The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

One of my favorite movies is The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. It is a 1966 spaghetti Western directed by Sergio Leone and starring Clint Eastwood as "the Good", Lee Van Cleef as "the Bad", and Eli Wallach as "the Ugly". The plot revolves around three gunslingers competing to find a fortune in buried Confederate gold amid the violent chaos of the American Civil War. Clint Eastwood, plays Blondie, who is a good, but nowhere near perfect, humane bounty hunter. Lee Van Cleef, plays “Angel Eyes”, who is a ruthless, borderline-sadistic mercenary, who takes pleasure in killing and always finishes a job for which he is paid. Eli Wallach plays Tuco or the “Rat”, who is a fast-talking, cunning, cagey, resilient, and resourceful Mexican bandit, who is wanted by the authorities for a long list of crimes. Throughout the movie, Blondie and Tuco, run a scam on the sheriffs in the country. Blondie turns Tuco in, collects the bounty, and then saves him right before he is about to be hanged. After a number of these rescues, Tuco complains about being the one sticking his neck out and Blondie leaves him for dead in the desert. Tuco survives and captures Blondie and force-marches him across the desert until he is near death with dehydration.

A chance encounter with a civil war soldier who has buried the confederate gold leaves Tuco with the name of the cemetery and Blondie with the name of the grave where the gold is buried. Tuco needing Blondie’s help, nurses him back to life. They then find themselves in a Union prison camp where Angel Eyes is also trying to discover the location of the cemetery the gold is buried in. All three embark on the quest to find the gold, and in the final scene, there is a three way duel to decide who gets the gold. In the end, Blondie wins the duel with Angel Eyes and gets the gold and splits it with Tuco, but not before making him dig up the gold and sparing his life once again. Blondie’s character is considered the “good” one but he has many flaws and doesn’t always do the right thing. He also goes through many ups and downs throughout the movie but in the end he gets the reward.

This story of a “good” but flawed and nowhere near perfect person, going through many ups and downs, but getting the reward in the end, reminds me of the story of Jacob. He is the “good” one in that he will be the next covenant carrier of God’s chosen people. He has been a liar and deceiver and has been deceived himself. His life has been full of good, bad and ugly, some of which is his own doing, but he has been rewarded with a new name and later his descendants will possess the Promised Land and he will have children like the dust of the earth. In our passage this morning Jacob’s good, bad and ugly will continue. Jacob gets a new son, but loses a favored wife. He also has a new sorrow because of the actions of his firstborn and another death in the family. But in the end Jacob is given a new standing as he takes over the patriarchal role from his father. God’s blessing continues to be poured out and God’s plan continues to move forward no matter what happens, be it birth or death or heinous crime. Which brings us to our big idea this morning that the good, the bad and the ugly of life can’t stop God’s promises, blessing, and plan for his people. According to God’s will, His promises, blessing, and plan can’t be stopped in the world, in the church or in our lives because of what we do or because of what happens to us. ​​ 

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning humbly asking for your Holy Spirit to speak to us as we open your Word. May we be attentive to your Spirit as we open our hearts and minds to what you want us to know and learn today. Thank you for this opportunity to be gathered together in your house with your people for this purpose. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is A New Son and is found in Genesis 35:16-20. This is what God’s Word says, “Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.”

After God meets Jacob at Bethel and reaffirms the promises to him, Jacob and his family leave Bethel, going in the direction of Ephrath. While they were still some distance away, Rachel goes into labor. We are told that she is having great difficulty in giving birth. Rachel must have been really pregnant when they left Bethel and we may wonder why they didn’t just stay there if she was ready to give birth. It doesn’t say God commanded them to leave Bethel like he did to leave Shechem. In fact, back in verse 1, God told Jacob to settle in Bethel. We are not told why they moved on from Bethel but it may have had something to do with returning home to reunite with his father, Isaac. This would have been in keeping with his vow in Genesis 28:21 that if God would protect Jacob so he would “return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God.”

In the middle of her difficult childbirth, her midwife tells her not to despair because she is having a son. This seems to be a weird thing to say to Rachel knowing that she is dying. But in that day and age it would have been a most comforting thought for a woman who knew she was going to die giving birth. We know that the birthing of a boy was very important as it meant that the lineage and family name would be carried on. So the midwife, knowing Rachel was going to die, comforted her with the fact that she was having a baby boy. Rachel knowing she was dying named her son, Ben-Oni which means, “son of my trouble or sorrow.” It seems that Rachel refused the comfort that her midwife tried to give her. Interestingly, this is the only child born to Jacob that the author of Genesis does not give the meaning of their name.

Then we see something happen that is rare in the Bible. Jacob changes his newborn son’s name to Benjamin, which means, “son of my right hand.” The right hand was the side of honor, power and favor and brought to mind skill and wisdom. Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord says to my lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” And Ecclesiastes 10:2 says, “The heart of the wise inclines to the right but the heart of the fool to the left.” Saul, the first king of Israel and Paul the Apostle both came from the tribe of Benjamin. Why did Jacob change his name? A lot of times children whose mothers died in childbirth were blamed and Jacob didn’t want his son to be saddled with guilt every time his name was used. He probably also wanted the memory of his beloved wife to be a pleasant one whenever he called his son’s name. Because he was the son of the favored wife, Jacob gave Benjamin a special place, at his right hand.

This episode would have reminded the first hearers of a couple of things. First, Rachel named her firstborn son, Joseph which means “may God add.” Rachel’s prayer to the Lord, when she had Joseph, was that he would give her another son. This birth was the fulfillment of that prayer. Second, it would have also reminded them of Rachel’s words to Jacob in Genesis 30:1, “give me children or I will die.” Ironically, having this child would cause Rachel’s death. Third, they would have been reminded of Jacob’s judgment of death on the one who stole Laban’s household gods. It may be significant that her death comes after Jacob orders his family to get rid of their false gods. But we shouldn’t believe that Rachel’s death was a judgment from God. Weirsbe says, “Life is full of good and bad, joys and sorrows and the same baby that brought joy also brought tears.” This reminds us of our big idea: the good, the bad and the ugly of life can’t stop God’s promises, blessing, and plan for his people.

Finally, we are told that Rachel dies and she’s buried on the way to Ephrath probably on or near the site that Benjamin was born. Jacob honored his beloved wife’s memory by putting a pillar over her burial tomb and the author tells us the pillar was still there when Genesis was written. This is the third time he has erected a pillar to commemorate some event or person. In Genesis 28:18 he commemorates God meeting him at Bethel the first time. In Genesis 35:14 he commemorates God meeting him at Bethel a second time and here he commemorates Rachel’s death. Mathews says, “The location of Benjamin’s birth and Rachel’s tomb are important to the narrative providing a reference point for future generations, indicating that the last son was born in the Promised Land. Even Rachel’s burial demonstrated God’s word was truthful. Although she lived outside Canaan her final resting place was permanently in the land of promise as the matriarch of Israel’s tribes, Ephraim & Manasseh (Joseph’s sons) and Benjamin.”

Our second point is A New Sorrow found in chapter 35 verses 21-22a. Follow along as I read those verses. This is what God’s Word says, “Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.”

Jacob or Israel and his family move again. And again, we may believe he is wanting to return to his father’s house but we see him “pitching his tent” beyond Migdal Eder. Jacob just doesn’t pass through on his way to his father, he “pitches his tent” there meaning he settles down there. We don’t know why he does this but knowing his history we can surmise nothing good will come from it. In Genesis 33:18-19, we see Jacob arriving and camping within the sight of Shechem. Jacob buys a plot of land from the father of Shechem and “pitches his tent” there. We know what happens next in chapter 34 to Dinah and to all the males living in Shechem. So we don’t know why he settled there but it sets the stage for Jacob’s next sorrow. We are told that Reuben, Jacob’s firstborn, sleeps with his father’s concubine, Bilhah. Notice that Bilhah who has always been mentioned in relation to Rachel is now identified in relation to Jacob making this a crime against his father.

We may wonder what is going on here but if we think about who Bilhah is it may shed some light on it. She was the maidservant given by Laban to Rachel upon marrying Jacob. She had two sons to Jacob, Dan and Naphtali. Now that Rachel was dead it is possible that Bilhah would take over the favored place that Rachel held with Jacob and in his household. Also, we remember that Reuben was Leah’s firstborn son so this may have been a way to disgrace Bilhah so his mother could take over the favored place. Also, Reuben as the firstborn would have received his father’s concubines, servants, etc. upon Jacob’s death, but he was not yet dead. This is the equivalent to the Prodigal Son wanting his inheritance before his father had actually died. This just wasn’t how it was done in that culture.

All the commentators pretty much agree that Reuben wanted to steal Jacob’s authority within the family. For a son to sleep with his father’s wife was a declaration that he was now the head of the family. Did Reuben think he could run the family better than his father? Is Jacob losing control of his family? In the last chapter his daughter, Dinah, is defiled and he hears about it but what does he do? He waits till her brothers get home instead of taking care of it himself as the father and head of the household. What does he do here when Reuben sleeps with Bilhah? It says he heard about it but our scripture doesn’t say he does anything about it. His authority seems to be eroding more and more with each episode. Wenham says, “Posing these questions before the Joseph story begins gives us a sense of tension between Jacob and his sons descended from Leah and between the sons of Bilhah and Rachel on the one hand and the sons of Leah on the other.” This short isolated episode gives us the indication that the good, the bad and the ugly in the next generation will again concern birthright, inheritance and favoritism.

What Reuben did would have been considered a heinous crime and the penalty would have been death and God’s curse. The name “Israel” is mentioned three times in verses 21-22 which emphasizes the tribal implications of Reuben’s crime against his father. This coming on the heels of God’s blessing of Jacob and reminding him of his new name, Israel, shows that this crime was committed against not only Jacob but God. By trying to take Jacob’s place within the family he is also trying to take Jacob’s place as the next covenant carrier that God had bestowed on him. We will have to wait another fourteen chapters to see how Jacob finally handles this situation but for now this episode is gone as quickly as it came which speaks to the author’s horror at what transpired. In Genesis so far we have seen that scripture doesn’t gloss over sin and wickedness but it doesn’t sensationalize it either.

Our third point this morning is A New Standing found in chapter 35 verses 22a-29. This is what God’s Word says, “Jacob had twelve sons: The sons of Leah: Reuben the firstborn of Jacob, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel: Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah: Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah: Gad and Asher. These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram. Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.”

What we see first is this list of the twelve sons of Jacob. With the birth of Benjamin, the family of Jacob is complete and these sons will be the ancestors of the twelve tribes of the nation of Israel. The list starts with Leah and her children with Reuben specifically mentioned as the firstborn. Next, comes Rachel and her two sons. These are followed by the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah. This listing of the sons by their mothers focuses us on the rivalry between the brothers that we will see in the Joseph story. This list also emphasizes the faithfulness of God in keeping his promise that Jacob would have offspring like the dust of the earth. And the fact that they reside in Canaan fulfills the promise of land to Jacob.

The list of names is followed by the caveat that these sons of Jacob were born to him in Paddan Aram. But, we know that Benjamin was born in Canaan, in the Promised Land, so what is the author trying to tell us? There are times when the Bible is more interested in making a point than being factual. The point is that just like the first hearers, eleven of Jacob’s sons, who would be the ancestors of the twelve tribes, were also born outside the Land of Promise. They had to make a pilgrimage to the Promised Land just like the first hearers are going to have to do later on. The first hearers are better able to relate to the twelve sons of Jacob who would become their ancestors. The fact that Benjamin was born in the Promised Land would impact the nation of Israel as well later on. Being born in the land meant that he had clear title to it. And later on the place where he was born and where Rachel was buried will be part of the land that the tribe of Benjamin occupied when they came out of slavery and entered into Promised Land. This list of Jacob’s sons is a witness to God’s blessing that these sons were only the beginning of the chosen nation to come. This list is also evidence that God’s promises, blessing and plan will continue in spite of sin and death. Big Idea

Lastly, we see the reuniting of Isaac and Jacob and the obituary of Isaac as his toledot comes to a close. We notice the lack of emotion in their meeting unlike the emotion that we saw when Jacob and Esau reunited. It is significant that Isaac is now living in Mamre or Hebron. The last we saw he was living in Beersheba. It may be that Isaac moved to Mamre when Rebekah died so she could be buried in the Cave of Macpelah. We know from Genesis 49:31 that she was buried in the family tomb that Abraham had purchased from Ephron in Genesis 23:17. This move also makes sense in that Isaac would be buried in the same tomb when he passed away. The identification of Hebron associates Jacob with his ancestors, Abraham and Isaac.

Next, we see Isaac’s obituary. He lived one hundred and eighty years which was eighty years after he thought he was dying when Jacob stole Esau’s blessing. Chronologically, this means that he lived to see the day that Joseph was sold into slavery. It says Isaac breathed his last and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. “Gathered to his people” meant he was part of an ongoing family beyond the grave. He was also “old and full of years” meaning he lived to a ripe old age and was satisfied with the good long life he had. He was ready to be reunited with his family who had gone before. This parallels the obituary of Abraham which connects Isaac and subsequently Jacob to the chosen patriarchs. Isaac was admittedly the least talked about of the patriarchs but he lived longer than his father and his son. ​​ He was a most important bridge between Abraham and Jacob even though less is recorded about his life than about his father, sons and grandson, Joseph. Isaac was essential to the survival of the chosen family and the perpetuation of the promises of God. Genesis 21:12b says, “Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.”

Finally, we see that his sons Esau and Jacob buried him. The death of Isaac brought his sons together just as the death of Abraham brought together Ishmael and Isaac. The mention of Esau sets us up for his genealogy seen in the next chapter. Wenham says, “Isaac is buried in the only real estate acquired by Abraham in Canaan, at Mamre, a place where the promises had been fully revealed. So the death and burial of Isaac in ripe old age in Mamre is a pledge of Israel’s ultimate possession of the land.” Isaac’s death changed Jacob’s standing. He was now the head of the covenant family and heir to the family blessings and promises. He not only acquired Isaac’s great wealth but also inherited all that was involved in the Abrahamic covenant. His God would now be known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

As I conclude today, I want to talk about two things we can notice in chapter 35. The first is spiritual renewal. Last week, Pastor Stuart talked about Jacob needing to be spiritually renewed. Why? First, because human memory is faulty. Jacob needed to be reminded of the things he promised the Lord. Second, because human commitment is fickle. Think about why he had to order his family to get rid of their foreign gods? It’s because they had foreign gods. He knew all along that his family had these gods but chose not to do anything about it until confronted by God. Third, because human fortunes change. Jacob made these promises before he had a family and was responsible for anything other than himself. Fourth, because human life is fleeting. Deborah, Rachel and Isaac all die in this chapter. Our lives become so full of work, family, play, etc. that our spiritual life gets left behind and when death happens our sense of being gets turned upside down. We need to be spiritually renewed to meet life’s tragedies in proper, godly way.

So, how is spiritual renewal experienced? First, Jacob needed to get back to basics. The Lord called him back to Bethel where he reminded him of his new name and the earlier promises to him. And Jacob responded by setting up a pillar and pouring a drink offering on it. Second, Jacob needed to get rid of barriers. He needed to rid himself of the foreign gods he had accumulated. He needed to get rid of those things that were producing conflict in his spiritual walk with the Lord. Without doing this there would be no lasting spiritual renewal. Which leads us to our first next step. What are the things in our lives that are producing conflict in our spiritual walk with the Lord? Think about that for a second. Maybe this first next step is for you: to search my life and get rid of the foreign gods that are producing conflict in my spiritual walk with the Lord.

The next step in our spiritual renewal after getting rid of the foreign gods in our lives is daily devotion to our God. This means daily being in God’s Word and hiding God’s Word in our hearts. This means regular participation in public worship and consistent fellowship with God’s people where sharing and caring for one another happens frequently. One of the things we have at Idaville Church to help with our spiritual renewal is the Spiritual Life Journal. The 2023 SLJ with our theme for the year, “More Like Jesus”, just came out and is on the slat wall in the foyer. Inside, are questions that you can ask yourself about your relationship with God. The memory verses that we are learning as a congregation are in there. The Daily Bible Reading Plan is in there. The Spiritual Life Journal can be a guide to help you be spiritually renewed in 2023. That brings us to our second next step which is to use the Spiritual Life Journal as a guide for my spiritual renewal this year.

Now the second thing we can notice in chapter 35 is that despite his spiritual renewal Jacob’s troubles were not over. Spiritual renewal doesn’t exempt the people of God from the ups and downs of life. There are still consequences of our own actions and the actions of those around us. But spiritual renewal does equip God’s people to be strong enough to handle anything that comes their way in a world where sin, death and heinous crime abounds. Wiersbe says, “It means walking with God by faith, knowing that he is with us and trusting him to help us for our good and his glory no matter what difficulties he permits to come our way.

As the ushers prepare to take up the tithes and offerings and the praise team comes forward to lead us, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, as we leave this place this morning, speak to our hearts and minds about our own personal spiritual renewal. Help us to search ourselves and get rid of the foreign gods in our lives that keep us away from a productive personal relationship with you. Guide us through times of ups and downs and never let us forget that they can’t stop your promises, blessing and plan from being fulfilled. In Jesus’s name. Amen.


Idol Dump

(Genesis 35:1-15)



“Responding to a previous calamity, Colorado governor Jared Polis decided upon a practical, utilitarian solution. When a rockslide caused a giant boulder the size of a house to tumble down and gouge a huge chunk from highway 145 near the southwestern town of Dolores, Polis decided to simply leave it there. State officials say that taxpayers will be better served by allowing the boulder to remain as a memorial of the freak accident and rebuilding the highway next to it.


The total cost of rebuilding the section of highway, which includes a new section of guardrail next to the boulder, is estimated at $1.3 million, according to budget estimates. Taxpayers are expected to save around $200,000, which is what it would’ve cost had they decided to blast the 8.5-million-pound boulder into smaller rock fragments. The boulder has been dubbed ‘Memorial Rock,’ because the rockslide happened on Memorial Day weekend.”


Potential Preaching Angle: Whether from unforeseen calamity or serendipitous blessing, it is important to use momentous occasions as memory markers. These help us remember what we've gone through and how God was faithful throughout.


Associated Press, “Colorado Will Leave House-Sized Boulder Along Highway” (6-5-19).





  • ME

    • God’s almighty power

        • When we moved from Missouri to California there were two items that we had to leave in the capable hands of friends

        • I left my Saturn vehicle in the hands of another missionary that attended our church

          • He promised to repair it and sell it for me

          • It was stalling at red lights for no apparent reason

          • He repaired it fairly quickly and was able to sell it quickly

          • He sent me the total amount of money from the sale

          • He didn’t take out any money for parts or labor

          • I experienced the grace of God and His mighty power through that brother

        • We also had to leave the sale of our home in the hands of an incredible husband and wife team

          • We thought we had a buyer, but it fell through on the day we were supposed to close

          • This couple did an awesome job of finding another buyer and then helping us to complete all of the paperwork halfway across the country

          • We saw the power of God through that whole process


  • WE

    • God’s power and grace

        • Every one of us can probably think of a time when we have experienced God’s grace and/or power in our lives

        • Take a moment to reflect on one of the times


A couple of weeks ago we learned about the rape of Dinah and the murders that Simeon and Levi committed as retaliation for her rape. ​​ Genesis 34 was a dark chapter. ​​ However, Genesis 35:1-15 highlights a time of purification and worship following the sins of chapter 34. ​​ Just as God was calling the household of Jacob to purity and worship, He calls us to purity and worship. ​​ That is the big idea this morning.


BIG IDEA – God calls us to purity and worship.


Let’s pray

  • GOD (Genesis 35:1-15)

    • Purity (vv. 1-5)

        • God’s call (v. 1)

          • As was mentioned a couple of weeks ago, we do not see God in Genesis 34 at all

            • He does not speak

            • He is not consulted by Jacob or his sons

            • But God does not remain silent

          • God spoke to Jacob after the tragedy of having his daughter raped and his two sons going on a murderous streak

            • I am certain that both of those incidences broke the heart of God

            • He was watching sin run rampant in the lives of His chosen people

            • He certainly could have abandoned Jacob as His covenant carrier and started over with another group/family, but He didn’t

            • “In light of his situation, what God says to Jacob amazes me. ​​ He doesn’t say, ‘Sit down. ​​ You’re benched,’ or ‘Back off. ​​ You’re done,’ or ‘That’s it. ​​ You’re through.’ ​​ He says, ‘Arise. ​​ Go up’—because our God is a God of unbelievable grace.” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 160]

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God’s grace is incredible!

              • In our failures, . . .

                • God is still concerned about us

                • God still wants to use us

                • God still calls to us

              • Grace is getting something that we don’t deserve

                • We don’t deserve forgiveness and salvation, but God offers it to us anyhow

                • Ephesians 2:8-9, For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.

              • Where are you at today?

                • Are you currently feeling like a failure?

                • Are you struggling with sin?

                • Do you feel like God would say to you, “You’re benched, you’re done, or you’re through”?

                • That’s not what He did with Jacob and that’s not what He will do with you

                • The Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in his flesh that constantly tormented him

                  • He pleaded with the Lord three times to take it away

                  • This is what the Lord said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ​​ (2 Cor. 12:9)

                • The writer of Hebrews reminds us of who Jesus is and what we have as a result of what He did

                  • Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ​​ For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. ​​ Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ​​ (Hebrews 4:14-16)

                  • What an incredible promise that should bring us encouragement today

                • The struggle with sin

                  • God’s chosen man, Jacob, struggled with sin

                  • The Apostle Paul struggled with a thorn in his flesh

                  • Many other individuals in the Bible struggled with sin

                  • Many people, that we look up today, struggle with sin

                  • Praise the Lord for Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us

                • Jesus Christ was tempted just like you and me, but did not give in to those temptations—He was perfect, without sin

                • He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble. (Proverbs 3:34)

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Humble myself before the Lord, repent of my sins, and seek His grace.

            • God extended His grace to Jacob and encouraged him to move on from the pain, hurt, and sin of Shechem

          • God’s message had three imperatives

            • “GO UP” to Bethel

              • Bethel is where Jacob had his first encounter with the Lord through a dream (Genesis 28:10-22)

              • He set up the stone he had placed under his head, anointed it with oil, and made a vow to the Lord

              • Jacob had a vow to fulfill at Bethel

              • Going up would be topographically correct even though Jacob was heading south

              • Shechem was right around 1,800 feet while Bethel was close to 3,000 feet [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 546]

            • “SETTLE” there

              • Jacob was never supposed to settle in Shechem

              • Remember the heartache of settling there (rape and murder)

            • “BUILD” an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you were fleeing from Esau (NOTE: ​​ this is the only time that God directs a patriarch to build an altar)

          • Jacob begins to prepare his household for the move

        • Jacob’s response (vv. 2-3)

          • The Lord didn’t command Jacob to do these three things, but I believe Jacob knew what needed to be done when the Lord commanded him to go up to Bethel

          • “. . . Jacob apparently recognizes that with this pilgrimage the time has come when the gray area becomes black and white.” ​​ [Goldingay, 546]

          • Jacob gives his household three imperatives

            • “GET RID” of the foreign gods

              • This was a spiritual renewal that was taking place

              • Walton believes this was the way that Jacob was honoring the first part of the vow he took at Bethel over 20 years before – the Lord will be his God [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 631]

              • The source of these foreign gods was probably two-fold

                • The teraphim that Rachel stole from her father’s house (Genesis 31:19)

                • Part of the items that were plundered from the Shechemites or as part of what the Shechemite women brought when they were taken as slaves

              • After they got rid of their foreign gods, then they needed to purify themselves

            • “PURIFY” yourselves

              • This was a purification of the heart

              • It involved both the physical washing of their bodies and the symbolic washing of their hearts [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 293]

              • This was probably necessary because they had looted the dead bodies of the Shechemite men [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 617]

            • “CHANGE” your clothes

              • This symbolized a sanctified heart to the Lord and a new purified way of life [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 203 and Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 472]

              • Part of the purification process would have been washing their clothes also

            • Jacob gives the purpose behind the purification process

          • Let’s go to Bethel

            • We will travel up to Bethel and I will build an altar to the God who did two things for me

              • Answered me in the day of my distress

                • This is a reference to Genesis 28 when Jacob was fleeing for his life from Esau

                • He stopped for the night at Bethel and had the dream of the stairway that went up to heaven

                • He heard the promises of God and then made a vow to God there

              • Has been with me wherever I have gone

                • We saw that throughout Genesis 29-34

                • Finding Laban’s family in Paddan Aram

                • Marrying Leah and Rachel

                • Having children

                • Gaining flocks

                • Protection from Laban’s deceit and wrath

                • Meeting with Esau

                • Probably even more than what is recorded in Scripture

            • The purpose for the purification was to prepare to worship the Lord

            • Jacob was not commanding his household to clean up so God would call them, he was commanding them to clean up because God had called them [Courson, 160]

          • What we see next is the response of Jacob’s household

        • Household response (vv. 4-5)

          • Idol dump

            • Everyone in his household (direct family, hired hands, slaves, etc.) gave Jacob their foreign gods and the rings in their ears

            • The earrings could have been part of the bounty taken from the Shechemites – they would have been amulets with an inscription stamped on them to a particular deity

            • The NIV translates the Hebrew word as buried

              • It is the same Hebrew word used for what Achan did when he hid or concealed the stolen items from Jericho (Joshua 7:21-22) [Mathews, 618]

              • It is more likely that Jacob hid or concealed the foreign gods and earrings under the oak at Shechem

              • It has the idea of dumping the idols as though they are trash—of no value

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we get rid of the idols in our lives.

              • Is there an idol dump that you need to do today?

                • Idols come in all shapes and sizes

                • Idols can be possessions we have

                • Idols can be relationships we are a part of

                • Idols can be positions we’re in

                • Idols can be attitudes of the heart

                • What are your idols? ​​ (Take a moment to identify the idols in your life)

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Get rid of my idols by giving them to the Lord, so He can conceal them and I can prepare to worship Him only.

                • God calls us to purity and worship.

                • You may need to sell some things that are idols in your life so you can spend time with the Lord and put Him first

                • You may need to resign from certain positions that keep you from worshiping the Lord

                • You may need to readjust a relationship that is unhealthy, so you can put the Lord first

                • When you ask the Lord to reveal the idols in your life, He’ll do it

                • Then be obedient in getting rid of them

              • Jon Courson helps us understand the motivation that should drive us to give up our idols, “When I realize how kind and good and benevolent and merciful God is to me day after day after day, it causes me to want to put away my trinkets and toys that are not of Him.” ​​ [Courson, 160]

            • With their focus in the right place they begin their journey from Shechem to Bethel

          • God’s grace

            • If you recall, Jacob is fearful that if the Canaanites and Perizzites (the people living in the land) join forces and attack them, they will be destroyed (Genesis 34:30)

            • He was fearful that Simeon and Levi’s murderous actions would motivate the current inhabitants to attack them

            • We see God’s grace at work, once again

              • They certainly would have been deserving of some kind of recourse from the Canaanites and Perizzites

              • They should be held accountable for their actions

              • But instead of some kind of retaliation, the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them and they were able to travel through the territory untouched

              • Jacob’s household had definitely received something they did not deserve (grace)

              • This was proof that God was still with him wherever he went, especially as he traveled back to Bethel

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – When we fear God, we don’t have to fear anyone else.

              • The fear of God is not just being afraid of Him

              • The fear of God is also referring to reverencing Him – giving Him the proper respect as Creator, Sovereign, King, Lord, Master, Savior, etc.

              • When Jesus was preparing His disciples for persecution, He told them, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. ​​ Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

              • Maybe you need to claim that truth today and begin to live with that reality

          • They are on their way and God is with them

        • “By abandoning their gods and rings at Shechem, Jacob closed the chapter at Shechem and looked ahead to the realization of the Bethel promise and vow.” ​​ [Mathews, 618]

    • Worship (vv. 6-15)

        • Building an altar (vv. 6-7)

          • As soon as Jacob and his household arrive at Bethel (Luz) in Canaan, he built an altar in obedience to God’s command

          • God calls us to purity and worship.

          • Jacob called the place El Bethel

            • El means “God”

            • Bethel means “house of God”

            • El Bethel means “God of the house of God”

            • Jacob is not just focusing on the place where God was, when He first stopped at Bethel

            • Jacob is now emphasizing the presence of God being there [Mathews, 620]

          • We have a little caveat, before the narrator continues with the Jacob narrative

        • Burial of Deborah (v. 8)

          • Rebekah’s nurse

            • We knew that Rebekah’s father and brother sent her nurse with her (Gen. 24:59), but we didn’t know her name until now

            • Her name was Deborah, which means “a bee”

            • At some point she joins Jacob’s household

            • “Deborah had either been sent by Rebekah to take care of her daughters-in-law and grandsons, or had gone of her own accord into Jacob’s household after the death of her mistress.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, 203]

            • Most scholars believe that the mention of Deborah is proof that Rebekah had already died

            • NOTE [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 378]

              • Genesis records the death and burial of Abraham (25:7-11), Isaac (35:29), and Jacob (49:33)

              • It also records the death and burial of each of the patriarch’s favorite wife (Sarah, 23:1-20; Rachel, 35:19), but it does not record Rebekah’s death and burial

              • We are told in Genesis 49:31, where Rebekah was buried, in the cave at Machpelah, near Mamre in Canaan

          • Allon Bacuth

            • Deborah was buried under the oak below Bethel

            • It is not an exact location

            • The place was called Allon Bacuth (al-lone’ baw-kooth’/ alone’ bawk-hooth’)

            • It means “oak of weeping”

          • After the obituary, the narrator continues with Jacob

        • God’s presence (vv. 9-13)

          • I would encourage you to look at Genesis 17:1-8, 22 together with Genesis 35:9-14 to see the many similarities between Abraham and Jacob’s encounter with God

            • God tells them both that He is El-Shaddai

            • God tells them both to be fruitful and numerous

            • God changes both of their names

            • God will make them into a community of nations

            • God will give them the land of Canaan

            • God withdrew

          • Jacob’s new name

            • God appeared to Jacob again after he returned from Paddan Aram

              • We know that the first time was at Peniel when Jacob wrestled with God

              • Now God appears to him a second time at Bethel

            • God reiterates what he told Jacob at Peniel, his name will no longer be Jacob (deceiver), but will now be Israel (he struggles with God)

          • God’s name

            • The first encounter that Jacob had with God at Peniel, he asked Him His name

            • But, God did not give him His name, but simply blessed him

            • This time Jacob does not need to ask God his name, because He freely offers it

              • He tells Jacob/Israel that He is El-Shaddai (God Almighty)

              • This name for God is significant here, because He is promising to make Jacob into a nation and a community of nations, to have kings come from his descendants, and to give him the land that He gave to Abraham and Isaac

              • For all of this to happen it was going to take a mighty God, sovereignly working out every single detail

              • We know from reading the Bible and from historical documents that God accomplished everything that He promised Jacob/Israel

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – We can trust that God is Almighty.

              • He is still able to accomplish His will and purpose in your life, because He is Almighty

              • There is nothing that is impossible for Him

              • When we humble ourselves, repent of our sins, get rid of our idols, reverence God, and seek His grace, then He can work in and through us to accomplish is plan and purpose for us

              • We are not cleaning up so God will call us; we are cleaning up because God has called us – we are His children as followers of Jesus Christ

              • He will take us from where we are to where He wants us to be

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose in my life.

          • After God appeared to Jacob and blessed him, He went up from him at the place where He had talked to him (Bethel)

        • Jacob’s memorial (vv. 14-15)

          • Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him

          • This was the second time that Jacob had set up a stone pillar in Bethel – the first time was when he was fleeing from Esau and he set up the stone pillow he had used, as a memorial

          • He not only anointed this stone pillar with oil, but he also poured out a drink offering on it

            • This is the first time this is mentioned in Scripture

            • Later on this was a regular part of offerings to the Lord (daily, monthly, and annually) ​​ [Goldingay, 549]

          • God calls us to purity and worship.

          • There is reminder again that Jacob called the place, Bethel, where he talked with God


  • YOU

    • Do you need to humble yourself, repent of your sins, and seek God’s grace?

    • What idols do you need to get rid of in your life?

    • Do you need to reverence God today?

    • Are you ready to trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose for your life?

  • WE

    • Where do we need to humble ourselves, repent of our sins, and seek God’s grace?

    • What idols do we need to get rid of?

    • How should we reverence God today?

    • Where do we need to trust in God’s almighty power to accomplish His plan and purpose for us as a church?



“On December 4, 2000, forestry officials in Germany carried out a necessary but unusual task. ​​ They cut down trees that had been planted in the form of a swastika some sixty years before. ​​ When viewed from the air the trees were lighter in color than the forest around them, showing clearly the symbol of Nazi Germany more than half a century after the Third Reich had attempted to take over the world.


The continuing effects of evil represent one of the great realities of sin in the world. ​​ We have noted how the habit of deceit ran through Jacob’s family. ​​ We have seen Isaac’s weakness as a father reflected in Jacob as treachery, murder, and adultery ran rampant in the patriarchal family. ​​ We have noted that the sins of Simeon, Levi, and Reuben, unpunished at the time of their commission, came back to haunt them in Jacob’s final blessing of the tribes.


We find it hard to believe that it took sixty years for people to notice those Nazi trees; perhaps officials refused to deal with the problem. ​​ But just as Jacob’s family had to rid themselves of foreign gods and trinkets of evil, so we need to cut down the Nazi trees in our lives so sins of the past do not carry over into the present.”


[Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 298-99].




Two Wrongs Don’t Make A Right

(Genesis 34:1-31)



“In his book Predictably Irrational, researcher Dan Ariely claims that most of us are masters at deceiving ourselves and justifying our actions. In particular, we often make our decisions based not on what's right, but on what we want.


Ariely tells his own story of buying a car. ‘When I turned thirty,’ he writes, ‘I decided it was time to trade in my motorcycle for a car, but I could not decide which car was right for me. The web was just taking off, and to my delight I found a site that provided advice on purchasing cars.’ Professor Ariely describes how he answered all of the questions on the website, which then recommended that he purchase a Ford Taurus. He describes his reaction this way:


The problem was that, having just surrendered my motorcycle, I couldn't see myself driving a sedate sedan. I was now facing a dilemma: I had tried a deliberative and thoughtful process for my car selection, and I didn't like the answer I got. So, I did what I think anyone in my position would do. I hit the BACK button a few times, backtracked to earlier stages of the interview process, and changed many of my original answers to what I convinced myself were more accurate and appropriate responses .… I kept this up until the car-advertising website suggested a Mazda Miata. The moment the program was kind enough to recommend a small convertible, I felt grateful for the fantastic software and decided to follow its advice.


Commenting on what he learned in the process, Professor Ariely says, ‘The experience taught me that sometimes we want our decisions to have a rational veneer when, in fact, they stem from … what we crave deep down.’”


Source: Jim Samra, God Told Me (Baker, 2012), pp. 50-51.





  • ME

    • Bus incident

        • I shared not that long ago about a time when I did something to another guy on the school bus that prompted him to turn around and hit me

        • When I left the bus, I slapped him on the side of the head

        • I did not show restraint or self-control at the time, but allowed my sinful behavior to get out of control

        • There were consequences for my behavior


  • WE

    • Out of control

        • All of us have probably experienced a time in our lives when we have allowed our sinful human behavior to get out of control

        • Take a comment to recall that experience


Chapter 34 does not really have any redeeming qualities. ​​ It is a very dark chapter in Genesis as we see a heinous crime that is committed and an equally heinous retaliation enacted on an entire city. ​​ Sin is running rampant throughout this entire narrative. ​​ Instead of doing what is right and just, we find that the individuals involved are acting on cravings and sinful desires. ​​ Both the initial act and the retaliation spin out of control. ​​ What we learn from this passage is . . .


BIG IDEA – Sinful human behavior can easily get out of control.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 34:1-31)

    • Violation (vv. 1-4)

        • We are introduced to the individual who is the center of everything that happens in this chapter

          • Dinah (dee-naw’), the daughter of Leah and Jacob

          • We were first introduced to Dinah in Genesis 30:21 – she was born to Jacob and Leah some time later after Leah had already given birth to six sons

          • It is probable that Jacob and Leah had other daughters also, but only Dinah is mentioned in Scripture

          • She is between 13-15 years old at this time, which was the marriageable age in the ancient Near East

        • Went out

          • The Hebrew word for “went out” is yāṣā’ (yaw-tsaw’/yacht-saw’) and is found in verses 1, 6, 24, and 26 – it’s a recurring theme in this passage

          • Dinah going out on her own at the marriageable age would have been unusual in the culture of the day

          • “Girls of a marriageable age would not normally leave a rural encampment to go unchaperoned into an alien city.” ​​ [Sarna cited by Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 461]

          • Dinah was simply going to visit some girlfriends and was not looking for a boyfriend or planning to do anything immoral [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 291]

          • It was improper and imprudent for her to do this – it allowed her to be vulnerable

          • We are not told if she did this against her parent’s wishes

          • We do not know if she snuck out

          • “. . . the text repeatedly emphasizes her role as Jacob’s daughter, suggesting that her behavior was his responsibility.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, 291]

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Our role as parents is to protect our children.

            • Sometimes that means saying “No” to something that they want to do, because we know that it could put them in a compromising situation or a vulnerable position

            • It is difficult to have to make those decisions for them, but it is important to protect them

            • We also have to train them to make wise decisions, so they do not find themselves in situations or positions that make them vulnerable

            • Too often parents want their children to like them, so they allow them to do certain things and go certain places, even though they know it may not be safe

            • Our role is not be our children’s best friend, but to be their parent – a guiding force in their lives

            • As our children mature and become adults, then we can foster a friendship with them that will last a lifetime

            • Parents, it is imperative that you know what your children are viewing online, where they are going with friends, and what they are experimenting with

            • It is important that we model for them what a personal relationship with Jesus Christ looks like and that that relationship takes precedence over everything else

            • What we say and do has an incredible impact on our children, whether for good or bad

          • We do not know the circumstances behind Dinah going out to visit the women of the land

            • Mathews contends that Dinah’s intention in visiting the women of the land was to observe their habits [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 590]

            • It is important for us to remember that Abraham, Isaac, and Rebekah were repulsed by Canaanite women and their lifestyle, which is why they sought wives for their sons from Paddan Aram/Haran [Waltke, 462]

            • What was it about the women of the land that intrigued Dinah?

          • We do not know if Jacob knew about it ahead of time and approved or disapproved of it

          • All we know is that she went out

        • Shechem’s actions

          • We are told that Shechem is the son of Hamor, who was the ruler of the area

          • His actions

            • He saw her

              • There was not any sin in recognizing her beauty

              • It was perhaps “love at first sight”

              • He thought to himself, “That girl is attractive!”

            • He took her

              • There would not have been any sin, if he had just started talking to her – getting to know her

              • But he took her

              • We are not told how he did that, whether it was through seduction (sweet-talking her) or force

            • He violated her

              • We do know from the Hebrew word for “violated” that the intimate act was not consensual

              • “The third verb (ʿānâ piel) implies that their having sex was not consensual. ​​ It’s the nearest to a Hebrew verb for rape, though it can also refer (e.g.) to a man having sex with a woman whom he has captured in war and married (Deut. 21:14). ​​ While it thus need not indicate that he has violent sex with Dinah, it does suggest that he is behaving like a man who assumes he can do as he likes with a woman and that he violates her.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 532]

              • Sinful human behavior can easily get out of control.

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – Pursuing the world can have negative consequences.

                • The negative consequences for Dinah were forced upon her

                • She had put herself in a compromising and vulnerable position

                • She did not have other siblings or friends with her to help protect her

                • Perhaps you have been intrigued by the habits of other people or groups and you are tempted to hang out with them

                • Are you putting yourself in a compromising or vulnerable position?

                • Do you have family or friends that can help protect you

                • Young people, perhaps you need to avoid certain places and people in order to protect yourself

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord to give me wisdom about the people I am hanging out with and the places where I am going.

              • WARNING!

                • “First comes the desire, then the action when that lust is not checked.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 354]

                • Sinful human behavior can easily get out of control.

                • Men, forcing a woman to be intimate with you is always wrong!

                • Lust, if unchecked, will lead to more than just viewing images in a magazine or on a screen

                • It will lead to acting out what you have viewed

                • Every one of us needs to be in an accountability relationship with another man, so we can live a holy and righteous life

                • There is freedom from lust and sexual sin through the power of Jesus Christ that transforms us from the inside out

            • He was attached to her

              • It can also be translated, “clung to her”

              • In his lust for Dinah, Shechem does not want to lose her

              • This is apparent when he asks his father to “get me this girl as my wife.” (Gen. 34:4)

              • It is also apparent when we find out that Dinah has been held in Shechem’s house since the violation took place (Gen. 34:26)

            • He loved her

            • He encouraged her

              • It can be literally translated that Shechem “spoke upon the heart of the girl”

              • “The expression occurs ten times in the OT, always in less than ideal situations, where there is a sense of guilt or repentance, where A attempts to persuade B of his feelings.” [Hamilton, 355]

            • NOTE: ​​ Shechem is not apologizing for what he has done, but rather he is trying to convince Dinah that everything is going to be alright

            • I am certain that Dinah is struggling to feel loved by Shechem

            • Shechem enlists his father to make the marriage arrangements after the fact – he has gotten the cart before the horse

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is not pleased whenever we try to justify our sin.

              • How many of us have done that in our own lives

              • We have tried to make things “right” after we have sinned

              • How many couples have already been intimate with each other prior to marriage and have even conceived a child out of wedlock?

              • Some of those couples have gotten married and are still married

              • I heard of a couple that were intimate before marriage and conceived a child (the couple is from another state, so it is not someone that any of us would know)

                • They felt like they had to get married, which they did

                • The husband eventually left the marriage, because he never really wanted to be married

                • What he really wanted was to experience intimacy without commitment

              • Justifying our sin is not limited to just the act of intimacy

                • We may justify having too many alcoholic drinks

                • We may justify using illegal drugs, because it helps with pain, anxiety, depression, etc.

                • We may justify not paying all of our taxes

                • We may justify looking at pornography

                • We may justify gossiping

                • Every one of us knows the areas where we justify our sin

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Stop justifying my sin, confess it before the Lord, and repent.

              • Many of us believe that marrying the person we have been intimate with will somehow make things right

            • That is probably what Shechem was thinking when he asked his father to get Dinah as his wife

        • The violation had taken place and Dinah had been defiled

        • Hamor approaches Jacob to negotiate a marriage agreement

    • Negotiation (vv. 5-24)

        • Jacob’s reaction (v. 5)

          • Jacob was home by himself when he learned that Dinah had been defiled

          • His sons were in the field with the livestock

          • Jacob remained quiet about it until his sons came home

          • Jacob does not overreact or do anything hastily

          • I am sure that he is angry and upset that his daughter had been raped, but he does not do anything rash

          • That is not the case with his sons

        • Jacob’s son’s reaction (vv. 6-7)

          • Hamor went out (same Hebrew word as in verse 1, yāṣā’) to talk with Jacob

          • Jacob’s sons were there, because they immediately came in from the fields when they heard what had happened to Dinah

          • They were filled with grief and fury

            • An uncircumcised man had been intimate with their sister

            • What Shechem did was something disgraceful against Israel (it was against Jacob and his family)

            • This was something that should not have been done

            • As I mentioned earlier, rape is never right

            • Shechem had not only destroyed and dishonored Jacob’s family, he challenged the normal way of sexual matters for the nation of Israel, and he stripped Jacob of the opportunity to make the choice of who Dinah should marry

            • Dinah would be considered “used goods,” which would make Jacob’s job of finding her a husband, more difficult

          • Hamor appeals to them and tries to smooth things over

        • Hamor’s offer (vv. 8-10)

          • Hamor tells them that Shechem’s heart is set on Dinah as his wife – of course he was, because he was trying to make right what he had done wrong

          • The offer

            • Intermarry with us (we will give our daughters to you in marriage and you can give us your daughters in marriage)

            • Settle among us

              • The land is open to the Jacobites

              • They can live it, trade in it, and purchase property of their own (property rights would give the Hebrews full partnership with the Hivites)

          • Hamor has made his offer to Jacob and his sons, but Shechem is so eager and excited about taking Dinah as his wife that he speaks up and makes a greater offer

        • Shechem’s plea (vv. 11-12)

          • Shechem is blinded by “love,” but more likely “lust”

          • He so desperately wants to find favor in the eyes of Jacob and his sons that he offers them basically a blank check

          • They could name any bride price they would like and he would make it happen

          • He was also offering a gift to Dinah as part of the deal

          • “In the case of a rape of an unbetrothed virgin, the law demanded payment of fifty shekels of silver and marriage without the possibility of divorce (Deut. 22:28-29).” ​​ [Waltke, 465]

          • Shechem was offering more than fifty shekels of silver

        • Jacob’s son’s proposal (vv. 13-17)

          • The apple does not fall far from the tree

            • Because Dinah had been defiled, Jacob’s sons replied deceitfully

            • They told Hamor and Shechem that they could not give Dinah to an uncircumcised man

            • It would be a disgrace for their sister to marry a man outside of the family covenant with God [Mathews, 602]

            • It was deceitful, because they led Hamor and Shechem to believe that the only thing keeping them from intermarrying was circumcision

          • The proposal

            • Jacob’s sons would consent to the marriage on one condition

            • They would have to become like the Jacobites by having all of the males circumcised

            • Jacob’s sons would agree to Hamor’s offer of giving and receiving their daughters in marriage, settling among them, and becoming one people with them

            • If the Hamorite men refused the proposal then they would take their sister and go

            • “The real sin was with Jacob’s sons, who used the sign of a spiritual covenant with God as an act of treachery to exact revenge. ​​ Griffith Thomas points out: ​​ Circumcision without faith in the covenant God could not be anything but carnal and earthly. ​​ And, worse still, they were about to employ the solemn seal of Divine covenant for the purpose of wreaking their vengeance on these unsuspecting men. ​​ Their suggestion was therefore nothing more than a pretext to cover treachery. ​​ There was the appearance of piety with the reality of intended murder. ​​ Could anything be more truly terrible? ​​ What a light it sheds on the state of Jacob’s home life! (Thomas, 323).” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, 292]

          • PRINCIPLE #4 – God is dishonored when we take the sacred and make it secular.

            • What have we taken that is sacred and made it secular

            • Christmas and Easter could certainly fall into that category, depending on how we celebrate them and what we focus on when we celebrate them

            • Some people, including Christians, have taken intimacy between a man and woman and have made it secular by practicing it outside of marriage

            • Our culture has taken God’s design for marriage and made it something He never intended (same-sex marriage)

            • Our culture has also taken God’s perfect creative power and twisted it by saying that there are more than two genders, male and female

            • They have also twisted God’s sacred creative power and have basically said that He made a mistake in creating one person male, instead of female and vis-versa

            • Some people have taken God’s inerrant Word and have said that there are mistakes in it

            • Some of the preaching and teaching that takes place in churches today is sacrilegious

            • Some churches have taken the sacred role of pastor and elder and made it secular by allowing homosexuals to serve in those roles

            • Even some of our worship music has crossed the line from sacred to secular

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess the areas of my life where I have made the sacred, secular and repent of it.

          • Shechem did not waste any time

        • Shechem’s reaction (vv. 18-19)

          • Hamor and Shechem liked the proposal

          • Shechem did not lose any time in doing what they said

            • Some scholars believe that Shechem took a knife and circumcised himself

            • Others believe he had someone else circumcise him immediately

            • He wanted to show Jacob and his sons that he was serious about taking Dinah as his wife

            • He was delighted with Dinah

          • They both went to the gate of their city to speak with their fellow townsmen

        • Townsmen’s reaction (vv. 20-24)

          • Circumcision sales pitch

            • The men [Jacobites] are friendly towards us

            • Let them live in our land and trade in it – there is plenty of room

            • We can marry their daughters and they can marry ours

            • Here is their only condition – all of our males have to be circumcised, like them

            • That is a small price to pay, isn’t it?

            • Eventually their livestock, property, and all their other animals will be ours

            • So, let us all get circumcised and they will settle among us

          • Omitted items

            • They did not tell the townsmen that Shechem had violated one of their women and he was seeking her hand in marriage

            • They also did not tell the townsmen that they had offered the acquisition of land to them (full partnership with them)

          • Townsmen’s answer

            • All the men who went out (same Hebrew word as in verses 1 and 6, yāṣā’) of the city gate agreed with Hamor and Shechem

            • All of the males in the city were circumcised

        • Imagine for a moment how excited Hamor, Shechem, and the townsmen were, even though they were in pain

        • Their future seemed bright, because they would eventually absorb the Hebrews and all of their possessions

        • They had no idea that a trap had been set and was about to be sprung

    • Retaliation (vv. 25-31)

        • Three days later

          • This would have been at the height of their pain from the circumcision

          • There would also be a fever associated with the operation that would make them feel even worse [Hamilton, 368]

        • Death of all the males

          • While they were most vulnerable, Simeon and Levi, along with their servants, attacked the city and killed every male

          • They also found Hamor and Shechem and put them to death

            • PRINCIPLE #5 – Chasing sinful desires can be deadly.

              • How many stories have we heard where someone is intoxicated and leaves a bar with another person who rapes them and/or kills them

              • There are an increasing number of young people who are dying from fentanyl laced drug use

              • There are so many other examples of how chasing sinful desires can be deadly

            • Sinful human behavior can easily get out of control.

          • They found Dinah in Shechem’s home and left (same Hebrew word as in verses 1, 6, and 24, yāṣā’)

        • Looting

          • The sons of Jacob is probably referring to the other nine sons

          • They come upon the dead bodies and start taking the flocks and herds and donkeys and everything else of theirs

          • They took everything from the houses in the city and everything in the fields

          • They carried off the women and children also

          • “… he who pitches his tent toward the world must not be surprised when his kids act like the world.” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis—Job, 160]

        • Reprimand

          • Jacob obviously did not know what Simeon and Levi had planned

          • When he found out he reprimanded them

          • “The word for ‘stink’ (bāʾāš) may describe the foul odor emanating from dead fish (Exod 7:18,21) and rotten bread (Exod 16:20).” ​​ [Mathews, 609]

          • “His concerns are tactical and strategic, rather than ethical (as in 49:5-7). ​​ He is without the resources to oppose a united force; Jacob has been reduced to a position of vulnerability.” ​​ [Hamilton, 371]

        • Reply

          • Simeon and Levi respond with a rhetorical question

          • Jacob does not respond


  • YOU

    • Do you need to protect your children?

    • Do you need to ask the Lord for wisdom concerning your friends?

    • Is there a sin(s) that you need to stop justifying and repent of?

    • Are there areas of your life that you have made the sacred, secular?

  • WE




“It was a small adjustment that could make a big difference. Sure, it was against NASCAR rules, but almost everyone else was doing it. So crew chief Tim Shutt crawled under the No. 20 car of Mike McLaughlin, who races on the NASCAR Busch circuit.


‘Joe [Gibbs, team owner] is adamant that we don't cheat,’ says Shutt, a relatively new believer who encountered Christ at a Christian retreat for participants in the racing industry. ‘Most teams figure that as long as you get away with it, it's not cheating.’


‘I said to Mike that morning in practice, ‘If we're no good in practice, I'll put this piece—the illegal piece—on.’ Probably 30 other teams are doing it.’ I was justifying it.


‘I got up under the car, I got halfway through putting it on, and that verse, ‘Seek ye first the kingdom of God,’ came flashing in red in front of me, and whoa, that was it. I said, ‘I'm leaving this up to you, God.’’ Shutt didn't put the piece on the car.


McLaughlin won the race. It was Talladega, one of the biggest races of 2001.


‘When we won, the first thing that came to my mind was that verse,’ Tim says. ‘God wanted to show himself to me.’”


Source: Victor Lee, Sports Spectrum; reprinted in Men of Integrity (May/June 2002).






The Greatest Commandment

(Genesis 33:12-20)



Loving God through Loving Others


“From Saul Bellow's collection of traditional Jewish tales comes this story:


In a small Jewish town in Russia, there is a rabbi who disappears each Friday morning for several hours. His devoted disciples boast that during those hours their rabbi goes up to heaven and talks to God.


A stranger moves into town, and he's skeptical about all this, so he decides to check things out. He hides and watches. The rabbi gets up in the morning, says his prayers, and then dresses in peasant clothes. He grabs an axe, goes off into the woods, and cuts some firewood, which he then hauls to a shack on the outskirts of the village. There an old woman and her sick son live. He leaves them the wood, enough for a week, and then sneaks back home.


Having observed the rabbi's actions, the newcomer stays on in the village and becomes his disciple. And whenever he hears one of the villagers say, ‘On Friday morning our rabbi ascends all the way to heaven,’ the newcomer quietly adds, ‘If not higher.’”


Source: Jim McGuiggan, Jesus, Hero of Thy Soul (Howard Publishing, 1998), p.15.





  • ME

    • Loving God

        • I do not do it perfectly, but I love God!

        • I enjoy time with Him in the morning and throughout the day

        • I enjoy studying His Word and seeking His wisdom in preparing sermons

    • Loving others

        • I do not do this perfectly, but I try

        • Judy and I have opened our home over the years for meals with various individuals

        • We have opened our home to those who needed a place to stay

        • We have taken meals to various individuals

        • We have visited with people

        • We have prayed with and for others


  • WE

    • Loving God

        • All of us have probably expressed our love for God in various ways

        • Take a moment to reflect on the ways we have loved God

    • Loving others

        • All of us have probably expressed our love for others in various ways, too

        • Take a moment to reflect on the ways we have loved others


Jesus gave us the greatest commandment when He responded to one of the Pharisees. ​​ He said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ ​​ This is the first and greatest commandment. ​​ And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ​​ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40). ​​ Through the continued interaction between Esau and Jacob, we will see Esau’s love for his brother. ​​ We will see Jacob loving God when he builds and names an altar at Shechem. ​​ The greatest command was given for all followers of Jesus Christ. ​​ So, through this narrative today, we will be challenged with the idea that . . .


BIG IDEA – Our faith is expressed when we love God and others.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 33:12-20)

    • Loving others (vv. 12-16)

        • Hospitality

          • Travel together

            • Esau’s offer

              • Hamilton points out that “I will accompany you is literally ‘I will go in front of you’” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 346]

              • Esau is showing love and concern for his brother and his family by offering to go in front of them to probably provide protection

            • Jacob’s response

              • Different pace

                • Esau and his 400 men were warriors/soldiers and their pace would be much faster than that of a shepherd

                • Jacob explains that the young children in his family are tender and will not be able to keep the pace of a warrior

                • Jacob also explains that he has ewes and cows that have nursing young

                  • The nursing young would not be able to keep a steady, fast pace

                  • They would need to stop in order to nurse

                  • The momma animals would need time to graze and drink, so they would be able to produce the milk needed for their young

                  • If Jacob drove the animals hard, even one day, they would die

                • “At first glance we might think the reference to the animals and children offered a convenient excuse, but most likely it represented the reality of the different lifestyles these men and their descendants had adopted.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 281]

                  • Some scholars are hard on Jacob, saying that the excuse he gives for refusing Esau’s offer shows that Jacob is still Jacob and not Israel

                  • It is easy for us to be hard on Jacob when we do not know his mind and heart

                  • I believe he was being a good shepherd of his flock and family

                  • This was not some lame excuse, but a genuine concern for Jacob

                  • I believe that Jacob knew that God was with him and would protect him

                • “He needed no military guard, ‘for he knew that he was defended by the hosts of God;’ and the reason given was a very good one: ‘My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds that are milking are upon me’: i.e., because they are giving milk they are an object of especial anxiety to me; ‘and if one should overdrive them a single day, all the sheep would die.’” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 198]

              • Go on ahead

                • Jacob encourages Esau to go on ahead

                • Jacob continues to address Esau as his lord and refers to himself as his servant

                • Jacob will move along at the pace of his family and flocks

                • “‘Till I come to my lord to Seir:’ these words are not to be understood as meaning that he intended to go direct to Seir; consequently they were not a willful deception for the purpose of getting rid of Esau. ​​ Jacob’s destination was Canaan, and in Canaan probably Hebron, where his father Isaac still lived. ​​ From thence he may have thought of paying a visit to Esau in Seir.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, 198]

            • Esau obviously accepts Jacobs explanation, but his offer of hospitality did not end there

          • Leave some men with you

            • Esau’s offer

              • Esau offered to leave some of his men with Jacob

              • Perhaps it was to help with the flocks

              • Maybe it was to guide them to Seir

              • It is not stated what the expectation was

            • Jacob’s response

              • Jacob’s inquires about why Esau would do that

              • Jacob just wants to find favor in the eyes of Esau

                • It was his polite way of declining Esau’s second offer, without offending him [Waltke, Genesis: ​​ A Commentary, 456]

                • How many of us have been in a situation where we have to politely decline hospitality that has been offered to us

                • We do not want to offend the person who has extended hospitality, so we have to find a way to graciously decline

            • The text does not continue with Esau insisting that Jacob accept the offer of men, so we can assume that Jacob has found favor in Esau’s eyes [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 571]

          • Esau extended hospitality to Jacob twice

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is pleased when we extend hospitality.

            • We are not told in Scripture that Esau ever began to follow the God of his father Isaac and his grandfather Abraham

            • People who are not followers of Jesus Christ can certainly extend hospitality

            • But, as followers of Jesus Christ our motivation to extend hospitality is different than those who are not followers of Jesus Christ

            • God is pleased when we extend hospitality to others

            • Our faith is expressed when we love God and others.

            • Hospitality is one way we can show others that we love them

            • When was the last time you received hospitality from someone else? (How did that make you feel?)

            • When was the last time you extended hospitality to someone else?

              • To whom can you extend hospitality today?

              • To whom can you extend hospitality this week?

            • What are some creative ways you can extend hospitality to others? (offering a meal, offering a time of fellowship, offering help with a project, babysitting kids, offering a ride to church or an appointment, offering a smile and/or a kind word, serving them in any way they may need)

          • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Show my love for someone by extending hospitality to him or her this week.

        • Esau started for home that same day, but Jacob went to Succoth (sook-kohth’/sue-kohth’)

    • Loving God (vv. 17-20)

        • Succoth

          • We do not know if Jacob eventually went to Seir (say-eer’/say-ear) to see Esau and his family

          • We do know that instead of going to Seir, he went to Succoth

            • Succoth was just west of Peniel on the Jordan River and north of the Jabbok River [show map]

            • It is mentioned several times in the story of Gideon in Judges 8:5, 6, 8, 14

            • It is probable that he stopped there to allow his children and flocks to rest, so they would not get worn out

            • Jacob actually named the place where he stopped

            • He build shelters there, which is why he named it Succoth (Succoth means shelters/booths)

            • “The word sūkkâ describes a covered booth or shelter that served temporary purposes (e.g., 2 Sam 11:11; Ida 1:8; Job 27:18; Jonah 4:5). ​​ The word is best known for naming the structures built during Israel’s wilderness sojourn, whose provision they celebrated in the annual ‘Feast of Tabernacles/Booths’ (ḥag hassūkkôt; e.g., Lev 23:33-43).” ​​ [Mathews, 573]

          • There are no time stamps to let us know how long Jacob stayed in Succoth

        • Shalem a city of Shechem

          • What we know is that after Jacob came from Paddan Aram, he arrived safely at Shalem, a city of Shechem (shek-em’/shek-hem’)

          • He pitched his tents in sight of Shechem

          • Jacob had finally reached the Promised Land (Canaan) [show map]

        • Land purchase

          • Jacob purchased the ground where he had pitched his tents for a hundred pieces of silver

            • The NASB translates it as a hundred pieces of money

            • That is probably more accurate, because the Hebrew word represents a unit of unknown value

            • We are not sure how much Jacob paid for the ground where he pitched his tents

          • The ground was owned by the sons of Hamor (kham-ore’), the father of Shechem

          • “This piece of field, which fell to the lot of the sons of Joseph, and where Joseph’s bones were buried (Josh. 24:32), was, according to tradition, the plain which stretches out at the south-eastern opening of the valley of Shechem, where Jacob’s well is still pointed out (John 4:6), also Joseph’s grave, a Mahometan wely (grave) two or three hundred paces to the north (Rob. Pal. iii. 95ff.).” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, 199]

        • Set up an altar

          • Jacob set up an altar

            • Comparisons between Abraham and Jacob’s arrivals in Canaan from Haran [Mathews, 574]

              • Shechem was the first place where Abraham and Jacob both resided in Canaan

              • They both pitched their tent there

              • They both set up an altar there

            • While Abraham did not name his altar, Jacob did

          • He called the altar El Elohe Israel

            • It can mean “God, the God of Israel”

            • It can also mean “mighty is the God of Israel”

          • Jacob was fulfilling his vow to the Lord (Genesis 28:21)

            • He had returned safely to his father’s house

            • So, the Lord would be his God

            • It is significant that Jacob used his new name in naming the altar

          • The Lord was worthy to be Jacob’s God

            • God had been with him for 20 years in Haran

            • God had protected him for 20 years

            • God provided food and clothing for Jacob over the 20 years that he was away

            • God had brought him safely home to Canaan

            • God had provided a family for him

            • God had provided a livelihood as a shepherd and God had provided flocks and herds

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – The Lord is worthy to be our God.

            • Take a moment to reflect on everything that God has done for you

              • How has He been with you?

              • How has He protected you?

              • How has He provided for you? (food, clothing, shelter, family, friends, livelihood, education, etc.)

              • What has He brought you safely through?

            • Do you think the Lord is worthy to be your God?

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Worship the Lord as my God and thank Him for all He has done for me.

            • Our faith is expressed when we love God and others.

          • If you have never believed in Jesus as your Savior, I want you to know that He is worthy to be your Savior

            • We are all born with a desire to be in charge of our lives and to have our own way – we do not want anyone else to be in charge of us (Rom. 3:23)

            • Our desire to be separated from God is called rebellion, which is sin

            • This rebellion against God earns us separation from Him for all of eternity (Rom. 6:23)

            • That is not God’s desire for you or anyone else

            • His desire is that you would be in a personal relationship with Him

            • He loves you with an everlasting love and draws you to Himself with loving-kindness (Jer. 31:3)

            • He demonstrated His love for you by sending His One and Only perfect Son, Jesus, to die on the cross for you (Rom. 5:8)

            • God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21)

            • Jesus’ perfect sacrifice on the cross for your sins is why He is worthy to be your Savior

            • John 3:16, For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Believe in Jesus as my Savior from sin and receive God’s gift of eternal life.


  • YOU

    • To whom do you need to show hospitality to this week?

    • Are you ready to worship the Lord, because He is worthy to be your God?

    • Are you ready to believe in Jesus as your Savior and receive eternal life?


  • WE

    • We have the opportunity to show hospitality to those in our community

    • We can worship the Lord for providing and protecting us as a body of believers



“In his book, Sources of Strength, President Jimmy Carter shared this lesson.

After a personal witnessing experience with Eloy Cruz, an admirable Cuban pastor who had surprising rapport with very poor immigrants from Puerto Rico, I asked him for the secret of his success. He was modest and embarrassed, but he finally said, ‘Senor Jimmy, we only need to have two loves in our lives. For God, and for the person who happens to be in front of us at any time.’ That simple yet profound theology has been a great help to me in understanding the Scriptures. In essence, the whole Bible is an explanation of those two loves.”


Source: Jimmy Carter, Sources of Strength, Meditations on Scripture for a Living Faith, Times Books, 1997, p. xvii.






Pathway to Reconciliation

(Genesis 33:1-11)



“In 1913, the Federal Government held a fiftieth anniversary reunion at Gettysburg. It lasted three days. Thousands of survivors bivouacked in the old battlefield, swapping stories, looking up comrades.


For the most part the old men got along well enough, but over dinner at a restaurant one evening harsh words were passed between a Yankee and a rebel and they went at one another with forks: ‘Unscathed in the melee of 1863,’ Myers wrote, ‘one of them--and I never learned which--was almost fatally wounded in 1913 with table hardware!’


The climax of the gathering was a reenactment of Pickett's Charge. Thousands of spectators gathered to watch as the Union veterans took their positions on Cemetery Ridge, and waited as their old adversaries emerged from the woods on Seminary Ridge and started forward toward them again, across the long, flat fields. ‘We could see,’ Myers wrote, ‘not rifles and bayonets but canes and crutches. We soon could distinguish the more agile ones aiding those less able to maintain their places in the ranks.’


As they neared the northern line, they broke into one final, defiant rebel yell. At the sound, ‘after half a century of silence, a moan, a sigh, a gigantic gasp of unbelief’ rose from the Union men on cemetery Ridge. ‘It was then,’ wrote Myers, ‘that the Yankees, unable to restrain themselves longer, burst from behind the stone wall, and flung themselves upon their former enemies ... not in mortal combat, but re-united in brother love and affection.’”


Source: The Civil War, p. 412. From the files of Leadership.





  • ME

    • Forgiveness is freeing

        • I know how freeing forgiveness can be

        • There was one situation where I had to forgive someone before they ever asked for it

        • It was something I had to do in order to move forward and remain healthy – physically, mentally, and spiritually

    • Humility

        • There have been times in raising our children, that I did something that was wrong and I had to ask our boys to forgive me

        • It was in humbling myself that I was able to ask for forgiveness

        • I valued my relationship with my sons more than I valued my pride

        • Reconciliation is so important


  • WE

    • Extending forgiveness

        • How many of us have had to forgive someone before they asked for it?

        • How many of us have had to forgive someone that has never asked for it?

    • Humbling ourselves

        • Has there been a time where we have had to humble ourselves and ask for forgiveness?

        • Humility is so important on the pathway to reconciliation


God transformed Jacob at Peniel. ​​ He was no longer a deceiver, but a prevailer. ​​ He was no longer a fearful rearguard, but a confident vanguard, as we will see. ​​ He was no longer prideful, but humble. ​​ While it is not stated, directly, the actions of Esau prove that God had transformed his heart also. ​​ The author wants us to understand from this passage that . . .


BIG IDEA – Humility paves the way to reconciliation.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 33:1-11)

    • Advancing (vv. 1-3)

        • Esau’s advance

          • Remember, Jacob had been wrestling with the Lord all night

          • It was daybreak and Jacob limped across the Jabbok River

          • The narrative continues

          • As Jacob made it to the other side of the river, he saw Esau coming with his four hundred men

        • Dividing the children

          • In Genesis 32:7, Jacob divided the people into two groups when he heard that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men – he did this out of fear

          • Now he is dividing his children with their mothers and arranged them in the order of his affection for them

            • He put the maidservants and their children in the front

            • He put Leah and her children in the middle

            • Finally, he put Rachel and Joseph in the back

          • While it is not stated that Jacob was fearful, like in Genesis 32:7, we can only imagine that he was still apprehensive as he prepared to meet his brother, Esau

          • A transformation had taken place in Jacob as he wrestled with God and we see that displayed with him taking the lead

        • Leading the way

          • Jacob did not send his maidservants, wives, and children ahead of himself, like he had done with the gift of animals

          • Jacob went on ahead of them

          • “The pre-Peniel Jacob was insistent that he stay ‘behind’ his party (32:17, 19, 21). ​​ Now the post-Peniel Jacob will be at the vanguard of his party . . . The inclusion of the independent personal pronoun before the verb accentuates Jacob’s radical shift of position—from rearguard to vanguard.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 343]

          • The original Hebrew shows us how significant the shift is

          • MEN: ​​ PRINCIPLE #1 – Our role as spiritual leaders is to lead our families.

            • Jacob’s shift as a result of wrestling with God is significant

            • He had been transformed by a person-to-person encounter with God

            • He continued to mature in his faith and as the spiritual leader of his household

            • Questions

              • Are you leading your household spiritually?

              • If not, why?

              • Have you been transformed by a person-to-person encounter with God?

              • If not, what is holding you back?

              • God has given us His Word, so we can study it, learn from it, and be transformed by it

              • Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father interceding for us, so we need to be spending time in prayer

              • The Holy Spirit lives within every follower of Jesus Christ to guide them

              • What step do you need to take today in order to be the spiritual leader of your household?

                • Perhaps you need to have a person-to-person encounter with God for the first time

                • Maybe you need to commit to studying God’s Word and praying every day (the spiritual life journal is an incredible tool to help with this – you can take the challenge that Pastor Marc mentioned a couple of weeks ago to read through the Bible in a year)

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Take the next step needed, so I can be the spiritual leader of my household.

          • Jacob’s transformation not only affected how he led his own household, but it also affected how he approached his brother

        • Bowing down

          • He bowed down seven times as he approached his brother

            • This would have been a very deep bow where Jacob’s head would have almost touched the ground [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 197]

            • Jacob would have been bowing voluntarily and not by necessity

            • It was an act of humility on his part

            • “In the protocol of those days, a person approached a king by bowing seven times. ​​ And Jacob followed the pattern, not so much as subject to lord (surely he remembered the birthright), but in respect and recognition that Esau was, for all practical purposes, the king of Edom.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 280]

            • Jacob’s transformation at Peniel included humility in approaching others

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we humble ourselves.

            • Imagine for a moment what the reunion with Esau would have looked like if Jacob approached him with the attitude that he was the covenant carrier who had the birthright and the blessing

              • Isaac’s blessing of Jacob included that the nations would serve him, people would bow down to him, and he would be lord over his brothers and they would bow down to him (Genesis 27:29)

              • I think a battle would have broken out, if Jacob had approached Esau that way

              • But he did not do that, rather he came in humility

              • Humility paves the way to reconciliation

              • In just a moment we will see Esau’s reaction

            • Application

              • The same is true for us in dealing with others

              • Humility paves the way to reconciliation

              • Take a moment to think about a relationship that is currently strained

              • Do you want to be reconciled to that individual? ​​ (if not, you may need to spend some time repenting before the Lord)

              • How can you approach the other person in humility? ​​ (it does not matter if you are in the right or wrong)

              • Imagine what the family Christmas gathering could be like if you approached this individual before the gathering, in humility

              • Imagine how pleased God would be if you humbled yourself with this individual

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Approach the strained relationship with humility, so there can be reconciliation.

          • In humility, Jacob bowed down seven times as he approached Esau

        • Esau could not wait to greet his brother

    • Affection (v. 4)

        • Esau’s reaction to seeing Jacob

          • He ran to meet Jacob

          • He hugged Jacob

          • He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him

            • Hamilton suggests that the kiss is perhaps not just because Esau is happy or filled with joy, but also a sign of forgiveness [Hamilton, 344]

            • We will see in a moment that Esau had been transformed also

          • Does this narrative remind us of another narrative in the Bible where there was apprehension on one person’s part and joy on the other person’s part?

            • Jesus tells the parable of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32

            • The son, who squandered his portion of his father’s inheritance, returns with humility to his father’s house

            • He is willing to be considered a hired hand instead of his son

            • While the son was a long way off, the father saw him and was filled with compassion and ran to him, threw his arms around him and kissed him

            • Perhaps Jesus was remembering how Esau reacted to seeing Jacob

          • Esau’s transformation

            • We are not told in Scripture if Esau had a person-to-person encounter with God that transformed him, but his reaction is evidence that some kind of transformation had taken place in his life

            • He was willing to forgive Jacob

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – We honor the Lord when we forgive others.

              • We are not told if Esau followed the Lord

              • As followers of Jesus Christ, we honor the Lord when we forgive others

              • Is there a relationship that can be reconciled if you forgive the other person?

                • There are all kinds of things that other people can do to us that are not right

                • Abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, etc.

                • Others can mistreat us by their actions and speech

                • Life isn’t fair, but we have the power to forgive

                • No one can give you that power and no one can take that power away from you

                • You can forgive someone even if they never ask you to forgive them

                • In some cases, the other person may have no idea that they have hurt you or offended you

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Forgive the person who has hurt me, so that the relationship can be restored.

              • We honor the Lord when we forgive others

          • Humility and forgiveness pave the way to reconciliation

        • They both wept

          • As Jacob and Esau embraced each other, they began to cry tears of joy

          • It had been 20 years since they saw each other

          • They both had been transformed by God over time

          • Jacob had to learn humility and Esau had to learn about forgiveness

          • PRINCIPLE #4 – There is joy in reconciliation!

          • You have the opportunity to experience that joy when you learn humility and/or forgiveness

        • After drying his eyes, Esau looked up and saw the women and children that were following Jacob

    • Approaching (vv. 5-7)

        • Esau asks Jacob “Who are these with you?”

        • Jacob’s response acknowledges God’s gracious provision – “They are the children God has graciously given your servant.”

        • PRINCIPLE #5 – Children are a gift from God.

          • Whether or not you have children, this principle still stands

          • Some of us have children of our own

          • Others of us have children that we have adopted

          • Still others have nieces and nephews that they recognize as gifts from God

          • Finally, there are some of us who simply invest in other people’s children

          • “As a single parent with a full-time job and three young children, I often listen to Christian radio as an extra source of strength to cope with my day-to-day responsibilities. ​​ One day, the sermon talked about how children are God’s rewards to parents. ​​ Several days later a sibling skirmish broke out into shoving.

            ‘Cut that out right now,’ I scolded. ​​ ‘Or you’ll go to your rooms until you can cool down.’ ​​ Then my youngest piped up, ‘Now remember, Mom, we’re your rewards.’”

            Source: ​​ Violet Hart, Lexington, NC. “Heart to Heart,” Today’s Christian Woman.


        • Procession

          • Each group comes forward and bows before Esau

            • The maidservants and their children approach first

            • Leah and her children come forward next

            • Joseph and Rachel bow before Esau last

          • We are not told if Esau understood the order in which Jacob presented his children and their mothers to him

          • We are aware of the order, because of the author’s previous narrative about Jacob’s love for Rachel being greater than his love for Leah

        • After the introductions are complete, Esau addresses the generous gift that Jacob sent ahead of him

    • Accepting (vv. 8-11)

        • Esau asks what Jacob meant by the droves he had met?

          • By way of review, Jacob sent five different herds to his brother, each under the care of his servants

            • Goats – 200 female, 20 male

            • Sheep – 200 ewes, 20 rams

            • Camels – 30 female and their young

            • Cows – 40 cows, 10 bulls

            • Donkeys – 20 female, 10 male

          • Each herd approached Esau separately

        • Jacob’s response was that he hoped to find favor in his brother’s eyes

        • Esau initially told Jacob to keep his herds, because he already had plenty

        • Jacob insisted that Esau accept the gift, because it was more about acceptance than need

        • “By not offering a gift in exchange, Esau indicates that he accepts the gift as payment for the wrong done to him.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: ​​ A Commentary, 455]

        • “Esau’s acceptance means that the relationship is restored.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 522]


  • YOU

    • Men, are you ready to take the next step, so you can be the spiritual leader of your household?

    • Are you ready to approach a strained relationship in your life with humility, so there can be reconciliation?

    • Are you ready to honor the Lord by forgiving someone who has hurt you?

    • You can experience joy in reconciliation!


  • WE

    • We need strong spiritual leaders in the church

    • We need reconciliation in relationships not only in our church, but also within the greater Church, through humility and forgiveness

    • Are we ready to experience joy in reconciliation?



“Eva Kor and her sister Miriam were the subjects of horrific experiments at the hands of Josef Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II. In 1995, Eva returned to Auschwitz for the 50th anniversary of their liberation. She asked Dr. Hans Munch (who signed death certificates at the camp) to join them and sign an affidavit acknowledging what happened. Dr. Munch agreed.


Eva explains what happened afterwards:


I was so glad that I would have an original document witnessed and signed by a Nazi … to add to the historical collection of information we were preserving for ourselves and for future generations. I was so grateful that Dr. Munch was willing to come with me to Auschwitz and sign that document about the operation of the gas chambers, and I wanted to thank him. But how can one thank a Nazi doctor?


For ten months I pondered this question. All kinds of ideas popped into my head until I finally thought, how about a simple letter of forgiveness from me to him? Forgiving him for all that he has done? I knew immediately that he would appreciate it, but what I discovered once I made the decision was that forgiveness is not so much for the perpetrator, but for the victim. I had the power to forgive. No one could give me this power, and no one could take it away. That made me feel powerful. It made me feel good to have any power over my life as a survivor.


In an interview before her death, Eva shared: ‘If I had discovered forgiveness sooner, I would have had that 50 years of my life back. Forgive. See the miracle that can happen.’”


Source: Poppy Danby, “The twins who survived Auschwitz despite being tortured, beaten and humiliated,” Mirror (8-27-20).






The Wrenched Socket

(Genesis 32:22-32)



“NYU professor Adam Alter has observed the power names have to shape destiny. The technical name is ‘nominative determinism,’ which literally means ‘name-driven outcome.’ Alter points to the following examples: The current Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales is Justice Igor Judge. His colleague, Lord Justice Laws, is a judge in the Court of Appeals. In the realm of athletic pursuits, Anna Smashnova is a professional Israeli tennis player. Layne Beachley is a seven-time world champion surfer. Derek Kickett was an Australian Rules footballer. Stephen Rowbotham was an Olympic rower for Britain. Usain Bolt currently reigns as the fastest man in the world over the 100 meter and 200 meter distances.


Other examples include Daniel Snowman, the author of a book about the Arctic and Antarctica; Christopher Coke, a notorious Jamaican drug dealer; the rapper Black Rob who was sentenced to seven years in prison for grand larceny, and Dr. A.J. Splatt, a doctor of urology.


Are all of these examples just coincidences? For instance, would Usain Bolt run just as fast if his name was Usain Plod? Alter concludes, ‘Researchers have shown that our names take root deep within our mental worlds, drawing us magnetically towards the concepts they embody.’”


Source: Adam Alter, "Would Usain Bolt Run More Slowly with the Name Usain Plod?" Science Friday (4-4-13).





  • ME

    • Names

        • Our oldest son got his first name from my middle name

        • Our middle son got his middle name from my Father and brother (it is the family middle name)

        • Our youngest son got one of his two middle names from my wife’s father’s first name

        • Names are important and they carry significance and meaning

    • Wrenched

        • When our boys were younger, I would get on the floor and wrestle with them

          • On one occasion I had our middle son over my shoulder and our oldest son pinned on the floor

          • While I was wrestling our oldest son on the floor our middle son started to fall off my shoulder

          • Had I not caught him, he would have landed head-first on the floor

          • So that would not happen, I tightened my grip on him and my shoulder got wrenched – I am certain that I injured my rotator cuff at that point

          • It took many years and many prayers for it to finally be healed

        • Busted knuckles

          • There have been several times when I have been working on a car that I have busted my knuckles trying to loosen a bolt

          • I a putting all my strength into trying to turn the bolt or plug when it finally gives way or the socket slips off the bolt or nut and I slam my knuckles into the frame of the car

          • That is never fun

          • That is definitely a wrenched socket


  • WE

    • Family names

        • How many of us have names that are significant to our families?

        • Perhaps our names have meaning because of when we were born or circumstances around our birth

    • Wrenched

        • How many of us have wrenched our shoulder, knee, back, ankle, etc.?

        • How many of us have busted our knuckles working on a vehicle or some other project?


Jacob is preparing to meet his brother Esau, but the Lord needs to do a work in his life prior to that meeting. ​​ Jacob is not able to sleep, so he moves his family across the Jabbok River and remains on the northern side by himself. ​​ This is just what the Lord needed in order to confront Jacob alone. ​​ As we will see, a wrestling match ensues and eventually Jacob concedes and clings to the Lord. ​​ What the author of Genesis wants us to understand from this passage is that . . .


BIG IDEA – Instead of wrestling with God, we must cling to God.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 32:22-32)

    • Wrenched (vv. 22-26)

        • Insomnia

          • I do not blame Jacob for not being able to sleep

          • He has not seen his brother, Esau, for 20 years

          • He left 20 years before at the prompting of his mother, because Esau wanted to kill him

          • As we saw last week, the messengers that Jacob sent to Esau, returned with the message that Esau was coming to meet Jacob with 400 men

          • I think I would have a hard time sleeping too

          • He had already prayed

          • Now he was making himself busy as he waited for the next day to dawn

        • River crossing

          • Jacob took his two wives, two maidservants, and his eleven sons and crossed the Jabbok [yab-boke’] River

          • After they crossed, he sent all of his possessions across the Jabbok

          • Jabbok River

            • “This river in eastern Canaan flows through deep-cut canyons into the Jordan about 23 miles north of the Dead Sea. ​​ It is approximately 50 miles long and descends from its source at 1900 feet above sea level to about 115 feet below sea level where it meets the Jordan.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 328]

            • It flows from east to west about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea

            • The modern name for it is the Wady es Zerka, meaning “the blue” or “Blue River”

            • It ancient times, it was “the boundary between the kingdoms of Sihon of Heshbon and Og of Bashan.” [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 195]

          • I believe this river crossing was significant and by God’s design, so Jacob would be alone

          • “British essayist Walter Savage Landor called solitude “the audience-chamber of God.” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 133]

          • God had some work to do with Jacob before he returned to Canaan and before he saw Esau

        • Wrestling match

          • With Jacob alone, a man now comes and wrestles with him until daybreak

          • The man is not identified until verse 30, where we find out that it is God

          • When the man saw that he could not overpower Jacob, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and probably popped it out of joint

            • Some significant thoughts

              • “Humbling himself, God has come to Jacob on some type of even terms.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 446]

              • Jacob is 97 years old [Walton, The NIV Application Commentary, Genesis, 605]

              • Jacob was no weakling – if you remember he rolled the stone away from the mouth of the well and watered Laban’s sheep in the presence of Rachel (Genesis 29:10)

            • “A mere touch of the divine conquers Jacob.” ​​ [Waltke, 446]

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – With God, we have to lose to win. ​​ [Walton, 606]

            • “The Lord cannot fully bless a man until He has first conquered him.” ​​ [A.W. Tozer cited by Wiersbe, 133]

            • How many of us have wrestled with God in the past?

              • Perhaps it over a relationship

              • Maybe it was concerning a job or career path

              • Many of us have probably wrestled with God about a financial decision

              • All of us have wrestled with God, before becoming a follower of Jesus Christ

              • Did God have to weaken you in some way in order for you to submit or concede to Him?

              • What was the result of submitting/conceding to Him?

            • How many of us are currently wrestling with God about something in our lives?

              • Is it relational, financial, physical, emotional, and/or spiritual?

              • Will it require God weakening you in some way in order for you to submit or concede?

              • Are you willing to submit to Him right now?

              • God is sovereign, eternal, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, merciful, and so much more

              • He has your best interests at heart and knows you better than you know yourself

              • What He wants for you will be what is best for you

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Concede my wrestling match with the Lord and allow Him to guide and direct my life.

          • While Jacob has conceded the wrestling match, he still clings to the man (God)

        • Clinging to God

          • The wrestling match moves from the physical to the spiritual

          • The man asks Jacob to let him go, because it was daybreak

          • Jacob replies that he will not let go unless the man blesses him

          • “Jacob prevails with prayer, not with natural strength.” ​​ [Waltke, 446]

          • “That night, as Jacob stood alone by the river Jabbok, God met him. ​​ There were hours of desperate, agonized conflict, spiritual and, as it seemed to Jacob, physical also. ​​ Jacob had hold of God; he wanted a blessing, an assurance of divine favour and protection in this crisis, but he could not get what he sought. ​​ Instead, he grew ever more conscious of his own state—utterly helpless and, without God, utterly hopeless. ​​ He felt the full bitterness of his unscrupulous, cynical ways, now coming home to roost. ​​ He had hitherto been self-reliant, believing himself to be more than a match for anything that might come, but now he felt his complete inability to handle things, and knew with blinding, blazing certainty that never again dare he trust himself to look after himself and to carve out his destiny. ​​ Never again dare he try to live by his wits. . . . The nature of Jacob’s ‘prevailing’ with God was simply that he held on to God while God weakened him, and wrought in him the spirit of submission and self-distrust; that he had desired God’s blessing so much that he clung to God through all his painful humbling, till he came low enough for God to raise him up by speaking peace to him and assuring him that he need not fear about Esau any more.” ​​ [J. I. Packer cited by Walton, 611]

          • In our weakness, are we clinging to God?

            • In your wrestling match with God has He had to weaken you in some way

            • When He has weakened you, have you let go and walked away from Him or have you hung on for dear life?

            • I want to encourage you to cling to the Lord when He touches you and weakens you as you wrestle with Him

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Cling to the Lord through my weakened state instead of letting go of Him.

            • Instead of wrestling with God, we must cling to God.

        • The transformation of Jacob is about to happen

    • Renamed (vv. 27-32)

        • Old name (v. 27)

          • The man asked him, “What is your name?”

            • We know that the man is God, so He already knows his name

            • The man is not seeking information, but rather transformation

            • “‘What is your name?’ meant, ‘Are you going to continue living up to your name, deceiving yourself and others; or will you admit what you are and let Me change you?’” ​​ [Wiersbe, 133]

            • We see that Jacob owns up to his past

          • He answered with his name, Jacob

            • Jacob is admitting that he had been deceptive in the past

            • He had been deceptive with his brother, father, and Laban

            • For Jacob’s transformation to take place, he had to acknowledge who he had been

            • The same is true for us

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Spiritual metamorphosis can happen when we acknowledge our sin.

            • Unbelievers

              • It is more than just believing in God

              • It is more than just being a good person (good person test)

              • Romans 3:23; 6:23; 5:8

              • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4

              • Romans 10:9-10

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Be saved by confessing Jesus with my mouth and believing in Him with my heart.

            • Believers

              • Perhaps you feel like your spiritual life has plateaued

              • Maybe there is unconfessed sin in your life (1 John 1:9)

              • You can jump start your spiritual life once again, by confessing (agreeing with God about) your sin

              • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Agree with God about my sin and receive His forgiveness and purification.

          • Jacob had to own up to who he was before God could transform him

        • New name (v. 28)

          • The man told Jacob that his name would no longer be Jacob, but Israel

            • “In the Bible, receiving a new name signifies making a new beginning (17:4-5, 15; Num. 13:16; John 1:40-42), and this was Jacob’s opportunity to make a fresh start in life.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 133]

            • His name was changed from “deceiver” to “he struggles with God”

            • In Hebrew, it literally reads “they shall say no more” or “it shall be said no more” [Weinfeld cited by Hamilton, 333 and Waltke, 446]

            • A spiritual metamorphosis is taking place in Jacob’s life

            • People will no longer refer to him as a deceiver or a supplanter, but rather as a prevailer and overcomer [Waltke, 446]

          • It is not that Jacob’s desire to prevail has changed, but rather how he prevails that has changed – no longer by manipulation and deception, but through God’s power

          • Jacob has been transformed from just believing in God to submitting his life completely to God

            • “If [Since] 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 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.” (Genesis 28:20-22)

            • That was when Jacob believed in God

            • Now, he is following Him with his whole life (sanctification, spiritual maturity)

            • That was a 20 year process for Jacob

            • I accepted the Lord as the age of 4, but it was not until I was 36 years old that I really submitted my entire life to Him

            • Have you submitted your whole life to the Lord? (it is more than just believing in Him)

              • Read Luke 14:25-33

              • Read Philippians 3:8-11

          • Today can be the day that a spiritual metamorphosis will take place in your life

          • Since Jacob had shared his name, he asks the man for His name

        • No name (v. 29)

          • The man does not give Jacob His name, but rather asks him a question

          • “Why do you ask my name?”

          • The author immediately states that the man blessed him there

          • No name is given for the man

            • In Judges 13:17-18 we see Manoah, Samson’s father, asking the angel of Yahweh the same question

            • The angel’s responds the same way, but with an explanation – “Why do you ask my name? ​​ It is beyond understanding.”

            • “In both instances the silence, the hesitancy, of the other being, begins to produce within Jacob/Manoah a realization of the supernatural status of that being. ​​ One wonders if ‘Why is it that you inquire about my name?’ is another way of asking, ‘Jacob, don’t you realize who I am?’” [Hamilton, 336]

          • The author continues with Jacob’s naming of the place

        • Place name (v. 30)

          • He calls the place Peniel (pen-oo-ale’) which means “face of God” or “I have seen God face to face”

          • It is here that Jacob acknowledges whom he has been wrestling with – it is God!

          • We can perhaps return to God’s request that Jacob let Him go because it is daybreak

          • Jacob may have simply seen the form of God and not the face of God

          • His encounter with God was person-to-person without an intermediary [Hamilton, 336]

        • Tendon tradition (vv. 31-32)

          • The man has departed at this point, since the sun rose above Jacob

          • Jacob passed by Peniel on his way to cross the Jabbok River and rejoin his family

          • Jacob has a visible limp because of having his hip wrenched in the wrestling match

          • The author gives us a history lesson about the Israelites and their eating habits

            • The Israelites do not eat the tendon that is attached to the socket of the hip

            • The reason given is because of what happened to Jacob’s hip socket in this narrative

        • We are going to see how this spiritual metamorphosis will empower Jacob for the future

        • PRINCIPLE #3 – “When God rules our lives, then He can trust us with His power; for only those who are under His authority have the right to exercise His authority.” ​​ [Wiersbe, 134]


  • YOU

    • Are you wrestling with the Lord right now and do you need to concede?

    • Do you need to cling to the Lord in your weakened state?

    • Is spiritual metamorphosis something you are ready to embrace either for the first time or as a renewal of your faith?

    • Are you ready to submit your life completely to the Lord?


  • WE

    • We can help those who are currently wrestling with the Lord by encouraging them to cling to the Lord as He brings spiritual metamorphosis


“On March 10, 1974, Lt. Hiroo Onada was the last World War II Japanese soldier to surrender.


Onada had been left on the island Lubang in the Philippines on December 25, 1944, with the command to ‘carry on the mission even if Japan surrenders.’ Four other Japanese soldiers were left on the island as Japan evacuated Lubang. One soldier surrendered in 1950. Another was killed in a skirmish with local police in 1954. Another was killed in 1972. Onada continued his war alone.


All efforts to convince him to surrender or to capture him failed. He ignored messages from loudspeakers announcing Japan's surrender and that Japan was now an ally of the United States. Leaflets were dropped over the jungle begging him to surrender so he could return to Japan. He refused to believe or surrender.


Over the years he lived off the land and raided the fields and gardens of local citizens. He was responsible for killing at least 30 nationals during his 29 year personal war. Almost a half million dollars was spent trying to locate and convince him to surrender. 13,000 men were used to try to locate him.


Finally, on March 10, 1974, almost 30 years after World War II ended, Onada surrendered his rusty sword after receiving a personal command from his former superior officer, who read the terms of the cease-fire order. Onada handed his sword to President Marcos, who pardoned him. The war was over.


Onada was 22-years-old when left on the island. He returned a prematurely aged man of 52. Onada stated, ‘Nothing pleasant happened in the 29 years in the jungle.’


Like Onada, many people are fighting a lonely battle against the God who is offering reconciliation and peace.”


Source: Summarized from a 1974 story in Newsweek.





The Elephant in the Room

The following comes from an announcement for a series of sermons on In every home, in every life, there exist certain problems, certain realities that we don’t want to acknowledge. We think that if we ignore them for long enough they will go away on their own or no one will notice. ​​ We all struggle with how to deal with the Elephant in the Room. Often times we feel that we have to keep these elephants secret and tell everyone that we’re fine. ​​ If we have to act like something we are not – it’s problematic. Chances are the very thing you don’t want to talk about is probably the very thing that is nudging you out of a relationship with important people in your life, or with God. There are certain elephants that exist in our lives that need to be brought into the light of God’s love and God’s community of believers: the church.

One of these elephants is loneliness. We live in a culture that celebrates individualism and self-reliance, and yet we humans are an exquisitely social species, thriving in good company and suffering in isolation. We have more technology than ever to help us stay connected, yet somehow the devices fail us: and the elephant in the room is that we feel increasingly alone. God meant for us to be in community. We need each other. It is important that we talk about the elephant in the room and offer people ways to overcome loneliness and enter into genuine, authentic and life giving relationships. Another elephant is addiction. Addiction comes in many forms – overeating, social media, pornography, alcohol, television, tobacco, drugs and more. However, addiction is often birthed from one source: pain. Despite our best efforts to hide the elephant, eventually the side effects of addiction spill over into other aspects of our lives and can end up hurting the people we love most. Addictions can hold us back from the fullness of life that God intends for each one of us. We can open the door to recovery (both for those addicted and their loved ones) by sharing our experiences, strengths, and hopes with one another. We can become willing to accept God’s grace in solving our lives’ problems and healing our hearts.

This morning we are going to be talking about the “elephant in the room” for Jacob. This elephant is a person: his brother, Esau. Twenty years before, Jacob stole Esau’s blessing from their father and when Esau found out he vowed to kill Jacob. Jacob’s mother, Rachel, convinced Isaac to send him away to his uncle Laban’s family in order to put some distance between the two brothers and for Jacob to find a wife. We can only wonder how much time Jacob spent thinking about the “elephant in the room” while he away. He certainly had other things to worry about as he and Laban schemed back and forth most of the time. But now that he was at peace with Laban and on his way back to Canaan, the “elephant in the room” rears its ugly head. And we will see that it causes Jacob to prepare, to panic, to pray, to plot and to placate. The elephant in the room causes Jacob to be in great fear and distress which causes him not to completely trust God to protect him.

Even though God has provided for and protected him the past twenty years and just recently rescued him from harm by Laban’s hand, he is still fearful and full of doubt. But we also see Jacob making great strides in his spiritual maturity as he prepares to reconcile with Esau and prays to God for deliverance based on the promises God has made to him. For every step backwards he takes, he takes two steps forward. His prayer is a model for us when our enemies are closing in and we are doubtful, fearful and desperate to be delivered from their hand. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is When we are experiencing fear and doubt we can turn to God in prayer. And we can pray with confidence for deliverance from our enemies because of God’s promises to us.

Let’s pray: Dear Heavenly Father, we invite your Holy Spirit to join us this morning as we open your Word. We pray for your guidance and for your pricking of our hearts where needed, as we learn your truths from your Word. Thank you for the freedom and the opportunity to open your Word in this place as a body of believers. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are three points this morning. The first is Preparation and Panic found in Genesis 32:1-8. This is what God’s word says, “Jacob also went on his way, and the angels of God met him. When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is the camp of God!” So he named that place Mahanaim. Jacob sent messengers ahead of him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. He instructed them: “This is what you are to say to my lord Esau: ‘Your servant Jacob says, I have been staying with Laban and have remained there till now. I have cattle and donkeys, sheep and goats, male and female servants. Now I am sending this message to my lord, that I may find favor in your eyes.’” When the messengers returned to Jacob, they said, “We went to your brother Esau, and now he is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” In great fear and distress Jacob divided the people who were with him into two groups, and the flocks and herds and camels as well. He thought, “If Esau comes and attacks one group, the group that is left may escape.”

The first half of verse one takes us back to the last verse of chapter 31. After kissing his grandchildren and daughters goodbye, Laban leaves and returns home. Jacob now also goes on his way continuing his journey to Canaan. As he goes on his way, Jacob has an encounter with angels of God. This reminds us of when Jacob first left Canaan to escape his brother’s wrath. If you remember Jacob dreamt of a stairway to Heaven with angels ascending and descending it. God spoke to him and promised to provide for and protect him and bring him back to the Promised Land. Jacob promised that if God kept his promises to him then he would be Jacob’s God. Jacob named the place Bethel and was encouraged as he left his homeland for Haran. This second angelic encounter is a parallel event to Bethel in that it also will encourage Jacob as he now returns home. The two angelic encounters, one as he left Canaan and the other as he returned, suggest that the angels of God accompanied Jacob during his time outside the Promised Land. Although he was outside the land of promise, he was not outside the hand of promise.

When he sees the angels he calls the area “the camp of God” and names it Mahanaim, which, means “two camps.” Jacob gets positive encouragement in two ways. One, the “angels of God” were soldiers there to protect Jacob’s camp as he reentered the Promised Land. Two, it encourages Jacob to prepare to reconcile with his brother Esau. Jacob could no longer ignore his conscience and his guilt about what he did to Esau. Where Jacob is going in Canaan is not geographically close to where Esau is living, but spiritually speaking in order to get to where God wanted him to be, he first had to be reconciled to his brother. So with reconciliation in mind, Jacob sends messengers to Esau who was living in the land of Seir, in the country of Edom. Describing Esau this way would remind the first hearers of the three tensions between the two: their birth, the birthright and the blessing. In wanting to reconcile Jacob’s spiritual maturity is taking “two steps” forward.

He also gives the servants very specific instructions about what to say to Esau. They are to call him “my lord” and to refer to Jacob as “his servant.” Jacob may have been pouring on the flattery but this was also the usual language of courtesy. They are to let Esau know that Jacob has been away from the land of Canaan with Laban this whole time. He hasn’t been dodging him but has literally been “out of town” for the past twenty years and this is the first time he has returned to his homeland. The messengers were also to share with Esau the assets Jacob had acquired in Haran. Jacob wants Esau to know he is not back to take anything away from him because he has plenty. He may also have wanted Esau to believe that Jacob was willing to share his “blessings” with him. In Hebrew, the possessions are singular which suggests that he wanted to arouse Esau’s interest without letting him know exactly how much God had blessed him. Lastly, we see Jacob’s motivation for sending this message to him. It was so he may find favor “in Esau’s eyes.” He is appealing to Esau’s generosity and goodwill so that the rift between them can be repaired. Jacob wants him to know that his intentions are peaceable.

Jacob’s plan seems to backfire as the messengers return telling him that they went to Esau and he is now on his way to Jacob with four hundred men. Jacob begins to panic for a couple of reasons. One, the messengers don’t say if Esau spoke to them or not, just that he is on the way. Second, Jacob would have considered the four hundred men an army of sorts coming to wage war with him. In Genesis 14, Abraham took 318 men to attack the five kings in order to rescue Lot. In 1 Samuel, four hundred men was the standard number in a militia and was the number of fighting men that accompanied David as he was running from King Saul. And Jacob would have been reminded of Laban recently chasing him down with his men in the last chapter.

This news puts Jacob “in great fear and distress” as he believes that Esau is coming to make good on the threat to kill him. I am reminded of the Geico commercial: When you are in a scary movie you make bad decisions. It’s what you do. When you are fearful and in distress you don’t think straight and you make bad decisions. It’s what you do. What Jacob does is panics and divides his “camp” into two groups along with the flocks, herds and camels. Jacob thinks that when Esau comes and attacks one of the groups the other group can escape and be saved. He is not thinking straight because of fear, doubt and anxiety. This is seen in a number of ways. One, God sent an angel army to Jacob to encourage him and to protect him. Two, if Esau was intent on killing his family, why did he let Jacob’s messengers go. Three, wouldn’t it be better to have all the available fighting men together to fight as one group? His spiritual maturity takes “one step backwards” as he takes matters into his own hands, again.

Then almost as quickly as his panic sets in, we see him praying. His spiritual maturity, like ours sometimes, is on a roller coaster. Which brings us our second point which is Pray, found in verses 9-12. This is what God’s word says, Then Jacob prayed, “O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives, and I will make you prosper,’ 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 camps. 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. But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

We see our big idea played out here as Jacob, who is experiencing fear and doubt, turns to God in prayer. This is his first recorded prayer. He prays with humility reminding God of his covenant, command and promise to him and his family and prays for deliverance from his enemies because of God’s promises to him. His prayer is a model for us as he prays what I call the ACTS prayer. ACTS stand for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication and we can see each of those in his prayer. First, we see adoration as he prays to the God of his fathers, Abraham and Isaac. Baldwin says, “By invoking God’s name he was consciously calling to mind what God himself had done in making himself known to his family.” The last time he invoked the name of God it was with a lie as he was in the middle of deceiving his father and stealing the blessing. Invoking God’s name, put his need squarely in the saving purpose of God outlined in the covenant. He also reminded God of his obedience, as he was commanded by God to return to Canaan, and that he promised to prosper him.

Second, we see confession as he admits he is unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness God has shown him. This is his first admission of guilt for his sin, his failures and deceptions. He realizes that even though he is flawed, God has shown him kindness and has been faithful to the covenant promises made to him. Third, we see thanksgiving. When Jacob left Canaan, he only had his staff, but now has become “two camps.” God has prospered him with cattle, donkeys, sheep and goats, and male and female servants. He left with nothing and came back with an abundance all supplied by God and he thanks God for it. Finally, we see supplication. Jacob petitions God for salvation from Esau’s hand. He is afraid Esau is going to attack him, his wives and his sons and daughter. We again see spiritual maturity as he is worried and concerned about more than just himself. Lastly, again Jacob reminds God of his promises to him: that he would prosper him and that Jacob’s descendants would be like the sand of the seashore which can’t be counted. Jacob realizes that if he and his family are killed by Esau then his descendants would not become as numerous as the sand on the seashore. Griffith Thomas says, “Jacob’s spiritual life comes out now after all those years at Haran; and, though there is much to seek, we can see the clear marks of the work of God directing, deepening and purifying his soul.”

Jacob prayed believing that because God was the one who made the promises to him that he was the only one who could fulfill them. But we also see desperation in his prayer. At this moment Jacob’s faith was weak. He has not yet acknowledged that the God of his fathers was his God. He is like the father in Mark 9 whose son was possessed by an impure spirit. There Jesus said, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” And the father replies, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief.” Jacob had knowledge of God’s ways and character but because he didn’t have that personal relationship with God yet, like his fathers had, he prayed with desperation instead of total confidence. We see this in a couple of ways: One, God commanded Jacob to return, why would he not protect him in his obedience? Two, God cared for him for the past twenty years, why would he stop now? Three, Jacob was part of God’s eternal purposes for the world, would God’s purposes now fail because of the Esau’s anger? While a prayer of desperation is still a prayer, a prayer of total confidence in God’s abilities and will is better. When we are experiencing fear, worry, doubt and unbelief it is as important for us, as it was for Jacob, that we turn to God in prayer and that we pray with confidence because of God’s promises to us. And we can use the same ACTS model that Jacob used which brings us to our first next step which is to Pray with confidence using the model of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication.

Our third point this morning is Plot and Placate and is found in verses 13-21. This is what God’s word says, “He spent the night there, and from what he had with him he selected a gift for his brother Esau: two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty female camels with their young, forty cows and ten bulls, and twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys. He put them in the care of his servants, each herd by itself, and said to his servants, “Go ahead of me, and keep some space between the herds.” He instructed the one in the lead: “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘Who do you belong to, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift sent to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us.’” He also instructed the second, the third and all the others who followed the herds: “You are to say the same thing to Esau when you meet him. And be sure to say, ‘Your servant Jacob is coming behind us.’” For he thought, “I will pacify him with these gifts I am sending on ahead; later, when I see him, perhaps he will receive me.” So Jacob’s gifts went on ahead of him, but he himself spent the night in the camp.”

After Jacob prayed he spent the night in the camp. He must have been plotting overnight because when he wakes up he has come up with a plan. He has just prayed to God for deliverance and we can assume that God’s angel army is still in his camp but he doesn’t fully trust God to protect him. Jacob didn’t need to be worried, anxious and upset because God had promised to take care of him. But Jacob takes matters into his own hands coming up with a plan to placate Esau into forgiveness and reconciliation. His plan was to gift or bribe Esau with 550 animals. This gift was larger than towns would have had to pay in tribute to foreign rulers. It would have really set up Esau well to start and maintain his own flock and herd. The gift was made more valuable due to the females and young included which would provide ongoing growth. This may have been an attempt by Jacob to return the blessing to Esau or at least restore the benefits of the blessing without disowning his rightful place in the plans and purposes of God. Jacob may have thought that forgiveness would only come by giving back what was taken. But he seems to be forgetting that his blessing came as a result of God’s sovereignty. Jacob separates the animals into five different herds and put each herd in the care of his servants. He then had the servants go ahead of him leaving space between each herd, effectively staggering them. Jacob also instructed the lead servant to tell Esau when he met him that these animals belong to “your servant, Jacob” and they are a gift from Jacob to “my lord, Esau.” The servant was also to make sure that Esau knew that Jacob was on his way behind them coming to meet his brother. Each servant leading each herd was to say the same thing highlighting the fact that Jacob was coming behind them.

Then we are told the reason why Jacob was giving all these animals to Esau. It was to pacify him in order that Esau would receive him. The Hebrew word for “pacify” literally means “cover his face.” The connotation is to make “atonement” that brings about reconciliation. Mathews says, “The words “gift” (offering), “atonement” and “accepted” implies that Jacob makes peace with God by reconciling with Esau.” Jacob wants to cover Esau’s face so he can’t see Jacob’s shame for what he has done to him and to wipe the anger from Esau’s face. He also is hoping that Esau would receive him which literally means that Esau will “lift up his face” in forgiveness and show him favor. But Jacob seemingly is trying to blind Esau with gifts so he forgets what he has done to him and would not be mad at him anymore. Jacob has the right heart as he wants to be reconciled to his brother, but instead of trusting God to work it out he takes matters into his own hands trying to bribe his brother into forgiveness and reconciliation. Lastly, we are told that the gifts went ahead but Jacob spent the night alone in the camp.

There is an important lesson to be learned in this point. When our faith is overwhelmed by fear we plot, scheme and trust in our own strength. When our faith is stronger than our fears we will live out Psalm 112:6-7 which says, “Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.” When we walk in faith we do not need to fear the enemy and we know that the grace of God, not bribery, is the only thing that can take away our guilt. Ephesians 2:8 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” We should pray that God will keep us from our own plotting and scheming and help us to be confident in his plans and purposes for us. And that he will protect us from whatever danger, physical or spiritual, befalls us. That brings us to the second next step on the back of your communication card which is to Trust in the Lord and be confident in his plans and purposes for me.

In conclusion I want to speak to spiritual maturity, Jacob’s and ours. We didn’t see a whole lot of spiritual maturity in Jacob in Haran. But bit by bit, as God has brought him back to Canaan, we have seen glimpses of the man that will become Israel and the father of the Jewish nation. Our spiritual growth and maturity is a lot of times a process, a series of ups and downs, taking two steps forward and one step back. And the steps backward can be brought on by fear, worry and anxiety. When those times come we tend to shy away from God’s Word and prayer. But we can overcome them by making it a habit of daily being in God’s Word, daily prayer and memorizing scripture. We mature spiritually when we know that Satan wants to keep us away from God’s Word but then we trust in God’s strength to defend us from fear, worry and anxiety and still continue to grow.

Which brings us to the 2023 Spiritual Life Journal. I wanted to introduce the theme this morning and give us all a challenge for the New Year. Our theme is “More Like Jesus.” We want to be more like Jesus in prayer, in service, in relationships, in fellowship, etc. You are going to hear more about these in the next month but I wanted to challenge us with this today: We want to be more like Jesus in the Word. Jesus knew his scripture and at age twelve was able to discuss it in the synagogue with the adult teachers of the law. In the SLJ, we have the section called Daily Bible Reading, which gives a reading for every day of the year starting on January 1. I want to challenge every one of us to read thru the Bible together in the New Year following this chart. And as we read we can ask ourselves the question: Where do I see Jesus in what I am reading? We would all be on the same page, and as we do this together, I hope it will spark conversations about what we are reading with others and how it is impacting our lives. Doing this as a body of believers, will help us to be more like Jesus, knowing God’s Word and hiding it in our hearts, which will continue us on the road to spiritual maturity. This brings us to our last next step which is to Accept the challenge to read through the Bible in a year together with my church family.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, we give you all honor, glory and praise for who you are and what you’ve done for us. Thank you for this time of studying your Word and thank you for your Spirit that helps us to understand and discern the truths in it. Help us to pray with confidence knowing that your promises are true. Help us to trust in you and to be confident in your plans and purposes for us. And as we anticipate and live out our faith in the New Year, help us to accept the challenge to read through your word together, growing together to be more like your son, Jesus. It’s in his name I pray, Amen.


Monument To Peace

(Genesis 31:45-55)



“Located in the southwestern region of the United States is a tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors every year. It is a six-hour drive from the nearest airport and 33 miles from the nearest town. It claims no majestic rock formations or redwoods. Resting in unremarkable landscape, its focal point is nothing more than a small brass disc, roughly three inches in diameter—a government survey marker designating the point at which four different state boundaries meet: Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Tourists pose for photographs on all fours—feet in two states, hands in two more—faces beaming with delight of being able to boast that they are in four places at once.


But the tourist fascination with The Four Corners Monument reveals something about us human beings: we cannot be in more than one place at one time. We can move from one place to the next, but we cannot occupy two places simultaneously. Yet God, who is spirit, is able to be everywhere fully present. God, unbound by a body, is not limited to one place. He is not merely big, he is uncontainable, able to be present everywhere.”


Source: Adapted from Jen Wilkin, None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That's a Good Thing), (Crossway, 2016), pages 93-94.





  • ME

    • Unity candle

        • Judy and I still have our unity candle from our wedding

        • The candle is a monument to our covenant of two becoming one flesh

    • Burial markers

        • When our dog, Socks, was hit and killed on the road in Ohio, we buried him in the woods on Judy’s parents property and I stuck a stick in the ground, so we would remember where he was buried

        • When our cat Clyde-Barney-Skittles (CBS) was hit and killed on the road in front of our current house, we buried him in the woods by the pond and put a large flat stone over the place where he was buried

        • These are markers/monuments that help us remember

    • Trophy

        • I have a baseball trophy from when I played Little League in Shippensburg

        • Our team went 14-0, if I remember correctly

        • We were undefeated that season

        • It was a monument to our success


  • WE

    • Marriage unity

        • How many of us had some kind of unity representation as part of our wedding ceremony? ​​ (candle, sand, tied ropes, cross, etc.)

        • How many of us still have that item in our possession?

        • How many of us have that item prominently displayed in our homes?

    • Burial markers

        • Most us have a loved one that has passed away

          • My guess is that every person who has passed away has some kind of marker or headstone at their burial plot

          • How many of us visit the cemetery to remember our loved one?

        • Many of us have probably lost a pet and perhaps buried them on our property with a marker showing where they are buried?

    • Trophies

        • How many of us have trophies from the sports we have played?

        • How many of us have deer heads, deer antlers, fish, or other wild animals on our wall as a monument to success? ​​ (I’m still lacking a set of deer antlers on my wall, but I have deer meat in mason jars)

    • These are like monuments to our marriage, loss of a loved one or family pet, or success in sporting events and/or outdoor endeavors


As we learned last week, Laban suggested that he and Jacob make a covenant of peace. ​​ Today we will see how they marked that covenant with a stone monument and heap of stones. ​​ Their monument was not marking a marriage or a death, but rather peace. ​​ They were calling on God to be the judge between them while they were separated from each other. ​​ We will learn today that . . .


BIG IDEA – God is our witness to living at peace with others.


Let’s pray


  • GOD (Genesis 31:45-55)

    • Attest (vv. 45-47)

        • Stone pillar

          • To mark the covenant between himself and Laban, Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar

          • This is not the first time that Jacob has set up a stone as a pillar to remember something significant in his life

          • When he left Beersheba for Haran, he spent the night in a place, that he then called Bethel

          • He placed a stone under his head, and that night he had an incredible dream from God

          • Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. (Genesis 28:18)

          • He not only set up a single stone as a pillar, but he encouraged his relatives to gather some stones

        • Stone heap

          • Jacob’s relatives gathered smaller stones and placed them in a pile

            • After heaping up these stones, they sat down and ate a meal together

              • Presumably the author is referencing the meal that Jacob prepares following the sacrifice in verse 54

              • Keil & Delitzsch believe the stone heap may have served as a table for the meal [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary On The Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 192]

              • “Both families gathered stones and ate a meal together on those stones as a symbol of the agreement they had reached. ​​ Eating a meal together is an Eastern custom when creating a binding agreement (26:26-33).” ​​ [Wiersbe, The Bile Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 130]

              • Isaac prepared a meal for Abimelech and his two advisors when they came to make a treaty with him (Genesis 26:26-33)

            • Most scholars believe the heap of stones was used as a boundary marker, because that is what the narrator explains in verse 52

            • “That the narrative specifically includes that they ate ‘there’ (šām) anticipates the role of the heap as a boundary marker (v. 52).” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 1:27-50:26, 532]

          • Witness heap

            • Both Laban and Jacob gave the heap the same name, but in two different languages

              • Laban

                • Jegar Sahadutha (yegar’ sah-had-oo-thaw’)

                • Aramaic

              • Jacob

                • Galeed (gal-ade’/gail-odd)

                • Hebrew

            • It means “witness heap” or “heap of witness”

            • It is significant that after 20 years of living in Haran with Laban that Jacob chooses to use his native tongue (Hebrew) to name the heap of stones

              • This helps us understand that Jacob had not forgotten his vow to the Lord at Bethel when he was traveling to Haran (Genesis 28:20-22)

              • Jacob had not forgotten or forsaken his ethnicity, religion, or culture

            • “This symbolism reminds us that these men came from two different ethnic groups, two different religions, and two different cultures.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 266]

          • The heap of witness was significant for both men

        • What we see next is Laban explaining “the purpose of the stones and the conditions of the treaty” [Mathews, 533]

    • Agree (vv. 48-53a)

        • This is what Laban and Jacob are agreeing to

        • Purpose

          • Witness

            • The pillar and heap of stones would serve as a witness between Laban and Jacob

            • God was going to be the witness between them both as to how Jacob treated Laban’s daughters and how Jacob treated Laban

            • God would be the witness to whether or not Jacob and Laban would be living at peace with each other

            • God is our witness to living at peace with others.

          • Watchtower

            • Laban gives the pillar and stone heap another name

            • He calls it Mizpah (mits-paw’), which means watchtower

            • Laban was calling on God to keep watch between them both while they are away from each other

            • Laban knows that he will no longer be able to keep an eye on Jacob, since he will be in Canaan and Laban will be in Haran

          • We see the conditions of the treaty/agreement

        • Conditions

          • Treat daughters well

            • Laban reminds Jacob that God is watching how he treats Leah and Rachel

            • God will know if Jacob mistreats them

            • God will know if Jacob takes other wives besides Laban’s daughters – that would potentially lessen the inheritance that his daughter’s children would gain

            • Even though his daughter’s felt like their father did not care about them (treated them as foreigners), that was not necessarily true

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – God is all seeing and all knowing!

              • Laban emphasized the fact that while they were apart, God would see and know how Jacob treated his daughters

              • Nothing would be outside the purview of God

              • Application

                • The same is true for us

                  • There is nothing we can think, say, or do that God is not aware of

                  • He sees everything we do (how we treat others, what we look at, etc.)

                  • He hears everything we say (whether it lifts others up or tears them down)

                  • He knows every thought we have and the intention of our hearts (whether we are truthful with others or deceptive, whether we genuinely love others or not, etc.)

                  • God is our witness to living at peace with others.

                • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess to the Lord anything I have thought, said, or done that displeases Him.

                • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Acknowledge that God sees and knows whether I am living at peace with others.

            • Laban was not just concerned about the conditions of his daughters, but he was also concerned about his own well being

          • Treat Laban well

            • The pillar and heap of stones would also serve as a witness and boundary marker against hostilities

              • Laban would not go southwest past the pillar and heap to harm Jacob

              • Jacob would not go northeast past the pillar and heap to harm Laban

            • God as Judge

              • Laban calls on the God of Abraham and the God of Nahor to be the judge between them

                • “The verb judge is plural, indicating that Laban has two deities in mind . . . In context, this should be translated ‘the gods of their father’ (see Josh. 24:2).” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 434]

                • Laban is still entrenched in polytheism

                • He obviously believes that the God of Abraham is separate and unique from the God of Nahor

              • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is our Judge!

                • There is only One God

                  • Isaiah 44:6, “This is what the Lord says – Israel’s King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: ​​ I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.”

                  • 1 Timothy 2:5, For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

                  • Isaiah 43:10-11, “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. ​​ Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. ​​ I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.”

                  • Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear, O Israel: ​​ The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

                • He is our Judge

                  • Psalm 7:9, O righteous God, who searches minds and hearts, bring to an end the violence of the wicked and make the righteous secure.

                  • Psalm 75:7, But it is God who judges: ​​ He brings one down, he exalts another.

                  • Psalm 50:6, And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge.

                  • 2 Timothy 4:8, Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

                  • James 4:12, There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. ​​ But you – who are you to judge your neighbor?

                • God is able to judge us righteously and fairly, because He is all seeing and all knowing

            • Laban calls on the gods of Abraham and Nahor to be the judge between them

          • He wants to be treated well and he wants his daughters to be treated well in his absence

        • What we see next is Jacob taking an oath to the only true God

    • Affirm (vv. 53b-54)

        • Fear of his father Isaac

          • This is the second and final use of this name for God

          • As was mentioned last week, this name of God can also be translated as the “Awesome One of Isaac”

          • Jacob will not take an oath by the gods of Nahor, only the God of Abraham

        • Sacrifice

          • Jacob made a sacrifice to the Lord in the hill country of Gilead

          • It can be assumed that he used some the animals from his flock, though it is not stated here

        • Meal

          • He invites his relatives to a meal following the sacrifice

          • This would have included his own family members and Laban’s family members also

          • “A meal subsequent to the sacrifice would normally mean that the meal consisted of the animals that were just offered.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 315]

          • “A sworn oath and a meal commonly accompanied a peace agreement.” ​​ [Mathews, 536]

            • Genesis 26:30-31, Isaac then made a feast for them, and they ate and drank. ​​ Early the next morning the men swore an oath to each other. ​​ Then Isaac sent them on their way, and they left him in peace.

            • Exodus 34:15, “Be careful not to make a treaty with those who live in the land; for when they prostitute themselves to their gods and sacrifice to them, they will invite you and you will eat their sacrifices.”

          • With their bellies full and their hearts united, it was time for sleep

        • Sleep

          • “With the treaty established and the witness heap built, the combatants became relatives once more so they ate and slept in the same campground.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, 267]

          • Peace had been established between Laban and Jacob

          • They were relying on God to be their witness and judge so that peace would be maintained

        • God is our witness to living at peace with others.

    • Adieu (v. 55)

        • The time has come for Laban and his relatives to return home

        • The evidence that peace had been established is how Laban treated his grandchildren and daughters

          • He kissed them

          • He blessed them

        • He returned home

  • YOU

    • Since God is all seeing and all knowing and therefore judges perfectly, are there any thoughts, words, or actions that you need to confess to Him?

    • Since God is our witness, is there anything you need to change in order to live at peace with others?


  • WE

    • As a body of believers, we need to make sure that our thoughts, words, and actions are pleasing to the Lord

    • We also need to acknowledge that God sees and knows whether or not we are living at peace with other churches and our neighbors



“As 2020 draws to a close, much of humanity appears to agree that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has turned the year into chaos. One company is now selling ornaments, which embody the feeling.


Manufacturer RexRoi specializes in 3-D printing, and one of their original pieces is proving to be quite special in the way it captured the mood of the moment. The popular ornament is a literal dumpster fire, complete with battery-operated flames lighting up one side. The description sums up many feelings on the matter: ‘What a year 2020 has been. The perfect way to commemorate 2020!’


RexRoi CEO Amir Fakharian says that his wife gave him the inspiration for the holiday ornaments. ‘My wife suggested we start making ornaments for Christmas, so we decided to start a line of ornaments representing the year we all had.’”


Source: Hannah Frishberg, “Dumpster fire Christmas ornaments are ‘a perfect way to commemorate 2020,’” New York Post (11-13-20).