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Archive for February, 2009

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there; and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from the face of Esau your brother.” And Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you, purify yourselves, and change your garments. Genesis 35:1-2I cannot help but stroll back to yesterday’s blog where we scrutinized Jacob’s dreadful performance regarding his daughter’s assault and his handling of the horrific deeds perpetrated by two sons. Now we learn in today’s Bible passage that Jacob tolerated idols in his house! How could this possibly happen? This is what occurs when as parents (like Jacob) we are indifferent to the seemingly innocuous proceedings going on around us.

God’s Grace

Jacob knew he messed up. He knew he should not have moved his family to Heathenville, he knew he should have taken charge of the Dinah incident, and he knew he should have reeled-in his boys prior to their becoming mass-murders. Jacob also knew God’s grace when he saw it, for when God told him, “Arise, ” and go back to Bethel, he understood the wonderful implication—God forgives me. God fundamentally is saying to Jacob, “Go back to the place you last felt My presence.” It has always been His message to us as well.

Jacob is so bowled over by God’s mercy; so appreciative; so grateful, as a devotional response he removes every trace of evil from his home. His family had to be thankful too, for there is not one objection to Jacob’s request. If you don’t think that’s noteworthy, just imagine the mayhem that would ensue if we as parents suddenly decided to remove all the ‘idolized’ things from our dwelling places.

God is in the House

So Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him. And he built an altar there and called the place El Bethel… Genesis 35:6-7a

While it was true there was gratefulness and jubilation galore, there was also reckonable spiritual growth. We would recall that when Jacob first arrived at Luz he renamed the place ‘Bethel’; i.e. he changed the name from ‘separated’ to ‘House of God’–a wise and notable deed at the time. However, Jacob recognizes now that it is not the house, but the God in the house and renames the place appropriately El Bethel, or ‘The God of the House of God.”

That is huge spiritual development and the application for us is similarly gargantuan! It’s not the church; it’s the God of the church and it’s not the Bible; it’s the God of the Bible and it is not the ministry, but it is the God in the ministry. Oh how we need to remember that.

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2


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Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. Genesis 33:1-2A Father’s Responsibility

I am not going to suggest that Dinah’s attack was Jacob’s fault; that burden falls squarely upon the shoulders of her attacker (whose name oddly enough means shoulder). However I am going to say that the situation could have likely been avoided if Jacob had not placed his family (and his daughter) in such a precarious and unhealthy environment. Jacob was living on the edge of ‘Heathenville’ and he knew it. To make matters worse, consider the carnage that ensued…

…Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, each took his sword and came boldly upon the city and killed all the males. And they killed Hamor and Shechem his son with the edge of the sword, and took Dinah from Shechem’s house, and went out. 27 The sons of Jacob came upon the slain, and plundered the city, because their sister had been defiled. They took their sheep, their oxen, and their donkeys, what was in the city and what was in the field, and all their wealth. All their little ones and their wives they took captive; and they plundered even all that was in the houses. Genesis 33:25b-28

A Lack of Supervision

Things were bad (prior to this massacre), but Jacob had the opportunity to take control of the situation and see to it that justice was administered. Instead he chose to remain silent. All things considered it was Jacob’s ineffectiveness and peace that provoked his two boy’s immature response. Again, it does not excuse the behavior of Simeon and Levi.

The root of this problem goes back to when Jacob elected to move his family to an unsafe setting. The entire account brings to mind Lot’s avoidable-saga when he pitched his tent on the outskirts of Sodom and Gomorrah and ultimately became entangled in the goings-on of that horrid place. I cannot help but read Jacob’s account and wonder why is it recorded in the Bible given that there is no positive outcome? Only one thing makes sense…

Consider it a Warning

Examining Jacob’s actions (and inactions) we wonder how he could be so ignorant and lackadaisical; the answer to which we will never know. But it should give us pause and reason to reflect upon the things we allow our children easy access. Suffice it to say, the consequences for the choices our children make are ultimately their own, but what affect did our indifference or ignorance have on these decisions—what was our role? Please consider this short story I took off the web a while back—it’s quite thought provoking. It is attributed to Joy Innes and is called…

The Stranger

 

“A few months before I was born, my Dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in my family. In my young mind, he had a special niche. My parents were complementary instructors: Mom taught me the word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger? He was our storyteller. He would keep us spellbound for hours on end with adventures, mysteries and comedies.
If I wanted to know anything about politics, history or science, he always knew the answers about the past, understood the present and even seemed able to predict the future! He took my family to the first major league ball game. He made me laugh, and he made me cry. The stranger never stopped talking, but Dad didn’t seem to mind.
Sometimes, Mom would get up quietly while the rest of us were shushing each other to listen to what he had to say, and she would go to her room and read her books (I wonder now if she ever prayed for the stranger to leave.) Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but the stranger never felt obligated to honor them.
Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our home … not from us, our friends or any visitors. Our longtime visitor, however, got away with four-letter words that burned my ears and made my dad squirm and my mother blush.
My Dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in the home, not even for cooking. But the stranger encouraged us to try it on a regular basis. He made cigarettes look cool, cigars manly and pipes distinguished. He talked freely (much too freely!) about sex.
His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I now know that my early concepts about relationships were influenced strongly by the stranger. Time after time, he opposed the values of my parents, yet he was seldom rebuked … and NEVER asked to leave.
More than fifty years have passed since the stranger moved in with our family. He has blended right in and is not nearly as fascinating as he was at first. Still, if you were to walk into my parent’s den today you would still find him sitting over in his corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures.
His name?
We just call him TV.”


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Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, “Let Me go, for the day breaks.” But he said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” So He said to him, “What is your name?” He said, “Jacob.” And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Genesis 32:24-28The Story Behind the Picture

Have you ever seen the portrayal of a shepard carrying a lamb upon his shoulders? Typically, tender hands are seen fixed upon front and hind legs with the animal positioned around his neck as a stoll. What you might not know is that in reality the scene depicts a shepard carrying the lamb of whose legs he has just purposely broken. That lamb was a habitual wanderer and for his own good he was afflicted. The seemingly brutal shepard will now carry the lamb until he is fully healed and in so doing the lamb will come to love his caretaker and never leave his side.

The Lamb Afflicts the Lamb

In this saga from Genesis we see Jacob grappling with a Man, and that Man is Jesus. Ultimately, Jesus will inflict an injury so severe upon Jacob; he will carry the scar and the limb for the rest of his life. It might cause us to ask the questions, “If God is love (and He is), why would He purposely hurt Jacob? And why does God purposely bring pain into my life?” Thes story of the shepard and the lamb only scratches the surface.

Sanctification

Sanctification is nothing more than a fancy word which describes the refining process we go through so that we might be set apart for God’s good pleasure and purpose. God has specific intentions for us that align with His plan and here in our story he has similar purpose for Jacob. But first some things are going to have to change.

What is Your Name?

That’s the question God asks of Jacob—it is confession time. God knows with whom He is wrestling, but before the blessing is bestowed Jacob must take ownership of his offenses. If you recall, the last time Jacob was asked his name was when his blind father Isaac posed the question. At that time Jacob lied and said he was Esau so that he might steal the blessing. When Jacob tells God (here) that his name is Jacob, he is essentially confessing that he is a liar and a thief. As a result Jesus pronounces that his new name will be Israel; or ‘governed by God.’

So Why the Busted Leg?

A combination of reasons come to mind. First, Jacob was a runner (like the lamb) and as a result of this encounter, his running-away days are over—thanks be to God. Secondly, his limb will now serve as a reminder of his life up unto this event—Jacob now has a testimony that he will recall with every hobbled step he takes. Thirdly, like the Apostle Paul he will possess an infirmity effecting remembrance of the Father’s truth, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

The reality is that God purposely inflicts or knowingly allows affliction because it is a part of the sanctification process. 1 Kings 6:7 provides a wonderful picture that facilitates much hope. It reads, “And the temple, when it was being built, was built with stone finished at the quarry, so that no hammer or chisel or any iron tool was heard in the temple while it was being built.”

That passage is an illustration of the sanctification process. The Bible tells us we are the stones in the walls of the His temple. We are being prepared currently in an earthly quarry with the promise that hammering and chiseling, the sounds of the refining process will not be heard in Heaven.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:17-18

If you are still struggling with the notion of a loving and hurting God, then perhaps you should go have something to eat—understanding and insight can be had at the Lord’s Table in Communion.

…And when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 1 Corinthians 11:24


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So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flock, and said to them, “I see your father’s countenance, that it is not favorable toward me as before; but the God of my father has been with me…Yet your father has deceived me…” Genesis 31:4-5, 7aMirrors Do Not Lie

Jacob was not lying—the portrayal and disclosure regarding his father-in-law was an accurate one. But I submit to you that Jacob’s aptitude for recognizing character flaws came easily because his subject’s behavior was merely reflective of his own. Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew gives us further insight.

“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ’Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5

When we examine the original language in which this text was recorded we discover that that the speck so easily identified in others is actually a splinter of the same piece of wood we possess. Did you get that? That speck is not similar to our portion; it is the same exact thing only smaller. No wonder recognition is effortless!

That’s Good News!

Our propensity to identify imperfection (in others) is inevitable—how we use the talent is what Jesus desires we consider. We are being told that when we experience the judging urge we should liberally purge. Judging others is not necessarily inappropriate mind you, but who would listen to a diatribe concerning alcohol abuse (for an example) if the professor were stinking drunk.

The Speck in Your Eye

A lot of the time we find ourselves on the receiving end of these declarations. When this occurs there are two things to mull over. First, your accuser might be on to something and we should not summarily dismiss the indictment because he is stinking drunk (for an example). The second issue is to be cognizant that your petitioner might have a larger problem. Suddenly the tables have been turned and we find ourselves in a position of restoration. How should we proceed? Consider wise council…

Where there is no counsel, the people fall; But in the multitude of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14


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…And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. Genesis 28:11b-12Recognition

Beating ourselves up for our sinful ways is something I suspect we all do it from time to time and running away to hide is as old as the first practitioners of the behavior, Adam and Eve. As a practice of self-imposed chastisement for believing we are contemptible, we deny ourselves niceties–Adam and Eve opted for itchy fig leaves and here in our story Jacob chooses for his pillow a stone.

We need to stop. It might seem prejudicious or discriminatory, but what was acceptable for Jacob is not satisfactory for us. Remember, Jacob did not have the direction of the Ten Commandments as we do—that magnificent road sign that tells us who we are (sinners) and to Whom we need to go (Jesus the Christ). When we run, when we hide, when we beat ourselves up, we are essentially denying the genuineness of the truth we already know—Jacob did not yet possess such a luxury.

Jacob Sees Jesus

And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” John 1:51

What happens next in Jacob’s life can be likened to what occurs in our lives when we acknowledge and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior—the recognition of being saved by God and for God! Qualities and activities emerge from Jacob’s experience that can best be categorized as the characteristics of a new believer.

The Born Again Disposition

When a Christian comes into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ—when there is recognition of God’s presence, provision, and promise in a life, certain traits exemplified by Jacob begin to appear. Oh not by way of fleshly endeavors, but rather works of God–supernatural occurrences enabling us to function unselfishly and with Divine focus and purpose. While not an exhaustive list, these three elements will be apparent:

Worship

Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put at his head, set it up as a pillar, and poured oil on top of it. Genesis 28:18

There is just something about being rescued that brings out the best in a person–the greater the liberation the larger the gratitude, but when these events occur in the worldly arena, in time appreciation tends to fade. Not so with salvation in Christ Jesus—the ramifications of salvation are immeasurable and the homecoming is inevitable.
We rejoice.

Works

…And of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You Genesis 28:22

A saved Christian knows that nothing done in the flesh got him to this point—the work of salvation was finished by Jesus on the cross. With that knowledge and as we gain insight to God’s will, we begin to function in response. Christian service and stewardship is really nothing more than Spirit-guided gestures that acknowledge God’s dominion and authority.

Walk

So Jacob went on his journey…Genesis 29:1

With the narrow path comes the expectation and hope of forward progression. Despite occasional stumbles, retreats, or seasons of idleness, the born again believer will be in the practice of advancing towards a common goal with like-minded believers—a plan orchestrated and designed by God and for His good pleasure.


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When Esau heard the words of his father, he cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry, and said to his father, “Bless me–me also, O my father!” Genesis 27:34God’s Will Be Done

When we examine the account of Isaac blessing his sons Jacob and Esau, we no doubt take notice of the devious and deceitful behavior being exercised by those concerned. It really boils down to the futility associated with trying to help God with things He really does not need our help with. While the world screams ‘efficiency’ God commands effectiveness and regardless of how disconcerting treachery is, God’s plan will ultimately be accomplished. Worldly efforts serve only to delay the inevitable and typically garner undesired consequences for the one who sins.

A Model Blessing

Despite all the deceit, Isaac does display for us a wonderful example of what it means to offer blessings. Sadly it is a lost art. For example, the practice of blessing our children has almost vanished through the ages and as a result our children often look to be blessed elsewhere. Oh that we should resume the role as children blessers, for this practice is indeed a blessing to our Heavenly Father.

A Blessing Defined

If we break a blessing down into its basic parts we learn that a superior blessing achieves two things: it proclaims who a person is and reveals a direction for that person to go. Isaac’s blessings for both his children accomplish these things. When we fail to bless those under our care the result is often horrific. Our children, in search of affirmation of any type, end up discovering surrogate donors who are quick to provide that which is perverse.

Pronouncing the Blessing

Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near now and kiss me, ” Genesis 27:26

A blessing is obviously a personal thing, but it is also a tender and meaningful event. In Isaac’s illustration we see this personal touch employed. Studies demonstrate that for children who do not receive this demonstrative touch at home will seek to find it in inappropriate places later one. In addition, let us not deny our children the touch of Jesus or the touch of discipline. Again, what cannot be found in the home will be searched for elsewhere.

Surely, the smell of my son Is like the smell of a field Which the Lord has blessed. Genesis 27:27

Proverbs 3:27 declares that we are not to, “withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do so.” In Isaac’s proclamation to his son he gives recognition, essentially giving worth to the person he believed his son to be. Lord, help us to identify the good and worthy things our children do and bless them accordingly.

Therefore may God give you Of the dew of heaven, Of the fatness of the earth, And plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, And nations bow down to you. Be master over your brethren, And let your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, And blessed be those who bless you!” Genesis 27:28-29

When it is within our power to do so we should be revelators, for God has blessed us with both a measure of discernment and a rear-view mirror. As we employ both we can effectively plot a course and determine a likely destination for our kids. Then as we perceive their direction, we can then either encourage them in their walk or redirect them to the superior (albeit narrow) path.

Do not buy-the-lie; it has never been wrong for us to telegraph our godly expectations for our children. I am reminded of Noah, who when building the ark incorporated separate rooms for his children, despite the fact he had not been blessed with any yet. By his actions Noah was essentially saying, “My children will be onboard with the program.”

“Indeed I have made him your master, and all his brethren I have given to him as servants; with grain and wine I have sustained him. What shall I do now for you, my son?” Genesis 27:37

In Isaac’s words (to Esau) we see a continued commitment by him to see the blessing through. The notion here is that blessings inspired and imposed by God are irrevocable. God has a plan for our children (and us) and as their earthly guardians we must do whatever we are able to see that plan through to fruition, not operating in our flesh, but by Divine guidance. When we stumble (and we will) we will trust God to lift us up.


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And the Lord said to her: “Two nations are in your womb, Two peoples shall be separated from your body; One people shall be stronger than the other, And the older shall serve the younger.” Genesis 25:23A Picture of You

It is a true saying that for every New Testament principle, there is an Old Testament picture. Abraham is a picture (or type) of Father God, Isaac is a picture of Jesus, Rebekah is a picture of the church (the Bride of Christ), and Esau and Jacob are pictures of you and I. At the very least they are symbolic representations of the two entities that continually war within us: flesh and spirit. This enduring conflict (in my opinion) is the prevalent woe of the Christian church today.

The War Within

For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. Galatians 5:17

We are familiar with the old aphorism that tells us the dog who wins the fight is the one we feed the most—it is a model we can understand. The same principle holds true in regard to our flesh and our spirit—the one that develops and thrives is the one which is fed the most. It stands to reason that if we are miserable ~or~ if we want to feel miserable, then feed them both.

So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:16

Misery is Contagious

When we feed both the spirit and the flesh, we make ourselves miserable and in turn we make Jesus nauseous. In this verse from Revelation, Jesus is not telling us (as Christians) that He is disgusted with us, but rather that our miserable condition pains Him internally. If you have ever felt sick over a loved one’s destructive behavior, then perhaps you can commiserate with Jesus—in these situations there is little to do except ache and pray. When the victim is us we have one other option.

The Remedy

Jesus said His yoke was easy and His burden is light, therefore it stands to reason that a difficult yoke and heavy burden belongs to someone else. It really all comes down to one decisive problem—there are just some things we do not want to give up. Our salvation is not in question necessarily, but rather the choice to be miserable. The Jesus-solution is simple and straightforward…

Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts…For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Joshua 24:15, Romans 13:14; 8:6


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