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Genesis 25:1–34 (LEB)

The Death and Descendants of Abraham

25 Now Abraham again took a wife, and her name was Keturah. And she bore to him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Midian, Ishbak, and Shuah. And Jokshan fathered Sheba and Dedan. And the sons of Dedan were Asshurim and Letushim and Leummim. And the sons of Midian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abidah, and Eldaah. All of these were the children of Keturah. And Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. But to the sons of Abraham’s concubines Abraham gave gifts. And while he was still living he sent them away eastward, away from his son Isaac, to the land of the east. Now these are the days of the years of the life of Abraham: one hundred and seventy-five years. And Abraham passed away and died in a good old age, old and full of years. And he was gathered to his people. And Isaac and Ishmael his sons buried him in the cave of Machpelah, in the field of Ephron, son of Zohar the Hittite, that was east of Mamre, 10 the field that Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried and Sarah his wife. 11 And it happened that after the death of Abraham God blessed Isaac his son, and Isaac settled at Beer-Lahai-Roi.

12 Now these are the generations of Ishmael, the son of Abraham, that Hagar the Egyptian, the female slave of Sarah, bore to Abraham. 13 And these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names according to their family records. The firstborn of Ishmael was Nebaioth, then Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam, 14 Mishma, Dumah, Massa, 15 Hadad, Tema, Jetur, Naphish, and Kedemah.16 These are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names by their villages and by their encampments—12 leaders according to their tribes. 17 Now these are the years of the life of Ishmael: 137 years. And he passed away and died, and was gathered to his people.18 They settled from Havilah to Shur, which was opposite Egypt, going toward Assyria; he settled opposite all his brothers.

Jacob and Esau

19 Now these are the generations of Isaac, the son of Abraham. Abraham fathered Isaac, 20 And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean of Paddan-Aram, the sister of Laban the Aramean, as his wife. 21 And Isaac prayed to Yahweh on behalf of his wife, for she was barren. And Yahweh responded to his prayer, and Rebekah his wife conceived. 22 And the children in her womb jostled each other, and she said, “If it is going to be like this, why be pregnant?” And she went to inquire of Yahweh. 23 And Yahweh said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from birth shall be divided. And one people shall be stronger than the other. And the elder shall serve the younger.” 24 And when her days to give birth were completed, then—behold—twins were in her womb. 25 And the first came out red, all his body was like a hairy coat, so they called his name Esau. 26 And afterward his brother came out, and his hand grasped the heel of Esau, so his name was called Jacob. And Isaac was sixty years old at their birth. 27 And the boys grew up. And Esau was a skilled hunter, a man of the field, but Jacob was a peaceful man, living in tents. 28 And Isaac loved Esau because he could eat of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. 29 Once Jacob cooked a thick stew, and Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. 30 And Esau said to Jacob, “Give me some of that red stuff to gulp down, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom). 31 Then Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright first.” 32 And Esau said, “Look, I am going to die; now what is this birthright to me?” 33 Then Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” And he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread, and thick lentil stew, and he ate and drank. Then he got up and went away. So Esau despised his birthright.

Matthew 18:1–35 (LEB)

The Question About Who Is Greatest

18 At that time the disciples came up to Jesus, saying, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling a child to himself, he had him stand in their midst and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you turn around and become like young children, you will never enter into the kingdom of heaven! Therefore whoever humbles himself like this child, this person is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, and whoever welcomes one child such as this in my name welcomes me. But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him that a large millstone be hung on his neck and he be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of causes for stumbling, for it is a necessity that causes for stumbling come; nevertheless, woe to the person through whom the cause for stumbling comes. And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it​ from you! It is better for you to enter into life crippled or lame than, having two hands or two feet, to be thrown into the eternal fire! And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it​ from you! It is better for you to enter into life one-eyed than, having two eyes, to be thrown into fiery hell!

The Parable of the Lost Sheep

10 “See to it that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that their angels in heaven constantly see the face of my Father who is in heaven. 12 What do you think? If a certain man has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go and​ look for the one that wandered away? 13 And if he happens to find it, truly I say to you that he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that did not wander away. 14 In the same way it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones perish.

Confronting a Brother Who Sins Against You

15 “Now if your brother sins against you, go correct him between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take with you in addition one or two others, so that by the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. 17 And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it​ to the church. But if he refuses to listen to the church also, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

18 “Truly I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you release on earth will be released in heaven. 19 Again, truly I say to you that if two of you agree on earth about any matter that they ask, it will be done for them from my Father who is in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”

The Parable of the Unforgiving Slave

21 Then Peter came up to him and​ said, “Lord, how many times will my brother sin against me and I will forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven!

23 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man—a king—who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. 24 And when​ he began to settle them,​ someone was brought to him who owed ten thousand talents. 25 And because​ he did not have enough​ to repay it,​ the master ordered him to be sold, and his​ wife and his​ children and everything that he had, and to be repaid. 26 Then the slave threw himself to the ground and​ began to do obeisance to him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay back everything to you!’ 27 So the master of that slave, because he​ had compassion, released him and forgave him the loan. 28 But that slave went out and​ found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii, and taking hold of him, he began to choke him,​ saying, ‘Pay back everything that you owe!’ 29 Then his fellow slave threw himself to the ground and​ began to implore​ him, saying, ‘Be patient with me and I will repay you!’ 30 But he did not want to, but rather he went and​ threw him into prison until he would repay what was owed. 31 So when​ his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were extremely distressed, and went and​ reported to their master everything that had happened. 32 Then his master summoned him and​ said to him, ‘Wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you implored me! 33 Should you not also have shown mercy to your fellow slave as I also showed mercy to you?’ 34 And because he​ was angry, his master handed him over to the merciless jailers until he would repay everything that was owed. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from your hearts!”

Ecclesiastes 5:12–20 (LEB)

12 The sleep of the laborer is pleasant, whether he eats little or much,

but the wealth of the rich man does not allow him to rest.

Hoarding Wealth Can Backfire

13 There is a grievous evil which I have seen under the sun: wealth hoarded by its owner to his harm. 14 That wealth was lost in a bad venture. Although he has borne a child, he has nothing to leave to him. 15 Just as he came from his mother’s womb naked, he will depart just as he came; he will take nothing with him for his toil. 16 This also is a grievous illness. Exactly as he came, so he will go. What profit does he gain for all his toil for the wind? 17 Also, he eats in darkness all his days; he is frustrated in much sickness and resentment.

If You Have Wealth, Enjoy It as God Enables

18 Look! I have discovered what is good and fitting: to eat and to drink and to enjoy all the fruit of the toil with which one toils under the sun during the number of the days of his life that God gives to him—for this is his lot. 19 This indeed is a gift of God: everyone to whom God gives wealth and possessions, he also empowers him to enjoy them, to accept his lot, and to rejoice in the fruit of his toil. 20 For he does not remember the brief days of his life, for God keeps his heart preoccupied with enjoyment of life.

January 14

When in survival mode, you have to compete against anything that could hinder your survival. Strong competitors, like professional athletes, often can’t explain their almost inhuman acts under pressure; adrenaline takes over. The same thing that the ancients used to escape from wild animals is what makes us win. Yet, for all the good that comes from a competitive survival instinct, it can result in ostracizing others. Esau and Jacob, the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah, reminds us of this.

From the prophecy of Yahweh forward, we know that they will be rivals: “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided; the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger” (Gen 25:23). Yahweh didn’t necessarily desire that the two would feud. A division doesn’t always mean a strained relationship, and the word “divided” in Hebrew doesn’t imply derision.

Those of us with siblings know how frustrating the relationship can be, but we also know that when siblings learn to appreciate each other, they can be a great support system and a comfort in times of need.

Like many siblings, Jacob and Esau are opposites: the older red and hairy when born—per his name (Esau)—and the younger, Jacob, grabbing his brother’s heel—like his name, “He who takes by the heel,” or idiomatically, “an ankle biter.” Indeed, the ankle biter rules his brother, but his brother makes the choice for it to be so (Gen 25:29–34). Esau, when exhausted (and likely near death), gives into his survival instincts, allowing his competitive brother to take charge.

There is no doubt that Jacob is a swindler. But aside from the scandal, this story teaches us something about Yahweh: when given something by Him, no amount of competitiveness makes it worth forfeiting. We never know the results of the poor decisions we make in times of destitution. Esau was unaware that his impulsive, perhaps angry actions would mean forfeiting His descendants’ place later in God’s kingdom. And Jacob didn’t know that his zeal for winning and financial certainty would plague him for the remainder of his life. He may have been rich, for a while, but he wasn’t happy or joyful.

What competitions do you need to give up? How is competitiveness impeding your relationship with God and others?

John D. Barry is the publisher of Lexham Press, general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary, and the previous editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. He is the author of The Resurrected Servant in Isaiah, Cutting Ties with Darkness, and Letters to a Christian, as well as the coauthor of Mary: Devoted to God's Plan. John is also the author of Not Your Average Bible Study volumes on Malachi, Colossians, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter, and the coauthor of a study on 2 Peter–Jude.

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.