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Sunday, March 15, 2020

posted Mar 15, 2020, 3:29 PM by Site Administrator

GOD GAVE JOSEPH TWO DREAMS

 

Genesis 36:1-38:30

Key Verses 37:6,7

 

He said to them, Listen to this dream I had: v7 We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.

 

First, The account of Esau (36:1-43). Genesis 36 talks about Esaus descendants. Esau had three wives: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Oholibamah daughter of Anah and granddaughter of Zibeon the Hivite, and Basemath daughter of Ishmael and sister of NebaiothIn 26:34, the names of Esaus first two wives are Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite and Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite. But in chapter 36, their names are not mentioned; instead, two other names are mentioned: Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite, Oholibamahdaughter of Anah the Hivite. It seems that Basemath daughter of Elon the Hittite and Adah daughter of Elon the Hittite are the same person, or sisters. Maybe, Basemath died soon, and Elon, Esaus father-in-law gave Esau another daughter, Adah as his wife. In the same way, maybe, Judith daughter of Beeri the Hittite died without leaving any child, and Esau married Oholibamah the Hivite - she is also described as the Horite in the passage, showing that the Hivites and the Horites were the same people, or she was both Hivite and the Horite. Adah bore Eliphaz to Esau, Basemath bore Reuel, and Oholibamah bore JeushJalam and Korah. These were the sons of Esau, who were born to him in Canaan. Esau took his wives and sons and daughters and all the members of his household, as well as his livestock and all his other animals and all the goods he had acquired in Canaan, and moved to a land some distance from his brother Jacob. Their possessions were too great for them to remain together; the land where they were staying could not support them both because of their livestock. So Esau (that is, Edom) settled in the hill country of SeirThe hill country of Seirwas located Southeast of the Dead Sea. Modern day, it belongs to mostly Jordan, and a little portion to Israel. 

 

Actually, the hill country of Seir was the hometown of one of Esaus wives, OholibamahProbably, Oholibamah suggestedEsau to move to Seir, and the people of Seir, the Horites welcomed them. So, two peoples came to live in the hill country of Seir: The descendants of Seir, the Horites, and the descendants of Esau, the Edomites. Thats why Genesis 36 talks about these two groups. Verses 9 through 19 talks about the 14chiefs of the Edomites: Chiefs Teman, Omar, ZephoKenazKorahGatam and Amalek. These were the chiefs descended from Eliphaz in Edom; they were grandsons of Adah. 17 The sons of Esaus son Reuel: Chiefs Nahath, Zerah, Shammah and Mizzah. These were the chiefs descended from Reuel in Edom; they were grandsons of Esaus wife Basemath. 18 The sons of Esaus wife Oholibamah: Chiefs JeushJalam and Korah. And verses 20 through 30 talks about the 7 chiefs of the Horites. Then, verses 31 through 43 talks about the kings of Edom, showing that the Horites were absorbed into the Edomites. A unique thing of this kingdom was that the kingship was not dynastic, or hereditary. Each kings rule was secured lifelong, but once he died, the kingship was not given to the kings son, but to another person who was elected as kingperhaps tosomeone who did something heroic among them. As a conclusion about the descendants of Esau, verses 40 through 43 comes up with 11 chiefs of Edom: TimnaAlvahJethethOholibamahElah, Pinon, KenazTemanMibzarMagdiel and Iram. Among these 11 chiefs, 2 of them were Horite womenTimna (Elipaz, Esaus firstborn sons concubine) and Oholibamah (Esaus 2nd wife) In the whole world, women were not considered at all in those days. Yet, among the descendants of Esau, women were honored. Esau was fruitful and his descendants were well organized; they became powerful, establishing a kingdom, even democratic kingdom, in those days. 

 

About 500 years later, when the Israelites came out of Egypt, they came to have their first encounter with the Edomites. Moses asked the king of Edom for passage through their country, promising that they would not touch anything in the land. But the king of Edom refused that proposal; instead, he came out with his army. At this, God told Moses not to fight with the Edomites, but make a detour, because He had givenEsau the hill country of Seir as his possession. (Num 20:14-21; Deut 2:1-6)

 

After Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians (586 B.C.), the Edomites saw that Judah was empty and moved into the area. These people were called Idumeans. Then, during the Hasmonean Dynasty, King John Hylkanus (125 B.C.) converted them to Judaism. Thus, later, when Herod the Great, an Idumean, was assigned to be king of Judah, the Jews were not offended too much. According to Josephus, during the siege of Jerusalem in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus, 20,000 Idumaeans fought together with the Jews against Rome. After this war, the Idumaean people are no longer mentioned in history

 

Esau was indeed fruitful; God blessed him greatly, not because of any other reason than the fact that he was related to Gods covenant people - he was Isaacs son and Jacobs brother. We already learned that God blessed Ishmael, just because he was Abrahams son. Everyone related to Gods covenant people was blessed. But these blessings - great family, wealth, and even establishing kingdoms - are not comparable to the blessing of becoming Gods covenant people. God blessed these people greatly because they were related to Gods covenant family, yet, still the real blessing, Gods covenant blessing, was not given to them. It was given only to those who were chosen - Isaac and Jacob. And this great blessing of becoming Gods covenant has been given to us. What a blessed people we are! And because of us, God blesses everyone who is related to us. That way, God shows that we are indeed a source of blessing for many. 

 

Second, Joseph had dreams (37:1-36). So far, the book of Genesis has zoomed in on how Jacob became a spiritual man by Gods grace. And now, after he was established as Gods covenant person fully, the author focuses on his 12 sons, especially, Joseph. Thus, Gods redemption work went down from one generation to another. God was really working hard without taking any rest. How was Josephs youth? Look at verse 2. It reads: This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his fathers wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. Wait a minute! He was a snitch?! How do you feel about a snitch? No one likes a snitch. You may be angry with him. As we can see in Genesis, he had no evil intention; he was not a crooked person. So, the reason why he brought a bad report about his brothers was because simply they had not done things right; instead, they did wrong things, maybe, they were negligent in tending flocks; or they sold flocks for themselves, and Joseph told his father about their wrongdoings. 

 

From Josephs youth, he had been his fathers favorite, because he was the son of Jacobs beloved wife Rachel, and had been born to him in his old age. Israel lavished so much love and attention on Joseph. To make matters worse, as yet another expression of his love for Joseph, Israel gave Joseph a richly ornamented robe.

 

How did Josephs brothers respond? Look at verse 4. It reads: When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. Not that they didnt speak a kind word to Josephdeliberately, but that they could not speak a kind word to him - it was impossible for them to greet Joseph, Good morning.Instead, whenever they saw him, they lashed out, or slammed the door in his face, or simply, they avoided him. When your sibling treats you that way, it is so confusing and terrifying; you become so sad. That was the atmosphere in Josephs family. His soul could have been deeply damaged and crooked when his own brothers had treated him this way. Yet, thanks to Jacobs love for him, he could grow as a sound person, not sensing his brothers jealousy and hatred against him that much.

 

One day Joseph had a dream and said to his brothers, Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it. Josephs brothers, infuriated, said to him, Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us? They were furious, yet, it seemed that Joseph did not catch it; he was just excited about the dream. Later, he said to his brothers and his father again, Listen, I had another dream, and this time the sun and moon and eleven stars were bowing down to me. Of course, his brothers were angry at him, yet, Joseph seemed to not understand what was going on because he was simply thrilled by these dreams. He was a naive person. This time Jacob rebuked him, but, being a man whom God had spoken to in dreams and visions, he kept it in mind. In fact, Josephs dreams were no ordinary dreams: they revealed that God had a special plan for his life. They told of Josephs future spiritual leadership among his brothers.

 

God gave these two dreams to Joseph. There was no Bible; and Joseph was too immature and blind in spirit for God to havemeaningful fellowship with him. But God wanted to show him his great plan for him. So, He used these dreams. When Josephhad these powerful and exciting dreams, he felt so good; maybe, he began to think about a wonderful future; maybe, he was thinking about being a leader. He didnt know everything in regard to these two dreams; nonetheless, he felt so good and excited. Maybe, when he had some free time, when he was alone, he thought about what these dreams meant; maybe, later, even when his life was going really terribly, from time to time, he would think about these two dreams and pick up new strength, saying, Things will become great. These dreams gave him a direction; they became his hope; they were a source of strength for him.

 

Modern day, one big problem most people have is that they do not have dreams for their lives. When they dont have dreams for their lives, then, they just struggle to take care of their duties and responsibilities. They just live according to their natural desires such as the desire for survival in this dog-eat-dog world, the desire for eating well, drinking well, sleeping well, marrying well; they are busy with so many things to take care of; their duties and responsibilities are endless. Eventually, they get old and sick. Then, when they look back, they find that they have done nothing meaningful in their life; their life is empty. All these people are full of regret, saying, Ah, if I live again,...Having a dream for our own life is important. Otherwise, they cannot say anything when their children ask them, Daddy, what is life? When you have a dream for your life, you know what you have to do; you can really choose the right way to go; you have courage and strength to deal with the challenges of life; you may be discouraged, but you will not be destroyed. Dont you remember what Martin Luther King Jr. saidI have a dream. A dream is a source of strength, hope, direction, and courage. How can we have dreams for our life? True dreams come from God, because Gods dream is the real dream for all of us. When we turn to God, God shows his dreams for us, saying, Increase in number and fill the earth; subdue it; rule over... He says, All peoples on earth will be blessed through you. You will be a blessing. You will be the father of many nations. You will be the mother of many nations. Dont be afraid. From now on, you will catch men. Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. Go and make disciples of all nations. When you come to God, you can see Gods great dream for you, and it becomes the dream for your life. Thats why people must turn to God; thats why we must study the word of God diligently; thats why we must pray continuously. Have dreams of God for your life, and those dreams will keep you alive, protecting you from all harms. 

 

Look at verse 12. Sometime later, Jacob sent Joseph on an errand to check up on his brothers who were grazing their fathers flock near Shechem. Joseph replied, very well and went on his way. From the Valley of Hebron where Jacob lived to Shechem was about 60 miles, about 2 days journey on foot. Joseph walked all the way and came to Shechem, but he couldnt find his brothers. A man found him, while he was wandering in the wilderness, looking for his brothers, and told him that they had gone to Dothan. So Joseph went to Dothan, which was about 20 or 30 miles on foot from ShechemThis shows that Joseph was faithful and reliable; once a task was given him, he would somehow do it, willing to go the extra mile; he was that kind of person.

 

Look at verse 18. When Josephs brothers saw him in the distance, they plotted to kill him, saying, Come now, lets kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then well see what comes of his dreams. What a terrible crime they thought about - they wanted to kill their young brother because of jealousy. This was the result of unrepentant jealousy. If you have any jealousy against anyone, if you have any hatred or bitterness against anyone, repent; let it go in Jesus Christ; forgive that person, and ask God for the forgiveness of your sins. If that jealousy is unattended continually, you never know what it will eventually bring into your life. Then, Reuben told them not to kill Joseph, but to throw him into a nearby cistern. He secretly planned to rescue Joseph and take him back to his father. He was about 23 years old, and all his brothers were about 18 to 21. He should have exercised the leadership among them as the eldest brother. But he was too weak, and among the brothers, there was no real unity since they had grown up in such a strange family. 

 

In selling Joseph to the Midianites, Judah was the ring leader. He suggested that they do this instead of killing him, saying, What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? Come, lets sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood. He was burdened about killing his own brother, even though he did not like him; so were all other brothers. They liked his suggestion and for 20 shekels of silver, they sold him to the Midianites who took him to Egypt; there, Joseph was sold to Potiphar, one of Pharaohs officials, the captain of the guard. Then his brothers dipped Josephrobe in goats blood and took it back to their father Jacob. Jacob, in great distress mourned for his son and refused to be comforted, saying, No, in mourning will I go down to the grave to my son.

 

What a painful moment it was for Joseph to see that his own brothers wanted to kill him! How painful it was for him to be betrayed by his own brothers and sold to a stranger for some money! Maybe, it was the most painful moment for him. Some of us have experienced some betrayal or abandonment, yet probably not as shocking and painful as what happened to Joseph. Wait a minute! Didnt God give him great dreams? Didnt God have great plans for him? Wasnt God guiding his life? Yes. Then, how come such a terrible thing, such a painful thing happened to Joseph? It happened because God had a great plan for him! It happened because God was guiding him so that he would be shaped up for Gods special purpose. It happened so that Gods purpose would be fulfilled in his life. 

 

People like the idea of having Gods dreams; they like the idea that God has a great vision for them. So, they think about doing great things. But when things do not go well despite their struggles, when challenges come, when they fail over and over again, they are confused; they doubt, saying, God, dont you want me to do great things for you? How come you dont help me? God having a great vision for you does not mean that your life goes very smoothly and that everything goes well with you; it does not mean that you have no suffering and no failures; it does not mean that you are successful all the time. Instead, actually it is the opposite. Because God has a great plan for you, He lets you experience pains and sorrows; because God wants to do great things with you, He lets you experience betrayals and failures continually. The Apostle Peter says, Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. (1Pe 4:12) Gods desire is not that you just become puffed up due to success in everything you do; instead, God wants you to be really prepared and ready for the great works He has prepared for you. Hebrews 12 reads: And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: My son, do not make light of the Lords discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons... God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.Because God has a great plan for you, He does not want to spoil you with easy success in everything you do; instead, God wants you make you strong and mature; thats why trials come, challenges rise, and you experience many failures and even betrayals. When those things occur, dont harden your heart; instead, receive that training before God with humility, always coming up with the decision of obedience and submission. Even when our human fathers disciplined us, we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the heavenly Father? He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.

 

Third, She is more righteous than I (38:1-30). Genesis chapter 38 talks about Judah and Tamar. Verse 1 reads: At that time, Judah left his brothers and went down to stay with a man of Adullam, named HirahIn those days, usually, brothers and sisters stayed together for power and protection. But Judah left his brothers; he wanted to be alone. Why? Because he could not bear his guilty conscience any longer. Judah was the ring-leader in selling his brother Joseph as a slave. He was really angry at Joseph and didnt want to see him any longer; so, he got rid of him from his life. But when he saw how devastated his father was, he realized what he had done - such a grave sin against heaven, against his father, and against his young brother. He suffered terribly from his guilty conscience; he regretted his actions a lot; he spent many sleepless nights; yet, it was already done and he could not take it back. After Joseph was gone, all the laughter disappeared from Jacobs household, and the atmosphere was dark, heavy and gloomy; Jacob his father wanted to die so that he would go to Joseph. Judah could not bear it any longer, so he left his fathers house, giving up his position as a member of Gods covenant family. 

 

After giving up his life as a member of Gods covenant family, how was his life? He married, had sons, and secured a wife, Tamar, for his firstborn, who died leaving no heirs. And when his second son, who married Tamar to succeed his brother died too, Judah said to his daughter-in-law Tamar, Live as a widow in your fathers house until my son Shelah grows up.For he thought, He may die too, just like his brothers. SoTamar went to live in her fathers house. Tamar was a Canaanite woman, but when she realized to whose family she had been given in marriage--Gods covenant family--she was so happy. She belonged to the legendary line of Abraham! But now because she did not bear any sons for the family, she was kicked out, and had to live as a widow. She waited and waited for the time she would marry Judahs third son and bear children, when she could again be a part of Gods covenant family. But Judah had no intention of giving his last son to Tamar. When she realized this, she would not give up. She would not be kicked out of Gods covenant family no matter what; she would not miss such a great blessing no matter what. Tamar was absolutely determined to be included in the covenant family, so in desperation she cooked up a very strange scheme. She disguised herself as a prostitute and became pregnant by Judah. Humanly speaking, what she did was not acceptable at all. But she didnt care about what others would think of her, or human ethics or customs. No matter what, she wanted to be a part of Gods covenant family. She knew the consequence of this act - death -yet, she was willing to risk her life for it. To her, the identity of being a covenant family member was the most valuable thing there was. For this, she was willing to go beyond human concepts or knowledge; indeed, she pursued this privilegedesperately as a matter of life and death

At first, when Judah heard that his daughter-in-law was pregnant, out of anger, he wanted to burn her to death, but after realizing her desire for membership in Gods covenant family, he said, She is more righteous than I. Judah gave up this membership because of guilty conscience. But his daughter-in-laws desperate attitude shocked and inspired him. He realized that Gods covenant calling was more important and weightierthan his guilty conscience. It was not something he should give up only because of thatSo he went back to his fathers house and remained as a member of the covenant family from then onGod honored Tamars act of faith and included her in the genealogy of Jesus. 

 

Here, we see a different world where different value system, view and understanding apply. We saw it in the case of Rebekah in her struggle to secure Isaacs blessing for Jacob; and now we see it in the struggle of Tamar. Humanly speaking, what they did was not acceptable - actually terrible. Yet, in Gods eyes, what they did was beautiful and praiseworthy. So, God blessed them. This shows that in regard to securing Gods covenant blessing, we must not be limited by any human standard or custom or ethics. Actually, this is what Jesus expects to see from his people. Jesus says, Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who lives his son or daughter is not worthy of me. (Mark 10:37) Jesus wants us to value his covenant calling more than anyone, more than anything in this life. If you choose Gods calling even above your father or mother, and even above your son or daughter, what can stop you from loving God and serving his mission wholeheartedly? Nothing! By any means, at any cost or danger, you will do what God wants you to do. That kind of absolute commitment is what Jesus desires from us. Thats what Jesus wants to see. Lets be Jesus worthy people that he may be proud of us. We may lose everything in the world, but we will gain Jesus. In Jesus, those who want to save their life will lose it, but those who lose their life for Jesus and the gospel will save it to eternal life. When you lose your father or mother, or son or daughter for Jesus and his calling, you will not fail to receive 100 fathers, 100 mothers, 100 sons or 100 daughters in this age with persecution as bonus, and eternal life in the age to come. God honors and blesses such people. 

 

One Word:Have Gods dreams For Yourself

Sunday, March 8, 2020

posted Mar 9, 2020, 12:01 AM by Site Administrator

NO LONGER JACOB, BUT ISRAEL

 

Genesis 33:17-36:43

Key Verse 35:10

 

God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." So he named him Israel.

 

First, "Go up to Bethel and settle there and build an altar there to God" (33:17-35:5). Look at chapter 33, verse 17. After their joyful encounter, Esau went back to Seir; however, Jacob went to Succoth and settled there. He built a place for himself and made shelters for his livestock. He bought the plot of ground for a hundred pieces of silver, pitched his tent there, showing that he was going to stay there permanently. He also built an altar and called it, “El Elohe Israel,” which means, “God, the God of Israel.” He was very happy and thankful to God who had set him free from his cursed nature of Jacob and changed him to a different person, Israel. Outwardly, things looked okay – he solved his life problem, he was changed, and now he was worshiping God, expressing his thanks to God. But his destination was Bethel; he was going to Bethel, but on the way, he stopped his journey and tried to settle in Succoth.

 

After meeting God, he was released from the tight grip of his inborn nature of grasping. Now he wouldn’t fight with people any longer. Instead, he wanted to live a peaceful life. In verse 18, the expression, “he camped within sight of the city,” showed that he wanted to live among people there. Now this time, since he would not fight with people any longer, he was confident that he would get along with them very well and enjoy a happy life. When God showed his grace upon Jacob and set him free from his cursed nature of Jacob and gave him the new nature of Israel, God had a clear vision for him; God wanted him to be his covenant person, the father of many nations so that God would bring great blessing to all peoples on earth through him. But Jacob just wanted to use God's blessing for himself - he just wanted to enjoy a peaceful and comfortable life among the people in Succoth.

 

God’s salvation or God’s grace has a purpose; it has a redemptive purpose, meaning, God saves us from our life problems so that through us, many others can be saved also. But many people ignore this will of God. Once their terrible life problem is solved by God’s grace, they just want to enjoy this new life for themselves - all problems are gone, and they have no ill intention against anyone, but just want to enjoy a peaceful and comfortable life, of course, going to church, marrying a faithful person, having several children, and supporting their family well - just they want to enjoy a small citizen's happiness. So instead of making their journey all the way back to Bethel, instead of accepting God's will for their life and living according to God's great vision for them, they try to settle in Succoth, pursuing a small citizen's life. At that time, since they are not going to do anything bad or harmful, they expect that their life would go well and that they would enjoy a good citizen’s life. But things do not go that way. In John 15, Jesus told his disciples to remain in him because, otherwise, they would be like branches that were cut off. Such branches wither and are thrown away, worthless and good for nothing but fire. Succoth is the trap, which many people of God fall into and are destroyed. So, watch out!

 

When Jacob tried to settle in Succoth, things did not go as he had expected. Something terrible happened. His daughter was violated by Shechem son of Hamor, the ruler of the area. It was something that should not happen to Jacob’s family, the family of God’s covenant. Jacob was troubled; he was confused; he didn’t know how to deal with this matter. It seemed that Jacob still wanted to deal with it quietly so that he would stay there continuously. But Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, had a different plan. They were really angry with the people in Shechem. They tricked the townspeople, and while the townspeople were in pain because of circumcision, they attacked them with the sword, killed all of the males and plundered the town. Things got really terrible, and Jacob was in big trouble. Then, God gave Jacob a clear direction. Look at 35:1. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau."

 

God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God.” It was not God’s will for Jacob to settle in Succoth. Even though Jacob intended good, even worshiped God, building an altar and calling it, "El Elohe Israel," God was not pleased with him. That's not the right place for Jacob to worship God. Many people conveniently think and say that, since God is everywhere, it does not matter where they worship God. They think that, as long as they build an altar and call it, "El Elohe Israel," they are worshiping God. So, they conveniently include Sunday to their trip plan and say, "Don't worry. When I go to San Francisco, I will find a church there and attend worship service." They are so immature and blind. God has a specific place and a specific mission for each person, and God wants them to accept His calling and worship God in that specific place, pursuing God's will there. "Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God."

 

Here, God reminded Jacob of his grace, by saying, "who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau." It was the most difficult time in Jacob's life, when he was fleeing from Esau. At that time, God appeared to him, comforted him and gave him new strength to continue his journey. God wanted him to remember this grace of God, and by remembering it, he might obey God's direction, and go to Bethel. When we remember God's grace upon us, we are willing and happy to follow God's guidance and do what God wants us to do. Remembering God's grace upon us is like the foundation of our Christian life. Because he has been so good to me, because he has loved me first, so I am happy to love him back and do what He wants me to do. Remember how God appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau, and by remembering it, accept God's will and obey God's command out of thanks.

 

At this, how did Jacob respond? Look at chapter 35, verse 2. Let's read this verse together:

 

2  So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 

 

          Jacob accepted God's direction; now he would go to Bethel. But when he was going to obey God and do what God wanted him to do, when he was really serious about serving God's will, he realized that he and his family were not ready to meet God and serve Him. A certain preparation was necessary. So, he gave the direction to his household to get rid of all the foreign gods they had with them, purify themselves and change their clothes. It is really shocking that his family members had many foreign gods. Outwardly, everything seemed okay. Jacob was thankful to God for his grace, and worshiped God, building an altar and calling it, "El Elohe Israel." But inwardly, his whole family was rotting. Jacob was the leader, but he compromised, then, his whole family compromised, and they worshiped many foreign gods; indeed, a lot of problems were going on; it was not good.

 

This is the real picture of many Christians in our country. Outwardly, they look great; they are thankful to God, they come to worship service regularly, they have good intention toward others, helping the homeless people, and making donations for the needy people in the world; they are kind and gentle. But inwardly, as they just want to settle in Succoth, just pursuing a small citizen's dream, just trying to be nice to others, a lot of problems are going on in their lives and in the lives of their family members. They go to church, but what they really pursue and worship is not God, but some foreign gods such as money or pleasures. Instead of dedicating themselves to God’s will and purpose, they focus on enjoying their life – they want to make a lot of money quickly, retire by the age of 40, and then, travel a lot worldwide. People become idol worshipers of money and pleasures, even when they attend church. Then, they are vulnerable to many terrible things – broken families, diseases, and sins. Many of their children become party-animals and homo-sexuals. Outwardly, they look good, building an altar to God and calling it, “El Elohe Israel,” but inwardly, they are rotting. This is the result of trying to settle down in Succoth. This is how many Christians wither like cut branches; such branches are gathered together, thrown into fire and burned. We must make our journey all the way back to Bethel. Don't try to settle down in the middle of this journey; don't just pursue a happy and comfortable life in the world. Instead, live as God’s covenant people; live as holy pilgrims to the end. So, what should we do? We must get rid of all foreign gods from our life and heart; we must purify ourselves by changing our clothes, changing our deeds. Get rid of all those video games; cancel Netflix membership.

 

Look at verse 3. Let’s read this verse together:

 

3  Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone."

 

          Here, Jacob describes God as “God who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” This was Jacob’s life testimony. When he described God as “God who answered me in the day of my distress,” he showed his deep thanks to God’s marvelous grace upon him. “God who answered me in the day of my distress,…” Isn’t this our testimony also? Yes. God is the One who answered me in the day of my distress. In deep distress, we shouted, “Help me.” Our future looked so gloomy, hopeless. In pains and despair, we were perishing; there was no way out. Yet, God heard our feeble cry and came to rescue us. It seemed that there was nothing meaningful, nothing worthy of our life’s devotion, so there was nothing we really wanted to do. Everything was meaningless, utterly meaningless. In such deep darkness, without knowing what to do and where to go, we shouted, “Show me the way!” “What must I do with my life?” No one could help us, but God heard our cry and He showed us the way to go. Indeed, God is the One who answered us in the day of our distress.

 

          God is also the One who has been with us wherever we have gone. He is the One who went to Afghanistan to protect Pedro from an IED (Improvised Explosive Devices) that blew the side of his tank 100 yards away. He is the One who helped us in our jobs and businesses so that we can build our career successfully. He is the One who helped our families so that they would recognize us as God’s servants and support us. Let us build an altar to God who answered us in the day of our distress and who has been with us wherever we have gone.

 

Jacob collected all the foreign gods from his family and buried them under the oak at Shechem. Look at verse 5. It reads: Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. This verse talks about how God protected Jacob from dangers. Even if he had made many enemies around him, still no one attacked him, because God was protecting him. There is a great contrast between Genesis 34, which talks about Dinah being raped, something that should not have happened to God’s covenant family, and Genesis 35:5, which talks about God protecting Jacob as he was struggling to live according to God’s will. When God called Abraham to be his covenant person, his protection was a part of the terms and conditions of his covenant. Life comes with a lot of dangers – the danger of car-accident, the danger of diseases, the danger of viruses and bacteria, the danger of natural disasters, the danger of humans, the danger of demons, and so on. All people are exposed to various kinds of dangers all the days of their lives. That’s why people live in constant fear. But when we live as God’s covenant people, struggling to live according to God’s will and purpose, God’s protection is there in our lives. But when people compromise, when people live according to their own way, instead of living as God’s covenant people, simply, God’s hand of protection is lifted and thereby, many bad things can occur in their lives. That’s what we have heard about in regard to many Christians’ painful lives. In this very dangerous world, living as God’s covenant people may be the best health insurance, life insurance, fire insurance and earthquake insurance.

 

Second, “No longer Jacob, but Israel” (35:6-36:43). Look at verses 6 and 7. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan.  7  There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

 

          Jacob came to Bethel. There, he built an altar to the Lord, and called the place, “El Bethel,” which means, “God of Bethel.” How come he changed the name of the place? He did so because he saw something differently. Long time ago, he named that place, “Bethel,” which means, “house of God,” and promised that, if God helped him, the LORD would be his God, he would come to that place and serve God and bring one tenth offering to God. It was from his own decision – he would do those things. But when he came back to Bethel 20 years later, he could see that the God of Bethel had done all things: not that Jacob he came back with his own decision, but that God had brought him back to Bethel. On his own, as a selfish person, even as a compromising person, he would have never come back to Bethel. But God wrestled with him and changed him, and God had brought him back to Bethel. When Jacob saw this, he was very amazed and thankful. So, he called that place, “El Bethel,” which means, “the God of Bethel.” In this way, when he obeyed God’s direction decisively by coming to Bethel, his eyes were opened to see what God had done for him more clearly; through his obedience to God’s direction, he came to know God’s grace upon his life more, and thereby, he was growing as a God-centered person. Long time ago, a few months after my marriage, I was chosen to serve a message at the conference. I wrote a testimony, and before bringing it to my shepherd, I asked my wife, missionary Grace to check it out, because she was spiritually far senior to me. After hearing my testimony, she suggested me to change the subject from “I” to “God,” saying that it was burdensome to hear when I said, “I did this,” “I did that” in my testimony. So, I changed many sentences, saying, “God helped me do this,” or “God blessed me to do that.” Then, even in my ears, my testimony sounded much better. Now as we look back, we can see that it was indeed God who has done everything; indeed, on our own, we would never turn to God, because we were selfish, worldly and even sinful. But God wrestled with us, and thanks to his struggle, today, we live as his covenant people, doing what He wants us to do. The God of Bethel has done everything for us so that today, we can live as God’s people. Praise the God of Bethel.

 

Look at verses 10 to 12. Let’s read these verses together:

 

God said to him, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." So he named him Israel.  11  And God said to him, "I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will come from your body.  12  The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you."

 

After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him with two blessings. God first confirmed his blessing of changing his name from Jacob to Israel, saying, "Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel." Actually, this name change was mentioned at the Jabbok River in chapter 32. But when we check out Genesis 33, 34, and 35, we see that, until he made his journey back to Bethel, the Bible does not call him, "Israel," but “Jacob,” because he was not living as Israel according to God's will and purpose. As long as he tried to settle down in Succoth, he could not serve God's will and could not live as Israel. But now as he returned to Bethel in obedience to God’s direction, God confirmed his name change. From this point on, Genesis calls him, "Israel." And God also confirmed with Jacob his covenant blessings - the land and his descendants. At this, Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob's response showed that he accepted God's blessings on him - his name change and God's covenant. 20 years ago, in Bethel, when God mentioned about his covenant blessing, Jacob just ignored it; he didn't mention about it. But this time, he responded, accepting it, and making his heart's determination that he would live as God's covenant person, Israel, who struggled with God. Jacob became God's covenant person, after his father Isaac, and his grandfather Abraham. When Jacob lived as Jacob, he was a blessing collector; he struggled with men, competing with them, and grasped blessings with his never-give up spirit and hardworking spirit, but at the same time, making people angry with him wherever he went. But when he lived as Israel, struggling with God, instead of struggling with men, he became a blessing distributor – he blessed Pharaoh, Joseph’s two sons, and all of his sons one by one. Through him, God established the 12 tribes of Israel.

 

          Genesis chapter 35 also talks about the death of Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse (v.8), and the death of Rachel in childbirth in Bethlehem (v.19), and Isaac’s death at the age of 180, thus, concluding the life of Isaac (vs.28,29). Also this chapter mentions about how Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn son defiled his father’s bed by sleeping Jacob’s concubine, Bilhah. Genesis chapter 36 talks about Esau’s descendants; Esau was really fruitful, establishing kingship that went on generation after generation. Everyone who was related to God’s covenant family was greatly blessed.

 

In conclusion, only thanks to God’s struggle with Jacob even to the point of wrestling with him physically, Jacob could be released from the tight grip of his cursed grasping nature, and became Israel, a spiritual person. The God of Israel is the God who frees us from our cursed nature and gives us a new personality of struggling with God. We were trouble makers like Jacob because of our cursed nature. But now God frees us from our cursed nature and gives us a spiritual nature of Israel so that we can live as a blessing distributor. We praise the God of Israel for wrestling with us and freeing us from the bondage of our cursed nature.  The God of Israel wants all of us now to live as God’s covenant people.

 

One Word:   Your Name Will No Longer Be Jacob, But Israel.

 

 

Sunday, March 1, 2020

posted Mar 3, 2020, 5:26 PM by Site Administrator

THE GOD OF ISRAEL

 

Genesis 32:1-33:16

Key Verse 32:28

 

Your name will no longer be called Jacob but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

 

          First, “Save me from the hand of my brother Esau” (32:1-23). Look at verses 1 through 6. After departing from Laban, Jacob continued the journey to his homeland, but as he came closer to the land, a great burden seized his heart – the burden of facing his brother Esau from whom he had stolen his father’s blessing. It was 20 years ago when he had deceived Esau and stolen his blessing, but now he had to face the consequence of his sin. As he went on his way, two camps of God’s angels met him. Jacob should have said, “Wow!” and had the confidence in God’s protection. But he simply named that place “Mahanaim,” which means, “two camps,” and went on. Even though he met not one or two angels, but two camps of angels, nothing happened in his heart because he was completely preoccupied with the thought of seeing Esau’s angry face. In order to know if Esau still was harboring a grudge against him or not, Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau. But the messengers brought him back a terrible report, saying, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” “With four hundred men!” “Why with four hundred men?” If Esau was coming with 20 men, Jacob would know for sure that Esau was coming to welcome him. But now with 400 men! It seemed obvious that Esau was going to attack him and his whole household. So, Jacob quickly divided his whole family into two groups to save the second in case the first was attacked.

 

          Look at verses 9 through 12. Jacob prayed, saying, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD, who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’... Save me, I pray, from the hand of my brother Esau, for I am afraid he will come and attack me, and also the mothers with their children.” In the past 20 years, Jacob did not pray. But this time, out of desperation, he prayed to God for help. His prayer was based on God’s promise that God would make him prosper. At the same time, he was very humble in prayer. He said in verse 10, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two groups.” What beautiful statements these are! A self-seeking person, Jacob, uttered such beautiful words to God, fully acknowledging and appreciating God’s kindness and faithfulness in his life in Paddan Aram. He did not take it for granted; he truly recognized that he was not worthy of God’s special grace and favor; he knew that he did not deserve such kindness from God. Those who acknowledge this - their unworthiness of God’s kindness and faithfulness - have a good foundation to build a beautiful life of faith in God. But often, people do not acknowledge it. Instead, they demand God to do this or that, as if they deserve it. Maybe, they do so, because of their Christian family legacy, or because of their service and even sacrifice for God’s purpose. When they have this kind of attitude, they complain and doubt when things do not go in the way they expected. You are serving the One True God, Creator of heaven and earth - it is great privilege and favor given to you; serving God itself is your very great reward; you are already very favored and blessed. Remember all great things God has done for you and acknowledge how much God has really blessed you. Then, out of thanks and happiness, say, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” From there, you build a beautiful life of faith, thanking God and doing everything God wants you to do with all your heart and strength.

 

          Jacob’s prayer was very sincere, and he was very humble and thankful. Yet, even after offering such a sincere prayer, still nothing had changed; he was still so burdened. So, Jacob sent many gifts to Esau: 200 female goats, 20 male goats, 200 ewes, 20 rams, 30 female camels with their young, 40 cows, 10 bulls, 20 female donkeys, and 10 male donkeys. It was a lot of gift. He did not send them all together, but herd by herd, putting some distance from each other, and each herd was led by a herdsman, carrying Jacob’s message for Esau. So, Esau would meet 200 female goats first and ask the herdsman, “To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who own all these animals in front of you?” Then, the herdsman would say, “They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.” About 30 minutes later, Esau would meet 20 male goats and the herdsman would say exactly the same thing: “They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.” Then, 200 ewes, then, 20 rams, then, 30 female camels with their young,... This would continue 9 times. In this way, Jacob thought that he would pacify Esau and that Esau would accept him favorably. Jacob did all he could to overcome his problem. Yet, still he was deeply agonized that, that night, he sent over all his family members and possessions to the other side of the Jabbok river. This action he took showed that the burden was so heavy on him that he could not bear even a feather landing on his shoulders. His agony was so great that he could not bear even his wife Rachel saying to him, “Honey, are you okay?” He could not bear even his son, saying, “Dad, aren’t you sleeping?” Everything, everyone was a burden to him. That’s why he sent them over to the other side of the Jordan river. He was then all alone, embracing such burden in his heart that night. He indeed hit the rock bottom.

 

          Second, “God’s wrestling match with Jacob” (32:24-25). Look at verse 24. It reads: “So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.” This man was God in a human form. God visited Jacob in a human form and had a physical wrestling match with him.

 

          Why did God have to come in a human form and have a wrestling match with Jacob? Actually God had been wrestling with Jacob for the past 20 years to change him into a spiritual person. God had a great plan for Jacob, but Jacob was not interested in God’s business at all. He was only concerned about what he wanted and what he valued; he would never give up, but pursue what he wanted until he secured it. So, God wrestled with him to break him down and change him into a spiritual person. God drove him to the corner many times, but Jacob, with his never-give up spirit and a hard working spirit, somehow overcame all difficult situations, secured what he had desired, and moved on.Now God hemmed him in again: Jacob had to go to Bethel according to his vow to God, and it was God’s will; he could not go back to Paddan Aram because he had a covenant with his uncle Laban. God had a really good chance, because Jacob really felt burdened; he was at the breaking point; but there, in that most burdensome situation, Jacob was doing something continually - dividing his family into two groups, praying to God for help sincerely, and sending many gifts to Esau to pacify him, never giving up or surrendering. But this time, God would not let him go away again; instead, God was determined to finish his mission on Jacob there. That’s why God came to him in a human form and had a physical wrestling match with Jacob; his goal was to break him down, so that finally Jacob would stop pursuing his own things but, instead, surrender, give in and accept God’s will upon his life; that is what God was doing and aiming on. For this, for the sake of changing Jacob into a spiritual person, God was willing to wear a human body and have a physical wrestling match with him; indeed, for Jacob’s sake, God went extra miles; God did this much for Jacob. Indeed, as he said in the book of Malachi, He could say, “I have loved Jacob.” (Mal 1:2)  

 

         When we think about this passage carefully, we are really touched by God’s amazing grace upon our life. While we were just concerned about our own desires and pursued our own dreams blindly, God had wrestled with us to change us into spiritual people; God has been wrestling with us so that we may stop pursuing worthless things of this world, but surrender our life to God, accept and live according to his will and purpose. How stubbornly we had rejected him so many times! How rudely we have turned our backs to him! But God had not given up on us, but continued his wrestling match with us through our family matter, school matter, job matter and relationship matter. Then, God sent us his servants who had a physical wrestling match with us, sometimes, challenging us to repent of our sins, sometimes, rebuking our stubbornness harshly, and sometimes, encouraging and comforting us. It is only because of God’s marvelous grace upon us that He has not given up on us, but wrestled with us continually that, today, we live as God’s children, enjoying God’s grace and serving God’s will. Thanks to his patience and love for us, even we could finally let go of our own self-seeking desires and turn to God; that’s how today we live as God’s covenant people.

 

         Jesus says, "My Father is always at his work to this very day." Now we see what God is doing today. He is wrestling with people to break them down and change them. So many people are like Jacob pursuing things of this world blindly, actually, fighting for nothingendlessly; they fight and fight to get what they desire, pursuing what they value, never really showing real interest in God’s will and purpose for them. Just like Jacob, even if they have the knowledge of God, even if they go to church, they are pursuing worldly things, not spiritual things, without knowing what is really waiting for them - such disastrous life, broken family, loneliness, sorrows and misery - destructive life is waiting for them, yet, they are blind; they just fight continually for what they desire. But amazingly, God loves them, so He wrestles with them to turn their hearts from the things of this world to Himself. God wrestles with them to break them down so that they may stop pursuing such things, but become spiritual people; God wrestles with them to break them down so that they may open their hearts, accept God’s great vision for their life, and live as God’s covenant people - fathers and mothers of many nations. Had not God pursued us and wrestled with us, we would have lived really a terrible life; or had God not done so, we would have perished in sin, in misery, in emptiness long time ago. The God of Jacob is a wonderful God; because of him and his wrestling match with us, once wayward people like us, no longer live a cursed life of Jacob, but the blessed life of Israel. This is the God of Jacob; this is the God of John Baik; this is the God of you also.

 

          How did the wrestling match between God and Jacob go? At first, we may think that the wrestling match would end so quickly. Since God’s intention was to have a physical wrestling match with Jacob, God wore a human body that was well prepared for a wrestling match, with big muscles, but Jacob was in a bad shape because of the heavy burden he had in his heart. He was also very old, 97 years old. But once they started the wrestling match, it lasted all night long. Actually, Jacob had no purpose to fight with a stranger; his hands were already full with his problem. His life and the life of his wives and children were in jeopardy. In this kind of situation, most people would simply ignore any other matters, or they would simply cry and cry, without knowing what to do. But Jacob even in such deep distress, once he started a wrestling match, he would not give up; he never wanted to lose any fight no matter what. That was his nature, and his fighting nature had gripped him tight that even in that situation, he was fighting. Was there any purpose for Jacob in this fight? Not at all! But he was fighting, even wholeheartedly, until daybreak. He was really weird. Or, we say that he was really an idiot fighting so wholeheartedly all night long, for no purpose. Even if God had a nice wrestler’s body, he could not overpower Jacob. So, after all night’s fight, when God saw that he could not overcome him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it was wrenched. God cheated - it was foul play. At this, Jacob could not fight any longer; he collapsed there. 

        

Third, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel” (32:26-33:16). Look at verse 26. The man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”Thus far, through his hard work, he had collected a lot of blessings - the birthright, his father’s blessing, marriage, and wealth. But now he realized that such things were not true blessing. He realized that true blessing was not something he could collect through hard work, but something that comes from God, something he should receive from God.

 

         How did God respond? Look at verses 27 and 28. Let’s read these verses together:

 

27The man asked him, “What is your name?”“Jacob,” he answered.  28Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

 

Now in order to give him true blessing, God asked Jacob, “What is your name?” Why did God ask Jacob his name? Didn’t God already know his name? Of course, he knew it. What was the point of God asking Jacob a question that was so obvious? This kind of question God often uses to bring things to the surface. When Adam was hiding among the trees, God said, “Where are you?” And when Cain committed the horrific crime of murdering his brother in cold blood, God asked, “Where is your brother Abel?” In all three cases the LORD knew the answer, but he asked the question to make them think. Name means that whole person; identity. The question “What is your name” really was asking, “Who are you?” Or “What kind of person are you?” Or simply, “What is your true identity?” He responded, “Jacob.”The name,“Jacob” means “he grasps the heel”—he was a “grabber” which figuratively means a “deceiver.”

 

There, at the Jabbok River, Jacob realized his sinful character to grab things from others; there he finally met his true self. Before, Jacob might have thought that he was a pretty good guy with a good work ethic, growing up in a believing family, attending worship service, acknowledging God, and supporting his own family faithfully, and being faithful to his boss. But now he found himself nothing but a grabber and deceiver.

 

Hosea 12:4 says that at that time, Jacob wept and begged for God’s favor. Jacob was not the kind of person who would weep and beg for someone’s favor; he was a strong man. But at this moment, he wept and begged for God’s blessing. Why did he weep? Did Jacob, 97 year old man, weep for the pain of his injury? Definitely not! He wept because he found who he truly was - a grabber, deceiver, sinful man who had lived by his cursed nature all his life. The expression, “weeping and begging” is the very expression of a man broken down. Jacob broke down, deeply despairing about himself. As we see in the passage, as the wrestling match went on, Jacob came to recognize that the man who was wrestling with him was no ordinary man, but God himself in flesh; also, while the wrestling match was going on, Jacob really knew that he had no reason or purpose to wrestle with this man, yet, he simply could not stop it, because he could not help; he kept fighting, because it was his nature - that’s how he had been living his entire life, controlled by his terrible nature, living as a slave to it. Maybe he cried inwardly, "What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" Jacob finally broke down at the feet of God.

 

Do you want God’s real blessing? Then, God asks you, “What is your name?” What is your name? Who are you? What kind of person are you? Knowing who I am is the beginning of receiving God’s real blessing. Only in God, we can find who we really are. Without God, we just think that we are the center of the world, or that we are really good, maybe, not perfect, but better than others. But when we find our true lost condition in God, we realize that we really live by God’s grace alone; there, all our pride disappears, and we really understand that it is such a great blessing that in Jesus Christ, we are called to serve our God without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life.

 

Then, God said to him, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” God’s blessing upon Jacob was to change his name into Israel. Its meaning was that God took away his cursed nature of Jacob—grabbing, and gave him a new blessed nature of Israel—struggling with God. God freed him from his corrupt nature that had been working in him in his entire life and gave him a new nature, “Israel,” new personality to struggle with God. It is amazing grace to be free from one’s innate nature and be a new person with a blessed nature.

 

What is the true blessing God wants to give us? Being rich is blessing. Establishing a dream family is another. Worldwide fame is still another. So all people are after these things, and when they finally acquire what they have pursued, they feel proud and victorious; but when they do not have such things, they feel insecure and unhappy. But as we see Jacob’s plea to God, “I will not let you go unless you bless me,” these things are not true blessings. True blessing is not what we grab by our own struggles, rather, it is from God. It is not of what we have, but of what we are. Abraham, the grandfather of Jacob had no son, so to him, having a son was God’s blessing. So he pursued it expecting that if he lived for God, God would give him many sons. But God said to him, “I am your very great reward!” What Abraham wanted was a son as the reward of his life of faith, but what God wanted to give to him as his reward was God himself, meaning that Abraham’s inner person would change that he would be like God in thoughts, words and actions. Now, in today’s passage, when Jacob begged God for true blessing, God changed his inner person from the person of Jacob into the person of Israel. Once his inner person changed, his life would change forever - he would be God’s covenant person, living for God’s purpose upon his life. True blessing is about our inner person change.People don’t like who they are or what they have become. They wish that they were different. They want to start all over again as a new person, if it were ever possible. But nothing can change them. Nothing can set them free from who they are. But God can change us. God wants to bless us really. So, he calls us, saying, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” God says, “You will be the father of many nations.” “You will be the mother of many nations.” “You will be a blessing.” “No longer Jacob, but Israel.” Don’t you want to be blessed by God really? Then, follow Jesus, and he will change you.   

 

Look at verse 29. Let’s read this verse together:

 

Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

 

Jacob asked the man, “Please tell me your name.” Until this time, Jacob had many divine and even mysterious encounters with God - at Bethel and in his wage matter in Paddan Aram. He acknowledged God’s help and thankful. Yet, he never asked this question before. Why? Because simply, he didn’t care. To him, God becoming the God of his father and of his grandfather was enough; he was just busy to pursue his own life. But now at the Jabbok river, when he was changed into Israel, he came to have the desire to know God - who is the God who has helped me all this time? Who is the God whom I have believed so far? What kind of person is he? When I became a Christian at the Summer Bible conference in 1993, I wanted to know the God whom I believed. So, I read the Bible every night, 10 to 11 or 12 am. Then, I was really amazed to find that God had been revealing himself in the human history, especially, in the history of Israel so vividly - that was the historic fact, yet, I had not believed in him - what a stupid person I was. That Bible reading lasted for several months; it was such great blessing to me. As we struggle to do God’s work, at the right time, suddenly this question comes to our heart, “I believe in God; I serve Him and even love Him. By the way, what kind of person is he?” That is the time when we turn our eyes to God and seek Him. Knowing Christ is surpassingly great, so we want to know Him really. This is our true goal in our life of faith. Let’s pray that we may seek God and know Him really.

 

At this question of Jacob, the man replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Why do you think the man answered Jacob this way? What is the meaning of his answer? Maybe, he meant that Jacob already knew Him. Or, he meant that knowing his name cannot be done by just asking him that question - no easy way to know God, no, no, no! You have to seek him with all your heart and you will find him. Jacob named that place, “Peniel,” which means, “face of God,” saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, yet my life was spared.” Look at verse 31, “The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel and he was limping because of his hip.” This verse illustrates Jacob’s condition very well. Because his hip was wrenched, he was limping physically. But inwardly, the son rose in his heart and all darkness such as fear, anxiety and burden disappeared from his heart as he experienced God’s grace very personally. Instead, deep peace and confidence in God’s love filled his heart that he was now ready to meet his brother Esau; he was ready to meet his fate or pay the consequences of his past sins.

 

          So what happened to Esau and Jacob? His encounter with Esau did not turn out sour, but very sweet. As Jacob bowed down to Esau, Esau ran to meet him and embraced him; he threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. And they wept – both of them were 97 years old. Esau did not want to receive the gifts Jacob sent to him, because he had already plenty and he wanted his brother to have more. But Jacob replied, “No please, if I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you received me favorably.” Jacob experienced God’s grace personally that, in Peniel, even though he, a sinner, saw God face to face, God did not destroy him, but received him favorably. And now Esau received him favorably, even though Jacob had done a terrible thing against him. To Jacob, Esau was no longer his rival, but Esau was really great, honorable and noble, behaving in the image of God. So, to him, seeing Esau’s face was like seeing God’s face. When people experience God’s grace, when they are set free from their cursed nature, they begin to see others in a different way: Suddenly, their siblings with whom they have had great struggle look very beautiful and noble. So, their relationship is restored. In God, relationships are restored. This is true healing.

 

          Jacob insisted that Esau might accept his gifts, saying, “Please accept the present that was brought to you, for God has been gracious to me and I have all I need.” What an amazing statement it was for the blessing craving Jacob to say, “I have all I need.” It is no mistake to say that Israel was content in his life once he met God at the Jabbok river and said, “I have all I need.”

 

          People are thirsty for many things; they are hungry for many things; they keep looking for something; they keep struggling and grabbing without knowing any contentment. The real cause of such hunger and thirst is their own sinful nature; it is because they have not met their God personally; it is because they have not been blessed by God; it is because they have not been changed into spiritual people. What they truly need is to turn to God, accept God’s love, receive freedom from their cursed nature and become spiritual people. Don’t spend your time, energy and talent on what is not good, and on what does not satisfy. But come to God, eat what is good and drink, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare, saying, “I have all I need.”

 

One Word: No longer Jacob, But Israel

Sunday, February 23, 2020

posted Feb 23, 2020, 2:41 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Feb 23, 2020, 4:46 PM ]


THE GOD OF JACOB AT PADDAN ARAM

 

Genesis 30:25-31:55 

Key Verse 31:13

 

am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. 

 

First, Jacob became exceedingly prosperous (30:25-43). Look at verse 25, in chapter 30. In 14 years investment, Jacob came to have 4 wives and 11 sons and 1 daughter - it was pretty good. Now Jacob wanted to go back to his homeland. But Laban didnt want Jacob to leave. He knew that, because of Jacob, he was blessed. So, he said, Name your wages, and I will pay them. Jacob said to Laban, Let me go through all your flocks today and remove from them every speckled or spotted sheep, every dark-colored lamb and every spotted or speckled goat. They will be my wages. Usually, these speckled or spotted or dark colored animals were minority among them; maybe, among 10 sheep, 8 sheep were white, and only 1 or 2 were speckled, or spotted or dark colored. So, what Jacob suggested sounded really fair - the owner would get about 80% of the profit, and the employee would get about 20%. Laban agreed, but on that very same day, before Jacob had any chance to claim his wages, Laban culled the flocks and placed the spotted, speckled and dark colored animals in the care of his sons, and sent them on a three days journey away. What a terrible employer he was! He did not want to give any salary to his faithful employee, Jacob, but wanted to use his labor for free. Actually, this was the beginning of him cheating Jacob. Later, Jacob said to his wives in 31:6-9 that Laban had cheated him by changing his wages ten times. When Laban saw his animals bore white ones, then he said that the black ones would be Jacobs wages. When the animals bore black ones, then he said that white ones would be his wages. In this way, he changed Jacobs wages ten times. He was really a terrible employer. Who could survive under this kind of terrible employer? Jacob should have given up and left to his homeland empty-handed. But how did Jacob respond? Lets read 37 through 39 together. 

 

37Jacob, however, took fresh-cut branches from poplar, almond and plane trees and made white stripes on them by peeling the bark and exposing the white inner wood of the branches. 38Then he placed the peeled branches in all the watering troughs, so that they would be directly in front of the flocks when they came to drink. When the flocks were in heat and came to drink, 39they mated in front of the branches. And they bore young that were streaked or speckled or spotted. 

 

Jacob did not give up. He put striped sticks in front of the water troughs and made sure that the animals mated in front of these striped branches. His idea was that, if the animals mated in front of these striped branches, then, their babies DNA structure would be influenced and streaked, speckled or spotted young ones would be born. Does this genetic engineering really work? I dont know. But whether it worked or not, what was really important was that, despite the odds, Jacob did not give up; instead, he did something, and it became a clue by which God could intervene into the situation, help and bless him. Simply, by not giving up, but doing this strange genetic engineering, Jacob offered God a chance to intervene and help him. This was the secret of Jacobs success. God blessed him and Jacob became exceedingly prosperous. 

 

This is the principle we must remember all the time. In regard to finding a job, there are always odds; we try many times without success. If we give up, then, nothing happens, and we live as losers. But by faith in God who knows our situation, and who is willing to help us, we keep looking for a job, doing something or anything, maybe, sending more resumes, or calling the companies, or even visiting them. Then, what we do becomes a clue for God to intervene into our situation and help us. In the matter of finding sheep and harvesting them into the kingdom of God, there are a lot of odds; simply, despite our struggles as shepherds and shepherdesses, nothing seems working. Many ministries and people try to do Gods work on the college campuses. They dream about having a successful ministry among young college students. But when things seem not working despite their hard efforts, when they have a lot of difficulties, or even some pains, they give up and quit; sonothing happens through them. But when we do not give up, but keep striving to do Gods work on our campuses, what we do becomes a clue by which God can intervene into the situation and bless us. Only those people who do not give up, but continue their work come to experience Gods help, and through them, God establish his kingdom on college campuses. People, when they do Gods work, keep looking for a better method, thinking that if they use a better method, they would be able to do Gods work. But what is important is not that we use a better method, but that we keep doing something, anything by faith in God despite all odds continually - people need to set their feet in the promised land no matter what. Using a better quality branch or more expensive branch was not a matter. Those who, like Jacob, do not give up despite all challenges, and thereby, keep striving to do Gods work come to enjoy Gods blessing - God uses them for his kingdom work preciously and establishesmany powerful disciples through them.

 

Second, Go back to the land of your fathers (31:1-55).Look at 31:1-2. Laban and his sons felt bad that their wealth went to Jacob and that he became exceedingly prosperous. They felt cheated. Jacob noticed it. He was a little burdened. Then, God gave him a new direction. Lets read 31:3 together. 

 

Then the Lord said to Jacob, Go back to the land of your fathers and to your relatives, and I will be with you.

 

In Paddan Aram, God was with Jacob and thereby, everything went very well: Jacob had established his life in Paddan Aram very well - with four wives, 11 sons, and 1 daughter, with great wealth; he had built a great household. Indeed, it was the land of success for Jacob. Yet, it was never Gods intention for Jacob to stay in Paddan Aram continuously.Instead, Jacob had to go back to Canaan and live as Gods covenant person. Thats Gods plan for him. So, when Jacob sensed that Laban and his sons attitude toward him had changed, when he had a certain sense of problem, God gave him this new direction to go back to the promised land. 

 

At this, Jacob called all his wives for a family meeting. There, he said to them, I see that your fathers attitude toward me is not what it was before, but the God of my father has been with me. You know that Ive worked for your father with all my strength, yet your father has cheated me by changing my wages ten times. However, God has not allowed him to harm me.Here, we see Jacob acknowledging Gods help in his wage matter. In Paddan Aram, Jacob was not concerned about God; actually, he had never been concerned about God; instead, he was just busy to pursue what he had desired. Yet, while doing so, in Paddan Aram, Jacob recognized that God had helped him in his wage matter. How? Laban changed his wages ten times so that he would not have to pay him too much. When Laban saw that the animals gave birth to speckled, spotted or dark colored young, which Jacob had claimed as his wages, he changed the terms, saying that the new born white animals would be his wages. Then, all the flocks gave birth to white young. So, Laban changed the terms again, saying, The speckled ones will be your wages, then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young; and if he said, The streaked ones will be your wages, then all the flocks bore streaked young. This happened over and overagain that even Jacob could see that it was God who was helping him. As the conclusion, Jacob said to his wives, So God has taken away your fathers livestock and has given them to me.Jacobs point was that God had done this. How amazing it was for Jacob to see that God was helping him in his practical matter, such as his wages. He was very comforted, thankful and happy. That way, in Paddan Aram, God became very real to him, and thereby, Jacob was developing personal faith in God. He was very attracted to God. Thats how God helped Jacob grow as a man of God in Paddan Aram.

 

Like Jacob, before, we did not have any concern for God; we were not spiritual; we were just busy with our own things, pursuing worldly, fleshly and even sinful things. Had not God intervened and helped us, we would have lived that way to the end, and our life would have been really miserable and empty. But God was with us and helped us, even when we were sinful and worldly; God revealed himself to us over and over again in our practical matters such as school, job or family that even we came to recognize God in our life; we became very serious about the meaning of life; we came to acknowledge the existence of God, the reality of heaven and hell. While others lived a happy-go-lucky sinful life, we were really burdened about what we were doing and how we must live our life. Then, when the right time came, God sent his servant who taught us the Bible. God has been with us. Today, we are growing up as spiritual people, children of God, all thanks to Gods love and grace. The God of Paddan Aram is a gracious God

 

In verses 10 through 13, Jacob shares his encounter with God that happened in his dream. He says, In breeding season I once had a dream in which I looked up and saw that the male goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled or spotted. The angel of God said to me in the dream, Jacob. I answered, Here I am. And he said, Look up and see that all the male goats mating with the flock are streaked, speckled or spotted, for I have seen all that Laban has been doing to you. Now we understand how come Jacob came up with such a crazy idea of genetic engineering. He just did what God showed him in his dream. And amazingly, everything worked in the way God had shown him. With this, God gave him a direction. Look at verse 13. Lets read this verse together:

 

am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. 

 

Here, God revealed Himself as the God of Bethel, where Jacob had anointed a pillar and made a vow to God. God accepted his vow and answered all of Jacobs requests: He was with him in Paddan Aram, provided him with everything he needed, and protected him from his uncle. God had blessed him. Then, after completing his end of the deal, God asked Jacob to keep his part of the vow by returning to his native land. God had blessed him so much so that eventually, he would be ready for his purpose and go to the promised land so that he would do what God wanted him to do.

 

This passage makes us think about Gods purpose for us.He has been with us; He has shown us his grace; He has helped us and protected us. By his love and grace, we have grown up and have come up this far. Then, very naturally, we come to have this question: Why has He done so? What is his purpose? Yes, it is because He loves us so much that He has helped us and blessed us. He never wants us to perish in darkness; instead, He wants us to thrive, and enjoy this new life in Jesus to the full. Yes, thats the reason why He has helped us and blessed us. Then, does it mean that we just sit down and say, Thank you,all the time? No. There is Gods real purpose for us; there is Gods plan for us - what He wants us to do. As we see Gods helping hands for us, as our hearts are open to him, weacknowledge his will for us, and then, out of thanks, out of love for him, we really do it. Then as we live according to His plan and purpose, there we come to enjoy really a wonderful life, doing something really meaningful and very fulfilling - we are to do the very thing God prepared for us to do in advance. Thats what we must do, and thats how we can really enjoy this new life in Jesus - doing amazing and great things for Gods gloryaccording to his plan and purpose. Thats why Jacob, instead of just enjoying a happy and prosperous life in Paddan Aram, had to go back to the Promised land, where he would serve Gods plan for him.  

 

In January 2004, I attended Brazil Summer Bible conference. There, after the conference, Mother Barry led special Bible study for all the missionaries based on John 15. During Bible study, based on John 15:9, which reads, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love,she asked all of us a question, saying, Here, Jesus says that the Father has loved him. How did the Father love Jesus? What was the expression of the Fathers love for his son Jesus? There could be many answers to this question. So, several missionaries answered this way and that way - they were right answers, but not the right answer Mother Barry had in mind. Who would know whats going on in her heart? Only God knew the right answer. After the answers from several missionaries, Mother Barry still waited, about 5 minutes or even 10 minutes - it seemed that she really wanted to talk about it. While I was thinking about it, the Holy Spirit helped me, reminding me that somewhere in the book of Psalms, there was something like Jesus talking about Gods love for him, but it was not clear. I tried hard to figure it out, asking Him for help to clarify. I was almost there, but not clear, and I wanted to answer before Mother Barry gave us the answer. Then, suddenly, God opened my eyes to see it clearly. So, I raised my hand and answered, The Father, because He loved the Son, included him to work with him, and quoted from Psalm 40:7,8, which reads: Then I said, Here I am, I have come— it is written about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. It was the right answer Mother Barry wanted! Gods expression of love for us is that He has included us to work with him for his world salvation plan. God loves you. So, He includes you to work with him. Jesus says, As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Remain in my love. Jesus loves us, so he includes us to work with him for Gods redemption plan. This is the nature of Gods calling for us - the very expression of Gods love for us. God has helped us; God has blessed us; so, we are growing in him. Why? So that we can do what He wants us to do. Thats the way you can really enjoy a wonderful life in God.

 

This passage also makes us think about Gods promised land. God is almighty; He can do whatever He wants, and certainly, He is not limited geologically. Yet, for Abraham, God asked him to go to the Promised land, even by leaving his family - he would never see them again. For Isaac, God asked him to stay there in the promised land, even though he could not find a job there to support his family. Now for Jacob, God asked him to go back to the promised land. In that specific place, God would do something real with him. What about all the things in Paddan Aram - such great struggles and amazing success? They were just preparation for the real work that God and Jacob would do together in the promised land. So, Jacob must go to the promised land. Long time ago, as I was reading a book written by one of the leaders in Charismatic movement, I think, it was from Joy Ministry, one interesting episode I found. After the author served one meeting successfully, a 70 year old man came to her and asked her a question, saying, When I was young, God really showed me that I would be a missionary. But how come, that will of God has not been fulfilled in my life? At this, she answered, When God called you to a certain ministry He had prepared for you, did you obey Gods will? At this, he was shocked; he dropped his head low and went away sad. There is a specific place God calls each Christian to be so that they can be equipped and trained to do Gods work reallyThats what church is about – the body of Christ. Thats what Gods calling is about. For us, all college campuses in the world are Gods promised land; we are to go and claim those campuses, and every campus we set our foot will be given to us. For this, we have been protected and guided and blessed; for this, we have been called and prepared.  

 

Look at verse 16. After listening to Jacobs testimony, all his wives said to him, Do whatever God has told you. They decided to leave Paddan Aram and go to Jacobs homeland, Canaan. So Jacob took everything - his children, his wives, his camels, his livestock, his servants, and all the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram - and set off towards his father Isaac. He did not tell his uncle about his departure. Three days later, Laban learned of it and started to pursue him with his relatives for seven days. But when he was about to catch Jacob, God appeared in a dream at night and said to him, Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad. God was in a serious business with Jacob, and He did not want anyone to intervene between them. So Laban did not harm him, instead he and Jacob made a covenant and went back home.

 

Jacob had many good qualities to be a spiritual giant. He had very good spiritual value system. He was not flesh-oriented. He was a man of commitment, hard-working, diligent, and faithful. He was a material for the father of many nations. But he was very difficult to change because of his strong personality and ambitious character. How did God help him in Paddan Aram? God never acted in haste with Jacob; God never rebuked him or challenged him to repent. When Jacob wanted love, God did not say, Flesh counts for nothing. When Jacob wanted wealth, He did not say, You cannot serve both God and Money. Instead, God followed him and gave him what he desired abundantly. When Jacob wanted love, He gave it to him abundantly - not just one, but four wives. When Jacob wanted wealth, He blessed him abundantly. When Jacob went to the right, God followed him and supported him in that way; when Jacob went to the left, God followed him and supported himthere. Then, in the course of time, Jacob came to see Gods helping hand in the practical matters and came to acknowledge God in his life. God became real to him. In that way, God was growing him up as a man of God. In Paddan Aram, God patiently bore with Jacobs worldliness and raised him until he acknowledged God in his life and later, he would be changed into a spiritual person, Israel. 

 

When we think about how God treated Jacob in Paddan Aram, we see that thats how God has treated us all this time -He has been with us, bearing with all our worldliness, sinfulness and character-flaws patiently. While we were wandering in sin and darkness, God did not rebuke us or threaten us, but followed us, protecting us from real harms and evil until we came to recognize him in our life and turn to God. The God of Paddan Aram is the God of tolerance, who patiently bears with our worldliness and weaknesses in hope that we will become spiritual giants. The God of Jacob at Paddan Aram is a gracious God. 

 

One word: Jesus Says, Remain In My Love.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

posted Feb 16, 2020, 7:03 PM by Site Administrator

LEAH AND RACHEL

Genesis 29:1-30:24

Key Verse 29:35

 

She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, "This time I will praise the LORD." So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children. 

 

First, "This time I will praise the LORD(29:1-31:8). After having a personal encounter with God at Bethel, Jacob continued his journey and came to Haran. There, he met Rachel, the daughter of his uncle Laban, and fell in love with her at the first sight. One month later, he said to his uncle Laban, "I'll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel." This is shocking! Nowadays you are lucky to find a guy who will wait seven months for a woman, let alone seven years! This shows that Jacob was not lustful nor were his hormones raging out of control. He was a man of noble character. Look at verse 20. It says: "So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her." This shows that his love for Rachel was genuineEvery day heworked diligently, happily taking care of flocks and herds,dreaming about married life with Rachel. He picked her flowersafter work and left love letters on her doorstep. He was completely dedicated to her that even seven years seemed like only a few days to him - he was a man of commitment. Once Jacob found something that was valuable, he pursued it wholeheartedly until he secured it; Rachel was what was valuable to him, so he pursued her wholeheartedly. Actually, during these 7 years he didn’t get one single paycheck, he didn’t make any money because marrying Rachel was his wages, but he didn’t care because in his eyes she was valuable.

 

When the seven years were up, they had a wedding ceremony. But on the night of their honeymoon, Laban cheated Jacob. He sent Leah into the room instead of Rachel… and Jacob slept with her. The next morning Jacob woke up to find Leah lying in bed next to him! "Oh no! What are you doing here?" "What's going on!?" He stormed out and went straight to Laban asking, "What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn't I? Why have you deceived me?" Then, Laban said, "Don’t worry. Finish this daughter's bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also… in return for another seven years of work." Laban's purpose in tricking him was to secure another seven years of service, because he saw that Jacob was a good employee. Jacob accepted this offer; at the end of the week he got to lay with Rachel, and he loved her more than Leah. 

 

How did Jacob's married life go with two wives? It was hard!There was a lot of conflict, heartache, and tears. Look at verse 31, it says: "When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he opened her womb, but Rachel was barren." It was obvious thatJacob loved Rachel. Leah knew it. Rachel was beautiful with a fit body, but Leah had weak eyes, she was average, or less than average. But thankfully for Leah, Rachel was barren. Quickly she began the pursuit for her husband's love, and her method was to produce many sons. 

 

When she had the first son, she named him, "Reuben," whichmeans, "see, a son." She felt triumphant that she proudly shouted, "See, a son!" At the same time, she expressed her thanks to God, saying, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now." Initially Leah sounds very spiritual, she gave credit to God for giving her herson and understood that God had personally seen her misery. This is a great thanks topic, how blessed she was! However, the second part of her testimony shows her real focus; what she really wanted and hoped for was her husband’s love. When her heart was set on her husband, then she couldn’t be comforted or touched by God’s grace; as a result nothing changed in her heart and she was still miserable.

 

The second son, she named, "Simeon," which means, "one who hears.She testified to God's grace, saying, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." She named her third son, "Levi," which means, "attached," saying, "Now at last my husband will be attached to me, because I have borne him three sons." She thought that if she produced many sons, her husband would love her. So, she put a lot of hope in producingsons, but despite her great success in bearing sons, nothing changed; Jacob’s heart was unmoved. And Leah was stillsorrowful, depressed, lonely, and bitter. 

 

But when she had her fourth son, something changed. She named her son, "Judah," which means, "Praise," saying, “This time I will praise the LORD.” She was soo happy and thankful that her heart was filled with the desire to praise God. Praise was overflowing from her heart. What changed? When she could not secure her husband's love despite all her effort, when she reached her limit, she finally turned to God. Then, mysteriously, God's love filled her heart and she was satisfied. God solved her thirst problem for the husband's love, and she became soo happy and thankful that she wanted to praise God publicly throughnaming her son, Praise. Her husband made her sorrowful, bitter and miserable, but God made her happy, thankful, and satisfied. So she expressed her thanks to God by naming her son, "Praise." She came up with her heart's complete determination to praise God, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." Her focus and desire shifted from acquiring her husband's love to praising and thanking God. 

 

When we check out her testimony at her sons' births, we see that she had faith in God. At her first son's birth, she said, "It is because the LORD has seen my misery." At her second son's birth, she said, "Because the LORD heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too." She believed in God and testified to God's grace upon her life. But it didn’t mean anything to her personally, it was more like head knowledge. As long as she was pursuing happiness and satisfaction in her husband's love God could not be the source of her happiness and satisfaction; instead, to her, God was the One who helped her in her difficulty, just like Superman. At that time, she was miserable, sorrowful, and bitter. She had this struggle for many years, and it was really painful. Then, finally, she turned to God and accepted His love, and she became happy and thankful, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." 

 

When we think about Leah's struggle, we see that this is what soo many Christians are doing. They believe in God and testify that God has helped them, but still, in their real life, what theypursue is not God, but something or someone else, thinking that their promising career or their prince-charming would make them truly happy. To them, God is just there to helthem in their pursuit of happiness in something or someone else, definitely not the one they pursue and love with all their heart and soul. As a result, they are still thirsty, bitter and miserable. We must turn to God decisively and accept God's love for us, which brings us real happiness and satisfaction. We must have our heart's complete determination that we will praise God, saying "This time I will praise the LORD." Let’s say this together…

 

Meanwhile, how was Rachel doing? Look at chapter 30, verses 1 and 2. She captured her husband's heart completely. Jacob's love for her was real and genuine, so she should be happy, but that wasn’t the case. Rachel was jealous of her sister who gave birth to many sons. She felt defeated and disgraced. So, one day, she yelled at Jacob, saying, "Give me children, or I'll die!" She was acting like a spoiled brat. Since Rachel could not have children of her own, she decided to build her family through her maidservant, Bilhah. Then Bilhah bore Jacob two sons and Rachel named them. She named the first one "Dan," which means, "God has vindicated me" and the second one, "Naphtali," which means, "my struggle." She said, I have had a great struggle with my sister, and I have won. Who names their kid "Vindicate" or "Struggle? The word "vindicate" is a judicial term, meaning, "justify.This shows that Rachel considered her sister like an opponent in a trial. Rachel’s heart was full of hatred and a sense of loss; she wanted to get back at her older sister who bore Jacob four sons. It was clear that Rachel was not happy or full of praise like Leah. She tried to solve her innerproblem by improving her situationhaving children, beating her sister, and being Jacob’s #1 wife. But her testimonies show that it never made her happy. What she needed was to turn to God and accept God's love for her - that would solve all of her problems. 

 

Second, "How happy I am" (30:9-24). When Leah saw that she stopped having children, she took her maidservant Zilpahand gave her to Jacob as a wife. Zilpah bore Jacob two sons, and Leah named the first one "Gad," which means, "Good fortune," saying, "What good fortune!" When something good happened, she considered it as "good fortune," being able to truly appreciate itHer heart was no longer twisted with bitterness andsorrows; instead, as she turned to God, she was growing as a sound person who could appreciate good fortune. She named the second son, "Asher," which means, "happy." She said, "How happy I am! The women will call me happy." Actually the word for happy here is the word blessed in Hebrew. She said, How happy I am! The women will call me blessed (KJV).Leah became a happy and blessed woman. Later, she gave birth to her own fifth son; she named him, "Issachar," meaning, "reward." She said, "God has rewarded me." Then she bore Jacob a sixth son, and named him "Zebulun," which means, "honor." She said, "God has presented me with a precious gift. This time my husband will treat me with honor, because I have borne him six sons." She no longer saw herself as a woman begging for her husband's love, but as a respectable person, deserving his honor. 

 

When she had two sons by her maidservant, she expressed her joy and happiness; she was a happy and content woman. Now she named her last two sons - Issachar and Zebulun, meaning reward and honor. The kind of language she used here shows her view and understanding of herself and her life. This is not the language of a mere housewife in the countryside, but the language of a spiritual womanWhen she turned to God, solving her problems with God's love, she became a happy woman. But things did not end there. As she remained in God continually,she was growing up as a spiritual woman of God who was worthy of honor and respect. No longer did she have to hang her head low or be overcome with sorrow because of her husband, now she could confidently stand tall; she could see herself before God and know that she was worthy to receive honor from others.

 

This is what happens to everyone who turns to God and solves their problems in God. They become happy people. And as they continue in the fellowship with God, they come to develop spiritual value system and a spiritual view of their life, themselves, and of the world that their way of thinking, their words and behaviors all change - they become spiritual people, deserving people's honor and respect. They become oaks of righteousness, and God rebuilds the ancient ruins through them. Later, God honored Leah by choosing her fourth son, Judah, to be the covenant person, through whose line the Savior would come into the world. Also, she was buried in the cave of Machpelah together with the patriarchs: Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob. 

 

Finally, the Lord remembered Rachel; he listened to her and opened her womb. She had a son and named him "Joseph," which means, "May he add." Her testimony was: "God has taken away my disgrace. May the LORD add to me another son." She was relieved from her sense of disgrace; but she was not satisfied at all and hoped for more sons. She was holding onto her own desire continuously. At that time, she could not truly appreciate what God had done for her, and thereby, she was still angry, bitter, and jealous, competing with her sister. Some people, when they experience God's help, are so thankful and turn to God, appreciating God's grace - they are full of thanks and happiness; they enjoy God's love for them and they love God dearly. But others, even with God's help and blessing, are not thankful; instead, they say, "May the LORD add to me another son." They ask God to give them more and more. When will they be truly satisfied with God? When will they stop their worldly pursuit and truly turn to God? What they need is not another son, but to turn to God decisively, truly appreciating what God has done for them. They must make their heart's firm decision, saying, 'This time I will praise the LORD." 

 

In Genesis 35:17, we see Rachel giving birth to another son, but while she was in delivery, she had great pain and as she was dying, she named him, "Ben-Oni," which means, "Son of my trouble." Even at her deathbed, she was only thinking about herself; she was complaining that her son was a source of trouble to her. Her outward situation had changed a lot, but inwardly, nothing had changed - she was still bitter and angry, full of complaints. After she died, Jacob changed his son's name to Benjamin, which means, "son of my right hand."

 

The struggle between Leah and Rachel teaches us a lot aboutlife. All women want to be like Rachel - beautiful, and finding a good person who genuinely loves them; actually, that is what all romance movies are about - a pretty girl finding Mr. Perfect. But we must remember that even Jacob's genuine love was not enough for Rachel; it never works. Leah and Rachel's struggle shows that improving our condition through having someone’scomplete love, having children, or being beautiful cannot solve the real problem; it cannot bring us real happiness and satisfaction; it cannot be our Savior. Only when we accept this and finally stop pursing those other things, then we can turn our heart and focus to God. Only then we find what we are really looking for - true love and true fulfillment; we become happy and blessed people and praise for God bursts forth from our hearts.

 

What about brothersDo they have any problems? They also thirst for many things, mostly, a secure life. College students typically earn minimum wage, but their dream is to have a career job that pays more than $80,000 a year, or to have a beautiful wife who is lovely in form. But having a desirable career job or a beautiful wife does not mean happiness or satisfaction. All those who have successfully built their career and all those who make a lot of money still look for better jobs.Those who have beautiful wives eventually grow tired of their wife, her beauty fades and they long for a younger wife who will respect them more. Simply, there is no end; just like all sisters, brothers also live as endless wanderers. You don't want to live as an endless wanderer, right? You don't want to name your sons, "Son of my trouble," right? Then, what should you do? Turn to God and accept his love; make your heart's determination, saying, "This time I will praise the LORD." 

 

How was the atmosphere in Jacob's family? Every day was like being on an episode of Jerry Springer! The whole family wasdivided into four, and they were fighting and competing with each other. There was constant strife, jealousy, and hatred in Jacob’s house, and everyone was suffering. It was complete chaos. But behind the scenes, God was working diligently to lay down the foundation for the 12 tribes of Israel. God was also breaking down Jacob little by little so that Jacob might be changed into a spiritual man, a father of many nations.

 

In my old life, my identity was always wrapped up in boyfriends, sports, success, and extracurricular activities. In high school when my boyfriend broke up with me, I was really hurt, but also I was lost. My relationship with him brought me honor and recognition, everyone at school knew me because of him, and my family was happy with me that I had a great boyfriend with a promising futureBut when he broke up with me, it was a big loss and from there I jumped from boyfriend to boyfriend looking for the one who was worthy of my heart and future. In high school I was the captain of the track team and personally made it to CIF. I had planned to do track at CSULB, but there were no scholarships available and I had to work to pay my way through college, so I had to let track go. I liked the sense of belonging that I got from being part of a team, so in college I lived in the dorms, picked up school spirit and attended many sports games, including: basketball, hockey, volleyball, and baseball. Then I joined a sorority and was on my sorority’s powderpuff team and participated in many charity events. On top of all that I worked 6 days a week so that I could pay my way through college without getting any loans. From one perspective I too looked like I had a promising future, I had arranged and paid for myself to study abroad in Spain for 1 year, I was planning to join the Peace Corps upon graduation and enjoy traveling and finding adventure. I really was soo determined to find happiness and joy. I really wanted to have a good life and to be honored and admired by others. 

 

But my inner person was really suffering, I had a void in my heart that could not be filled, I thought that eventually finding Mr. Perfect and attaining an honorable career would make me happy. I thought having my family’s approval and to have them be proud of me would make me happy. At night I could almost always be found drinking and partying, sometimes I would go to parties at CSULB, sometimes at USC, or Cal Poly, or UC Santa Barbara, I would go back to my hometown and enjoy partiesthere, and even made many trips to Vegas. I typically drank until I passed out, and then somehow woke up in the morning and went to work or class. It looked like I was having fun, but actually it was really shameful, I woke up in strange places or with strangers in my bed; my friends would have to tell me all the things I did. I drank and drove all the time. One time, after drinking and leaving a frat party, I broke into a coffee shop on campus and stole some furniture because I thought it would look good in my room. Another time I was pulled over for drinking and driving because I made an illegal u-turn and drove on the wrong side of the road. 

 

Even among my friends and acquaintances I had a bad reputation, at first I didn’t mind, I was even proud of my party and promiscuous life. But eventually I was sick and tired of my immorality, I could see that I was getting worse and worse, I was lying, stealing, and even did other shameful things in order to pay my bills. That was not the person I wanted to be, but I was stuck with no way out. I tried not to drink, but I drank anyway. I tried not to be promiscuous, but I gave in over and over. I wanted to be an honorable person, but I was not; I was dying inside from disappointment and shame. And still I had a void in my heart that always left me unsatisfied. Later I got a serious boyfriend who worked in the movie industry and found more honorable ways of making money. But still, even though the outward conditions of my life improved, I was still seeking love and approval from others.

 

Then in the Spring of 2008 I started studying the Bible. I had always believed in God, but I stopped going to church in junior high because I thought I was too sinful for God to help me, and by the end of high school I stopped calling myself Christian because I didn’t agree with the Bible. But when I started studying with my teacher I really enjoyed each Bible study, the Bible seemed soo clear and obvious and through each passage God was becoming more and more real. I felt like a little kid learning about God for the first time and it was really exciting! I had no intention to become Christian, I was just enjoying Bible study. God taught me about eternal life and the kingdom of God, soo many fascinating things; before studying the Bible I never knew that living for God was soo valuable and that everything I did for God counted for all eternity. I never knew that I could actually know God personally, I thought others could meet God, but not me. But through Bible study God sparked hope in my heart that I too could know Him. It sounded good! But there was one big problem, I was supposed to leave for Spain for 1 year at the end of the summer, I had already paid thousands of dollars including $1,600 for my non-refundable plane tickets. This was a real dilemma: I could go and pursue adventure and honor in Spain; or I could pursue God. God helped me by giving me John 12:35 which says, “Walk while you have the light before darkness overtakes you.” At first I was really struggling and debating if I should live for God or not.

 

I knew living for God would be an all or nothing deal, if I let go of my dreams and future, then I was going to give my whole heart and life to God. I secretly cried everyday for a month, I didn’t even tell my Bible teacher or mother what I was thinking about, it was a lonely and difficult struggle. But one day in Bible study my teacher asked me what God wanted me to do. I was cornered! And finally had to confess out loud what I knew in my heart. I squeezed out the words, God doesn’t want me to go to Spain, but to stay here.” When I finally confessed out loud what God wanted me to do, it was like all of my burdens were lifted from my shoulders and I was free to choose God. From that moment on I was like Leah saying, “this time I will praise the Lord!” All at once it seemed that joy and faith were planted in my heart, I went to my boyfriend’s house that day and told him my decision to live for God. He tried to deter me, but nothing he said mattered because I was finally going to have life together with my God. God had been paying attention to me and blessing me for some time, he sent me a Bible teacher, he had revealed many truths to me, and protected me from bad decisions, but I was soo focused on romance, partying, and having fun that I could not really give thanks to God or give him my whole heart. But once I reached my limit and finally confessed what God wanted me to do, then I could fully open my heart to Him and give Him everything. That is why my life of faith was soo precious those first couple of years, I was soo happy and satisfied with God, praise just kept pouring out of my heart like a well. 

 

Through preparing the message, this is what God showed me over and over, that he wants to fully restore my joy so that I might be bursting with praise for my God who has blessed me so much! I left my old life, not for any tangible blessing that God offered me, but because of one thing, that if I stayed in California and left my life, then I would finally come to know my God. That one thing is why I started my new life.

 

Now I have been living in God for 11 years, God has blessed me with a good husband, 2 children, a flexible job, I have mission, Ihave sheep. But my real happiness does not come from outward conditions. My real happiness and satisfaction comes from God himself, He is my best blessing, he is the reason I have meaning and purpose, he is the reason I can smile and have hope, he is the reason I have peace and confidence despite my characters flaws. I can praise God, not for tangible blessings, but I can praise God because he has revealed himself to me and called me out of my old life to himself. God wants to renew my spirit of praise, so no more wasting my time watching movies, shopping online or going on the internet. No more relaxing and doing what I want. No more focusing on how I look or trying to build up my life in this world. Now is the time to praise the Lord! Now is the time to pour out my heart on God’s sheep so that they too can come to meet God as the one worthy of their praise. May I be a source of blessing to others, like an oak of righteousness through which God uses to rebuild the ancient ruins.

 

One Word: This Time I Will Praise The Lord!  

 

 

Sunday, February 9,2020

posted Feb 9, 2020, 6:38 PM by Site Administrator

THE GOD OF BETHEL

 

Genesis 27:1-28:22

Key Verses 28:20,21

 

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God

 

First, "Jacob gets Isaac's blessing" (27:1-40). When Isaac was old and his eyes were so weak that he could no longer see, he thought that he could die anytime soon. So, he decided to give his blessing to his firstborn son Esau before he died. He called Esau to go hunting, and prepare tasty food for him so that after eating, he might bless him. Rebekah overheard this conversation. Then, while Esau was outside hunting the game, she told Jacob to bring her two goats so that she could prepare some tasty food for her husband. They devised a plan to take advantage of Isaac’s blindness, and get his blessing for Jacob deceitfully. At first, Jacob was afraid that he would be cursed instead of getting a blessing, because this scheme could be busted very easily, since he and Esau were too different from each other, in voice, in skin, and in smell. But Rebekah said to him, “My son, let the curse fall on me. Just do what I say; go and get them for me.” Then, Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau, her older son, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands and the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. Then, she handed Jacob the tasty food. 

 

When people come to this passage, they are shocked and scream: “She deceived her husband. And she encouraged her son to trick his father!” But the Bible never blames her; God never mentions about this event either. This means that there was something more important than human ethics in Rebekah's action. A long time ago, while she was pregnant, God had shown her that He had a special plan for Jacob, the younger; God's will was that Jacob must be blessed, instead of Esau. Now in order to secure this will of God, Rebekah was doing all her best, even going beyond human ethics and manners. God's will must not be altered by anything, even by human ethics. We must not judge Rebekah, a great woman of God only with human standards, but must see her from God's point of view - she served God's will wholeheartedly. Also, we see that she really honored her husband as a servant of God, firmly believing that whatever he said would be fulfilled and whomever he blessed would be blessed - there was no revoke or a second chance in getting his blessing. 

 

Verses 18 through 29 describes how Jacob acted very well, deceived his father successfully, and secured his blessing. How hard he struggled to change his voice so that it might sound like the voice of Esau! How scary he was when his father, out of suspicion, asked him to come near and touched his neck! He carefully made sure that his father would touch the covered part with the goatskins. How anxious he must have been sitting while his father was eating! Maybe, his palms were wet with sweat. He had to finish this job before his brother Esau came back. 

 

When we see this scene with a humanistic point of view, what Jacob did is not acceptable – he cheated his father, and snatched away the blessing that would have been given to Esau his brother, otherwise. He was like a younger son who snatched away his older brother’s share of inheritance by changing the will of his father deceitfully. But again, the Bible never blames Jacob. Instead, we can see Jacob’s desperate desire and struggle to secure his father’s blessing. It was just the words of mouth his father would utter – it would not change anything right then. But Jacob valued his father's blessing so highly. To him, his father’s words of blessing were exceedingly important and valuable that he did not mind to tell lies to his father if he could secure them for himself. It was because his father was no ordinary man, but a servant of God - God would really bless the one his father blessed; indeed, securing his father's blessing was securing God's blessing, and for this blessing, Jacob would do anything and everything whether good or bad - it was more important than human ethics or manner. Surely, he sought it as the matter of life and death, as a result, he came to secure it and enjoy God’s blessing. 

 

Today, people value money and pleasures highly. They are willing to do anything for money and pleasures – they are willing to cheat others for them, even willing to dump God’s calling or even their faith for the sake of securing a promising job offer. For some good amount of quick and easy money, some people risk their life and become bank-robbers. It is very easy to find this kind of people around us, but it is very hard to find anyone who is so completely determined to pursue God’s blessing as a matter of life and death like Jacob did. Surely, when God finds that kind of people, he is overjoyed, and pours out his blessing on them. God says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” (Jer 29:13) When God found Tamar who was willing to even go beyond human ethics and morals if she could be included into God’s covenant family, God was happy with her desire and blessed her greatly. Jesus says in Matthew 11:12, “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.” Those who value God’s blessing highly pursue it and they are the ones who enjoy God’s blessing. These forceful men for God’s blessing serve God’s will in their generation. 

 

After Isaac finished blessing Jacob, Esau came in and said to his father, “My father, sit up and eat some of my game, so that you may give me your blessing.” His father Isaac asked him, “Who are you?” “I am your son,” he answered, “your firstborn Esau.” What was Isaac’s response at this? Look at verse 33. Let’s read this verse together: 

 

Isaac trembled violently and said, “Who was it, then, that hunted game and brought it to me? I ate it just before you came and I blessed him and indeed he will be blessed!” 

 

When Isaac found that he had ended up blessing Jacob not Esau, he trembled violently. Modern day, people easily say, “God bless you.” But they do not care whether what they said will truly work or not. It is like saying, “Good morning!” Also, people would easily say, “Oh, that’s my mistake. I am sorry. Let me do it again.” But Isaac was different. When he blessed, he meant it, and he truly knew and believed that his blessing would come true. He said, “I blessed him and indeed he will be blessed!” At this, Esau let out a loud bitter cry, “Bless me –me too father!” He said of Jacob, "Isn't he rightly named Jacob? He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright and now he's taken my blessing!" He begged his father, "Do you have only one blessing, my father? Bless me too, my father!" Then Esau wept aloud. At this, Isaac answered him, "Your dwelling will be away from the earth’s richness, away from the dew of the heaven above. 40You will live by the sword and you will serve your brother. But when you grow restless, you will throw his yoke from off your neck." It was not a blessing, but just a description of what kind of life he would live - not good at all. Esau was stolen of his father’s blessing. After losing his blessing, Esau wept bitterly, begged his father for another blessing, but there was no blessing left for him. Thus, he was rejected from God’s redemptive history. 

 

In regard to God's blessings, we must not take it for granted; even if we are the firstborns, even if we are Christians, we must not simply say, "I will be raptured and reign with Jesus forever." Instead, we must value God's blessing highly, seek it with all our heart and by any means, secure it. In this matter, the apostle Paul shares his struggle in Philippians 3, "Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Phil 3:13,14) Paul's understanding was that, when Christ had called him and assigned him to his mission, God had a prize for him, which would be given to him when he completed his mission; Paul's goal was to secure that prize by completing his mission. So, he focused on serving God's mission all the way to its completion. Only those who have this kind of attitude toward God's blessing come to secure it and enjoy it. What about those who take it for granted? They do not make any effort to secure it; instead, when they see any other thing that looks great such as a promising job, or a romantic relationship, they go for it, thinking that, later, anytime they can come back and take God's blessing. Later, in the resurrection, when Jesus comes again, we will see many people gnashing their teeth and weeping in darkness - they will be full of regret and anger toward themselves, but it will be too late. 

 

Second, "The God of Bethel" (28:1-22). After losing his father's blessing, Esau was angry at Jacob and harbored in his heart the intention to kill him. So his parents, Isaac and Rebekah, decided to send Jacob to Haran. Isaac commanded Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, but go to Paddan Aram and take a wife for himself there from among the daughters of Laban, his mother's brother. Then, Isaac blessed him with God's covenant blessing, saying, "3May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now live as an alien, the land God gave to Abraham." Now he was really confirmed of God's will upon Jacob, so he blessed him with God's covenant blessing freely. Originally, Isaac intended to bless his firstborn Esau out of his own preferences - he loved Esau and the food he made from the wild game. Isaac was a great man of God, but he could have made a huge mistake in handing down God's covenant blessing to his next generation. What would have happened, had Isaac given thcovenant blessing to Esau? We don't want to even think about it. But only thanks to his wife, Rebekah's help and support, Isaac could hand it down to Jacob according to God's will and purpose successfully. Indeed, Rebekah was a helper suitable for Isaac. Probably, for this, Isaac would be thankful to his wife eternally. 

 

So Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Haran. He got his father’s blessing even though it meant deceiving his father, but he had to pay the price of his lies and deception. He had to leave his father and mother, and go to a foreign land, running away from Esau. When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. His pillow was a stone - this illustrates Jacob's difficult condition very well. Jacob was scared for his unknown future in a foreign land; he was sorrowful that he had to leave his parents' tent. It was the most sorrowful and lonely time in Jacob’s life. But to God, it was the best chance to step into Jacob’s life. Look at verses 12 through 15. As he fell asleep, Jacob had a dream. In his dream, he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the Lord. 

 

God visited Jacob in the wilderness. When Jacob thought he was all alone and no one was there with him, God showed Himself to him and revealed that He was with him. Actually, Jacob might have expected a terrible nightmare such as his brother popping up in his dream with an angry and monstrous face, chasing after him and shooting arrows endlessly. But Jacob’s dream was fantastic. He saw a huge and glorious stairway extending from the heaven to the earth, and many beautiful angels of God ascending and descending on it. Jacob must have said in his dream, “Wow! Cool!” This scene was displayed in the wilderness. But it was far better and glorious than any IMAX movie displayed in the world’s largest IMAX theater. Through this glorious dream, Jacob’s spirit was revived with excitement. When Jacob was in the most difficult situation in his life; when he was in deep anguish and fear, and when sorrow and loneliness were scratching his heart, God visited him and restored his spirit with such a powerful and glorious dream. 

The God of Bethel is the God who is with us and comforts us with His presence when we are in deep anguish and distress. Actually, many of us have experienced the God of Bethel who visited us and comforted us in our lowliest condition. He restored our hearts and spirits so that we could get up from our defeat and failures and go on continually. 

In the dream God introduced himself, saying, "I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac."The God who appeared to him in his most difficult situation was not a stranger to him, but the very One he had heard about from his grandfather and from his father. He was his family God. What a comforting moment it was for Jacob! And God gave him two sets of promises. One was his covenant blessings - God would give him and his descendants the land on which he was lying, his descendants would be like the dust of the earth, and all peoples on earth would be blessed through him and his offspring. The other set of God's promises was that God would be with him, watch over him wherever he went, and bring him back to the promised land. What was Jacob's response? Look at verse 16 and 17. Let's read these verses together:

 

When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." 17 He was afraid and said, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven."

 

Through this experience with God in his dream, Jacob came to have a great revelation. He said, "Surely, the LORD is in this place and I was not aware of it." Thus far, he had grown up in a believing environment; his father was Isaac, and his grandfather was Abraham. He had attended worship service with them so many times; he had learned about God from them; he prayed and studied the Bible; sometimes, he was excited at their story of God; sometimes, he sensed God's presence in his house - it was really great to learn of God and believe in God. But he had not known God personally yet. He had not been in the real relationship with God either. He was just a good believing person who had the knowledge of God, who had good intention toward God, and who liked God, but without any real fellowship with God - just like so many church going people who have been in the church environment. But now in the wilderness, in his most difficult situation, he met God personally, and through this personal encounter with God, he came to grasp one spiritual secret, that was, God was in that very place. "Surely, the LORD is in this place!" Then, that place was no ordinary place, but the house of God where God dwelt. He had complete confidence about it. This confidence was so great that he was even afraid, because he was at the house of God, at the gate of heaven, standing before HimHe shouted, "How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven." Through this encounter with God, through this great revelation, God was no longer the God whom his grandfather and his father had talked about, but the One whom he met personally, the One who dwelt in that place. That was now one thing he knew about God really. That was the beginning of his real relationship with God. 

“Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” This testimony of Jacob reminds us of how God intervened into our lives and revealed himself to us. Some of us were believers, doing Christian things, while some of us were unbelievers. Then, one day, God revealed Himself to us, maybe, at the Bible conference, maybe, through one to one Bible studies. On that day, our eyes were really opened, some of us, to God's love, some of us to our lost condition, some of us to God's truth. Then, we suddenly began to see everything differently.God was real; the Bible was really the word of God. Indeed, heaven was opened on that day for us. On that day, we were changed completely. That's how we could start this real Christian life, really living before Him alone. "Surely the LORD is in this place, and I was not aware of it." When people have an encounter with God this way, they start their real life together with God. At that time, their life of faith has a clear direction, meaning and purpose. No longer their worship of God is vague and conceptual. Instead, they begin to really live for God. We praise and thank God who revealed Himself to us and gave us this new life in Jesus.

Look at verses 18 and 19. Early the next morning, he took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on it. He called the place "Bethel" which means "house of God." Then, he made a vow to God. Let’s read verses 20 through 22 together. 

20Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21so that I return safely to my father's house, then the LORD will be my God 22and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth."

God's covenant is a deal God offers humans. But vow is a deal humans offer God. God does not need to accept the deal humans offer; He has no reason to accept the terms and conditions humans made. But when anyone offers his or her vow to God sincerely, God accepts it and binds Himself to the terms and conditions of the deal; this is his grace. So, when God showed his grace to you by accepting the deal you offered him,keep your vow to Him absolutely. 

In his vow, Jacob asked God for several things - if God will be with me (companionship), if God will watch over me on this journey (protection - Jacob was afraid), if God will give me food to eat and clothes to wear (basic security - he was not sure if he would be able to survive in a foreign land or not; he was asking God to help him with at least a minimum wage job in a foreign land so that he would be able to survive - he was not asking for great success, but basic survival - that was the most urgent issue to him), and "so that I return safely to my father's house." God already promised Jacob that he would be with him and watch over him and bring him back to the promised land; so Jacob did not need to ask God for these things. But he did so, because he wanted to make sure of God's companionship, protection, and provision so that he would return to his father's house safely. Nothing was certain in his life, and the only security, protection, and provision he could rely on was God. 

Jacob, then, promised, saying, "Then, the LORD will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God's house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth." If God accepted his vow and took care of him in this journey and brought him back to his father's house, Jacob would do three things. The first one was: The LORD will be my God. In those days, people worshiped so many kinds of gods. There were so many attractive looking idols. But Jacob's decision was that, to him, only the LORD, Jehovah would be his God. No matter what others worshiped, Jacob made a firm decision that he would worship and serve the LORD alone as his God. When we think about his decision, "The LORD will be my God," we see that he was a man with a strong backbone. He would not be bothered by others' opinion; he would not be influenced by peer pressure either. No matter what, he would worship God and serve Him only.

“The LORD will be my God!” This should be our personal confession of love to God as well. Nowadays especially in America, due to the development of science and natural discovery, people do not worship cast idols or starry hosts any more, but so many do worship idols in their lives. Money seems to be the most powerful and attractive idol. Simply, everyone is pursuing and worshiping Money. Also, many regard enjoying pleasure as the highest goal of their lives. They say, “Let’s eat and drink for tomorrow we die.” During Friday night, it seems that school campus becomes like Sodom and Gomorrah. In this wicked and adulterous generation, sometimes we are confused and tempted. But no matter what others do, our declaration toward the world is this: “The LORD will be my God." Even though the whole world may worship those idols, we are determined to worship the Lord, and pursue and serve Him only.Let's pray that many young people may rise for God with such a heart's determination, with such strong backbone.

He also promised, saying, "this stone that I have set as a pillar will be God’s house.” A house of God is a place where God dwells, and where people come to meet Him and worship Him. What Jacob meant was that he would come back to that place, and worship God in that place. To Jacob, God would be the God of Bethel. So, in Jacob's life of faith, there was a clear direction. He did not say that, since God is everywhere, he would worship God wherever he liked; no, there was a clear direction and place where he could really meet God and worship Him - Bethel. Bethel was the place Jacob experienced God’s grace personally, and it was the place he must be rooted, grow, and eventually serve God’s will. To him, Bethel was the house of God.

Jacob also promised one tenth offering, saying, “of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” In Genesis 14, we saw Abraham bringing one tenth offering to Melchizedek, the priest of God. And now, we see here Jacob mentioning about it. Many hundred years later, through the laws, God would ask the Israelites to bring Him one tenth offering. When we think about this, we can see that one tenth offering is something fundamental we humans must do. Bringing a tenth is all believers' responsibility and at the same time, privilege. Jacob shows us the meaning of one tenth offering, saying, “of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” It is the expression of our acknowledgement that everything we have acquired has come from God and it is the expression of our thanks to God. God gave us life. God has given us his grace. God gives us jobs so that we can pay the bills and support ourselves. God gives us all we need. Those who acknowledge this are thankful, and they bring one tenth to God.  

Now, through making his vow to God, Jacob entered a binding relationship with God. This vow would become a handle by which God would lead him according to his plan. Later, after fulfilling his end of the deal, God would ask Jacob to keep his vow by coming back to Bethel. Through meeting the God of Bethel, Jacob was strengthened, and his spirit was revived that he could continue his journey to Paddan Aram.

One Word: The LORD Will Be My God

Sunday, February 2, 2020

posted Feb 2, 2020, 7:23 PM by Site Administrator

STAY IN THIS LAND AND I WILL BLESS YOU

 

Genesis 26:1-35

Key Verse 26:3

 

Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham.

 

First, "Stay in this land and I will bless you" (1-6)Look at verse 1 in chapter 26. "Now there was a famine in the land-besides the earlier famine of Abraham's time-and Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines in Gerar." The famine means, in modern term, "lack of job opportunity," and as a result, suffering from the financial difficulty. Isaac's family was established by God and for God. We expect that everything would go very smooth with this family, and that they should be blessed. But instead, they were challenged even from the beginning of their marriage, and now after 20 years' struggle, they had the famine. When Abraham started his life of faith, God trained him through the famine also. It is interesting to notice that God trained both Abraham and Isaac through this financial difficulty. It is, probably, because the matter of financial security is the fundamental problem all mankind face, and through this very practical matter, God's people can learn the secret of relying on God. It is easy to say, "I believe in God," but it is not easy to trust in God in the practical matters like finance. It requires true faith in God. 

 

When the famine attacked the land, Isaac came to Gerar, modern day, Gaza strip, the gateway to Egypt. Like his father before him, Isaac calculated that going to Egypt was the best way to secure his life in such a difficult situation. He was going to leave the promised land because of practical difficulty. But God intervened into the situation. Look at verses 2 and 3. Let's read these verses together:

 

2The LORD appeared to Isaac and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. 3Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and will bless you. For to you and your descendants I will give all these lands and will confirm the oath I swore to your father Abraham. 

 

God told him not to go down to Egypt. Instead, God asked him to stay in Canaan, promising him that, if he stayed there despite the famine, God would be with him and bless him. God offered Isaac his deal, his covenant. Isaac grew up in a believing environment, attending worship service with his father Abraham, learning of God from him; actually, he was a man of prayer. Yet, it did not mean that he was automatically God's covenant person. Instead, becoming God's covenant person is a personal matter; it is not conceptual but real. If Isaac accepted that offer by doing what God asked him to do, then, he would enter into a binding contract relationship with God - God would be his God, and he would be God's covenant person. My children grew up in a believing environment; in that sense, they were blessed; from their birth; they studied the Bible, attended worship service and served God's work through music and dance. Yet, it does not mean that they are automatically God's covenant people. When God offers them his deal, when God makes clear in their hearts what He wants them to do, when God's word touches their hearts, when God's love becomes clear in their eyes, they must respond to God personally and enter into a real binding contract relationship with God by doing what God wants them to do. 

 

What was the terms and conditions of this covenant offered to Isaac? God said to him, "Do not go down to Egypt; live in the land where I tell you to live. Stay in this land for a while, and I will be with you and bless you." For Abraham, the condition God asked him to fulfill was to leave his country, his people and his father's household and go to the land God had planned for him - God's promised land. Now, since Isaac was already living in the promised land, the only condition God asked him to do was to stay in the promised land no matter what. Right now, in the promised land, there was an economic crisis; Isaac had difficulty to find a job; he had difficulty to support his family; he got eviction letters from his landlord; he could not afford his sons' baby sitting fee. Yet, he had to stay there if he wanted to live as God's covenant person - the only condition he had to fulfill. What if he really did not like the people around him? Yet, still he had to stay there. What if he really liked the lifestyle and culture and music and even weather in Egypt? Or what if his business partner invited him to come down to Egypt? No matter what, he had to stay in the promised land; he must not leave the promised land no matter what - that was the only condition God asked him.

 

Entering into a binding contract relationship with God is not conceptual; it is not like doing religious things all the time either. Instead, there is a specific thing God wants people to do,even where to live, and by doing so, they become God's covenant people. If you are not in the promised land yet, God asks you to leave that old life and start a new life in the promised land as God's covenant people. Now as you live in the promised land, then, God wants you to stay there continually - this is God's calling, this is God's mission assignment. As you stay there, you may have many challenges, difficulties and temptations such as job matter or financial matter as Isaac had, or someone who seems very desirable for marriage shows interest in you. For me, the most difficult one was conflict with other coworker in the church. Should we leave the promised land and go to Egypt only because of those difficulties and challenges? What will you say in heaven, when he asks you, "Did you do what I commanded you to do?" Should we say, "I wanted, but because of that person, I could not," or "I wanted, but because of that difficulty, I could not." In this covenant relationship with God, everything, eventually isbetween God and each of us. In this covenant relationship, even our father or mother has no place; even our son or daughter, even Ishmael or Isaac has no place; even our husband or wife has no place; even life or death has no place. Eventually, it is whether I obeyed him or not, whether I stayed in the place he called me or not. Jesus says, "He who has my commands and obeys them is the one who loves me." What God wants you to do is to stay in the promised land, the very place God has guided you for his own plan and purpose. It is the place where you experienced God's grace, the very place where you were healed of your wounds and scars - that's why the apostle Paul says, "Through him and for his name's sake, we received grace and apostleship" - two things "grace and apostleship" at the same time. It is the place specially designed and prepared for you to grow up in Jesus for God's good and wonderful plan for you. This is what God's calling is about. God's covenant is very personal, and it is very real: There is a specific place, specific mission, and we must hold onto it absolutely by staying there no matter what, so that God's plan for us may be done in our life. Thus, in our Christian life, we have a clear direction, that is, to obey God's will by staying in the place God called us to be - that becomes Christians' real struggle, no longer hitting into the air, no longer just doing all kinds of religious things here and there, even attending 3 churches, or no longer trying to be nice to others,... The apostle Peter says, "Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall,  11  and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.(2Pe 1:10-11)  

 

God gave Isaac his promise of blessings that would be fulfilled in his life, if he obeyed God's direction and stayed in the promised land. God's promises had three parts and they are progressive. The first promise was, "I will be with you." If Isaac stayed in the promised land, God would not leave him alone, but be with him, meaning that He would take care of him, protecting him from dangers and providing him with what he needed. So, Isaac didn't need to worry about being a loser in the promised land or dying for starvation. God would be with him and take care of him. The next promise was, "I will bless you."This meant that, if Isaac stayed in the promised land in obedience to God's command, he would not just barely survive by God's help. No, instead, God would bless him so that he would be prosperous and successful in his career, in his business, and in his family life. He would live a blessed, fruitful and successful life. Then, lastly, God would fulfill his covenant promises in regard to the land, his children and bringing his blessing to all peoples on earth through his offspring. 

 

This is how God treats anyone who honors him by obeying his command and remaining in God's calling - He will be with them, bless them, and fulfill His covenant vision for them.When God is with you in your day to day life, blesses you in everything you do, at work, at home, in your career, in your business, and when God fulfills His great covenant visions upon your life, how will you be? You will be really happy and your life will be really fulfilling, and so many people will be blessed through you! Indeed, you will enjoy a successful life. This is what God promises us when we obey Him. His blessings are far better than a great dream job offer or a romantic marriage dream - don't be deceived by what the world promises - you never know when you will be fired; you never know when your business will go downhill, and even you never know how your family life will really go in the world when God's protection is removed. Only our God is trustworthy. Put your trust in God and obey His command; stay in the promised land, and God will be with you, bless you and fulfill his covenant vision for your life.

 

Look at verse 5. Let's read this verse together:

 

5because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws."

 

God wanted to bless Isaac. God wanted to pour out his blessing on Isaac. But God did not say, "Because you are a man of prayer," but he said, "because Abraham obeyed me and kept my requirements, my commands, my decrees and my laws." God was so touched by Abraham's obedience that even if many years had passed, still, he was so happy whenever He thought about what Abraham had done for him. He still appreciated how Abraham had responded to his requirements, commands, decrees and laws. And out of appreciation, God wanted to pour out his blessing upon his son, Isaac. Our God is such a pure-hearted person that, if anyone loves him by obeying his command, he remembers that person for a thousand years and pours out his love and blessing on his or her descendants generation after generation. Don't you want to love this beautiful God? Don't you want to really please Him? Then, obey his command, even though it costs you a lot; keep his requirements, his commands, his decrees and his laws.

 

What was Isaac's response? Verse 6 reads: "So Isaac stayed in Gerar." Indeed, by faith, Isaac accepted God's covenant call, signed on the contract paper and became God's covenant person by obeying his command, by staying in the land God called him to live. Then, what about his job matter? What about supporting his family? He was determined that he would endure any related sufferings and pains; at the same time, he trusted that God would take care of him and bless him in the promised land. By faith, he stayed in Gerar.

 

Second, "Isaac became very rich" (7-13). Verses 7 through 13 describes what happened to Isaac as he stayed in Gerar in obedience to God's command. As he stayed in Gerar, he had two major challenges. One was his sense of insecurity. Now he was living among the Philistines in Gerar. They were war-like people; they were warriors with big muscles and tattoos all over their body. It was like living among gangsters. Isaac felt insecure. Especially, when some of them asked him about his wife's name, he was really freaked out. He thought that they would kill him so that they would take Rebekah. So, in order to protect his life, he said that Rebekah was his sister. Indeed, staying in the promised land was not easy. He was afraid; he was fearful. But trembling terribly, he still remained in the promised land; embracing such terrible fear, even the fear of death, he was struggling hard to obey God and do what God wanted him to do. Indeed, despite such fear and danger, Isaac was making his desperate struggle to obey God - indeed, he obeyed God wholeheartedly. 

 

When we think about Isaac's desperate struggle of obedience despite such fear and sense of insecurity, we are reminded of our own struggle of faith. We struggle hard to live by faith doing what God wants us to do. But certainly, it is not easy. Sometimes, due to our struggle to do God's work, our grade suffers terribly - how scared we are when we find D's in our report card; how scared and discouraged we are when we sense that our boss is going to fire us. We are scared thinking, "How can I pay the bills? How can I support my family?"Sometimes, with such great burdens and fear in our hearts, we still struggle to do God's work, fishing new students and teaching them the word of God. Indeed, we really desperately make all our efforts to love God and obey his commands. Many Christians who do not have this kind of real struggle, who do not live the life of obeying God's command, casually say, "I do everything God wants me to do." They are really blind. Despite such fear, despite such sense of insecurity, we still remain in the promised land, doing what God wants us to do today and tomorrow, rain or snow. Indeed, we make a desperate struggle to love God by obeying his command. That's what Christian life is about, struggling to live according to God's commands absolutely. But in this struggle, we are not alone. God promisesus that he will be with us when we stay in the promised land. When Isaac struggled to obey God that way despite such fear, God did not leave him alone. Instead, God was with him. One day, king Abimelech happened to see Isaac caressing Rebekah and realized that Rebekah was his wife. So, he called in Isaac, rebuked him, and declared his edict in regard to Isaac and Rebekah, saying, "Anyone who molests this man or his wife shall surely be put to death." Now Isaac and Rebekah were protected by king's order. Isaac must have been greatly comforted and encouraged at this. In this way, God protected and comforted Isaac as he struggled to obey God's command. As we struggle to  obey God despite challenges, from time to time, God comforts and strengthens us by showing his helping hands - suddenly our professors show favor to us, or our boss become friendly.

 

The other challenge Isaac had was, of course, the financial difficulty. He had no means to support his family in the land of famine. If it was for or by himself, he could just survive even on the street; but now he had his wife with two sons - he had to provide them with food. With such burden in his heart, he struggled hard to solve his financial problem. But nothing worked well. The passage says that he planted crops in the field. Genesis suggests that Abraham and Isaac were not farmers, but most likely shepherds. That's why whenever they became rich, the Bible did not say that they purchased a lot of fields for the crops, but it said that they came to have a lot of flocks and herds, menservants and maidservants. But this time, we see Isaac planting the crops in the field. What happened to all his flocks and herds? It seemed that he had used them all or sold them all to support his family. Now he was doing this - planting the crops in the field, willing to do anything to support his family, showing that he was really pushed to the limit financially and thereby, he was  desperate. He tried this - totally new area, new business, hoping that it would help him financially. Then, it turned out to be a great success - he reaped a hundredfold, because the LORD blessed him. And his wealth continued to grow until Isaac became very wealthy.  

 

The God of Isaac is the God who blesses us when we obey his commands. Many Christians believe that if they really dedicate themselves to God, they will be losers in the world. So, they are hesitant to make real commitment to God. So, even when they make commitment, still they try to keep a backdoor, for just in case; or while they put one foot in God's mission, they put the other foot in the world. It is indeed, their unbelief; it is their mistrust; and it is wickedness in God's eyes. Of course, God does not bless them; of course, God cannot use them for his work. Hebrews 11:6 says, "Without faith it is impossible to please God. For whoever comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him."We must believe that God blesses us and that when we live for Him, He will bless us and grant us success. That's what I experienced, and that's what I have witnessed in the life of many servants of God. Put your trust in God and you will not be put to shame. You will be successful in your career building, in your family life, and in your mission life. God's blessing will be in your field, in your basket, on your bread, and on your sons and daughters. When you are victorious, we will shout for joy. The only thing we need to do is to earnestly seek him.

 

Modern generation is called the generation of commitment to non-commitment. People have an allergic reaction to the word, "commitment." Why? Fundamentally, it is because of the fear of losing everything. This is true even with many church-going people. They just want to enjoy good things of this church or that church, by putting one foot in God and the other in the world. But when they have to make true commitment, when they have to sacrifice, they calculate and run away. As a result, they are like single seeds that are never planted, but roll here and there on the ground. They never bear any good fruit. God commands us, "Do not go down to Egypt. Stay in this land, and I will be with you and bless you." God does not want us to live according to the ever changing situation, but according to his words. God does not want us to live by our calculation, but by faith in him. God wants us to trust in him, because he is going to bless us. "Stay in this land, and I will bless you."

 

Third, "Isaac's well-digging life" (14-35). Look at verses 14 through 16. Isaac became very wealthy. He had so many flocks and herds and servants that the Philistines envied him. So all the wells that his father's servants had dug in the time of his father Abraham, the Philistines stopped up, filling them with earth. This cut off the water supply that all his crops and flocks and herds depended on; it was a blunt attack from the Philistines. In addition, Abimelech king of Gerar, told Isaac, "Move away from us; you have become too powerful for us."At this, Isaac did not fight for his human right, or for his material possession. Instead, without saying a word, he left the town and moved to the Valley of Gerar - no more city life, but like a nomad, camping in the Valley. But God was with him wherever he went, and God blessed him in everything he did.  Isaac first reopened the wells that his father Abraham had dug, which the Philistines had stopped up, and his servants even dug a newly discovered well of fresh water. But the shepherds there quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen claiming that the water was theirs. Wells in those days in the Middle East were very essential for people, animals, and crops – very important and valuable assets like modern day oil wells. Isaac could have hired a dream team of lawyers and fought for his rights. But how did he respond? He simply gave in. He simply named this well Esek, which means dispute, and moved on. Then they dug another well, but the same thing happened; the Philistines demanded that too. So Isaac, again, gave in. He named this one Sitnah, which means opposition. He moved on a third time and dug another well, which no one quarreled over. He named this well Rehoboth, which means room, saying, "Now the LORD has given us room and we will flourish in the land."

When Isaac was treated unjustly, He did not fight for his rights. And when he encountered opposition time after time, he humbly gave in without a word. If he fought for his rights, there might be a lot of quarrels and strife, or it could turn out bloody. But because he gave in time after time, everything was smooth, and everybody was blessed. How could he do that? How could he give up such important and valuable assets that were like modern day oil wells or newly launched fortune 100 business? He could do so because he believed in the God who would blesshim when he stayed in the promised land. Because of his belief in God, he did not need to fight to secure those blessings. Instead, when he was pushed to the right, he gave in and there he dug a well, and when he was pushed to the left, he gave in again, and there he dug another well. And wherever he moved to, a spring of fresh water would well up, which watered all his household, flocks and herds. He was a blessing to everybody around him, wherever he went. When Isaac obeyed God's command and stayed in the land despite such difficulties, God poured out his blessing on whatever he did, and made him a source of blessing. 

 

Look at verses 23 through 25. When Isaac came up to Beersheba, God appeared to him and said, "I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bless you and will increase the number of your descendants for the sake of my servant Abraham." Even though Isaac gave in, willing to lose his wells over and over, when it happened repeatedly, he felt weary, maybe, worrying about how long things should go that way; he was even afraid that, as the Philistines forcefully claimed the ownership of the wells he had dug, one day, they might harm himGod knew this very well and assured that He was with him, protecting him, and that He would bless him. This shows that God did not take Isaac's good struggle for granted; instead, He recognized it and encouraged him to do so continually. Our God knows what we have been doing for Him; our God appreciates it. What is more, while we perform well in spirit, God understands the difficulty we have and comforts us. Praise God!

 

At this, Isaac was so happy and thankful that he built an altar there and called on the name of the LORD. Now his spirit was renewed. With a new spirit, there, he dug another well. One day, Abimelech came to him, with his two of high officials, and said, "We saw clearly that the LORD was with you; so we said, 'There ought to be a sworn agreement between us'—between us and you. Let us make a treaty." Isaac then made a feast for them and early the next morning they swore an oath to each other. Through being willing to suffer loss, through giving in, Isaac witnessed to godless and unbelieving men, the fact that God is a living God and showed himself to be a child of God. He won the victory by giving in time after time. When he had such a good spirit, his servants came and said to him, "We have found water!"

 

Isaac's life can be summarized with two things - giving in and digging the wells. He did not fight for the material possession, but gave in over and over. That's how he bore God's blessing - he did not cling to God's blessings, but he held onto God who would bless him. Through this struggle, he won the victory. And by digging wells, he brought great joy to many, including animals, the Philistines, and his family members. Wherever he went, he dug wells and quenched the thirst of many. In this way, by digging wells, he became a source of blessing for many.   

 

About 16 years ago, God sent me to El Camino College, and there, I dug a well, and many quenched their thirst and became happy; there was great joy. Later, we sent John Boos to CSULB, and there, he dug another well, and many people were overjoyed and grew up as beautiful children of God. It is our prayer and vision that wherever we go, there we may dig wells in each and every campus in California so that all Californian college students may taste the living water and rejoice in Jesus Christ. When we are refreshed, then, with a new spirit, we dig wells. When we are discouraged and depressed, we have nothing else to do, but we go and dig wells. Not just barely one or two wells, but numerous wells, everywhere, here and there, in every campus. In the book of Amos, the Sovereign LORD declares: "The days are coming when I will send a famine through the land-- not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD." Let's pray that we may dig the well of God's word so that many thirsty college students may quench their thirst through our one to one Bible studies. Those who dig the spring of living water in the word of God become a source of blessing for all people.   

 

The God of Isaac is the God who blesses those who trust and obey Him. By faith, Isaac obeyed God, stayed in the land, and so lived a truly blessed life. Those who trust in the God of Isaac, the God of blessing, give their whole life to God's purpose, and they stay in the promised land. Through them, God's blessing flows to many people.

 

One Word:God Says, "Stay In This Land, And I Will Be With You And Bless You."

 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

posted Jan 26, 2020, 2:13 PM by Site Administrator   [ updated Jan 26, 2020, 6:21 PM ]

A GOOD OLD AGE, AN OLD MAN AND FULL OF YEARS

 

Genesis 25:1-34

Key Verses 25:7,8

 

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

 

First, A good old age, an old man and full of years (1-18). Verses 1 through 11 talks about Abraham’s later life. He took another wife, whose name was Keturah. She bore to him 6 sons. The statement in verse 6, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines (plural), shows that he had not just one concubine, but several concubines. But since Keturah was prosperous with many children, only she was mentioned hereHere, we are shocked and wonder why he should have concubines. Sarah died, when Abraham was 137 years old. 3 years later, when he was 140 years old, he established Isaac’s marriage. He would live 35 years more. But he didn’t know how long he would live. When he was 58 years old, Noah died at the age of 950. When he was 148 years old, Arphaxad died at the age of 438. Even after his death, Shem would live 35 years more, and then die at the age of 600. Also, after his death, Eber would live 64 years more, and then, die at the age of 464. In the eyes of ordinary people who lived about 100 years, these people who lived really long, looked mysterious and great like gods. In the ancient acupuncture bible, we see the Yellow Emperor and his teacher talk about those people who lived really long. The Yellow Emperor talks about the generations of people he had heard –the first generation of people lived really long and they did not die – they lived really long that in the eyes of people, they looked immortal like gods. After that, the next generation of people came up and lived really long, yet not as long as the first generation of people lived; after that, the next generation of people appeared and lived really long, but not as long as the second group of people lived; after that, the next generation of people appeared and lived very long, but not as long as the third generation of people lived. Abraham was living with these groups of people – Noah belonged to the first group, Shem to the second group, and Eber to the third group. So, since he was God’s covenant person, there was great possibility that he too would live really long, maybe, like Noah, or Shem, or Eber. It was very natural that after his wife’s death, several years later, he took another wife. Also, it was the custom in those days thatrich people, or mighty rulers like Abraham would take many concubines. 

 

The Midianites, the descendants of Midian, one of the sons Keturah bore to Abraham appear in Genesis 37:25-28 when Jacob’s sons sold their brother, Joseph to the Ishmaelites (vs. 25, 27); then, the Ishmaelites were described as the Midianites in verse 28, and in verse 36, showing that, since both the descendants of Ishmael and the descendants of Midian lived in the Gulf of Aqaba, they intermarried, thus, the Midianites were also called the Ishmaelites. Jethro – Moses’ father-in-law was the priest of Median. During the time of Gideon, the Midianites bothered Israel so much.

 

Dedanthe son of Jokshan, the son Keturah bore to Abramamwas prosperous and his sons became the Asshurites, the Letushites, and the Leummites. This description of Dedan’ssons shows that, as of the time when Genesis was written around 1430 B.C., already, Dedan’s sons were numerous, well known, occupying their lands in the Middle East. Dedan appears several times in the prophecies. Isaiah 21:13,14 An oracle concerning Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema (one of Ishmael’s sons), bring food for the fugitives. In Jeremiah 25:23, Dedan is mentioned in company with Tema and Buz as the object of God’s wrath. In Ezekiel 25:13, God’s judgment against Edom includes all the territories from Teman to DedanAlso in Ezekiel 38:10-14, Dedan is mentioned with Sheba (his brother)in a prophecy concerning Gog – the final war that will occur after the Millennium.

 

Basically, all the sons of Abraham’s descendants here became nations, playing their roles in human history. Indeed, as God promised, Abraham became a father of many nations, not only spiritually, but also physically. Abraham spent the majority of his life with God, pursuing God’s vision by focusing on one son, Isaac. Then, when God’s plan was fulfilled, God blessed him to enjoy life and prosperity freely – no conflict, no challenge, no anxiety, but smooth and wonderful life, and quickly, he became the father of many nationsBut Abraham, before his death, took care of all the matters properly so that Isaac would not be bothered. Abraham left everything he owned to Isaac. But while he was still living, he gave gifts to the sons of his concubines and sent them away from his son Isaac to the land of the east. Look at verses 7 and 8. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Altogether, Abraham lived a hundred and seventy-five years. 8 Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people.

 

Abraham died at a good old age, an old man and full of years. This is the conclusion of his life: His life was full and good; with God’s blessing and care, he enjoyed a wonderful life. This is what it means to have a blessed life. Actually, this is what all humans desire. But we see rarely anyone who enjoys this kind of blessed life. Instead, most people finish their life in sorrows, in regrets, and in loneliness, and in fear; their life is empty and meaningless. Why? It was because they chose a wrong way of life. What a terrible moment it is that at the end of their life, they find that they have lived a wrong life! Full of regret, sorrows, and fear! That’s really terrible. Life is one timetransaction; no one can say, O, it was a mistake. Let me start all over again. Life is really a precious asset. We must not waste it. We must not make a mistake. Do you want to live a truly blessed life? Do you want to be blessed like Abraham? Then, live like Abraham, holding onto God’s vision and obeying God’s commands absolutely. Don’t be bothered by what others say, even what other Christians say. As you live like Abraham and while others live like Lot, sometimes you may be confused – you suffer loss and have pains. But don’t be bothered by what others do and how they live their life. The life of losing your life for Jesus and the gospel is the only right way of life. Just be like Abraham. In the end, you will find life. Live as God’s covenant people. Then, God himself will be your shield, protecting you from all dangers. Life comes with a lot of dangers – China virus, cancers, traffic accidents, shooting rampage, natural disasters, wars, terrorism, and the danger of doctorsCNBC reported on Feb. 22nd, 2018: Johns Hopkins study claims more than 250,000 people die in the Unites States of America every year from medical errors. Other reports claim the numbers to be as high as 400,000. Medical errors are the third-leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer. Indeed, we never know what may happen tomorrow. In this dangerous world, God is our shield when we live as his covenant people. This is the best insurance. So, live like Abraham, as God’s covenant people, and God becomes your shield, your very great reward, and you will enjoy a blessed life. Let’s pray that our life may be described in the same way, Roberto Flores died at a good old age, an old man and full of years.

 

Second, Ishmael’s family and Isaac’s family (12-21).Verses 12 through 18 is the record of the sons of Ishmael, Abraham’s concubine, Hagar bore to him. Verses 13 through 15 reads: These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, KedarAdbeelMibsamMishmaDumah, Massa, HadadTemaJeturNaphish and KedemahThese are the names of the twelve tribal rulers according to their settlements and camps. Later, these people would form many nations and empires in the Middle East. Indeed, Abraham was the father of many nations. Among them, as we already mentioned about, Tema appears in the Bible in relation with DedanAlso two other sons’ names appear in the Bible several times – Nebaioth and Kedar. (Isa 21:16-17; 42:11; 60:7; Eze 27:21; Psa 120:5; Jer 2:10)

The Nabataeans (descendants of Nebaioth, the first son of Ishmael) spoke and wrote an early form of Arabic and thus they were often referred to as 'Arabs' by Greek and Roman historians.The Nabataeans and the Kedarites fought against the Assyrian Empire, so they appear in the Assyrian records as well. Previous to this, Assyrian records tell us of King Ashurbanipal (668-663 BC) who was fighting with the 'Nabaiateans of Arabia.' Then in 703 BC a group of Chaldaeans and neighboring tribes rebelled against Sennacherib, the Assyrian ruler. The ancient records of Tiglath Pilezeer III list, among the rebels, the Hagaranu(possibly the descendants of Hagar, the mother of Ishmael), the Nabatu (very possibly the descendants of Nebayoth, the eldest son of Ishmael) and the Kedarites (descendants of Ishmael's second son). According to the records, these tribes fled from Assyria into the Arabian Desert and could not be conquered.

The Assyrian kingdom eventually broke into two as two brothers began to rule, one the King of Babylonia and the other the King of Assyria. In 652 BC conflict broke out between these two brothers, and the Kedarites supported the Babylonian kingdom. Then, soon, the Kedarites faded from history and the Nabataeans came to the forefront. Later, when Judah was destroyed in 586 B.C., by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, and the survivors were taken captives to Babylon, the Edomites moved into Judah – later, those Edomites that lived in Judah were called Idumeans; then, when the land of Edom was empty, the Nabateans in the Gulf of Aqaba moved into it – just about 80 miles from the gulf of Aqaba, thus occupying the land of Esau. In time, the Nabataeans built an impressive civilization based on merchant trade. Their capital was the city of Petra, located deep in the sandstone mountains of southern Jordan. (All these quotation is from the website: http://nabataea.net/nabajoth.html) Later, the Nabateans were in coalition with the Roman Empire, and under Pox Romana, they prospered, eventually, being absorbed into Rome, and losing their identity, thus disappearing from the surface of human history. Indeed, As God promised, Ishmael’s descendants were prosperous, forming many nations.

In chapter 24, we saw God establishing Isaac and Rebekah’s family. It was really amazing – how all the people that were involved in it trusted in God and entrusted their life in God’s hands, how they obeyed God’s will and submitted themselves to it. It was really blessed marriage. Then, how did it go after that? Usually, we expect that everything went well with them due to God’s blessing and that they lived happily ever after. But things did not go that way. They remained childless, because Rebekah was barren, even for 20 years! What an embarrassing moment for Isaac and Rebekah! Rebekah saw God’s guidance in her marriage matter, so with confidence, she said, I will go. She expected that everything would go well with her family. But she remained childless. She was confused; doubt about God’s will and God’s love smeared into her heart.Isaac’s half-brother, Ishmael was really fruitful – 12 sons, then, many grandchildren, forming 6 soccer teams, having Ishmael cup soccer league. Whenever she saw how fruitful Ishmael’s family was, she felt ashamed, thinking that something was wrong with her. She became very self-conscious. When she saw several servants talking and laughing, she felt condemned, thinking that they were talking about her. Her barrenness was indeed, a very serious problem for her. 

 

In this very difficult situation, Isaac supported her fully, dedicating himself to her completely, praying for her, even for 20 years! In that very challenging situation, how comforted Rebekah was, when her husband showed such complete trust and support, praying for her all the time. Because of her husband’s complete trust and support, she could deal with this very challenging situation in a proper way. Because of her husband’s complete dedication to her, she was confident about herself as the mistress in the household and told the servants what to do and what not to do. Isaac’s love and prayer for her was the source of comfort and strength to her. Indeed, Isaac was the best husband in the world. When husbands show this kind of complete support for their wives, wives are very comforted and strengthened. With their husband’s complete trust and support, these wives’ self-esteem is boosted that thebecome confident about themselves; then, such confidence is exposed in their relationship with others – how they talk and behave. So, such husbands are the best husbands in the world. Who can be so great as husbands like Isaac? Those who have faith in God and thereby, those who pray for their wives! Don’t look for a humanistic solution such as taking another concubine, but pray for your wife! I pray that all the brothers here may have absolute faith in God and pray for your wives.

 

God’s covenant family had such a great challenge, but it had such strength to deal with it because God was at the center of their marriage. Then, finally, after 20 years of Isaac’s prayer for Rebekah, God answered, and Rebekah became pregnant. Every family comes with a lot of challenges in life. But when husband and wife have faith in God and pray, such a family is strong and can withstand all kinds of challenges. 

 

When we think about these two families – Ishmael’s family and Isaac’s family, we are really shocked. It seemed that Ishmael was blessed, while Isaac was cursed. But certainly, it was not the case. Here, we learn that we should not judge anyone based on the present situation. Some people have great fruit, while others don’t. But, that’s not the sign of God’s blessing or God’s curse.We never know how things will turn out in the end. So, we don’t judge anyone. Instead, with humility and sincerity, each of us struggles to live for God alone, doing what God wants us to do with a fearful and trembling heart. Then, God will bless us greatly when his time comes.

 

Third, “Esau and Jacob” (22-34). Look at verse 22. Rebekah was pregnant. The babies jostled each other within her, and she said, Why is this happening to me? So she went to inquire of the LORD. The LORD said to her, Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger. The statement, the older will serve the younger, shows that God had a special plan for the younger, Jacob. When the time came for her to give birth, there were twin boys in her womb. The first to come out was red, and his whole body was like a hairy garment; so they named him Esau, which means red. After this, his brother came out, with his hand grasping Esau's heel; so he was named Jacob, which means, He grasps, implying Jacob’s fighting spirit and never give up spirit. He had a wrestling match with his twin brother Esau in his mother’s womb, but he lost. Yet, he still did not give up; he was still fighting with him, grasping his heel. Isaac was sixty years old when Rebekah gave birth to them. And Abraham was 160 years old. So, Esau and Jacob spent their youth with him. Maybe, Esau and Jacob visited Abraham, calling him, “Grandpa!” Maybe, Abraham told them about God and they had worship service together. Indeed, Esau and Jacob spent wonderful childhood with Abraham and Isaac. 

 

Verse 27 shows how they grew. It reads: The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was a quiet man, staying among the tents.They were twins, but they were really different in every aspect. Esau was hairy, but Jacob had smooth skin, without that much hair. Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. In those days, all boys basically should be warriors, practicing martial arts, shooting arrows, swinging swords; that’s norm. Esau was excellent in this aspect, maybe, with huge muscles, with nice beard and mustache; in our terms, he was very athletic, being popular among his peers. But Jacob was a quiet man, not talking too much, staying among the tents, cooking; he was his mom’s favorite son – momma’s boy; he was not manly unlike his twin brother. In the eyes of people, something was wrong with him; he looked weird and weak. But he should not be judged by outward appearance.

 

Verses 28 through 34 shows us how Jacob came to purchase the birthright from Esau. By the way, when did this episode of Jacob purchasing the birthright from Esau occur? One clue is verse 27. It reads: The boys grew up. They grew up – no longer little boys, but grown-ups, maybe, 30 or even 40years old. Another clue is found in 27:36. When Jacob deceived his father and took his blessing, he was 40 years old. At that time, Esau, in bitterness and anger said to Isaac, He has deceived me these two times: He took my birthright, and now he is taking my blessing! So, the scar of losing his birthright was still fresh to him. So, it was not long time ago; I think, those two events happened in the same year, or maybe, 3 years apart. Or, let’s say it happened 10 years ago. Then, it meant that Jacob was 30 years old. Yet, still he had not forgotten about the birthright. The birthright is not something you can get by struggling, but it is given by fate. But even 30 years later, Jacob was still thinking about it and pursuing it, trying to figure out a way to get it. While he looked weak, not saying too much, while he looked innocent, he was thinking about all those things, trying to figure out the way to get what he wanted – for the past 30 years, that’s what he had been doing, while cooking quietlyHe was really die-hard. Once he found something valuable, he sought it all the way. By the way, what was the birthright? The birthright was given to the firstborn son in the family, and it was a token that, once his father passed away, he would inherit everything. He would be the rightful heir of all his father’s estate, while other sons would go out and pioneer their own life. Right at the moment, the birthright did not give him any benefit, but in the end, it would give him everything. Jacob knew its value and pursued it for the past 30 years, even though he had lost it by fate. Then, when a chance came, he boldly offered a deal to purchase it. Let’s say, since Isaac was rich, the birthright would bring him $10,000,000.00 maybe 30 years later. Then, in order to purchase it, how much did Jacob offer? A bowl of lentil stew, maybe, $5.00 value! Usually, ordinary people cannot think this way, but Jacob thought it would be possible. He tried, and it worked. He purchased the birthright from Esau. 

 

Esau, on the contrary, did not consider the birthright that highly. When he was hungry, he valued a bowl of lentil stew more highly than the birthright. When the deal was suggested, he said, Look, I am about to die. What good is the birthright to me? Actually, even if he was famished, certainly he would not die because of that in the next two hours. If he did not get something from Jacob, then, surely his mom would give him something to eat – just about one hour later. He just exaggerated his condition. He made such a big deal out of nothing, and sold his birthright at a bowl of lentil stew. About this, the Bible conclusively talks about Esau, saying, So Esau despised the birthright. Hebrews 12:16,17 talks about him, saying, See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. Who are godless people? Those who despise their birthright are godless people. We must not be godless like Esau. How? By valuing our birthright in Jesus highly and securing it by any means! 

 

What can be the birthright for us? The birthright is a token for future glory. God’s calling for us is God’s vision for us; that much is what God wants us to do – that much is what God wants us to get – so God’s calling is actually God’s promise for us. Right now, it may not give you that much benefit, but in the future, in the end, it will turn out to be your glory – it will bring glory, honor and eternal inheritance when Jesus comes again. Even if you suffer because of God’s calling, certainly you will not die. So, don’t panic or exaggerate your suffering too much. Just endure it, and certainly, God will not be late to help you. We must hold onto God’s calling and secure it firmly by any means. The apostle Peter says, Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2Pe 1:10-11)

 

Some people hold onto God’s calling for a while, servingGod’s work. But when a desirable job offer comes, they quickly accept it. What about God’s calling, God’s will upon their life? They toss off God’s calling freely. Simply, when a big bowl of lentil stew is offered, they quickly jump into it, selling their birthright. Such people are godless. Also, some people, at a temptation of a desirable looking marriage candidate, quickly give up God’s grace, God’s calling upon their life so that they may secure that person. When better looking lentil stew is offered, they quickly choose it, tossing off God’s grace, God’s calling upon their life. Such people are godless. Don’t be godless like Esau. There is no better lentil stew. Lentil stew is lentil stew – no more or no less. Also, even if you have a big bowl of lentil stew, even Olympic pool size lentil stew, still you cannot eat it all. Later, they come to their senses and realize what they have done, but too late. Even if they plead with God for his blessing with tears, nothing will be given to them. Faith in God’s calling, that complete confidence in God’s calling, that complete confidence in God’s will and purpose for you, is not something you can get anytime you want. It is from God; faith is a gift of God; it is more precious than gold. Secure it by any means. Don’t be godless like Esau. But be like Jacob! By any means, secure the birthright, because it is really valuable – a token for your future eternal glory.

 

One Word:A Good Old Age, An Old Man And Full Of Years

Sunday, January 19, 2020

posted Jan 19, 2020, 9:26 PM by Site Administrator

ISAAC AND REBEKAH

 

Genesis 23:1-24:67     

Key Verse 24:67

 

Isaac brought her into the tent of his mother Sarah, and he married Rebekah. So she became his wife and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

 

First, Sarah died and Abraham purchased Machpelah cave as a burial site (23:1-20). In Chapter 23, Abraham’s beloved wife Sarah passed away at the age of 127. Abraham needed to buy a burial site for her. This shows that even though he had lived in the promised land for about 62 years, he did not purchase any property there; even if it was God's promised land, he did not try to settle there; instead, he lived there in the promised land as an alien, as a traveler. When Abraham wanted to buy a burial site among the Hittites, among whom he was living, they showed great honor and respect to him. They said to him, Sir, listen to us. You are a mighty prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our tombs. None of us will refuse you his tomb for burying your dead. It was not just some people's opinion, but their general consensus among themselves that none of them would refuse Abraham his tomb for burying his dead. Everyone held him so highly. When Abraham pointed out the cave of Machpelah that belonged to Ephron the Hittite, Ephron refused to sell it to him, but pleaded with him to take it for free of charge. When Abraham insisted on paying the price, Ephron suggested Abraham 400 shekels of silver, but he said to himbut, what is that between you and me? Because he held him highly as a great man of God, he never wanted to have that kind of monetary relationship with him; it was almost like blasphemy. Let's say, you gave a ride to Mother Barry to LAX, and she wants to pay you the gas money, how would you respond? No way! Lot was very successful in the city of Sodom, occupying an influential position in the city. But, despite his success, no one actually respected him. When he tried to lecture them, they were upset and said, Get out of our way. This fellow came here as an alien, and now he wants to play the judge! It is all people's desire to be honored and respected like Abraham. Then, how can we be like Abraham, receiving respect and honor from others? The answer is simple. If you want to be like Abraham, then, live like Abraham, holding onto God's vision and living for it without any compromise. People watch you; they pay attention to how you live, more than what you say. If you live a compromising life like Lot, even worldly people will despise you. But if you live for God alone as Jesus' disciple, if you keep living that way despite challenges and difficulties, they will recognize you as a real disciple of Jesus and honor you.

 

Also, in this chapter, we see Abraham's maturity in dealing with the Hittites. Even if they held him highly as a great man of God, he did not take it for granted. Instead, he was very humble and sincere. Each time, when he was about to speak, he rose and bowed down before the people of the land. He did not utilize his spiritual authority for the monetary gain either. He insisted that he would pay the full price so that the property might be truly his. Thus, he purchased the field and the cave of Machpelah. Verses 17 and 18 emphasizes this transaction, saying, So Ephron's field in Machpelah near Mamre—both the field and the cave in it, and all the trees within the borders of the field—was deeded 18 to Abraham as his property in the presence of all the Hittites who had come to the gate of the city. Since then, this cave of Machpelah was used as Abraham's descendants' tomb site generation after generation. Abraham buried Sarah there; he himself was buried there; Isaac and Rebekah were buried there; Jacob and Leah were too. Then, this field and cave became like all Israel people's sacred place like the origin of their family, just like their homeland; they talked to their children about this cave, and they all came to know that their true homeland which they should eventually go back to was the Canaan, where their ancestors' tomb site was. If Abraham took it for free of charge, several hundred years later, his descendants would not be able to claim it as theirs. But because Abraham secured it by paying the full price in the presence of all the Hittites in the city gate, and this transaction was recorded clearly in the Bible, they claimed its ownership. In this way, Abraham handed it down to his next generations together with God's covenant blessing.

 

Second, Make sure that you do not take my son back there (24:1-9). Look at verse 1 in chapter 24. Abraham was now old and well advanced in years, and the LORD had blessed him in every way. This verse describes Abraham’s later life. He had fought the spiritual battle of putting his trust in God and obeying God’s command absolutely. He was like a powerful general who set a good example for all believers to follow. Now, after going through all these challenges and trials of life by faith in God, Abraham was enjoying a very peaceful and fulfilling life, with God’s blessing in every way. Life in God was indeed sweet and fulfilling. But Abraham had one more important mission to take care of – it was to find a wife for Isaac, his son, and establish his marriage. Sarah was gone, and he knew that any time, he too could be gone. So, before his departure, he wanted to establish Isaac's family.

 

Look at verses 2 through 4. One day, Abraham called one of his servants and had the servant swear by God that he would not get a wife for Isaac from the Canaanites, but go to Haran and get a wife for him there. It was his only son's marriage matter - it was such an important matter, but amazingly, he entrusted this matter into the hand of his servant! Usually, no father would do so. Even if they may let their reliable friends or faithful employees take care of their business, they would take care of their own sons' or daughters' marriage matter by themselves. But amazingly, Abraham put his only son's marriage matter into his servant's hands. How could he do that? He could do so because he believed that God would go ahead of him and prepare a wife for Isaac. In his eyes, eventually, it was God who would choose a girl for Isaac and establish Isaac's family. For God's covenant person, God Himself takes care of his or her marriage matter, because He wants to establish God's covenant family. Then, whether Abraham himself would go and look for a wife for Isaac or his servant would do the job, it was not so important, because eventually, it was God would do it.

 

But there was one thing his servant must remember in finding a wife for Isaac, that was, he should not take a wife for Isaac from the daughters of the Canaanites, among whom he was living, but go to Abraham's relatives in Haran and look for a girl there. Abraham considered it a very serious and important matter that he had his servant swear an oath by the name of the LORD, the God of the heavens and the God of the earth. Abraham understood that Isaac’s future spiritual life would be affected by his marriage partner greatly. Isaac was the covenant son who would carry God’s covenant to the next generation. So, his wife should also be God’s covenant person so that they would be one team, one flesh, with same desire and hope. When Abraham considered this in Isaac’s marriage, then, the Canaanites women were absolutely out of option. In Canaan, there must have been many beautiful and intelligent Canaanite women. Some of them might have possessed charming personalities. But fundamentally, they had different value system, different hope and different lifestyle that none of them could be one with Isaac. None of them could be a suitable helper for Isaac to carry God’s covenant blessing. So, he told his servant to go to Haran, his own country, and get a wife for him from his relatives.

 

Who should be our marriage partner? This is a very important question. This question is the reflection of the purpose of our marriage. Why do we marry? If it is for our own pleasures, if we want to please ourselves, then, like the believers in Noah’s time, we would marry anyone we choose. If it is to solve our financial needs, then, we would choose a wealthy partner. Fundamentally, why should we marry, and what is, by the way, marriage? In Genesis chapter 2, we see God establishing marriage between Adam and Eve, and his purpose in creating marriage was so that husband and wife together, might serve God’s mission more effectively, and when established according to God’s design, they could enjoy a delightful life in the marriage relationship. But in Noah’s time, the believers left God out of their marriage, and married anyone they chose; at first, their excuse in this intermarriage, was that, once they married unbelieving people, they would help them believe in God. But it never worked that way. Instead, it worked the opposite way. They lost faith and did not function as the salt of the world at all. As a result, the whole world was corrupt, and invited God’s judgment. Marriage affects one’s entire life. Some people, because of their wrong marriage, live in pain and sorrow all the days of their life – their families are broken, and their children are scattered. To them, marriage is the source of sheer torture, argument, disappointment and regret. But some other people, because of their marriage, grow to be great men and women of God. To them, marriage is the spring fountainof happiness and delight. When Abraham was concerned about his son’s future, he could not have him marry anyone. His marriage partner should be the one whom Isaac could form a spiritual unity with so that Isaac and his wife together, might serve God’s purpose effectively. One proud young man married a foxy woman, saying that through this marriage, she would have a chance to come to heaven. But after marriage, her situation became worse, and his life and faith were ruined. There are many people who are willing to give everything to God, except marriage dream. They say, I will give everything to God, but let me marry in my own way. But if we understand the importance of marriage – it can either build us up or destroy our life, we realize that our marriage must be established in God, by God, and for God. Our marriage partner should be the one who can form a spiritual unity with us in serving God’s mission so that through our marriage, God’s purpose can advance in our life effectively.

 

Look at verses 6 through 8. Let’s read these verses together:

 

Make sure that you do not take my son back there,Abraham said. The LORD, the God of heaven, who brought me out of my father’s household and my native land and who spoke to me and promised me on oath, saying, ‘To your offspring I will give this land’ – he will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there.

 

Abraham said, If the woman is unwilling to come back with you, then you will be released from this oath of mine. Only do not take my son back there. Abraham had a clear idea about what kind of woman should be Isaac’s wife. Isaac's wife should be such a woman who could leave her family and her country to marry Isaac even though she had never met him. Wow! What a daring vision he had for his son’s wife! From Haran to Hebron, it was about 600 miles, 20 days’ journey in those days. On earth, what woman could say, Yes, and leave her country and her family and travel 600 miles to marry a man she had never met?! How could she even trust the old servant’s story that sounded too fishy? Such a woman must be very rare. But no matter what, Abraham wanted that kind of woman to be his son’s wife. If any woman was not willing to come, simply, she was not the one for Isaac. Humanly, it was impossible. But Abraham said to his servant, The LORD will send his angel before you so that you can get a wife for my son from there. He believed that even though it was a mission impossible, by God’s help, it would be done. Only a girl who was led and inspired by God would say, Yes, I will marry him.Abraham was looking for such a girlAbraham did not talk about any other condition such as wealth, intellect, character or outward appearance, but this one single thing - by faith in Godinspired by God, she would be willing to leave her country and her family and marry IsaacThe only preference he had for Isaac's marriage partner was this absolute faith in God that when inspired by God, she could leave everything behind including her own family, come to a foreign land and marry Isaac even without seeing him once before.

 

May our young brothers have faith in God in their marriage. May all of our young brothers be so powerful and passionate like Abraham saying, If any woman is not willing to marry by faith, then, she is not for me.

 

Third, I will go (24:10-67). Abraham's servant swore an oath by the LORD. He accepted this mission impossible by faith and left with ten camels with a lot of wedding gifts. From Hebron to Haran, it was about 20 days' journey in those days. When he arrived in Haran, it was toward evening, the time when women go out to draw water. He must have been tired after a long desert journey. Usually, in this situation, even zealous and faithful people would check in the hotel first, take hot shower, eat some good meal, sleep well, and then, from the next day, would start their mission. But, the servant was different. Even though it was the evening time, he did not say that he would start his mission tomorrow. Instead, he started his mission right away, looking for a girl to be Isaac's wife. He was really intense. And his method of starting his mission was to pray, saying, LORD, God of my master Abraham, give me success today and show kindness to my master Abraham. 13See, I am standing beside this spring, and the daughters of the townspeople are coming out to draw water. Let's read verse 14 together:

 

14May it be that when I say to a girl, 'Please let down your jar that I may have a drink,’ and she says, 'Drink, and I will water your camels too.' – Let her be the one you have chosen for your servant Isaac. By this I will know that you have shown kindness to my master.

 

In his prayer, he revealed what kind of lady she he was looking for - the preferences he had. She would be such a thoughtful woman who was mindful of even speechless animals' thirst; and at the same time, she would be such a hard-working lady that she would be willing to water 10 camelsIn a good environment with no harsh labor or long trip, a camel drinks about5 gallons of water; when really thirsty in a challenging circumstances, a typical camel drinks about 30 gallons of water in less than 15 minutes, sometimes, even 53 gallons of water. After a long journey, 10 camels might drink really a lot of water. Even with tap water and hose, watering 10 camels would be challenging. Then, what about a girl drawing water from a deep well with a bucket, pouring it into a jar, and then, carrying it to the trough for camels to drink? It would be really not easy; it would be physically hard. But the servant prayed for such a girl to be Isaac's wife. Such a lady is totally different than a silly lady who is always concerned about how her pinky nail is broken, or how her manicure is chipped, or how her dress looks, and how her hairstyle is. The servant was looking for a very real and practical lady, so thoughtful, compassionate, and hard-working - a motherly character; indeed, he was looking for a mother of many nations.

 

During the time of Noah, God-believing peoples focused on outward beauty and thereby, married anyone they chose; as a result, the whole world was corrupt, inviting God’s judgment on themselves. Nowadays, both God-believing people and non-believing people show the same tendency in regard to their marriage partner. Or, even some people focus on the candidate’s financial condition. But Abraham valued the woman’s faith, and his servant valued the woman’s inner character and hard workingspirit. People’s view of their marriage partner reveals their spirituality very well. What is your view of marriage partner? What is the most important aspect?

Then, even before he finished praying, Rebekah came out with her jar on her shoulder. The servant asked her, Please give me a little water from your jar. Then, she said, Drink my LORD, and quickly lowered the jar to her hands and gave him a drink. After she had given him a drink, she said, I’ll draw water for your camels too, until they have finished drinking. So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran back to the well to draw more water. She did this continually, going from the well to the trough back and forth repeatedly until the camels finished drinking. 10 camels might drink about 100 gallons of water. It would take about 30 minutes or even 1 hour. While she was working hard to draw water, pour it on the trough, run back to the well and draw more, without saying a word, the servant watched closely to learn whether or not the LORD had made his journey successful. 

 

Rebekah was thoughtful, even being willing to take care of the thirst of speechless animals. Not only so, she was a hard-working woman. Surely, she was a material for a mother of many nations. When women are like this, the society has hope and vision. Brothers are encouraged and strengthened to do something really great. In Isaiah 3:16, God describes how the women of Israel were doing during the time of the prophet Isaiah. It reads: The LORD says, The women of Zion are haughty, walking along with outstretched necks, flirting with their eyes, tripping along with mincing steps, with ornaments jingling on their ankles.Soon, the nation was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire. Modern women are like these women of Zion, mostly concerned about their outlooks. They are wholehearted to seduce handsome brothers, and have many boyfriends. Such a society cannot last. We must pray that God may establish many women of faith like Rebekah among us, from among young college students, who would take care of so many wandering and thirsty people in our society.

 

After the camels finished drinking, he took out a gold nose ring weighing 1/5 ounce, and two gold bracelets weighing 4 ounces, and gave them to her. I checked out the gold price. It’s $1,559.30 per oz as if Jan. 19, 2020The gift was worth about$6,549.00 in US dollar. It was a lot of money for the service she had offered. The servant already was convinced that the girl was the one whom God had prepared for Isaac. When he realized that the girl was Abraham’s grandniece, he bowed down and worshiped the LORD, praising Him for guiding him to the house of his master’s relatives. 

 

Then, surprised, Rebekah ran and told her mother’s household about this. The family became excited and joyfully served the guests. Quickly a feast was prepared for him. The fragrant aroma came up from the hot meal just prepared. But the servant said to them, I will not eat until I have told you what I have to say. Then tell us, Laban, Rebekah's brother said.

 

In verses 34 through 48, he testified to his master’s blessed relationship with the LORD and to the LORD’s kindness in answering his prayer that day in detail. The whole point of his long testimony was that God had chosen Rebekah to be Isaac’s wife. He said in verse 48, I praised the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me on the right road to get the granddaughter of my master’s brother for his son. Then he immediately asked, Now if you will show kindness and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so I may know which way to turn. He was very intense and forceful.

 

At this, Rebekah's father and brother - Laban and Bethuel -answered, This is from the LORD; we can say nothing to you one way or the other. Here is Rebekah; take her and go, and let her become the wife of your master’s son, as the LORD has directed.Abraham's servant bowed down to the ground before the LORD. He gave the gifts he brought to Rebekah and her family, and they joyfully ate and drank. 

Look at verse 54b. The next morning, when they got up, the servant said, Send me on my way to my master. We are really shocked at his words. Then , how much more shocked Rebekah's family were! He was really intense, pursuing his mission relentlessly. He was like a Terminator. To others, perhaps, he was a little too much, a little burdensome. But to Abraham, this man must be very reliable. Once a task was given him, he would pursue it with all his heart, focusing all his time, energy, and talent on his mission, and somehow, he would fulfill it successfully. This man was a nameless servant, but he possessed greatness because of his mission oriented life. And through him, this very important mission of finding a wife for Isaac and establishing Isaac's family was fulfilled. Since everything happened so sudden, they wanted to have at least 10 days or so to prepare her departure in order to say goodbye properly. It was very much understandable. But the servant insisted that he should go back home at once denying all human sympathySo the family decided to see what Rebekahwould say. What was her answer? Look at verse 58. Let's read this verse together:

 

So they called Rebekah and asked her, Will you go with this man? I will go, she said.

 

In those days, once she left her family, most likely, she would never see them any longer in her entire life. Also, she would have a totally different life with different people. Her whole life would change completely. But she did not hesitate; she did not cry like a little baby either. Instead, she made a clear cut decision, saying, I will go.

 

To many women, marriage dream is the most valuable asset they have. It is their lifetime dream to marry a prince charming, handsome, lovely, and gentle. So they are very careful to make a final decision; even after checking out all available conditions of their possible marriage partners for years, still, they hesitate to jump into the marriage relationship, worrying about this or that. They are simply afraid. But Rebekah decided to accept a man whom she had never met as her husband. She made this decision, because she had noticed that God had a plan for her and her marriage and she accepted God’s sovereignty upon her life that God chose her to be Isaac’s wife. She would marry Isaac not because of Isaac - his character or his appearance, or even his height, but because of God. She trusted God - God's goodness and love for her, God's good plan for her life, and thereby, entrusted her life and marriage in God's hands by marrying the one God had prepared for her. This is the meaning of marriage by faith. We marry by faith, not by sight, or not by calculation; we marry not according to our own marriage preferences, but according to God's good plan for us by faith. Through this whole event, Rebekah's family members were so amazed and inspired that they sent her out with their blessing, sayingOur sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the gates of their enemies. Verse 61 conclusively describes the servant's mission accomplishment, saying, So the servant took Rebekah and left. The mission impossible was accomplished.

 

Verses 62 through 67 zeroes in on Isaac, showing how he responded to this matter. He went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching. Rebekah also looked up and saw Isaac. She got down from her camel and asked the servant, Who is that man in the field coming to meet us? He is my master, the servant answered. So she took her veil and covered herself. Then the servant told Isaac all he had done. Isaac apparently did not know about his father sending his servant to find a wife for him. It must have been a great surprise to Isaac. But Isaac also was a man of personal faith. He accepted Rebekah as his wife, submitting himself to his father's authority. Verse 67b says, So she became his wife, and he loved her; and Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death. His love for Rebekah was so genuine that even after 20 years, when Rebekah remained barren and childless, Isaac refused to take another wife as was the custom of his time, even though his own father Abraham did. Instead, he prayed and prayed for his wife Rebekah for 20 years, until they, at last, were blessed with twin sons. 

 

This was how Isaac's family was established. There were several people involved in establishing this family - Abraham who initiate it, trusting that God would go ahead and prepare a wife for Isaac, and thereby, entrusted this matter in the hands of his servant; the servant who pursued this very important mission wholeheartedly and relentlessly, and secured Rebekah for Isaac; Rebekah who decided to marry Isaac even without seeing him once and leave everything behind and go to the foreign land because she trusted in God who had a good plan for her; and Isaac who submitted himself to his father's authority and married the one his father had prepared. All of them trusted in God and pursued God's will wholeheartedly. Thus, God's precious covenant family was established. And today, this is how God's covenant families are established - by absolute faith in God and by submitting ourselves, our life and marriage and our dreams to GodWe pray that we may raise up many Isaac and Rebekah from among young college students who can marry by faith in God alone. We pray that we may establish this kind of beautiful marriages continuously that are by God, and for God among us.

 

One Word: By Faith And Obedience, A Godly Family Was Established 

 

Sunday, January 12, 2020

posted Jan 12, 2020, 8:09 PM by Site Administrator

BECAUSE YOU HAVE OBEYED ME

 

Genesis 22:1-24

Key Verse 22:18

 

And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.

 

First, "Sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering" (1-8). Look at verse 1. “Some time later God tested Abraham.” We don’t know exactly when God tested Abraham. But we find one clue in verse 6: Abraham took the wood for the burnt offering and placed it on his son Isaac. In order to sacrifice an animal such as sheep or ram as a burnt offering, you need a lot of wood, and Isaac was strong enough to carry that much wood. So he must have been in his late teens or early twenties. Isaac was God’s blessing for Abraham, and for about 20 years, Abraham enjoyed his life together with Isaac. He tasted what it meant to be blessed by God. Then, a time of testing came. One day, God called Abraham, saying, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” Abraham replied. God told him, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah on one of the mountains I will tell you. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” When we come to this passage, we are only shocked and many questions bother us such as, “Oh my goodness! Offer Isaac as a burnt offering? Why?” If we are surprised like this, then, how much more Abraham must have been shocked, surprised, and confused. Many people doubt God’s love when seemingly terrible or unpleasant things happen in their lives. They easily blame God for their misfortune. Then, how would they respond when they are asked to sacrifice their son Isaac, whom they love as a burnt offering to God? Some people, when they are asked to give up something they hold dear for the sake of obeying God's will upon their life, they say, "Uhh, that's not what I wanted when I believed in God." Or, they say, "Is that the only way I should live by?" and they simply move to another church. When this kind of real test comes to them, they all fail to obey God, thus, exposing their true motive in coming to God - not for God, but for some benefits.

 

Abraham must have been dumbfounded; he was quite at a loss without knowing what to say. He never expected that God would ask him for Isaac, because Isaac had come from God. Then, why did God do so? Verse 1 says that God ‘tested Abraham.” It meant that God wanted to see what kind of score Abraham would get if He asked him to sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering. God wanted to see how Abraham would respond at this command. God knew that Abraham loved Him. He knew that if He asked him to offer 10 bulls as the burnt offering, Abraham would obey him absolutely. He knew that if He asked Abraham to offer all his money, Abraham would do it. But how would he respond if he were asked to sacrifice Isaac, his son, as a burnt offering? God even emphasized "your son, your only son… whom you love," showing that He fully understood how difficult it would be for Abraham to obey this command. But still knowing everything, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his only son as a burnt offering to Him. 

 

God knows that we love Him, but He wants to see how much we love him. How much do I love God? This is a good question. The first man Adam loved God, but when he had to make his choice between God and his wife, he chose his wife because he loved his wife more than God. Maybe, he would do many things for God, but as long as his wife was concerned, he would make excuses to God. That much was his love for God, and because of that God was very sad. Eventually, Adam teamed up with his wife and rebelled against God, who had established his family and who had given him his wifeOn the other hand, we see Jesus loved God. How much did he love God? God commanded him to die on the cross as a ransom sacrifice for many. It is really difficult for anyone to obey this kind of direction. But, embracing all pains, sorrows and difficulties, Jesus obeyed God’s command. That much was Jesus’ love for God his Father. His love for God was complete that Jesus would do anything God asked him to do, and nothing could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. Jesus was indeed free to obeyGod’s command because he loved God. During the time of Isaiah the prophet, the Israel people said, “I love God.” But the Lord said: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” (Isa 29:13) Many people easily say, “I love God.” But loving God is not as easy as they think. By the way, how can we love God, when God is invisible and when God is in heaven? People think of it saying words, “I love God.” But loving God is not the matter of saying some words, but the matter of obeying God’s command. Jesus says in John 14:21, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” If we love God, then, we surely obey God’s command despite sufferings, pains and sorrow. But those who do not love God do not obey God’s command because of the sufferings, pains and sorrows that are involved. Some people say that they love God, but they are even not willing to offer Sunday to God, even just a few hours on Sunday, so they do not come to worship service. They are not willing to sacrifice their trip plans even for the sake of worshiping God, instead, they sacrifice Sunday worship service for their trip plans. Some people say that they love God, but they never bring offerings to God – it is obvious that they love money more than God. God says, “I am a jealous God.” When we love something else, such as pleasures, money, our own life, Ishmael, or even Isaac, God is jealous because he really loves us and he wants us to love him back with the same kind of love. He wants us to love him alone. So he asks us to offer Isaac, our best treasure, to him as a burnt offering. What is your response to this test? What is your Isaac that you value the most?

 

What was Abraham’s response? Look at verse 3. Let's read this verse together:

 

Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about. 

 

The phrase, "Early the next morning" shows that he didn't hesitate or calculate. Instead, he was decisive. In this heart, Isaac was already offered to God as a burnt offering. Then he didn't tell anyone, not even Sarah. If he told Sarah, he would be able to come out of this dilemma very conveniently, saying, “Lord, I want to obey your command, but it seems that Sarah will kill me first. I am sorry.” But even if there was a legitimate way for him to come out of this dilemma, he didn't do that; he didn't talk to his wife about it. Instead, early the next morning, he left his home with his son and two other servants. Instead of looking for a way to come out of this dilemma with a valid excuse, he chose to obey God's command; this shows that he wanted to obey God's command; he wanted to do what God asked him to do, even if it would hurt him and cost him a lot. That was his heart's desire for God.

 

In addition, Abraham overcame his personal feelings and emotions. What God told him to do seemed crazy and insane.But throughout the journey to the very altar of sacrifice, his faith in God and simple obedience to God's command did not waver. Also, he overcame his logical and rational way of thinking. Logically, it did not make a sense to offer Isaac, because God had promised that through Isaac, his offspring would be reckoned. So it was contradictory to God’s word of promise. Furthermore, offering a human sacrifice is not biblical at all. So if he relied on his own logical thinking, reasoning, or understanding, surely he would not be able to obey God’s command. He had hundreds of understandable reasons to disobey this command. But “Nevertheless” he obeyed. Nevertheless, he obeyed God’s command overcoming all obstacles – the obstacle of his own logical way of thinking, the obstacle of his past knowledge about God, and the obstacle ofhis feelings. His faith was the faith of “nevertheless”. People’s disobedience is the disobedience of “because. Abraham’s obedience was the obedience of “nevertheless”. The situation is the same, but their responses are totally the opposite. So it is really the matter of whether they love God or not. Certainly, Abraham did not live by his feelings, not by his logic or reason, but by faith in God only. “Nevertheless” he obeyed.

 

After preparing enough wood for the burnt offering, he left together with Isaac and also two of his servants. It took a total of three days for Abraham to arrive at the place God spoke of. These three days must have been the longest three days inAbraham’s entire life, and a great spiritual battle was going on in his heart – all kinds of mixed emotions and voices of fear and faith, sorrow and confidence were going on in his heartMany people make a big decision to obey God and commit themselves to God. But then, when they have difficulties and pains as they struggle to keep their decision, they quickly back out, saying, "I want to, but my mother is angry at me." Or they say, "I tried, butit's too hard." Their hearts are not steadfast, because, fundamentally, they have no heart's real decision to love God and pursue Him; so they never come to experience God in their life. But Abraham, despite such pains and sorrows and confusion, did not back out. For three days, he fought the battle and kept moving forward step by step – his three days’ journey itself was the expression of his love and obedience to God. Abraham was like a mighty warrior for God who, despite such great pains and difficulties, struggled hard to do what God wanted him to do. Indeed, Abraham was seeking God with all his heart and soul. Then, on the way, Isaac spoke up and said to him, “Father? The fire and wood are here, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” What a painful and heart-wrenching question it was! It was like a hammer knocking Abraham hard.To many others, this is the knock-out punch. At this, Abraham could have broken down, saying, “I cannot do it,” and cried uncontrollably. Yet, how did Abraham respond? Look at verse 8. Let's read this verse together:

 

Abraham answered, "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." And the two of them went on together.

 

Abraham was not emotional. Instead, he said to Isaac, “God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” His statement here reveals to us his mindset - Abraham's mentality or logic, actually, Abraham's faith. Once Isaac was sacrificed to God as a burnt offering, how would God's promises given to him come true? Abraham's belief was that God Himself would provide a way to fulfill His vision. How? Abraham's response was: I don't know, but He must have a way. "God Himself will provide." God Himself will take care of that matter. He believed beyond his imagination and logic that God had a way to fulfill it even if Isaac was killed. So, he did not hold onto Isaac; he did not insist, saying that, in order to fulfill God's great vision upon his life, he must secure Isaac no matter what. Instead, he trusted in God who would do more than he could imagine, and fulfill His own promises. Thereby, Abraham entrusted this matter, the matter of fulfilling God's great vision given to him, into God's hands by faith in God. And by faith, he simply obeyed God's command instead of holding onto God's vision. In this way, he surrendered his own future, God's vision, and even his son Isaac into God's handsIndeed, with this simple trust in God, he had been fighting such a fierce battle for the past three days.

 

To God's people, Isaac is very important because to them, Isaac is the very embodiment of God's vision given to them - the most precious treasure they have. But the problem is that, often, they hold onto Isaac and even in the name of pursuing it and fulfilling it, they disobey God's command, or reject God's servant's authority above them. So, when the real test comes to them when they have to choose that either they would hold onto Isaac or they would submit themselves to God's authority, they fail and are found as just ambitious and even rebellious people who do not surrender themselves to God, but pursue their own ambition all the way. As servants of God, we must learn Abraham's belief - "God Himself will provide." How? I don’t know, but we just do our portion – what we are asked to do.When we really believe this, we can surrender our life, our future, and even God's great vision upon our life, to God by obeying God's command absolutely.

 

Second, "Because you have obeyed me" (9-19)Look at verses 9 and 10. When they had reached the place of sacrifice, Abraham built the altar there, bound Isaac, and gently laid him on the altar of sacrifice. Taking out the knife he had prepared, he was about to slay the sacrifice. Sweat was now dripping profusely from his body. He lifted the blade high in the air, every muscle in his body trembling. He closed his eyes and got ready to slay his son. Then just as the knife was about to come down, a voice from heaven called out, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Do not lay a hand on the boy,” “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God saw Abraham’s heart’s desire to obey God no matter what, and to obey Him at any cost. God could see that in Abraham’s heart, Isaac had already been offered as a burnt offering to the LORD. God recognized Abraham’s deep trust and love for Him. It was obvious that since Abraham could obey this command, then, he would do anything for God in any situation. Surely, no one could stop him from loving God wholeheartedly. God felt honored by Abraham because Abraham said, “Yes!” even when commanded to sacrifice his son Isaac as a burnt offering. So he intervened and stopped him from slaying his son Isaac. God commended Abraham’s love and faith in Him saying, “Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.” God was so pleased and His heart was moved that Abraham loved Him this much. One time, Jesus asked his top disciple Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” Then, Simon Peter answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Through his command to Abraham, God was asking Abraham the same question, “Do you truly love me more than these, even more than your son, Isaac?” Then, through his act of obedience, Abraham proved that he loved God the most. 

 

From Abraham’s example of obedience, we can see what it means to love and fear God. It is to love Him over everything, even our very best treasure. By offering our most treasured thing to God, we show that there is nothing that can come between God and us. No thing or person, whether good or bad, can stop us from loving and obeying God wholeheartedly. It is because people withhold from God Isaac, their best treasure, that they eventually fail to obey God. Those who love Isaac more than God cannot obey God. Jesus says, “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt 10:37) The greatest command is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Those who are willing to offer their Isaac, their best treasure to God as a burnt offering can keep this command, and they are the ones who love God more than anything in the world. They are the ones who fear God. How can we sum up Christian life? It is to love God with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength and love our neighbors as we love ourselves. God’s command to Abraham to offer Isaac as a burnt offering is not only applicable for Abraham who lived 3,500 years ago, but also for all believers even today.

 

Look at verses 13 and 14. Let's read these verses together:

 

Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, “On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” 

 

There was a ram in a thicket, caught by its horns. Was the ram there all the whole time, quietly watching what Abraham was doing? Or, did God quickly make the ram for Abraham? We don't know. But, one thing is clear: When Abraham's obedience was complete, God provided everything for him and everything turned out wonderful - Abraham sacrificed the ram as a burnt offering to God instead of his son. Abraham fought a reallyfierce battle, even willing to sacrifice his son to the Lord as a burnt offering. Then, that place where he experienced God's provision personally, and got his son back, was so special to him that he gave a new name to it  Jehovah-Jireh, which means, "The LORD will provide." And because of Abraham's experience and understanding, this truth of Jehovah-Jireh came into the world, and to this day, it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD, it will be provided." Now this truth has been revealed to us. Do you want to experience God? Do you want to experience God's provision and be victorious? Then, climb up the mountain of the LORD. Where is the mountain of the LORD? The mountain of the LORD is the place where your obedience to God is complete! The mountain of the LORD is not a small hill; it is not a place where people can approach so casually, like mountain trail, chewing gum and joking around. No. It is the high and steep mountain, which you must climb up with all your heart and strength. That's how you can obey God's command; that's how you can serve God. When your obedience is complete, there you experience this truth: Jehovah-Jireh - the LORD will provide. Once you experience it, your eyes are opened to God and you can see all things differently. Once you experience God this way, your whole view, understanding, value-system and everything, your whole life changes. We thank God for Abraham who reveals this truth to us even through his obedience of sacrificing his son to God. Now, let's enjoy this truth, by climbing up the mountain of the Lord. On the mountain of obedience, it will be provided.

 

Look at verses 15 through 18. Let us read these verse responsively, 

 

15The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16and said, “I swear by myself declares the LORD that because you have done this and not withheld your son, your only son, 17I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

 

Here God swore by himself, making an unchangeable oath to bless him and his descendants after him. In these verses God confirms three blessings -He would make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky; they would take possession of the cities of their enemies; and through his offspring all nations on earth would be blessed. These three blessings were the very content of the initial covenant between God and Abraham.  

 

A covenant is a contract involving two parties. Both parties should do their parts according to the terms and conditions of the covenant, then, the covenant will be fulfilled. In Genesis 18:18,19, God shared His original plan of fulfilling this covenantThere God said, “Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.” According to the terms and conditions of this covenant, Abraham should direct his children and his household to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, and his descendants should do the same thing, teaching their children to keep the way of the LORD and doing what is right and just. This was how Abraham’s descendants were to grow into a nation of God-fearing and God-obeying people, doing what is right and just. Then through this nation, God would bless all peoples on earth. So, for this covenant to be fulfilled, Abraham's descendants should do their portion, becoming really good, and doing what is right and just. The covenant was dependant on their performance. But nowGod swore that He would surely keep these promises; He would surely make Abraham's descendants a great nation and bring blessing to all people on earth through them, not based on their covenant-keeping, but based on His own unchangeable oath because He swore to do these by Himself. 

 

Why did God make this unchangeable oath and bindhimself to itIt was all because he was so impressed and touched by Abraham's obedience that Abraham even obeyed this command; He felt so honored and loved. God appreciated how much Abraham had struggled to honor Him. Out of his great appreciation, God wanted to do something great for him. So, He made this unchangeable oath, even changing the terms and conditions of the covenant He had with Abraham. How happy God must have been at Abraham's obedience! Our God is the Creator of heaven and earth. All his creatures must honor Him, love Him, fear Him and obey Him absolutely. Such fear of God or absolute obedience is the basic duty of all his creatures toward Him. Yet, when any person obeys Him absolutely, God is so impressed and touched, and out of full appreciation of that person's love and obedience, God wants to pour out his blessings on him or her, and not only on him or her, but also on all peoples on earth. God does not take your love for him for granted; God does not take your obedience for granted; instead, He fully appreciates them; and He pours out his blessings on you, for you have obeyed him. This is how God deals with you, and me - what a beautiful person our God is! This is how we can please God; this is how we must live our life as children of God.

 

History proves that the Israel people failed – they rebelled against God, worshiped idols. They rejected God’s will for them to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation toward the whole world. But God still kept His promises and sent the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ through the Israel people and brought His blessing to all peoples on earth. It was all because of one man, Abraham…and because of his faith and obedience. Through his obedience to God, Abraham secured God's blessing for the whole world; through his obedience to God, he became a blessing, a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. Thus, what God had originally planned for Abraham was fulfilled.

 

Through one man’s disobedience, the first man Adam, who loved his wife more than God, sin came into the world, and all mankind were cursed. But through one man, Abraham and hisobedience, God’s blessing came into the world. Through one man, Jesus and his obedience even to the point of his death on the cross, God’s salvation came to many lost sinners including ourselves. Now, then, our obedience to God’s command means also God’s blessing and salvation to many people.

 

Today’s passage is the conclusion of Abraham’s life of faith in the Bible. When God saw that Abraham was willing to offer even Isaac as a burnt offering, he could see very clearly that Abraham would obey Him no matter what. So, he did not need to test Abraham any more. Abraham got A+, and it was the end of God’s training. Abraham had two treasures - his firstborn son Ishmael and his second son Isaac. God asked him to send off Ishmael into the desert and sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering to Him. Our God is indeed a jealous God who does not want anything or anyone to be between Him and his people. God wants us to love him alone, giving our hearts to Him alone and completely. If your love for God, if your obedience to God is hindered by anyone or anything, God simply tells you to get rid of that from your heart and life. 

 

Who is the God of Abraham? He is the God who called a hopeless and ordinary person, Abram and changed him into a source of blessing for all peoples on earth. He did this marvelous transforming work on Abraham with his long patience andfaithfulness. As God did to Abraham, He is doing the same thing with each of us and only when we remain teachable to him, He will complete what He began, and we will be found as a source of blessing for many.

 

One Word:Because You Have Obeyed Me

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