration for his son. And he sent his slaves to summon those who had been invited to the wedding celebration, and they did not want to come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding celebration!” ’ But they paid no attention and​ went away—this one to his own field, that one to his business. And the others, seizing his slaves, mistreated them​ and killed them.​ And the king was angry and sent his troops and​ destroyed those murderers and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding celebration is ready, but those who had been invited were not worthy. Therefore, go out to the places where the roads exit the city and invite to the wedding celebration as many people as you find.’ 10 And those slaves went out into the roads and​ gathered everyone whom they found, both evil and good, and the wedding celebration was filled with dinner guests. 11 But when​ the king came in to see the dinner guests, he saw a man there not dressed in wedding clothes. 12 And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here, not having wedding clothes?’ But he could say nothing. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Tie him up hand and foot and​ throw him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!’ 14 For many are called but few are chosen.”

Paying Taxes to Caesar

15 Then the Pharisees went and consulted so that they could entrap him with a statement. 16 And they sent their disciples to him with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and you do not care what anyone thinks, because you do not regard the opinion of people. 17 Therefore tell us what you think. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” 18 But because he​ knew their maliciousness, Jesus said, “Hypocrites! Why are you testing me? 19 Show me the coin for the tax!” So they brought him a denarius. 20 And he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” 21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!” 22 And when they​ heard this,​ they were astonished, and they left him and​ went away.

Ecclesiastes 7:1–5 (LEB)

People Generally Do Not Know What is Best for Them

7 A good name is better than precious ointment,

and the day of death is better than the day of one’s birth.

Better to go to the house of mourning

than to go to the house of feasting,

for death is the end of every person,

and the living should take it to his heart.

Sorrow is better than laughter,

for by sadness of countenance the heart is made good.

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,

but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.

Better to listen to the rebuke of the wise

than for a man to listen to the song of fools.

January 17: Cheer Up, Preacher (Rebecca Van Noord)

January 17

Things are getting serious for the writer of Ecclesiastes (“the Preacher”), and sometimes confusing for us, as we follow him through the labyrinth of his discourse on the meaning of life. Death is better than birth, mourning is better than feasting, and sorrow is better than laughter? What happened to his “eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil” statements from earlier (Eccl 5:18)?

The Preacher might sound like he’s contradicting himself, but the twist in his argument is meant to show us exactly what folly we may be inadvertently embracing. It’s easy to brush over these verses while thinking in terms of standard, run-of-the-mill folly, or obvious sins.

But folly can even look like a daily routine: goals, successes, and our happy, fulfilling lives. It can take the form of anything that skims the surface of life, but keeps us from confronting our greatest need and the reality of eternity.

When life is good, it’s tempting to gloss over our need for God. Everything is going as planned, and it’s easy to rely on ourselves—not on Him. But the Preacher wants us to address this temptation. It might take death, or times of extreme pain and sadness, to help us realize the truth. Only when we attend a funeral or lose a family member does the veneer start to chip; then, we get a glimpse of the turmoil bubbling under the surface. Only when we’re convicted of our great need can we admit that we truly need a Savior.

Are your successes causing you to diminish your need for Christ?

Rebecca Van Noord is editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. She has developed content for several Bible reference products, including Lexham Bible Dictionary and Faithlife Study Bible.

Connect the Testaments: A Daily Devotional

Author: John D. Barry & Rebecca Van Noord

Publisher: Lexham Press

Publication Date: 2012

This 365-day devotional walks you through the Bible in a year, following a custom reading plan that delves into the stories of the Bible from five unique perspectives.