Thursday, January 17, 2013

Are We Jacob?

I continue to seek the Lord about a number of things specific to the times we live in and the state of the church in America.  I love the way the Lord gives a common message to His people through a theme or a call that never is given to one solitary body, but rather collectively to shepherds across the nation with ears to hear.

 As these messages sound within the walls of my own church, I am humbled and grateful. Of late the call to the American church has been one of repentance and return to God. It is a call to return to the basics of the faith and one of clear discipleship – which of course is a call to equip and nurture the knowledge of the gospel and the Word in its entire context in others, and accountability to sincerity and obedience before a holy and omnipresent God.  That “basics” thing is so profoundly important. We simply cannot share what we do not have.

As I have studied the Book of Genesis this month, the Lord has been speaking to me loudly about Jacob.  It’s clear in the name. Names are utterly significant to God. Jacob’s name meant “supplanter” and in Jacob’s nature, you could clearly see the evil in his character.  True to its definition, as a supplanter, Jacob always had the greatest interest in himself, with a keen eye out for a blessing that would benefit him and that he likely thought he was “entitled” to.  Jacob was skilled in manipulation, deceit, and quick to engage in coercion to get what he wanted. Although it said that Jacob loved God and Esau loved killing, that love was not clearly evident in Jacob’s behavior.

They say that even thieves have honor between them, in this case the younger brother would go so far as to steal from his brother the blessing that Isaac had clearly intended for Esau.  To be fair, Esau wasn’t focused on his heritage when he traded his birthright for a bowl of soup either. The father loved Esau, yet a house divided against itself will fall because of the brokenness within it.  A son without honor for father or brother is not exempt from the natural consequences of sinful behavior.   I suppose the saddest aspect of the story is that this was a family deeply and firmly rooted in God’s faithfulness.  The family patriarch was Abraham, the father was Isaac.  Wouldn’t you assume that both sons were tutored in some serious knowledge of God?

It is a sad story, a story filled with manipulation and rebellion. I wept over Jacob’s greed and Esau’s foolishness, and I’m sure God did too.  I’m sure both sons did some weeping too in the secret places. While the blessing would come through Jacob, the Father loved Esau, and my Bible tells me that God isn’t finished with Esau’s descendents yet. There is a time coming when the seed of Esau will once again come into the Father’s house, but let me get back to my story . . .

Jacob sinned against his brother, with his own mother being the strategist and planner.   Yet Esau added sin on sin and became an active participant in what was to follow. His reaction was hatred and unforgiveness which lead him into rejection of his Father’s household, full blown rebellion, and making his camp in enemy territory where he would marry foreign wives and entertain foreign Gods. That’s a sure fire way to muddle up the family tree!

In the years that followed Isaac’s deception by his son, the natural consequences of Jacob’s sin would come back to visit him and his generations. We all indeed reap of the sin we’ve sown, and there are natural consequences as a result of it.  The same deception Jacob practiced would visit him when Laban  gave Leah to be married for Jacob’s servitude instead of Rachel as Jacob expected. He would labor 14 hard years before finally being allowed to take Rachel as his bride.  She was his beloved.

Rachel would bear Jacob no sons initially, though she would become the mother of Jacob’s beloved Joseph and Benjamin.  She would die in childbirth when Benjamin was born. The old family anger would come against Joseph, but God would redeem His people through the grace He prepared for Joseph.

I wonder if these key characters considered the ramifications of their early choices, knowing ultimately that their sin was against God. Jacob likely thought his blessing would come easily, but it didn’t. Blessing doesn’t come until a deep work is done.  Deep works require breaking and a humbling. We all sin. We recognize that Jesus paid the price for our sin, but are we willing to humble ourselves?

There must have been a powerful yearning to be right” again with God. Enough so that Jacob’s many failures would bring him to the place of wrestling with God for his blessing.  Jacob would come out of that battle forever changed.  The socket God tore in his hip would leave him with a lifetime limp to remind him of his brokenness before God. Enter grace . . . it was precisely that brokenness and finally submission to His God that would be Jacob’s catalyst for a new name and a new life. It is that same sweet grace that allows us to be partakers of the Father’s blessing!

Jacob’s name would be changed to Israel – God prevails.  His son’s – those birthed through Leah, Rachel, and their maidservants would form the tribes of the nation that God would call His own.  Through Jacob’s lineage, the Messiah would be birthed from the tribe of Judah and the lineage of David.  Because of this same sweet grace, the brothers Jacob and Esau would embrace each other again and forgiveness would pave the path to a better way that would extend to the Gentile nations!

The story of Jacob and Esau -  the redemption by grace from a sin nature is a story of the glorious grace that is given by a Father who loves us enough to send His only Son as payment for our sin.  It is our story.  The call of God to repent and get right with Him, to come back to the basics is a cry critical to our times and to our church.  Will we hear it?

Cain asked, am I my brother’s keeper? You bet we are.  We are mandated by what God has done for us to love, to disciple, to encourage, to forgive, to make amends when and where we can. We were born to be agents of restoration.  We cannot confiscate, we cannot earn, nor are we entitled to God’s blessing.  It’s purely a “grace” thing.  To be great in the Kingdom of God means to be broken and submitted to His authority.  To love God means that love of our brother is not optional.   When we submit to God and realize that it is God who prevails . . . When we embrace our infirmities without offense as a reminder of who God is, we can be used by Him. If we operate in pride, impressed by our own knowledge, with expectation of titles and honors we deserve, we are useless to God.

I am reminded if the wisdom of that great saint who has gone before us, A.W. Tozer, as he wrote on brokenness. Consider these words:  God rescues us by breaking us, by shattering our strength and wiping out our resistance.”  Or pause and contemplate on this truth . . . “It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” In Tozer’s book, The Root of the Righteous, he makes the following profound statement: “The flaming desire to be rid of every unholy thing and to put on the likeness of Christ at any cost is not often found among us. We expect to enter the everlasting kingdom of our Father and to sit down around the table with sages, saints and martyrs; and through the grace of God, maybe we shall; yes maybe we shall. But for the most of us it could prove at first an embarrassing experience. Ours might be the silence of the untried soldier in the presence of the battle-hardened heroes who have fought the fight and won the victory and who have scars to prove that they were present when the battle was joined.

Do we really consider standing before the Lord on that day when our actions, our words, our obedience, our heart for God and others will be reviewed?  Just Jesus and me?  Just Jesus and you? Will we be found to have lived our lives largely in our old sinful nature – even as we served in the church – or will that precious grace that covered us, that same sweet mercy that was extended inhabit and motivate the things we did in Jesus name?

It appears to me that as we pledge to serve God, as we lead and as we disciple . . we must pledge to be great servants of God. We must put on Christ and His sufferings.  We must be in submission to God, Is He our authority?  Am I asking Him to lead?  Do I wait to hear His direction?  Any attempts that we make to control, to confiscate, to occupy what is rightly earned by us is total folly. They only hinder God’s work among us and darken the lamp of Christ in us that should be shining to those who don’t know Him. Do we truly understand that our lives have eternal impact?

Let us seek God as we’ve never sought Him before. Let us forgive whether or not our anger may appear to be justified. Let us choose to love even those who are hard to love. We must always remember that great grace that was extended to us.  And if we have never been broken . . . let us be prepared, because there is a work that God is doing in our midst. And what God has purposed, He will complete!  Let us get back to the basics of our faith.  Let us cling to Jesus in the context of His Word and not to an idol that we have created within our own imaginations. Let us be real. Help us Lord.  Amen!

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