Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Genesis 34, 35, 36

Genesis 34:1-31 – Sin in Shechem

God’s desires for his people to be holy and live separate from the world.  Now Shechem was prominent city, but not where Jacob was supposed to be.  He had traveled over 500 miles and had only 50 miles to go to Bethel, where God told him to go.  He bought land and settled there for 10 years.  Delayed obedience is disobedience and outside God’s will.  It was a land of wicked and sinful people and a land of idol worshippers.  Jacob’s family was under great influence from Shechem.  In chapter 34 there is no mention of God, only evil.

Jacob did the very same thing Lot had done.  Lot settled in Sodom and we know what kind of place that was.  One day Jacob and Leah’s daughter, Dinah went to visit the women in the city.  The world is alluring to our children even those from Christian homes.  The world breeds entitlement.  Dinah was raped.  “When Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, the ruler of that area, saw her, he took her and violated her.”Gen. 34:2.  The scripture was clear.  She is violated.  This might have been avoided, if she had not been allowed to go alone.  It was very dangerous in that day for women to be alone.  Shechem (who had the same name as the city) had no sense of doing anything wrong.  It was their culture to take what they wanted.  This could have been avoided if Jacob had gone to Bethel as God had told him and not stay in Shechem.  God wants us to separate ourselves from the world and not live as the world lives. – 2 Cor. 6:17-18. 

Then Shechem wanted to marry Dinah, but he needed her family’s approval.  His father, Hamor after seeing Jacob and all his wealth, wanted his people to intermarry with Jacob’s people.  Her brothers, Simeon and Levi became very anger when they heard about what had happened to Dinah.  They let their emotions get out of control.  They made a cruel plot and pretended Shechem could marry Dinah.  First all the men had to be circumcised.  The men agreed.  While the men were still hurting and could not fight, Simeon and Levi attacked them killing every man and looted the city.  They took their flocks and carried off all their wealth including their women and children.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.  All the men, women and children of the town were not responsible for what happened to Dinah. 

Jacob was unhappy about their behavior, because they had acted wickedly.  Jacob’s family was not using their special identity as God’s people.  Now Jacob’s whole family was in danger.  Jacob’s sons did not respect God by using circumcision to their advantage.  They used it to take revenge instead of using it as a covenant with God.      

Jacob’s sons took revenge for what happened to Dinah.  God’s people should not take revenge.  That’s God’s job.  “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.  Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Rom. 12:17-19. It’s not a sin to be angry.  It’s how you handle it that can become sin.
Principle:  Settling outside God’s will engages with evil and endangers others.

Where are you compromising God’s Word?
How are you resisting the world?
How is disobedience compromising your family?
When someone wrongs you, do you take revenge or do you leave it for God?  Maybe polite revenge?
Do you do what is right in the eyes of others?                                                         

People’s choices impact people.  God knows if you’ve been violated.  You can trust Him.  The harm you endured is recorded in His heart. 

Jacob’s sons used circumcision for their own selfish revenge.  Misusing something God has ordained is wrong.  This is being done today.  Same sex couples want to be married and is now before the Supreme Court.  God established marriage between one man and one woman before America’s civil right were ever established.  Marriage resembles God and His church.

Genesis 35:1-15 – Renewal by Repentance

There are murdered people everywhere, Dinah is violated and dad is silent.  Then God came to Jacob to talk to him.  Would you want to talk to Jacob?  What a God we have!  God wants to pull Jacob out of the pit and restore his relationship with Him.  God reminds Jacob the last time he messed up.  Jacob recognized his mistakes.  God gives Jacob 2 commands:  go to Bethel and to settle there and make an altar to Him.  Jacob served God, but his family did not.  They were influenced by the culture around them and used idols.  “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes.” Gen 35:2.  They had to choose between God and their idols.  So they gave them up and repented.  They all returned to Bethel and God blessed Jacob and his family by sending terror to the towns all around them so no one who pursue them for the wrong his sons had done.

There are truths in spiritual cleansing:
Ps. 51:7, 10; Is. 1:16; Heb. 9:13-14; 1 John 1:7-9 – we are to get rid of anything that will tempt us, we are cleaned from our past by the blood of Christ.
Matt. 3:8; Acts 2:38; James 4:8-10 – we are to repent and be baptized and produce fruit.
1 Cor. 10:20; Eph. 5:1; 1 Thess. 1:9 – we are not to participate with demons and we are to turn from idols and serve the living God.

An idol can be anything we desire in place of God.  We all have idols.  Where you spend most of your time, money and energy can be an idol.  It could be your job, your children, your hobbies, your money or your pleasure.  “Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.”1 John 5:21. 

What do you need to be cleansed of?
What idols do you worship?
Have you repented of your sins?
If so, how has God blessed you?

What a contrast from chapter 34 and 35 – from evil to God’s grace.  When Jacob was at his lowest, God called his name to come back to Him.  This is what Easter is all about.  Jesus came to earth to pay the price for our sins.  His death gives us salvation from sin and power over sin.  We all sin and God desires us to come back to Him.

Principle: Repentance results in a fresh revelation of God.

Genesis 35:16-36:43 – Separation from Esau

At Bethel Jacob built an altar to God as God had told him to do.  There God repeated his promises to Jacob.  Rachel gave birth to another son, Benjamin and then she died.  Benjamin was the only son born in the Promised Land.  As the custom the oldest son was to have sex with his father’s wives, and then he would be the family leader.  Reuben was the oldest and he had sex with Bilhah who was Jacob’s concubine.  Jacob knew this was wrong, but he could not control his adult sons.  Jacob decided Reuben must not receive the birthright.  Instead, he decided that Joseph would receive the birthright.

This family was dysfunctional, like many families today.  But God through His amazing grace works through it all to bring us to Jesus.  This is very encouraging that we don’t have to be perfect.  God loves us in spite of our mistakes.

Jacob and Esau’s father, Isaac lived 180 years, and then he died.  Jacob and Esau came together and buried him.

There are now 2 distinct people – Edomites and the Israelites.  The Edomites, Esau’s descendants were godless and lived lives of idolatry.  The Israelites, Jacob’s descendants worshiped God.  The Edomites and the Israelites were enemies.

Principle:  God calls believers to separate our hearts from the world so we resemble Him to the world.

What do you need to resist the world in your life?
How will you pray for your descendants?  One can turn to God and one can turn away.

While we were still sinners He died for us.  We need to trust every Word of God.  He knows more than we do and He knows us.  Because of His resurrection, we have all we need to live a holy life.  He’s calling your name.

While He was on the cross,
    you were on His mind.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Genesis 32 - 33

Genesis 32:1-21 – Panic and Prayer

Surrender is to give oneself up to the power of another; to yield to possession or power to another.  Transformation means to change in form, condition, nature or character.

Do you know how to yield to God and be His possession?
Do you want to be transformed?
Do you want the way you think and love to be like that of Jesus?

Jacob needed to learn how to let Jesus be Lord.  It begins with a Savior and then becomes Lord.  Jacob learned a lot of lessons while working for Laban.  He learned how it felt to be deceived. 

When Jacob left Canaan, Esau was plotting to kill him.  Jacob had tricked Esau into giving him his birthright and Esau was very angry.  Jacob had to flee for his life.  Now Jacob was returning to Canaan and knew he would have to meet Esau sooner or later.  He was fearful and thought Esau was still wanted to kill him.  There was scary uncertainty ahead.  God did not want him to feel alone so He sent His angels to help him.  When Jacob sees the angels, he named that place Mahanaim meaning 2 camps – Jacob’s camp and God’s camp.  Jacob sees the angels, but still panics. 

Angels are real beings and God commands them to guard us.  The word “angels” means messengers.  Facts about Angels:
Genesis 32:1-2 – God send angels to help us.
Psalm 34:7 – Angels protect those who fear the Lord.
Daniel 6:22 – God sends angels to protect us.
1 Corinthians 6:2-3 – The saints (Christians) will judge the world and angels.
Hebrews 1:14 – Angels are sent to serve those who inherit salvation.

Esau had 400 men and Jacob knew that he could not defeat Esau.  Jacob sent messenger ahead of him to his brother Esau.  He told them to say, “Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now.  I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, menservants and maidservants.  Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.”  - Gen. 32:4-5.  Jacob was in great fear and distress so he divided his people and his flocks into 2 groups.  Then if Esau came to attach one group, the other group could escape. 

Jacob knows the pain of deception and what it means to be taken advantage of.  Now he understands how Esau feels.  Quilt and fear produce panic.  So Jacob prays. – Gen. 32:9-12.

Jacob’s prayer is a good example of how we should pray.  Each part of the prayer is important, because it guides us to focus on God and not our situation.  He likes to hear us praise and thank Him.
Seven points to Jacob’s prayer:
Praise - He called on God, recognizing who He is.
Remember - He reminded God of His promises.
Confess - He repented.
Thank - He thanked God.
Pray specifically - He asked God for specific help.
Pour - He poured his heart out to God about his problems.
Believe - He confidently reminded God and himself God’ Word and purposes.

In verse 12 Jacob reminds God that He would make his descendants like the sand of the sea.  But wait!  God didn’t use those words to Jacob.  He used them when He made His promises to his grandfather, Abraham.  As a grandchild of Abraham, Jacob was listening and remembered.  So all you grandparents take note of this.  Your grandchildren are listening to you so take every opportunity to teach them about life and about God and His love and promises.

His attitude changed after he prayed.  Instead of running away he stayed the night.  He was not just sorry.  He repented.  To repent means to be convicted, to be sorry and turn away from sin.  Before he prayed, he showed panic and quilt.

Principle:  Prayer is a place for truth and transformation.

Prayer is where we go to align with God.  Jesus’ death removed the barrier.  Now we can take everything to God.  Prayer is a place of truth.  It’s where we invite the truth.  It’s a place for healing, hope and purpose.  It transforms fear to faith and cleans out our heart by confessing our sins.

Do you have quilt over an attitude?
What do you need to confess to the Lord?  The truth will set you free.
What are you going to thank Him for today?

Genesis 32:22-32 – Wrestle and Surrender

Jacob said all the right things to God, but was not ready to trust Him.  Scriptures say that night Jacob wrestled with ”the man”.  They struggled all night.  Jacob wanted God’s blessing and would do anything for it.  Jacob overcame and his name was changed to Israel, because he struggled with God.  “Your name will no longer be Jacob but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcame.” Gen. 32:22-32.  Hosea 12:4-5 tells us that it was Jesus he struggled with.

As they wrestled God touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it.  When we wrestle with God we lose, but when we wrestle with God, we win.  Jacob was left with a limp to remind him of God’s power is perfect in our weakness.  Jacob did not force God to bless him, because you cannot force God to do anything.  Jacob just realized and accepted God’s blessing.  Jacob was always interested in spiritual things, but now he personally knows God.

Do you ever wrestle with God?
Do you try to do your will instead of God’s?
Do you think up excuses of why you should do or not do something?
Is God wrestling with you?  We don’t see God like Jacob did, but He still breaks us down so we will surrender to Him.

Principle:  Surrendering our will to God brings His transforming power and purpose to our life.

Genesis 33:1-20 – Faith and Reconciliation

Jacob made peace with God and his deception, but has no idea how Esau feels.  Both Jacob and Esau changed over the years.  Jacob finally met up with Esau.  Jacob showed great humility and bowed 7 times as Esau approached.  God changed Esau’s attitude and heart.  They kissed and wept together.  Both were very happy to see each other.  Forgiveness can produce many emotions.  Jacob did not deserve the kiss and the embrace.  Jacob insisted Esau accept the gifts he had brought for him.  Esau tried to refuse the gifts and offered to accompany Jacob and his family back home.  This showed that Esau was not selfish and wanted to protect Jacob.

Principle:  God’s power and grace are displayed in our brokenness.

What changes are in your character for others to see God’s grace?
What circumstances will you surrender to God so you will grow?
Do you want people to be impressed with your or who is on the inside?

Jacob is not perfect, but has changed.  God is the reason.  He had to learn that you don’t go get stuff from God.  He got a new name and purpose.  God was at work in him before Jacob was born.  He is pursing you persistently.  He wants you to change and have a life He has planned for you.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Genesis 28, 29, 30, 31

Have you ever heard someone say,” The Bible is not relevant today”?  Answer them with:  “Have you ever lied?  Have you ever felt unloved?”  The Bible is reality.  It teaches us how we can make the most of our situations.

God disciplines us to build our character.  Jacob lied 5 times in the previous chapter.  It takes a lie to sustain a lie.  But God forgives and give Jacob a renewed heart.  Growing up in a Christian home is not enough.  You have to experience it for yourself.  Jacob received the promises that God gave to his father and grandfather that all people would be blessed through him.  The Messiah would come from his descendants.

Genesis 28

Jacob had to leave home to escape Esau.  Isaac blessed Jacob before he left with the same blessing that God gave Abraham that his descendants would receive the promised land of Canaan.  Isaac told him not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to go to Paddon Aram to the house of his mother’s brother, Laban to take a wife there.  During Jacob journey he had a dream where God spoke to him.  God gave the same promises that He had given Abraham and Isaac.  Jacob promises that he, too, would serve God.  That’s why we call God the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”.  Jacob really wanted this blessing even though he used wrong methods to try to get it.  God gives His blessing where He wants and to whom He wants.  We cannot earn it.

Principle:  God meets us where our sin has led us to reveal our solution – Himself.

God pursues sinners.  Have you experienced God coming to you as a sinner? 
Has He showed you love? 
Can you say I’ve been redeemed? 
What is God revealing to you about Himself? 
Are you willing to sacrifice yourself for Him? 
How do you feel about Jacob getting blessings after he lied 5 times?  - None of us deserve the blessings we get.

Genesis 29

Jacob arrived and saw shepherds in the field watering their flocks from a well.  Then here comes Rachel.  Jacob sees Rachel and seems to love her at first sight.  Jacob’s mother, Rebekah had used a well in chapter 24 where she watered Abraham’s servant and his camels.  Soon after, Rebekah married Isaac.  Laban probably remembered the wealth he received from Abraham’s servant when he took Rebekah for Isaac’s wife in chapter 24.  So Laban invited Jacob to stay in his home probably hoping he would marry Leah or Rachel.  Jacob asked to marry Rachel, but Laban had him work for 7 years first.  He worked very hard while he stayed with Laban.  After the 7 years Laban arranged the wedding, but Laban was deceitful and gave him Leah, the oldest daughter instead.  The bride wore a veil and Jacob did not realize that it was Leah he had married.  When he did realize it, he asked Laban what he had done to him.  Laban explained that it was the custom for the oldest daughter to be given in marriage before the youngest.  But Jacob loved Rachel so he worked for Laban 7 more years for Rachel.  Now he had 2 wives and each wife had a maid. – Gen 29:1-30.  Just because something is recorded in scripture doesn’t make it God’s will.  With many wives there is always conflict in families.

Do you ever feel like Jacob? 
Do you fell stuck in your job or your marriage?

Take heart, because God was with Jacob was with him the whole time.  God has a purpose for you.  God is with you the whole time.  You may not have to wait 14 years or maybe you will wait even longer.  No matter how long it takes things will change.  God is with you.

God watched over Jacob and his family as He had promised.  Jacob never really loved Leah, but accepted her as his wife.  God knew that Leah was not loved so He helped her to have several children.  She had 4 sons:  Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah.  Then she stopped having children. – Gen. 31-35. 

If you are living unloved, God knows your pain.  Jacob’s family was filled with jealousy.  Leah grew in faith with the births of her sons.  God comforts her through her children.  She is known as the mother of Israel.  Through her son Judah’s line would be Jesus.

Principle:  God will develop our character through personal hardships as we trust in Him.

How is God disciplining you?
What longing would you be willing to surrender to God in your Pain?

Chapter 30

It was very difficult for Rachel to have children so she gave her maidservant to Jacob so she too could build a family of her own.  The maidservant bore 2 sons, Dan and Naphtali.  Then Leah gave her maidservant to Jacob and she had 2 sons, Gad and Asher.  Then Leah had 2 more sons, Issachar and Zebulun.  Later Leah had a daughter, Dinah.  Then God remembered Rachel and she had a son and called him Joseph.  That makes 11 sons for Jacob.  Then in chapter 35 Rachel died in childbirth with another son, Benjamin making Jacob with 12 sons.

Jacob was a good servant to Laban.  He respected his authority even when Laban was deceitful and unfair.  Jacob obeyed his rules and worked 14 years for Rachel and Leah.  There is a lesson for us in this story.  We as Christians are to be honest and should always work hard and obey the rules of those in charge even when they are not watching.  We are to work as if working for the Lord.

Jacob wanted to leave Laban and return home, but Laban persuaded him to wait.  Laban offered to pay Jacob for his work.  Laban continued to cheat Jacob, but God made Jacob wealthy. – Gen. 30:25-43. 

Genesis 31

Finally God told Jacob to leave Laban so Jacob and his family left without saying goodbye to Laban.  When Laban heard he had left, he chased Jacob and caught up with him.  God intervenes to take care of His people.  He warned Laban in a dream to not force Jacob to return.  Laban knew he could not win against God and that God would protect Jacob.  Laban and Jacob made a covenant together not as friends, but that they would stay apart and that their sons would not fight each other.

Principle:  God keeps His promises in spite of human opposition and failure.

How do you respond when your obedience is opposed?   Obedience will be opposed.  The journey is not easy.  We all make mistakes and we get disappointed by people.

Three truths about God:
God’s commitment is who He is and not what you do.
God will discipline those He loves to build character.
Rest assured - God will bring each one of His children safely home.