Friday, December 28, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 30, 2018

Over 184,000 readers worldwide

(JESUS will judge us according to our reaction to human need)
(Matthew 25:31-46)

   In Matthew 25, verses 31-46, as JESUS concluded HIS, now famous, “Mount Olive Discourse” from the slopes of Mount Olive, HE gives us the answers that we need in order to pass “the test of life” that GOD has set before us. Here, the ultimate TEACHER, JESUS, gives us the criterion by which HE will grade all humankind upon HIS second coming, when “the school of life” as we know it here on earth, is over.
    Here JESUS is speaking of a time immediately following the final tribulations of man that were foretold by the prophet Daniel during the Babylonian conquest (Daniel 7:25, 9:27, 12:7), and then later, by the Apostle John through his visions from CHRIST JESUS on the island of Patmos (Revelations 11:2-3, 12:14, 13:5). This final tribulation period is to last for seven years just prior to what we’ve come to know as “The Rapture”.
    JESUS tells us that HE will be accompanied by a host of angels, and will be seated on HIS glorious throne because HE plans to stay for a while (1000 years to be exact). It is from there, that HE will exercise HIS GOD-given authority to judge all mankind, and HE will do so, strictly according to “how we reacted to human need” in our lifetime.
    If we reacted positively to others, showing agape love toward our fellowman, we passed the test of life, however, if we reacted negatively, and did not show love and concern for our fellowman, we’ve failed the test, and thereby, cannot pass into eternal life in Heaven, nor, for that matter, into the earthly “Millennial Kingdom” which CHRIST will set up immediately following HIS final judgment.
    During this millennial period (1000 years), CHRIST JESUS will reign over a restored earth, where there will be “no satanic influence”, because satan will be locked away for the duration. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that GOD will, quite literally, take away the remaining sin nature, or desire to sin, from those who are still seeking GOD in the end (Ezekiel 36:25-33).
    Because of GOD’S generous giving of a new human spirit to those who are allowed to enter the Millennial Kingdom, there will be no sin, nor desire to sin, during CHRIST’s reign and beyond. And because there will be no more sin, there can also be no more sickness and death. Everyone who enters into the Millennial Kingdom on day one will still be a member of the Kingdom at the end of the thousand year period, because they will willingly desire only to serve CHRIST JESUS.  
    In this passage JESUS makes it pretty clear that anyone who hasn’t accepted HIS salvation offer by the time HE returns (the goats in this passage) will be sent away into eternal damnation and punishment. Only those individuals who have already accepted CHRIST before HE returns (the sheep in this passage) will be allowed to enter into, and share in HIS Millennial Kingdom. One must have already taken on the attitude of treating everyone as if they were dealing with CHRIST HIMSELF, personally, before HE returns. They must actually practice this behavior in this life, right now, here on earth.
    What stands out in this passage is that no sin, in particular, is mentioned, as a part of the criterion that JESUS will use for judging us. The reason being is that, all the sins of man, past, present, and future, have already been covered by the blood of JESUS when HE died on the cross at Golgotha.
    Here JESUS is telling us that we will be judged strictly according to our reaction to human need, and that salvation is granted only to those who believe that HE died and took the mandatory death penalty for sins off the table. Since that time all those who accept HIM as their LORD and SAVIOR will be saved from eternal damnation.
    However, our faith in GOD has to rise to the level of “Saving Faith” before we can be motivated to act out that faith in a way that is pleasing to GOD. Real saving faith manifests itself through GODly deeds and behavior that actually show GOD our love for HIM and our fellowman. And when GOD looks into our hearts and sees HIMSELF, HE then sends us to JESUS.
    That is what JESUS means when HE says, “No man can come to ME unless the FATHER draws them” (John 6:43-45 and 65). As Christians, we must be able to show the world, through our behavior, that Christianity really does produce the best men and women. And then, because of the desire we’ve shown to “do” the Word of GOD, GOD the FATHER will send us to JESUS, and HE, in the last day, will raise us up from the dead into eternal life with HIM, first, in the Millennial Kingdom, and then finally, into the Kingdom of Heaven itself.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website

Friday, December 21, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 23, 2018

Over 183,000 readers worldwide

(JESUS is GOD’s promised gift)
(Luke 1:26-38 and 2:22-35)

   In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the archangel, Gabriel, returns to earth to deliver yet another message from GOD. This time he visits the tiny town of Nazareth in Galilee, the home of a young teenaged “virgin” (“parthenos” in the Greek) named Mary. Mary was engaged to marry a man named Joseph, who was a descendant of King David. Gabriel’s charge, on this visit, was to give young Mary shocking news of GOD’s plan to bless the world through her, with the “Immaculate Conception” of our LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, WHOM HIMSELF would be “the ULTIMATE MESSAGER”.
    The long-awaited “MESSIAH” WHO had been forecasted by ancient prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and the likes, would now be sent by GOD to usher in a “New Covenant” that would liberate all mankind from under the dominion of sin. It would be a covenant that would allow anyone, who believes in HIM, to receive the gift of eternal life, through their faith. It would then become the duty of all of HIS followers to build their spiritual foundation on that “most high” faith.
    As Christians, they would then have to learn to pray and communicate with GOD in the power of a, soon-to-come, HOLY SPIRIT (worship in Spirit), WHOM JESUS would later send. And after HIS ascension back into Heaven, through regular “Holy Communion” services, we were to always acknowledge and remember the conditions of this covenant, under which the love of GOD has called us, and of which, JESUS HIMSELF, signed with HIS OWN blood.
    In verse 28 Gabriel greeted Mary saying, “Greetings favored woman! The LORD is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary struggled to try and understand just what the appearance of the angel before her meant. Sensing her fear, Gabriel sought to calm her by saying, “Don’t be frightened, Mary, for GOD has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him JESUS. HE will be very great and will be called the SON of the MOST HIGH. And the LORD GOD will give HIM the throne of HIS ancestor David. And HE will reign over Israel forever; HIS kingdom will never end!” (NLT)
    Then Mary wondered out loud, asking Gabriel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin”. Gabriel then explains to her that, “The HOLY SPIRIT will come upon you, and the power of The MOST HIGH will “overshadow” (“episkiazo” in the Greek) you. So, the BABY born to you will be holy, and HE will be called the “SON of GOD” (“Prototakas”, which means, “first born”) (Vs.34-35).
    In order to understand further what the angel, Gabriel was telling Mary, the word “overshadow” which is “episkiazo” in the original Greek, has a duel meaning, and in this case both meaning do apply. First it means “to make insignificant”. Here the angel is telling Mary that the child she will borne is “infinitely more important than herself”.
    Secondly, “episkiazo” means, “to envelope (fully cover) with a “preternatural (beyond the normal course of nature) covering or influence”, or a haze of brilliancy”. In other words, GOD would place a supernatural covering around Mary to protect her during the course of her pregnancy, from the wiles of satan, and his last ditch efforts to prevent, or delay the entrance of JESUS into the world.
    Suddenly Mary’s “confusion and fear” turned to “joy and appreciation”. She then responded by saying, “I am the LORD’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever HE wants. May everything you said, come true” (v.38).
    When we believe in GOD, in all HIS fullness, holiness, and eternal righteousness, it becomes easy to accept whatever HE sends our way. We then understand that HIS tests are not meant to make us fail, but rather, are sent to make us strong, so that we may become better warriors in the Army of CHRIST.
    Mary accepted the message that GOD sent her that day through HIS angel, Gabriel, and as a result, every generation since, has called her blessed. We can’t help but acknowledge the “favor” (“charise”) that GOD showed her, by way of HIS bestowing upon her, such a divine role, in HIS divine plan and works.

Luke 2:21-25

   In Luke chapter 2, taking up at verse 21, we see that eight days after JESUS was born, HE was taken to Jerusalem for the “Naming and Circumcision Ceremony” according to the Jewish Rite and Covenant with GOD concerning all male children. Baby JESUS’ name, however, had already been given to HIS mother Mary by the archangel Gabriel before HE was even conceived, and so here, only the circumcision was needed (Luke 1:31).
    Now it was time for “the purification offering” that was also required by the Law of Moses after the birth of any child. However, the Law also says that, if a woman’s first child was a male, he would have to be dedicated to the LORD in a special “dedication ceremony” that required that they bring “animal sacrifices”. And in order that every family would be financially able to obtain an animal sacrifice, GOD only required parents to bring, either a pair of turtledoves, or, two young pigeons.     

Luke 2:25-35

   There was a righteous and devout man of GOD named “Simeon”, who was filled with the HOLY SPIRIT, and who had waited patiently on the LORD for many years, just so he could see the MESSIAH WHO would come to rescue Israel, and indeed, the whole world, from the grip of their own sin. The HOLY SPIRIT had already revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the MESSIAH with his own eyes.
    On the day that Mary and Joseph came to the temple, the HOLY SPIRIT led Simeon there so that GOD’s promise would be fulfilled. Simeon took Baby JESUS into his arms and praised GOD, and proclaimed the words of Scripture contained in Luke 2:29-32, that have came to be known as “The Nunc Dimittis” from the Latin Vulgate, which is interpreted, “Now let me depart”. There Simeon declares;

“LORD, now I can die in peace! As YOU promised me, I have seen the SAVIOR YOU have given to all people. HE is a light to reveal GOD to the nations, and HE is the glory of YOUR people Israel!” (NLT)

    Joseph and Mary, of course, were amazed at what Simeon had proclaimed about their SON, JESUS. Simeon then blessed the couple and further said to Mary,

“This CHILD will be rejected by many in Israel, and it will be their undoing. But HE will be the greatest joy to many others. Thus, the deepest thoughts of many will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul” (Vs34-35) (NLT)

    Here the Prophet Simeon is informing Mary that she would be emotionally torn by the coming opposition to her SON JESUS, by both, the professed Church, and, by the World. JESUS would later manifest HIMSELF as the very source of our salvation, and that salvation would be extended, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles of the world. JESUS would come to be known as “the SAVIOR of the whole world”, and not just the world of HIS earthly generation. HIS “salvation offer” would also extend to every generation, past, present, and future, who would ever live, in the history of this world.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

Friday, December 14, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 16, 2018

Over 182,000 readers worldwide

(Praise the LORD WHO loves and redeems us)
(Psalm 103)

   The “Christian Hope” has, throughout the history of the Church, served as motivation to make life on earth, conform more fully with the Word of GOD, just as it was presented to us by JESUS CHRIST (not by confused Christian denominations), during HIS three-year ministry of preaching and teaching, here on earth. All the information we have comes to us, from those who actually saw JESUS’ miracles performed, and, who actually heard HIM teach.
     However, in Psalm 103 we see that the believer’s hope in GOD began way before the first century Christian Church was born, as here King David praises the LORD after looking back on the mercies that HE had bestowed upon himself and Israel over the years. He was inspired by his “hope in GOD”, even then, and he celebrates his deliverance in the words of this psalm, which also seems to serve as an answer to his “prayer of being overwhelmed” in Psalm 102.
   Here in this passage David speaks to the benefits of serving GOD with “every fiber of our being”, our whole “heart”, “soul”, “mind”, and “physical strength”. We should never forget the good things that GOD does for us, and HIS goodness only, should motivate us to worship and obey HIM consistently and fervently.
    In verses 3-7 we are reminded in this day, of how GOD forgives all of our sins and heals all of our sicknesses. HE not only ransoms us from death, through the vicarious sacrifice of CHRIST, but HE also surrounds us with love and tender mercies, by assigning HIS angels to protect us while we are “being saved”. GOD regenerates the lives of believers, by lending us the help of HIS HOLY SPIRIT, and, HE grants righteousness and justice to all those believers who are treated unfairly.
    GOD “revealed HIS character to us”, through the life of JESUS CHRIST our SAVIOR, WHO was born of a woman, Mary, and once lived as a 100 % human being, here on earth. HE is merciful and gracious; slow to anger, and full of unfailing, “agape” (unconditional) love, especially toward those who fear HIM. And to those who fear HIM, HIS love is greater than the heights of the heaven (v.11).
    GOD, deserves our constant praise and worship, because HE is our creator, as well as our redeemer, through JESUS CHRIST, HIS SON and greatest figurative representative ever to walk the face of the earth. HE has dealt with us, not as we deserve, but rather, as HIS powerful grace, mercy, and sovereign authority allows HIM to do. HE has the power to remove out rebellious acts far from us when we decide to repent and admit to ourselves that we need HIM in our lives.
    GOD understands fully how weak we are, because HE made us to depend on HIM as a child depends upon HIS parents. Our days on earth are limited, and when we’re gone, it becomes, to all but a few people, as if we have never been here at all. However, the love of GOD remains with those who fear HIM, forever. GOD extends HIS salvation to our children’s children, if, we are faithful to HIM and desire to pass down a legacy of faith in JESUS CHRIST to the next generation (Vs.14-18).
    The LORD has made the heavens HIS throne, and from there, HE rules over all things that HE made. Even, and especially the angels in HIS family, mighty creatures of GOD themselves, who carry out HIS plans, and listen to all of HIS commands, praise HIM all day long as they serve HIM and do HIS Will (Vs.19-22).
    GOD’s “forgiveness” is the primary expression of HIS compassion toward HIS needy humanity, which HE created for the purpose of serving HIM. The verses in this psalm explain clearly “the nature of forgiveness” that we “vertically” receive and enjoy from GOD, from Heaven, and must learn to “horizontally” extend to others, while living here on earth.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander



Friday, December 7, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 9, 2018

Over 182,000 readers worldwide

(The LORD’s Covenant renewed)
(Joshua 24:1-28)

   Through the permissive Will of GOD man is allowed to do many things, and in addition, through JESUS’ death on the cross, we also receive GOD’s wonderful and abounding grace. Through GOD’s grace, we are given “wills that are free”, and through that free will, come our ability to make choices and decisions that can deeply affect our lives, and the lives of others.
     If we choose “the Christian Walk”, we automatically choose to make ourselves strangers to worldly behavior. We give up permanent residency on this earth in order to become citizens of Heaven, and therefore, the laws of GOD must become paramount to us in our own existence.
    In order for “wrong things” to cease to fascinate and have power over us, we must ultimately “fall in love with goodness”. And when we fall in love with goodness, we will be, thereby, compelled to reject the things that are not of GOD, and embrace those things that are of GOD. Through our obtained knowledge of GOD’s Word, we are more able to better recognize “the holy” from “the unholy”, and make our choices and decisions accordingly.
    In Joshua 24, some forty years after Moses received the Ten Commandments from GOD on Mount Sinai, Joshua summoned all the people of Israel together, including all of the leaders, elders, judges, and other officials, to meet with him at Shechem, just a few miles west of Shiloh. As this book of Joshua comes to a close, and, with Joshua himself closing in on 110 years of age, he now prepares for his home-going by delivering two farewell addresses to the chosen people of GOD.
    The events of this passage also occur in the place where Abraham first received the promise that GOD would give the land of Canaan to his offspring for an inheritance. Abraham built an altar there so that he might demonstrate his faith in GOD (Genesis 12:6-7). Jacob had also stopped there on his way to Padan Aram, where he buried the idols of his family, that, they had brought with them, under a tree (Genesis 35:4).
    Joshua’s first address, which was to the men who would inherit his leadership role in Israel, also turned out to be his final testimony to GOD’s unwavering faithfulness to HIS followers. However, his speech also contained some stern warnings from GOD, of the dangers of abandoning HIS Covenant Laws, once HE had called Joshua home (Joshua 23).
    During this convocation at Shechem, Joshua speaks explicitly in the name of GOD, and through him, GOD gives the people and extended review of Israel’s past. Here GOD takes them back down memory lane, all the way from the time of Abraham’s calling from his father’s house, beyond the Euphrates River, up to some of their most recent battles with their enemies in Canaan, after crossing the Jordan River.
    Joshua goes on to urge them to honor and serve GOD wholeheartedly, and, to put away forever, the idols that their ancestors had worshipped back beyond the Euphrates, and even while still in Egypt.
    When Joshua had finished his divine presentation, he “opens up the doors of the church” and gives all members a chance to choose sides, as to whom they would serve. Will they choose to serve the Almighty GOD in Heaven, WHO had, over the years, carried them on wings like eagles (Exodus 19:4), or, would they continue to try and hold on to useless idols? This was the choice that Joshua challenged each and every person to make, and they had to make it on that day.
    Joshua then goes on to utter the most famous statement he would ever make, and in fact, it is one of the most famous “declarations of faith”, that can be found in all the annals of biblical history. Here in verse 15 (KJV) Joshua declares, “And if it seems evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”.  
    The bible states, and implies, that GOD does not like those who are “lukewarm” towards HIM. To be lukewarm towards GOD is to be on the wrong side of the line. HE much prefers those who are “hot”, and even suggests that it is better even to be “cold” than to be lukewarm towards HIM (Revelation 3:15-16).
    As far as GOD is concerned, we are either “for HIM”, or, “against HIM”. There is “no gray area”, or “middle ground” that we can stand on and be safe, until we make a decision, nor can we “straddle of the fence”, because the fence is completely on satan’s side of the line. There is only one “line in the sand”, and we need to “choose this day”, Joshua insists, to be on one side or the other. And by the way, those who ultimately fail to choose GOD have automatically chosen to serve satan, and so too, it goes for those who think they’ve chosen neither (Those people who say there is no GOD, and there is no satan).
     In biblical times, and today, people worship hand carved likenesses, or even posters of other people, animals, or even “places” and “things”. They also indulge themselves in astrology, witchcraft, and sorcery. Most people today worship “the gods of modern culture” such as entertainers, athletes, politicians, money, sex, jobs, cars, houses, clothes, etc.
    Our perspective of life has become contaminated and scrambled. We have either forgotten, or never really known what GOD’s order of importance for mankind should be, and this is what that order is; that we should “worship GOD only”, “love people”, and “use things”. And whenever we get that order scrambled or twisted, we automatically sin against GOD.
    And so it is here in this final chapter of Joshua’s life, that, after completing the first phase of their conquest of Canaan, the Israelites, under his leadership, chose to worship GOD only. And they built an altar to GOD consisting of a large stone upon which Joshua inscribed the Law of GOD, and rolled it underneath an oak tree that stood beside the Tabernacle of the LORD.
    Here in this passage Joshua made it very clear what his choice would be. He and his family would, of course, “serve the LORD”. Salvation will always be available for all mankind (until it isn’t anymore), but each individual must “choose freely” to accept it. The right time to come to JESUS is always “right now”, and the right way to come to JESUS is always “just as you are”.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander  



Friday, November 30, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday December 2, 2018

Over 181,000 readers worldwide

(Teach all generations to love and obey GOD)
(Deuteronomy 6:1-9)

   It is my belief, that, we cannot profess to have faith in GOD, and then, turn around and perpetually disobey HIS Word, day in and day out, through our behavior. False religion, by definition, means trying to reach GOD by ways in which GOD HIMSELF did not prescribe. It is one thing to “recognize GOD”, but it is quite another thing, to “obey GOD”. The Christian only becomes “legit” when he or she begins to fear GOD more than they do man, and what man can impose upon their lives in this world.
    In Deuteronomy 6, verses 1-9, GOD calls for HIS professed followers to give a wholehearted commitment to HIM. Here Moses tells GOD’s professed people that all of the commands, laws, and regulations that the LORD told him to teach them must be strictly obeyed, when they enter into “the promised land” that GOD was about to give them. They were also to pass down a “legacy of faith” to their children and grandchildren so that they too would learn to fear the LORD as long as they live (Vs.1-3).
    In verse 4, Moses begins by reciting the first of three parts of what is now known as “the Shema”. Even today it is recited by devout Jews twice a day (also see Deuteronomy 11:13-21 and Numbers 15:37-41). These verses stress “the unity of GOD” and “the importance of loving HIM and HIS laws”.
   Over in Luke 10, verses 25-29, one of the teachers of religious law, probably a Pharisee, stood up and posed this question to JESUS, asking, “What must I do to receive eternal life”. Ironically JESUS gave the same answer that HE had given to the religious teacher who had asked “Which is the most important commandment?” in both Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 22:34-40), and, in Mark’s Gospels (Mark 12:28-34).
    There (in Matthew and Mark) JESUS began by reciting the opening line, of the first part of the three-part “Shema”. “Hear O Israel; the LORD is our GOD, the LORD alone. Then JESUS says that we must “love the LORD THY GOD with all thy heart, soul, mind, and strength” (JESUS adds the word “mind” to this list, and I’ll explain why in a minute).
    This kind of love calls for a thorough commitment to GOD that is both personal, and, whole of heart. In fact, it speaks to the whole of the make-up of the human being, which is as follows;

·         The heart”, which is the center of human life,
·         The soul”, which is the “self-conscience” life of all men,
·         The mind”, which is the entire thought process of man, and
·         The strength”, which is the entire physical power of man.

    In other words, we should “love GOD with every fiber of our being”, and it is no accident that this is also what is covered in the first four commandments (see Exodus 20:3-11), where GOD tells us, in effect, that our love for HIM must be;

·         Totally loyal (verse 3),
·         Totally faithful (verse 6),
·         Totally trusting (verse 7),
·         And, we must show total reverence for HIM at all times (verse 8).

Next, JESUS states that we should “love our neighbor as we love ourselves”. This calls for a commitment of “the mind”. As only JESUS can, HE quite literally adds this command to the Shema, and brings into focus, the fourth part of the fiber of the human being. It is not a coincidence that HIS commandment also represents the summation of the remaining six commandments of GOD found in Exodus 20, verses 12-17;

·         If we love each other, we can certainly begin with honoring our own parents.
·         If we love each other, we are not likely to intentionally, or maliciously take another’s life, which by the way, is made in the image of GOD.
·         If we love each other, we will not commit adultery against our spouse with another person.
·         If we love each other, we won’t steal from each other.
·         If we love each other, we won’t lie on each other, or falsely accuse each other.
·         And finally, if we love each other, we won’t jealously desire anything that belongs to someone else.

    And so, here in this passage JESUS is saying, that, everything GOD commands us to do is of the utmost importance to HIM, and that, the Ten Commandments can really be viewed as being only two. And both of them, or all ten of them, are of equal importance to GOD.  
    JESUS concludes by saying, “If we do them, we will live”. There HE means that we will live eternally with GOD in Heaven. And here in Deuteronomy 6, verse 2b, Moses tells the people of Israel the same thing about this life right now, “If you obey all HIS laws and commands, you will enjoy a long life” here on earth. Amen.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


Friday, November 23, 2018

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 25, 2018

Over 180,000 readers worldwide

(GOD works through difficult circumstances)
(Genesis 30)

   In Genesis chapters 30-31, GOD begins to set the stage for Jacob’s decision to return to the “Promised Land” of Canaan. Competition between Leah and Rachel for Jacob’s affections now intensifies as Rachael, who is down four babies to none, decides to get into the game by giving Jacob her maidservant, Bilhah to wed and bear him a son through her. Rachel, by now, had become so frustrated that she had begun to blame Jacob for her barrenness. This, of course, was ridiculous, and her silly accusations angered Jacob very much. He then reminded his beloved Rachel that only GOD has power over childbirth.
    And so her maidservant slept with Jacob and became pregnant, and bore him a son, and Rachel named the boy “Dan”, which comes from the Hebrew word “dananni”, which means “GOD has vindicated me”. Then Bilhah became pregnant again and gave Jacob a second son, and Rachel called his name, “Naphtali” from the Hebrew word “niptalti”, which means “I fought”, because she fought with her sister, Leah.
    Leah, now realizing that she wasn’t getting pregnant anymore, decided to use her sister’s strategy and she gave her maidservant, Zilpah, to Jacob to wed and bear him children in her stead. Zilpah became pregnant and bore Jacob yet another son, and she named the boy, “Gad”, which means in the Hebrew, “fortune”, because it expressed “how fortunate she felt she was” to have so many sons. Then Zilpah bore Jacob another son, whom she named “Asher”, which means “blessing”, and so the name expressed “the joy that Leah felt” to have given Jacob six sons.
    Now a “mandrake is the root of a plant, historically found in the Mediterranean region where Jacob and his family lived at that time. The plants from which the root is obtained are also called "mandrakes". Mediterranean mandrakes are perennial herbaceous plants with ovate leaves arranged in a rosette, with a thick upright root, that is often branched. It blooms bell-shaped flowers and ultimately produces yellow or orange berries.
    Because mandrakes contain “halucenogenic tropane alkaloids”, and the shape of their roots often resembles human figures, they have been associated with a variety of superstitious practices throughout history. For centuries mandrakes have been used in witchcraft and magic rituals, and, as a fertility drug, and in many cases, by ordinary people as an aphrodisiac. Even today mandrakes are still used in pagan traditions such as Wicca and Odinism.
    Here in this passage of Genesis it is both Leah’s, and Rachel’s obvious intent, to use mandrakes as either a fertility enhancement, or, at the very least, as an aphrodisiac so that they can bear more children for Jacob. Here in verse 14, we see Reuben stumbling upon some mandrake plants while he was harvesting the wheat fields. Knowing what these plants were used for, he brought some to his mother, Leah, as an offering to give her a leg up, if you will, on Rachel in the ongoing baby-making contest.
    When Rachel, who was more enamored by paganistic practices than Leah, saw Leah with the plants, she begged her to give some to her, but Leah angrily replied, “NO! Wasn’t it enough that you stole my husband? Now will you steal my son’s mandrake roots too?” Not giving up that easy, a desperate Rachel offered Leah her appointed night with Jacob, if she would give her the mandrake roots, and it is on those terms that Leah finally agreed.
    That evening as Jacob was coming home from the fields, Leah went out to meet him to tell him that she had traded some mandrakes to Rachel in exchange for her appointed night with him. And so Jacob slept with Leah that night and she became pregnant with her fifth son, and she named him “Issachar” which is derived from the Hebrew word “skartika” which means “my hire”. This suggests that she felt that GOD had blessed her with another son because she gave her servant girl, Zilpah, to Jacob for a wife (v.18). However, GOD was actually trying to show her that it is “HE”, not “mandrakes and witchcraft”, that have power over the births of, not just all people, but indeed, as we shall eventually see in this chapter, over animals, and, all things that come into this world.
     To prove HIS point further that HE has power over childbirth, GOD allows Leah, who didn’t eat the mandrakes, to become pregnant again by Jacob, and she bore him another son and called his name “Zebulun” which means “honor”, because she felt that now Jacob would finally honor her the way she thought he should. Later she also gave birth to a girl, and she named her Dinah.
     Meanwhile Rachael, who ate the mandrakes, had not become pregnant anymore for about three years at that point, and it was because GOD was also showing her HIS sovereignty over childbirth. Apparently after she had learned her lesson by watching Leah give birth to three more children, without the aid of mandrakes and witchcraft, she repents and GOD, as a result of her repent, shows her mercy after she prayed to HIM for HIS help.  Here GOD finally allows Rachel to become pregnant and she bore her first son for Jacob, and she named him “Joseph”.
    And so GOD took away the disgrace of Rachel’s attempt to use witchcraft to produce children for herself, and, after she repented, GOD finally gave her a son of her own flesh. And the name “Joseph” which suggests “another son”, shows her faith in GOD that he would deliver to her, yet again, another son, in the future (Benjamin). 
Genesis 30:25-43

   It was not long after Joseph was born that Jacob told Laban that he was ready to go back home to Canaan. However Laban, not wanting Jacob to leave, because of how rich he had become since Jacob had been there (Vs.29-30), begged Jacob to stay, and in fact, offered him to “name his own price”.
    However, despite the great offer by Laban, Jacob declined it, and then, he came up with a suggestion of his own, which actually has him going back to work for Laban for “a percentage of the gate” as we might say here in 21st century vernacular. Here in this passage Jacob requests that Laban;

“Don’t give me anything at all (in other words “open up the door, I’ll get it myself”). Just do one thing, and I’ll go back to work for you. Let me go out among your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are “speckled” or “spotted”, along with all the dark colored sheep. Give them to me as my wages. This will make it easy for you to see whether or not I have been honest. If you find in my flock any white sheep or goats that are not speckled, you will know that I have stolen them from you”.
    Speckled animals and dark colored animals were much more of a rarity among sheep and goat, than white ones were, at least in those days, and so here in verses 34-36, we see Laban pounce on that offer, seeing only advantages for himself. Also, Laban, being the crook that he was, quickly came up with a scheme to cheat Jacob out of his newly “agreed to” wages. Here he greedily, and connivingly, sends his sons out into the fields to remove all of the existing speckled, spotted, and dark colored animals out of the flocks, and then, drive them three-day’s journey away from where they lived, so Jacob would not find them.
    However, Jacob, whether or not he realized it at the time, had come up with a plan that ultimately, can only be controlled by GOD. His plan relied solely on “birth”, something that I said earlier, “Only GOD can control”. And even though Jacob would use “witchcraft” (Vs.37-43) as a part of his plan, and may have thought at the time, that it was what was going to do the trick for him, later on (Genesis 31:7-12) we’ll see him confess that it was not his “human ingenuity” or expert use of witchcraft and tricky, and nor, was it his use of “selective breeding” (Vs.41-42), that caused his success, but rather, it was “GOD’s OWN Divine Intervention” that extricated him from Laban’s web of deceit. Stay tuned.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander

LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website