The Elephant in the Room

The following comes from an announcement for a series of sermons on hamlinechurch.org. 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.

Origins

Monument To Peace

(Genesis 31:45-55)

 

INTRODUCTION

“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.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2018/june/four-corners-monument-reveals-gods-nature.html]

 

BODY

  • 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

 

CONCLUSION

“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).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/december/commemorative-ornament-depicts-2020-as-dumpster-fire.html].

9

 

Origins

Pathway To Peace

(Genesis 31:36-44)

 

INTRODUCTION

“In Northern Ireland, there’s a city that’s so divided, part of the population calls it Londonderry and others calls it Derry. In this city Protestants live on the east bank and Catholics on the west bank. Many don’t like to mix; so, one of the solutions was to build a bridge. The 900-foot bridge curves like a snake and is for walkers, joggers, and cyclists. They named it ‘Peace Bridge.’ That’s what they’re trying to do, build a bridge, build peace.”

 

Source: “Derry/Londonderry name dispute,” Wikipedia (Accessed 11/15/20); Mark Simpson, “New peace bridge is symbol of hope in 'stroke city'” BBC (6-24-11).

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2020/december/peace-bridge.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Peace

        • In middle school I did something to another student that was wrong and they retaliated, which caused me to retaliate also

        • I delivered the newspaper in our community and I knew that I would see this individual on my route

        • I asked my Dad to drive me around that day instead of riding my bike, because I was scared this other student would try to hurt me

        • My Dad, in his great wisdom, refused to drive me around, but told me that I would need to work things out with this other person

        • If I remember correctly, I successfully avoided this other person for several days

        • Eventually we were able to reconcile and find peace

    • No Peace

        • Many years ago I met with an individual and was very transparent and honest with them about some hard feelings I had toward them

        • My hope was that through this I would be able to find a pathway to peace in my own heart and mind

        • Unfortunately, my honesty and transparency seemed to have the opposite affect

        • It created turmoil in the relationship and it breaks my heart that the relationship has not been reconciled

        • The pathway to peace requires both parties to be honest and transparent with one another

        • When that does not happen, there cannot be peace

 

  • WE

    • Peace

        • Have you all experienced the pathway to peace in a relationship?

        • What happened to finally bring peace? (honesty, transparency)

    • No Peace

        • Are you currently in a tumultuous relationship where there is no peace?

        • Do you need to be honest and transparent with that individual, so you can begin the pathway to peace?

 

Last week Pastor Marc shared with us how Laban was honest and transparent with Jacob about his feelings concerning how Jacob snuck off without saying goodbye. ​​ This week we will see that Jacob is honest with Laban about his feelings concerning his treatment over the past twenty years. ​​ As we will see next week, the pathway to peace only happened when both men were honest and transparent with each other. ​​ The same is true for us. ​​ We need to be honest and transparent with each other if we truly want to experience peace. ​​ That leads us to our big idea today, which is . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God is pleased when we are honest and transparent with others.

 

Let’s pray

  • GOD (Genesis 31:36-44)

    • Reprimand (vv. 36-37)

        • Household gods

          • We know from last week that Laban searched through the possessions of all of Jacob’s household

          • He began with Jacob’s tent and then went through Leah’s, the maidservants, and then Rachel’s tents

          • Laban did not find his household gods in any of their possessions

        • Jacob’s questions

          • Jacob is rightly angry with Laban and confronts him

            • Remember, Jacob is unaware that Rachel has stolen the household gods

            • “Took to task”

              • “The Hebrew describes a quarrel or dispute (see 13:7-8; 26:20-22). ​​ In Genesis it refers to quarrels between groups regarding rights to pasturage (see 13:7-8), ownership of wells (26:20), and here possession of flocks (31:36). ​​ The “dispute is a ‘war’ in the prenational arena,” but God prevents physical conflict between Laban and Jacob. … He [Jacob] turns the table from being the accused to being the aggrieved party.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 430-31]

              • Jacob publicly confronts Laban in front of both families [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 527]

            • He has a couple of questions he would like answered

          • What is my crime?

            • Jacob is asking what property he has taken

            • This is appropriate, because Laban did not find anything, after his thorough search

          • What sin have I committed?

            • Jacob is wondering what law he has broken

            • He was legally married – to four women

            • The flocks he had, he gained legally – they were his wages

          • What have you found that belongs to your household?

            • This question comes after Jacob expresses that Laban has search through all of his goods

            • The author has already told us that Laban did not find anything in his search (Genesis 31:34-35)

            • Jacob is not yet aware of that fact

          • “Jacob’s use of pišʿî (peh’-shah) [crime] would challenge Laban to provide empirical evidence that Jacob is guilty of behavior that has fractured the peaceful relation between the two parties.” [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 306]

          • God is pleased when we are honest and transparent with others.

          • Jacob demands that Laban present anything that belongs to him in front of both families

        • Witnesses

          • Laban’s relatives are those who joined him in the pursuit of Jacob (Genesis 31:23)

          • Jacob’s relatives would have been his family members who were with him

          • These two groups would serve as the judge and jury in this legal dispute [Waltke, 431]

        • Jacob was honest and transparent with Laban by allowing him to search through all of his goods, but his honesty and transparency does not stop there

        • He basically unleashes what he has been holding inside, for twenty years, in what could be considered a job related exit interview

    • Review (vv. 38-42)

        • Jacob provides a review of his twenty career with Laban

        • Flocks (vv. 38-39, 41b)

          • Sheep and goats did not miscarry

          • Jacob had not eaten any of Laban’s rams

          • Jacob absorbed the loss of any animal that was torn by wild beasts

          • “Jacob went far beyond the obligations later codified in the Code of Hammurabi (see also Ex. 22:10-11). ​​ A shepherd was not usually accountable for animals that were attacked.” ​​ [Waltke, 432]

          • Exodus 22:10-11, “If a man gives a donkey, an ox, a sheep or any other animal to his neighbor for safekeeping and it dies or is injured or is taken away while no one is looking, the issue between them will be settled by the taking of an oath before the Lord that the neighbor did not lay hands on the other person’s property. ​​ The owner is to accept this, and no restitution is required.

          • Jacob paid for whatever was stolen by day or night

          • It appears as though Jacob went above and beyond what was expected of other shepherds

          • Jacob served six years for the flocks he now had and he did not complain about the fact that Laban changed his wages often (ten times)

        • Physical (vv. 40-41a)

          • Jacob served and did not complain about the weather conditions

            • He was consumed by the heat of the day and cold of night

            • “… it is well known, that in the East the cold by night corresponds to the heat by day; the hotter the day the colder the night, as a rule.” ​​ [Keil & Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Volume 1, The Pentateuch, 191]

          • He served with very little sleep, but never complained

          • These were the conditions during the entire twenty years that Jacob served in Laban’s household

          • Jacob then reviews how long he served Laban for his two daughters

        • Family (v. 41b)

          • Jacob served fourteen years for Leah and Rachel

          • He served seven years upfront before marrying Leah

          • He then served seven years on the back end, after marrying Rachel

        • Faith (v. 42)

          • Jacob is finally recognizing God’s hand of provision and protection, publicly

          • Over the last twenty years, it seems as though he has been silent about his faith and the faith of his father and grandfather

          • Fear of Isaac

            • This is a rarely used name of God

            • It means “the object of fear and reverence” [https://www.blueletterbible.org/lexicon/h6343/nasb95/wlc/0-1/]

            • It can also be translated, “the Dreaded One of Isaac.” ​​ [Hamilton, 308]

            • “This could also be translated, ‘the Awesome One of Isaac,’ that is the One of Isaac who inspires dread (see 31:24, 53). ​​ This is a unique epithet for God. ​​ The God who providentially provided for Isaac, as Laban knows, also providentially protects Jacob, as Laban is now learning.” ​​ [Waltke, 432]

          • God was with Jacob and provided for him

            • Jacob recognized that if God had not been with him, he would have left Haran empty-handed

            • Jacob also recognized that if God had not appeared to Laban the night before, to rebuke and caution him, Laban might have harmed Jacob when he caught up with him

            • “He is the one who has seen Jacob’s low position and the exhausting nature of the work he has done for Laban over those twenty years. ​​ He is the one who has given Jacob the ideas about breeding that led to his not leaving Harran empty-handed.” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 501]

          • God is pleased when we are honest and transparent with others.

        • Application

          • There are two principles that are important for us to think about from this section

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – God sees and honors hard work and sacrifice.

            • Jacob

              • Jacob had worked hard for Laban and had been very honorable in how he handled Laban’s flocks

                • Jacob had not eaten any of the rams from Laban’s flock

                • Jacob did not bring any of the animals torn by wild beasts to Laban, but he bore the loss himself

                • Jacob paid for any of the animals that were stolen during the day or night

              • God honored Jacob’s hard work by:

                • Not allowing any of the sheep or goats to miscarry

                • Sustaining Jacob in the heat of the day and the cool of the night

                • Providing a flock for him

                • Protecting him from Laban’s wrath

            • Us

              • God sees and knows everything, so we cannot hide our work ethic from Him

                • He knows if we are working hard

                • He knows if we are honorable in how we handle our work

                • He knows if we are going above and beyond what is required or if we are just doing what we need to do to get by

              • God still honors hard work

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Work hard and be honorable in how I handle my work.

            • Colossians 3:22-24, Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. ​​ Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. ​​ It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God is pleased when we honor Him for His provision and protection.

            • Jacob

              • Jacob recognized that God had provided for him

                • If God had not provided for him, then he was certain that Laban would have sent him away empty-handed

                • God is the One who had given him insight, through a dream, about what wages to ask for – streaked, spotted, and speckled animals (Genesis 31:10)

              • Jacob recognized that God had protected him

                • If God had not rebuked Laban through a dream, he may have physically hurt Jacob

                • God warned Laban not to say anything, good or bad to Jacob (Genesis 31:24)

            • Us

              • How have you experienced God’s provision and protection in your own life? ​​ (take a few seconds to reflect on that)

              • Has He sustained you in extreme weather conditions at work?

              • Has He provided for you?

              • Has He protected you?

            • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Honor the Lord by thanking Him for sustaining, providing, and protecting me while I work.

        • Jacob has been honest and transparent with Laban through reprimanding him and reviewing how he served him

        • What we see next is a softening of Laban and a desire to seek a pathway to peace

        • God is pleased when we are honest and transparent with others.

    • Reprieve (vv. 43-44)

        • Reprieve is defined as “a cancellation or postponement of a punishment.”

        • What Laban could do

          • As the head of the household, in which Jacob served, Laban could have flexed his “headship muscles” and demanded that his daughters, grandchildren, and flocks return with him to Haran

          • Laban spoke correctly when he said that everything was his

        • What Laban did do

          • Laban conceded his defeat

          • He realized that his daughters and grandchildren were now part of a new clan that God had ordained

          • “… it had not been Laban against Jacob for the past twenty years but Laban against Jacob’s God.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 266]

          • God is the One who told Jacob to return to Canaan

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – There is honor in recognizing defeat and seeking peace.

            • Laban had to swallow his pride and sacrifice his rights in order to seek a pathway to peace

            • There may be times when we have to swallow our pride and sacrifice our rights in order to seek a pathway to peace

            • We may be fighting against the Lord

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Ask the Lord if I need to swallow my pride and sacrifice my rights, in a current situation, so I can seek a pathway to peace.

          • Laban encourages Jacob to make a covenant with him

        • Let’s make a covenant

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to work hard and be honorable in how you handle your work?

    • Have you honored the Lord by thanking Him for sustaining, providing, and protecting you at work?

    • Is God calling you to swallow your pride and sacrifice your rights in order to seek a pathway to peace?

 

  • WE

    • When we serve in the church, are we doing it with honor and all our strength?

    • Have we thanked the Lord for sustaining, providing, and protecting us as we serve in the church?

    • Do we need to swallow our pride and sacrifice our rights, as we serve in the church, so there will be peace

 

CONCLUSION

“There once was a king who announced a painting contest. He was building a new palace, and he wanted the main entrance hall to be decorated with a large work of art. The king envisioned his kingdom as a peaceful land, so whoever's painting best symbolized peace would win a large cash prize.

 

Over the next few months, hundreds of paintings arrived at the palace. The king decided on the top two. Before announcing a winner, he hung both paintings in the palace for public viewing.

 

The first painting was of a majestic lake, so tranquil and still that the lush hills behind it were perfectly mirrored in its reflection. The sky was a brilliant blue with soft, puffy clouds floating above. Wildflowers bursting with color outlined the lake, and a family of deer calmly grazed in a far meadow. All who saw it felt peace and happiness.

 

The second painting portrayed a tall mountain cliff, rugged and strong. A few small trees grew out of the cracks of the face of the cliff, with gnarled roots clinging for life. A foamy waterfall angrily crashed down the cliff and into the rocky land below. Above, dark ominous clouds loomed, and in the distance lightning flashed. Halfway up the cliff grew a small bush. In its branches, a bird sat in a nest apparently warming her eggs.

 

After several weeks, the king declared the second painting the winner. Confused and upset, the people asked the king to explain his decision. He said, ‘Peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is a state of mind. Those who experience peace have love in their hearts even when turmoil surrounds them.’”

 

Source: Michael Webb, "The Peace Prize," TheRomantic.com newsletter.

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2001/november/13349.html].

10

 

Showdown

The definition of a showdown is a final test or confrontation intended to settle a dispute. As I was formulating the title for this morning I thought about famous showdowns in history and on screen and the showdowns that we encounter in our everyday lives. Some historical showdowns you may be familiar with are the duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. The Battle of Berlin, one of the final battles of WWII, between Germany and the Soviet Union. William Wallace leading Scotland in the First War of Scottish Independence against England. And the Showdown at the OK Corral between the Earp Brothers and the Clanton-McLaury Clan. Some famous movie showdowns are Neo vs. Mr. Smith in The Matrix. Luke Skywalker vs. Darth Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. Rocky Balboa vs. Ivan Drago in Rocky IV. And my all-time favorite showdown is at the end of the movie, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly with Clint Eastwood.

There are also showdowns that occur in our own lives. It may be with our parents or siblings, with our bosses or co-workers, with people we just don’t get along with or even sometimes our friends within the church. We also have showdowns with Satan and the powers of darkness which we call spiritual warfare. Spiritual warfare is not exclusive to this day and age. It has been going on since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. God vs. Satan is the greatest showdown of all time and the great thing is we know who the winner is. We see in Revelation that God and the Lamb, Jesus Christ, are victorious over Satan and the powers of darkness. But showdowns still happen as Satan tries to take as many with him as possible. Historically, every disciple except for John was martyred for their faith. Other church leaders and missionaries down through the ages were also martyred, losing their lives for their faith. But here is what we can know for sure: God had a plan and purpose for every one of their lives. And just like God protected Abraham, Isaac and Jacob from harm he protected every one of the disciples, every one of the church martyrs and every missionary from harm as they were fulfilling their role in the plan and purpose that he gave them. God was faithful to them in life and faithful to them in death. The same is true for us today, God has a plan and purpose for our lives, and as we, God’s people, fulfill his plan and purpose, he will protect us from harm, until our purpose on this earth is completed and we join him in eternal glory in heaven. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God protects his people from harm as they fulfill their part in his plan and purpose.

As we let that big idea sink in let’s dedicate our study of God’s Word to him. Dear Heavenly Father, as we open your Word, we call on your Holy Spirit to guide us and teach us this morning. Give us ears to hear and eyes to see what you want us to learn. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

There are four points to the message today. The first is “Pursuit” found in Genesis 31:22-25. Follow along as I read. This is what God’s Word says, “On the third day Laban was told that Jacob had fled. Taking his relatives with him, he pursued Jacob for seven days and caught up with him in the hill country of Gilead. Then God came to Laban the Aramean in a dream at night and said to him, “Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” Jacob had pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead when Laban overtook him, and Laban and his relatives camped there too.”

Last time we were in Genesis, we saw that Laban had gone away to shear his sheep. This task was important for a shepherd and would have taken a lot of time and manpower. Ancient texts state that depending on the size of the flock it would take between a hundred and fifty and three hundred men three days to complete. This explains a few things like why it took three days to hear that Jacob had left with his family, why Jacob took this opportunity to leave and why Laban had relatives around that he could take with him to pursue Jacob. This last part suggests that Laban was planning to harm Jacob or at the least intimidate him to return.

In verse 21 we are told that Jacob headed for the hill country of Gilead and that is where Laban caught up with him. The phrase “a distance of seven days” was a general phrase meaning a considerable distance. According to commentators there is no way that Jacob could have made it from Haran to Gilead in a ten day period considering the wives, children, servants and flocks that he had with him. It may have also taken some time for Laban to go back home after being told of Jacob’s leaving to get everyone and everything organized to pursue him. This may have also been when Laban realized that his household gods were missing. Nonetheless, Laban and his men finally overtake Jacob in the hill country of Gilead, each on opposite hills, ready for the showdown that they both know will take place.

Next, God comes to Laban in a dream at night warning him not to “say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” We can notice a few things in this verse. First, Laban is referred to as an Aramean. He is now not a relative of Jacob but an enemy. And this would have reminded the first hearers that Aram was an enemy of Israel and Judah. Second, coming to Laban in a dream at night reminds us of God coming to Abimelech in Genesis 20:3 warning him not to touch Sarah or he would die. Lastly, the phrase “good or bad” is the same phrase Laban and his father said to Abraham’s servant when he came to find a wife for Isaac. Opposites in scripture frequently express totality. Laban was not to do anything to stop Jacob from returning to Canaan. The similarities between events in Abraham’s and Jacob’s lives prove that Jacob was the successor to Abraham and Isaac as the covenant carrier.

We are then told a second time that Jacob pitched his tent in the hill country of Gilead and that Laban and his relatives overtook him and camped there too. Again, we can notice a few important things in this verse. First, Jacob is portrayed as alone while Laban has relatives with him. Jacob is outnumbered especially when it comes to fighting men and his plight is dire. The words that are used are reminiscent of battle; “pursued,” “pitched” his tent, “overtook” and “camped” give a connotation of war. Now, the players in the drama are set for the showdown to start.

Which brings us to our second point this morning: “Pointing the Finger” found in verses 26-30. This is what God’s Word says, “Then Laban said to Jacob, “What have you done? You’ve deceived me, and you’ve carried off my daughters like captives in war. Why did you run off secretly and deceive me? Why didn’t you tell me, so I could send you away with joy and singing to the music of tambourines and harps? You didn’t even let me kiss my grandchildren and my daughters goodbye. You have done a foolish thing. I have the power to harm you; but last night the God of your father said to me, ‘Be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.’ Now you have gone off because you longed to return to your father’s household. But why did you steal my gods?”

The showdown begins with Laban pointing the finger and accusing Jacob of a couple of crimes. This scene takes on a courtroom like drama where Laban is the plaintiff, Jacob is the defendant and their relatives are the jury. Laban is looking to convict Jacob in the court of popular opinion. He begins with charging Jacob with deceit and kidnapping. He accuses Jacob of leaving his household without telling him and “carrying” off his daughters like “captives” in war. Again, we can notice some things in this verse. “What have you done?” reminds us of the words that Jacob spoke to Laban after his wedding night with Leah. This is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black as Laban seems indignant that Jacob would deceive him. We also see that Laban is continuing with the militaristic and combative rhetoric. He accuses Jacob of carrying his daughters off like captives in war, like a cattle rustler stealing from his ranch. And notice they are Laban’s daughters and not Jacob’s wives giving us the sense that Jacob’s wives were not his to take and return home to Canaan with.

In verse 27-28, we should almost laugh out loud as Laban says that if he knew that Jacob was leaving he would have sent them away with a celebration; a feast with singing, tambourines and harps. He complains that Jacob didn’t even give him a chance to kiss his grandchildren and daughters goodbye. I say laugh out loud because, can you see the Laban that we know in our scripture throwing a party for Jacob and their family to depart for Canaan? I can’t, which I believe is the point of the author. Laban has done and will do everything in his power to keep Jacob in his household and not allow him to return to his father.

But how do we reconcile that with God telling Jacob it was time to return to Canaan with his family. There is still this sense that Jacob went about leaving the wrong way. He should have went to Laban and told him that God said it was time to return to his father’s house and trusted God to keep Laban from stopping him. Now he was in a serious predicament in a showdown with hostile parties threatening God’s purposes and covenant plan. He still had not learned to completely trust God to protect him from harm as he was fulfilling the plan and purpose God had for him and his life. I like what Wiersbe says, “Life isn’t easy but if we submit to God’s disciplines and let him guide us in our decisions we can endure the difficulties triumphantly and develop the kind of character that glorifies God. The God of Jacob never fails. That brings us to our first next step on the back of your communication card which is to submit to God allowing him to guide my thinking and decisions so I can endure difficulties and develop a God-like character.

We see at the end of verse 28 what Laban really thought of Jacob: he was a foolish person who does foolish things. This would have been the strongest of rebukes by Laban. Then Laban tells Jacob he has the power to harm him but God, the God of Jacob’s father, told him the previous night to “be careful not to say anything to Jacob, either good or bad.” Laban is threatening not only Jacob but his whole family. The reference to “the God of your father” continues to show the spiritual differences between Jacob and Laban. Laban has just lit into Jacob about leaving him but he doesn’t seem to be worried about not saying anything to Jacob as God commanded. The commentators seem to agree that the moratorium God placed on Laban wasn’t about “speaking” but about not doing harm to Jacob. Laban has chased Jacob down and we can imagine what he would have done to him if God had not intervened. Legally, he could have taken his daughters away from Jacob, had him put in prison and possibly even killed him for his crime. The only power that can save Jacob from Laban’s wrath is God. God protected Jacob from harm as he was fulfilling his part in God’s covenant plan and purpose. (Big Idea)

Laban seems to conclude that Jacob foolishness was just homesickness to return to his father’s house. But then he lodges a second accusation pointing his finger at Jacob for stealing his gods. We can only surmise which accusation is more serious to Laban. Laban spends five verses accusing Jacob of deceit in taking his daughters and grandchildren away from him but only one verse on the accusation of theft. This may have been his play all along realizing he couldn’t keep Jacob from leaving for Canaan based on God’s intervention but if Jacob was convicted of theft he would have of a more legal standing with his relatives forcing Jacob to stay.

The household gods may have been the real reason Laban pursued Jacob. The fact that Laban wanted these gods back shows his faith was in idols and not in the God of Jacob. So what were these household gods? These gods would have been small statues that would have been placed around the house. Laban would have believed they brought him good fortune with his flocks, crops, etc. It may have been the way he divined that he had been blessed by God because of Jacob. Their possession may have also had something to do with who received the family inheritance. So we can see how much he may have depended on them as he went after Jacob to get them back. Now that the accusations have been leveled Jacob gets his chance to answer the charges.

The third point this morning is “Protest” found in verses 31-33. This is what God’s Word says, “Jacob answered Laban, “I was afraid, because I thought you would take your daughters away from me by force. But if you find anyone who has your gods, that person shall not live. In the presence of our relatives, see for yourself whether there is anything of yours here with me; and if so, take it.” Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen the gods. So Laban went into Jacob’s tent and into Leah’s tent and into the tent of the two female servants, but he found nothing. After he came out of Leah’s tent, he entered Rachel’s tent.

Jacob answers the first charge with the truth instead of lies and deception. He was afraid that Laban would take Rachel and Leah away from him by force which continues the combative/war theme in this section. The entire time Jacob has lived in Laban’s household they have been struggling against each other, using each other trying to get as much as they can from the other. There has been strife between Jacob and Laban, Jacob and Leah, and Rachel and Leah and even Rachel and Jacob. Then Jacob answers Laban’s second accusation protesting that he has not stolen his gods. In fact he is adamant that there is nothing of Laban’s in his camp. He gives Laban permission to search his entire camp and if his gods are found then the person who stole them will be put to death and if anything of Laban’s is found he can take it back. Now the first hearers find out what has happened to Laban’s gods and we can almost hear the audible gasp. Rachel is the one who has stolen the gods and Jacob doesn’t know it. Talk about high drama as again this has the capability of ruining God’s plans and purposes for his people.

This brings up some questions. Why did Rachel steal her father’s gods? Why didn’t she confide in Jacob about the theft? What happens when Laban discovers that Rachel has taken his gods? There are a number of reasons why Rachel may have stolen her father’s gods. First, as he she was preparing to leave for Canaan maybe she wanted the familiar gods to worship. We already know that Laban has not embraced Jacob’s God and maybe Rachel hasn’t either. It seems that Jacob has not had much of an influence on Rachel. This reminds us that during Jacob’s time in Haran God has been mainly silent. Second, maybe she was getting back at her father. In 31:14-16, Rachel and Leah talk about how their father has sold them and used up the payment he received for them not giving them anything. They feel that they have no share in their father’s inheritance and he treats them like foreigners.

This brings us back to the question of what were these gods? The Hebrew word is “teraphim.” The Nuzi tablets indicate that whoever possessed the “teraphim” was the proper heir to a father’s inheritance. It seems that when Jacob first arrived Laban he had not fathered any sons of his own so he would have adopted Jacob as a “son.” This would also explain why Jacob felt he needed to stay for twenty years with Laban. Once any biological sons came along Jacob status would have been reduced and he would no longer have been Laban’s chief heir. He would still have had legal standing to inherit something from Laban as an adopted son rather than hired hand. Rachel believing that Laban would probably never graciously hand over anything to Jacob takes matters into her own hands. Rachel has forgotten that Jacob already has his birthright back in Canaan and doesn’t need Laban’s.

Next we can surmise that Rachel didn’t tell Jacob she had stolen the gods because he wouldn’t have approved. Again, there is strife between the two, the first being when she blamed him for her not being able to bear children. Now she is keeping secrets from him. We are left with the question of what happens to Rachel when Laban finds his gods in her possession. Laban first searches Jacob’s tent because he is probably sure that Jacob is the culprit. Then he goes to Leah’s tent which shows us that he didn’t trust his daughters to not be in league with Jacob. This makes all his showy words earlier about a celebration and goodbye kisses seem shallow. He then goes into the maidservant’s tents and searches for the gods but he finds nothing. Lastly, he comes to Rachel’s tent and the tension and drama is thick because the author has already told us Rachel took them. Is it only a matter of time before Laban finds them and then what will happen?

Which brings us to our fourth point this morning which is “Powerlessness” found in verses 34-35. This is what God’s Word says, “Now Rachel had taken the household gods and put them inside her camel’s saddle and was sitting on them. Laban searched through everything in the tent but found nothing. Rachel said to her father, “Don’t be angry, my lord, that I cannot stand up in your presence; I’m having my period.” So he searched but could not find the household gods.”

Now the narrator tells us where Rachel has hidden Laban’s gods. She has put them inside her camel’s saddle and is sitting on them. This would have been the first red flag for the first hearers because for the Israelites a camel was unclean. Then we are told that Laban “searched” through Rachel’s tent and found nothing. The word for “searched” is the same word as fumbling around in the dark like a blind person which reminds us of Isaac almost blind and not being able to tell Jacob from Esau. Laban is seemingly as blind as Isaac was and is deceived as well, by his own daughter. This would have been a final humiliation in that his own daughter was treating him in this disrespectful way.

Now comes the ultimate disrespect not only of her father but of her father’s gods. Rachel probably in a sweet voice tells her father that she can’t stand in his presence because she is having her period. The KJV says, “the custom of woman is upon me.” This was probably a subtle retaliation for Laban’s deception of Jacob for saying that the “custom” of the day was to marry the older daughter first. It would also have been a second red flag for the first hearers because anything that a woman having her period sat on would be considered unclean. So Laban’s gods would have been seen as unclean, worthless and powerless to keep themselves from being contaminated. Laban’s gods could be stolen, hidden and sat on and were inferior to Jacob’s God, the One True God. We are told two times that Laban searched and found nothing. Laban was also powerless. Powerless to do anything to Jacob and powerless to thwart the plans and purposes of the God of Jacob’s father. God protected Jacob and Rachel from Laban and his schemes because they were his covenant people and he would continue to protect them for as long as his will, purpose and plans were being fulfilled through them. (Big Idea).

As we come to the end of our scripture we are reminded once again of the promises and providence of God. First, the principle that God keeps his promises is seen as he provides for and protects Jacob and his family. Even Rachel stealing her father’s gods didn’t keep God from protecting his people. Second, the principle that God is in control. The providence of God is the working of God’s sovereignty to continually uphold, guide, and care for his creation. Belief in the providence of God reminds us that our world and our individual lives are not determined by chance or fate but by God’s plans and purposes being worked out behind the scenes and by his people. We can trust that God will protect us, just as he did Jacob and Rachel, when we allow ourselves to be used by him to fulfill his greater plan and purpose for the world. Which brings us to the last next step on the back of your communication card: Trust God to protect me as I allow him to use me to fulfill his plan and purpose to pursue, grow and multiply disciples.

As the praise team comes forward to lead us in a final song, let’s pray: Sovereign Lord, we thank you for your promises to us and for your providence as you work out your plans and purposes for the world and for us individually. I pray that we would submit our thinking and decisions to your will in order to develop a God-like character. I also pray that we would trust in you to protect us from Satan and this world as we allow you to use us to fulfill your plans and purposes. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Origins

Moving On

(Genesis 31:1-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

“During the Vietnam War, my uncle, Captain Ray Baker, flew for the Strategic Air Command. The Air Force trained him, along with all the other pilots, to run out of their barracks to their planes at the sound of a buzzer. He couldn't begin to remember how many times he had dropped his utensils during dinner and bolted to his bomber.

 

He then came home on a furlough to California.

 

When he arrived, we took him to his favorite Mexican restaurant. Everything was going great until Captain Baker jumped up without warning and ran out of the building into the parking lot.

 

Catching up with him when he finally stopped running, I asked him in total puzzlement, ‘Where were you going?’

 

‘I was looking for my plane,’ was his bewildered reply as he searched the horizon for the B-52.

 

‘But what prompted you to run out here?’ I asked.

 

‘I heard the buzzer,’ he said.

 

Then I realized that directly above our table was a buzzer the kitchen used to call the waiters to pick up their meals.

Obedience speaks of unquestioned, immediate action. Is this not what Jesus Christ wants from his followers?”

 

Source: Martin Baker, Stockton, California.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2005/april/15870.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Moving on

        • Judy and I have moved several times in our 31 years of marriage

        • Most of the time it has been because of a job change for me

          • We moved from Ohio to Missouri when I accepted a position at the headquarters of CEF

          • We moved from Missouri to California to begin working with Every Generation Ministries

          • We moved from California to Pennsylvania to begin serving in pastoral ministry at Idaville Church

        • We always prayed and sought God’s will for each of those moves

          • The one thing that gave me confidence to make each of those moves was Judy’s encouragement and support

          • She has always been willing to move when we knew that it was God’s will for our lives

          • She would tell me that she would go wherever God was leading me

        • I am very grateful for her unwavering support over the years

        • God has truly blessed me with an incredible wife

  • WE

    • Support and encouragement

        • Hopefully all of us have had that kind of support and encouragement through life’s transitions

        • My prayer is that all of us have had a spouse, parents, children, friends, etc. that have supported and encouraged us throughout our lives as we have transitioned between jobs, houses, schools, etc.

 

Jacob experienced the support and encouragement of Rachel and Leah as he shared with them what God was calling him to do. ​​ Perhaps he was not sure how they would react to a 300-mile move away from their family, friends, and homeland. ​​ What Jacob experienced was the truth that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Obedience to the Lord brings favor.

 

Let’s pray

 

NOTE: ​​ Four of the five main point titles were taken from Mathews commentary The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26 (they include Dissension, Divine Directive, Defense, Deceptions)

 

  • GOD (Genesis 31:1-21)

    • Dissension ​​ (vv. 1-2)

        • Laban’s sons

          • Jacob heard that Laban’s sons were not happy with his prosperity

          • They blamed him for taking everything that Laban owned

          • They said that Jacob gained his wealth from what belonged to Laban

          • They were watching their inheritance being transferred to a “foreigner”

          • This was not sitting well with them

          • Jacob not only heard what Laban’s sons were saying about him, he noticed Laban was treating him differently

        • Laban

          • Laban’s attitude was not what it had been

          • Laban had enjoyed many years of benefit from Jacob’s presence with him, but that had now changed

          • “Alienation, first expressed physically in three-days’ distance, is now psychologically complete.” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: ​​ A Commentary, 423]

            • Laban had made it difficult on Jacob to prosper, so he thought, by taking certain male and female goats and other lambs and moving them three-days away

            • Genesis 30:35-36, That same day he removed all the male goats that were streaked or spotted, and all the speckled or spotted female goats (all that had white on them) and all the dark-colored lambs, and he placed them in the care of his sons. ​​ Then he put a three-day journey between himself and Jacob, while Jacob continued to tend the rest of Laban’s flocks.

        • The dissension between Jacob and his father-in-law and his sons was not by chance

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – “God sometimes uses circumstances and other people’s attitudes to indicate that a change is needed.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer]

            • Jacob realized that things were never going to be the same if he remained in Mesopotamia with Laban and his sons

            • God used three things to let Jacob know it was time to move on [Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, Pentateuch, 129]

              • “Inner witness in the heart”

                • Genesis 30:25, After Rachel gave birth to Joseph, Jacob said to Laban, “Send me on my way so I can go back to my own homeland.

                • We have to discern whether or not the inner witness of the heart is God’s leading or our own desires

                • Jeremiah 17:9, The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. ​​ Who can understand it?

                • Through prayer and the counsel of other believers, God will make it clear if it is His will or our desires

              • “Outward circumstances of life”

                • Not every outward circumstance is “the finger of God pointing out His way” ​​ [Wiersbe, 129]

                • In Paul’s journey to Rome, as a prisoner, they were having difficulty sailing because the sailing season was almost over. ​​ The centurion did not listen to Paul’s advice, but rather the pilot’s advice.

                • Then we read these words, When a gentle south wind began to blow, they thought they had obtained what they wanted; so they weighed anchor and sailed along the shore of Crete. ​​ Before very long, a wind of hurricane force, called the “northeaster,” swept down from the island. ​​ The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along. (Acts 27:13-15)

                • There are times that God may make us uncomfortable in order to motivate us to make a change

              • “Truth of His [God’s] Word”

                • “When the Lord wants to move us, the Scriptures we read day after day all seem to point in that direction.” ​​ [Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary, Old Testament, Volume 1: Genesis-Job, 146]

                • As we will see in verses 10-13, God had already spoken to Jacob in a dream, preparing him to move on

                • Jacob would accumulate his wealth before making the move

            • “The Lord often uses the negative attitudes of other people (in this case Laban and his sons) to make us wonder whether it is time to move on. ​​ Pastors experience this with congregations; men and women in business and industry; and many who just think about relocating.” ​​ [Gangel & Bramer, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Genesis, 262]

          • How about you?

            • Are you feeling an inner desire for change? (school, work, relationship, house, etc.)

            • Are outward circumstances confirming those inner feelings? (have certain people’s attitudes changed toward you?)

            • Is God speaking to you about making a change? (in your times of prayer and study of the Word, are you hearing God speak to you about a change?)

            • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Discern God’s will concerning a change He is asking me to make in my life.

        • Jacob knew that circumstances had changed with his father-in-law and his sons, but he also received a divine directive

    • Divine Directive (v. 3)

        • Command

          • God told Jacob to go back to the land of his fathers and to his relatives

            • The land was Canaan

            • His relatives would be his father, Isaac, and his brother Esau and their families

            • Jacob fled Canaan at the prompting of his mother, because Esau was plotting to kill him

            • Rebekah had told Jacob to stay with Laban until Esau’s fury had subsided and he was no longer angry and she would send for him (Genesis 27:44-45)

            • It has been 20 years since that happened and Rebekah is no longer alive

            • How would Jacob be received?

          • Fortunately, Jacob did not have to worry, because of God’s promise

        • Promise

          • “I will be with you.”

          • God promised to be with Jacob

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God promises to be with us.

            • Biblical background

              • Matthew 1:22-23, All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ​​ “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.”

              • John 14:16-17, And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. ​​ The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. ​​ But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

              • Matthew 28:20b, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

              • Psalm 139:7-10, Where can I go from your Spirit? ​​ Where can I flee from your presence? ​​ If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. ​​ If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.

              • Hebrews 13:5b, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

            • This is a promise we can receive as followers of Jesus Christ

              • God promised to be with Jacob as he returned to a potentially volatile situation with his brother

              • God promised to be with Jacob as he traveled 300 miles with his family, flocks, herds, and possessions

              • God promises to be with us when we face potentially volatile situations in our lives

              • God promises to be with us through the changes He is asking us to make

              • God promises to be with us through every trial (physical, emotional, financial, relational, spiritual)

              • Whatever you are facing today, you can receive the promise that God is with you

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Receive the promise, from the Lord, that He will be with me.

          • Jacob was going to experience the favor of the Lord, through His presence with him, as he stepped out in faith and obedience

          • The same is true for us, obedience to the Lord brings favor, through His presence with us

        • After Jacob receives the divine directive to go, he calls for Rachel and Leah to join him in the field

    • Defense (vv. 4-13)

        • Attitude change (v. 5)

          • Jacob shared with Rachel and Leah that their father’s attitude has changed toward him

          • Laban is no longer viewing Jacob and his service as a benefit to him

          • As mentioned earlier, Laban is probably feeling the same way as his sons are feeling – that Jacob has taken everything that belonged to him

        • Cheating (vv. 6-9)

          • Jacob reminds Rachel and Leah about his work ethic

            • He worked for Laban with all of his strength

            • He was motivated by love

            • If you recall, seven years seemed liked a few days to him (Genesis 29:20)

          • Jacob then reminds them of how their father cheated him by changing his wages often

            • Laban would tell Jacob which animals of the flock would be his, but when they gave birth to those kinds of animals, Laban would change his mind

            • When Laban would give Jacob the speckled ones as his wages, then all the flocks gave birth to speckled young

            • When Laban would give Jacob the streaked ones as his wages, then all the flocks gave birth to streaked young

          • After Jacob made his defense with Laban’s attitude change and cheating habits, he shared with them about the dream he had

        • Dream (vv. 10-13)

          • We now see where Jacob got the idea to ask for the streaked, speckled, and spotted animals as his wages – it came from God!

            • The dream that Jacob had happened during the breeding season

            • The angel of the Lord said his name and Jacob responded that he was here

            • Jacob saw in the dream that the males goats mating with the flock were streaked, speckled, or spotted

            • Even when Laban removed the streaked, speckled, and spotted animals and the dark-colored lambs and sent them three-day’s journey away (Genesis 30:35-36), God was going to provide those kind offspring for Jacob through the black goats and white sheep – the seemingly “purebred” animals

          • We see God’s providence highlighted in three ways in Jacob’s defense

        • Providence (vv. 5b, 7b, 9)

          • Presence (v. 5b)

            • When Laban’s attitude changed toward Jacob, he was able to see that the God of his father had been with him

            • The Lord had just reiterated that promise before Jacob spoke with Rachel and Leah (Genesis 31:3)

          • Protection (v. 7b)

            • When Laban cheated Jacob by changing his wages multiple times, Jacob knew that God had protected him

            • God had not allowed Laban to harm him

          • Provision (v. 9)

            • Even when Laban thought he had made it impossible for Jacob to gain any wages by removing the streaked, speckled and spotted animals and the dark-colored lambs, God provided for Jacob through the black goats and white sheep

            • Jacob became wealthy with streaked, speckled, and spotted offspring

            • It had nothing to do with his superstitious practice of peeling the bark back on poplar, almond, and plane tree branches

            • It was the providence and power of God to do the impossible

          • Application

            • PRINCIPLE #3 – God’s providence is evident through His presence, protection, and provision.

              • We can trust in the providence of God through His presence, protection, and provision

              • The Lord will be with us through whatever is happening in our lives – we already talked about this with the second principle

              • The Lord will protect us when others try to harm us

              • The Lord will provide for us, even when we think it is impossible

              • Where are you today?

                • Do you need God’s providence to manifest itself through His presence, protection, and/or provision?

                • I would encourage you to cry out to Him today

                • When He calls your name, be sure to respond with, “Here I am!”

              • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Cry out to God for His presence, protection, and/or provision.

            • PRINCIPLE #4 – Spiritual leadership is important!

              • It seems as though Jacob is finally stepping up as the spiritual leader of his household

                • Instead of just passively listening to his wives, he is listening to the Lord and leading his family

                • He takes the initiative and calls for Rachel and Leah

                • He shares with them what he has seen and experienced with their father

                • He also shares the divine dream he had and how the Lord directed him through that dream

              • Men, God has called us to be the spiritual leaders of our households

                • We cannot just passively listening to our wives

                • We need to be listening to the Lord and then lead our wives and children

                • We need to be the ones who initiate spiritual activities in our homes (Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, witnessing, etc.)

                • Our wives and children are eagerly desiring this from us

                • Statistics from the article The Impact on Kids of Dad’s Faith and Church Attendance by Nick Cady [https://nickcady.org/2016/06/20/the-impact-on-kids-of-dads-faith-and-church-attendance/]

                  • If a father does not go to church, even if his wife does, only 1 child in 50 will become a regular worshiper

                  • If a father does go regularly, regardless of what the mother does, between two-thirds and three-quarters of their children will attend church as adults

                  • If a father attends church irregularly, between half and two-thirds of their kids will attend church with some regularity as adults

                  • When both parents attend Bible study in addition to the Sunday service, 72% of their children attend Sunday school when grown

                  • When only the father attends Sunday school, 55% of the children attend when grown

                  • When only the mother attends Sunday school, 15% of the children attend when grown

                  • When neither parent attends Sunday school, only 6% of the children attend when grown

                  • If a child is the first person in a household to become a Christian, there is a 3.5% probability everyone else in the household will follow

                  • If the mother is the first to become a Christian, there is a 17% probability everyone else in the household will follow

                  • However, when the father is the first, there is a 93% probability everyone else in the household will follow

                • Men, our wives and children want to follow our spiritual leadership – it is important!

                • Jacob found out that obedience to the Lord brought favor with his wives and family

                • Men, we can experience favor with our wives and children when we obey the Lord and step up as the spiritual leaders of our households

              • #4 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ As a man, take my role as the spiritual leader of my household seriously and make any changes needed.

          • At the end of the dream, the angel of the Lord reminded Jacob of a couple of things

        • Reminder

          • The angel of the Lord reminded Jacob of who He is and the vow that he had made

            • The Lord is the God of Bethel

              • This takes us back to Genesis 28:10-22 when Jacob had the dream on his way to Haran where the angels were ascending and descending

              • Jacob named the place Bethel, which means “house of God,” because the Lord had met him there

            • It was there that Jacob set up the stone that was under his head and anointed it with oil and made a vow to the Lord

              • The vow was two-fold

              • When the Lord brought him safely home to Canaan, Jacob would acknowledge that the Lord would be his God

              • The other part of the vow was that he would give a tenth of all that the Lord gave him, back to the Lord

          • The angel not only reminded Jacob of who the Lord was and the vow that he made, but he also gave him a command

        • Move on

          • Jacob was to leave the land he was living in (Haran) and go back to his native land (Canaan)

          • This command came during the breeding season, so Jacob had not obtained his wealth yet

          • In verse 3 the Lord told Jacob it was time to move on – he had accumulated his wealth by this point

        • Jacob’s defense was convincing, but I believe the Lord was already preparing Rachel and Leah for this huge move

        • Their response is one of support and determination

    • Determined (vv. 14-16)

        • There is no inheritance here for us

          • Rachel and Leah recognized that as Laban’s daughters, they do not have any share in the inheritance of their father’s estate – they are now Jacob’s responsibility

          • They also realized that their father’s attitude toward them has probably changed

            • He regards them as foreigners

            • They felt like their father had sold them

            • Whatever dowry their father should have saved for them he has used up

          • They acknowledged that God had blessed Jacob and had provided for them through their husband

        • Obey God

          • So, they encouraged Jacob to obey what God had told him to do

          • I am sure that Jacob was pleased to hear that his wives were agreeable to God’s prompting and plan

        • With the support of his family, Jacob does not hesitate to obey the Lord

    • Deceptions (vv. 17-21)

        • Jacob obeys the Lord

          • Jacob loads his family members on camels, which would have allowed them to travel more quickly than on foot

          • He drove all his livestock ahead of him

          • Presumably, some of the livestock were burdened with carrying or pulling wagons with all of the goods he had accumulated in Paddan Aram (well south of Haran)

          • We will see in the coming weeks that God was pleased with Jacob’s immediate obedience

          • PRINCIPLE #5 – God is pleased when we obey Him immediately.

            • We have talked today about a potential change that God may be asking us to make

            • We have also seen how important fathers are in the faith of their wives and children

            • Perhaps the Holy Spirit is prompting some of us to make a change today

            • Will you be obedient to the Holy Spirit’s prompting?

            • Obedience to the Lord brings His favor

          • The final thing we see today is some deception that takes place

        • Deceptions

          • Rachel’s deception was that she stole her father’s household gods while he was busy sheering his sheep

            • We will see in several weeks that she continues her deception when Laban pursues Jacob (Genesis 31:34-35)

            • These household gods may have been made to look like some of their ancestors

            • These gods were believed to provide protection and blessing [Waltke, 427]

            • They were small enough to be concealed under a camel’s saddle

          • Jacob’s deception

            • The same Hebrew word is used for “stole” in verse 19 that is then translated “deceived” in verse 20 (gānaḇ)

            • “This is better translated ‘stole the heart.’ ​​ To ‘steal the heart’ can mean ‘to deceive,’ but elsewhere it involves taking away a person’s ability to discern and act appropriately (2 Sam. 15:6; 1 Kings 12:27).” ​​ [Waltke, 427]

        • Jacob fled and crossed the Euphrates River and headed for the hill country of Gilead [show map]

 

  • YOU

    • What change(s) is the Lord asking you to make?

    • Do you need to receive the Lord’s promise that He will be with you?

    • Are you ready to cry out to God for His presence, protection, and provision?

 

  • WE

    • We can do all three of those things as the body at Idaville Church

 

CONCLUSION

“Trust that God has your best interests in mind and be willing to do what he asks of you, even if you don't understand why. Obedience starts with having a heart that says yes to God.”

 

Source: Stormie Omartian, author and fitness authority, as quoted in Especially for a Woman. Marriage Partnership, Vol. 12, no. 3.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/1998/march/2934.html].

13

 

The King’s Game

Chess is a two-player game played on a square board with 64 squares arranged in an eight-by-eight grid. At the start, each player controls sixteen identical pieces, one side white and the other side black. The object of the game is to checkmate the opponent's king. This is where the king is under immediate attack and there is no way for it to escape. Chess is a game of tactics and strategy. Tactics usually concentrate on short-term actions such as forks, decoys, deflections and sacrifices. Strategy is concerned with the evaluation of chess positions and with setting up goals and long-term plans for future play. During this evaluation, players must take into account numerous factors such as the value of the pieces on the board, control of the center spaces, pawn structure, and king safety. Each player is making moves that may seem subtle at the time but over the long run could do major damage in the game if there are no counter tactics and strategies made.

In the Middle Ages and during the Renaissance, chess was called the “King’s Game.” It was part of the nobility culture and was used to teach war strategy. Chess was also often used as a basis of sermons on morality. Different chess pieces were used as metaphors for different classes of people, and human duties were derived from the rules of the game or from visual properties of the chess pieces. During the Age of Enlightenment, chess was viewed as a means of self-improvement. Benjamin Franklin, in his article "The Morals of Chess" written in 1750 said we can learn three things: “We may learn, foresight, which looks a little into futurity, and considers the consequences that may attend an action, circumspection, which surveys the whole board, or scene of action, in relation of several Pieces, and their situations, and caution, not to make our moves too hastily. Chess was also occasionally criticized in the 19th century as a waste of time and has been present in contemporary popular culture. For example, the characters in Star Trek play a futuristic version of the game called “Tri-Dimensional Chess" and "Wizard's Chess" is played in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. Today, chess is one of the world's most popular games, played by millions of people worldwide.

How many people here today have ever played chess? How many really, really love and enjoy playing chess? Well, I absolutely love it. My father taught me how to play from an early age and I was in Chess Club in high school. I enjoy chess so much that I play it every day on an app on my phone that allows me to play with people all over the world. I have actually played someone from the Horn of Africa. That was probably the coolest.

This morning we are going to be studying Genesis 30:25-43 and what we see is a game of chess being played between Jacob and Laban. Each one is making subtle tactical and strategic moves with each one’s motives being to checkmate the other, which is getting what they want from the other and getting the best of them. We will see tactics such as decoys and deflections and strategies that set up goals for the long term, in this case six years down the road. Each player is making moves and counter moves that they think will put them a better position than the other.

Both Jacob and Laban have been blessed by God. Laban’s flocks have been multiplied by God because of Jacob’s presence and Jacob has been blessed with twelve children. Jacob has also been promised land and that he would be prosperous. These promises would come later. But these blessings from God were not for Jacob and Laban’s benefit; they were given to them in order to fulfill God’s purposes for the world. The same is true for us today. We have been and continue to be abundantly blessed by God. But his blessings to us are not for us to horde and keep to ourselves; they are to be used by us to fulfill God’s purposes for this world which is to make disciples who make disciples –to fulfill the Great Commission to pursue, grow and multiply disciples. That brings us to our big idea this morning which is God’s blessings in our lives are for his purposes, not our benefit. Now I am not saying we don’t benefit from them just that our benefit is not the purpose for them.

Before we start our study of the passage this morning, let’s pray: Heavenly Father, pour out your Holy Spirit on us this morning as we open your word. Help us to have open ears, minds and hearts to learn from it. We thank you that you have breathed your Word, and inspired the authors to write these words down so that we could use them to teach, rebuke, correct and train ourselves in righteousness. I thank you for the privilege to be in your Word and to study it as workers who do not need to be ashamed as we correctly handle your word of truth. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Again, we are in Genesis 30:25-43. There are three points this morning. The first is the opening moves of our chess match called the King’s Gambit found in verses 25 - 31a. This is what God’s Word says, “Now it came about, when Rachel had given birth to Joseph, that Jacob said to Laban, “Send me away, so that I may go to my own place and to my own country. Give me my wives and my children for whom I have served you, and let me go; for you yourself know my service which I have rendered you.” But Laban said to him, “If it pleases you at all, stay with me; I have determined by divination that the Lord has blessed me on your account.” He continued, “Name me your wages, and I will give them.” But Jacob said to him, “You yourself know how I have served you and how your livestock have fared with me. For you had little before I came, and it has increased to a multitude, and the Lord has blessed you wherever I turned. But now, when shall I provide for my own household also?” So he said, “What shall I give you?”

The first thing we need to talk about is what started this battle of wits – this chess match, if you will, between Jacob and Laban. (Chess Board – Beginning) Jacob has worked for Laban for the past fourteen years in order to acquire his two wives Rachel and Leah. Now he approaches Laban to gain his release from his service. What has changed? What has changed is that Jacob’s preferred wife, Rachel, has birthed a child of her own. This was important for a number of reasons. One, was for her protection. It was important for women in that culture to give their husband’s children. If Jacob would have left Mesopotamia before Rachel had her own children there was no guarantee that at some point Jacob wouldn’t have kicked her out and left her by the side of the road. So for Rachel staying close to her family was good for her. It protected her. This reminds me again of the principle that God is in control of all things. Rachel was an integral part of the covenant and God protected her. But now that Rachel had given birth to Joseph, Jacob could make his opening moves and approach Laban about going back home to Canaan. These moves by Jacob were calculated for his maximum benefit.

But it really wasn’t practical for Jacob to leave at this time and it wasn’t going to be that easy to get Laban to agree and Jacob knew this. There were a couple of reasons why it wasn’t practical for Jacob to leave. The first was because he had no assets or resources to get back home to Canaan. He had worked for fourteen years for his two wives but he didn’t really get paid for his work. Jacob came to Laban with nothing and so the fourteen years of labor was to pay the bride prices for Rachel and Leah. Now Jacob didn’t want for anything because he was a part of Laban’s household but in the end he had nothing to show for the last fourteen years besides his wives and children. How would he get back to Canaan without resources – food, camels, etc? And then once he got back how would he buy assets such as flocks, crops, etc. Second, Jacob was indebted to Laban and in that culture it would have been respectful to get his permission to leave his household. Third, Laban was technically the owner of his daughters and the children they have given birth to so Jacob couldn’t just assume he had the right to take them away. It was possible that Laban could say, “Go ahead and leave but your wives and children must stay with me.”

So realizing he really can’t leave, Jacob strategically approaches Laban in order to persuade him to make certain moves in his favor. His tone is not subservient. He doesn’t say “please” but seemingly demands that Laban let him go back to where he came from. Jacob is probably thinking about the promises of God made to him at Bethel. God promised to protect him and he has. God promised him descendants and now he has twelve children who will have children and so on and so on. God promised to give him land as his inheritance and now Jacob wants to return to Canaan and claim that inheritance. Jacob appeals to the fact that he has faithfully served Laban. He mentions this service three times in verse 26 highlighting this fact. It is like he was saying, “Laban, you know what I have done for you and now you need to release me.” These were Jacob’s first moves in the chess match.

Laban now responds with his first moves. Notice he doesn’t respond to Jacob’s demand instead he acts like he’s the humble servant and Jacob is the master. He politely asks that Jacob stay, like Laban has treated Jacob fairly all these years. Laban also appeals to Jacob in a spiritual sense even though his words don’t show that he has embraced Jacob’s God as his own. Most commentators don’t agree with the word that is translated “divination.” Divination is defined as the attempt to discover hidden knowledge through incantation or other supernatural means. It was normally used if a situation were not going well and you wanted to find out why, like Rebekah inquiring of the Lord about the war raging in her womb during pregnancy. And divination was used to see the future.

But Laban is not going through bad times, in fact his flocks are growing and he is doing well. He is also talking about the past and not the future. More accurately translated, Laban is saying he has learned “by experience” that the Lord has blessed him because of Jacob. However Laban discerned the Lord’s blessing upon him it is clear that he consulted something other than God which led him to that conclusion. What is the author trying to tell us here? The author is contrasting the spiritual conditions of Jacob and Laban. Laban wasn’t interested in Jacob’s God only the blessings he could receive because of him. He had seen the blessing of God upon Abraham and his family and wanted to get the most out of them. We see the fulfillment of God’s promise in Genesis 12:3 here; that all the families of the earth will be blessed through Abraham and his descendants. There is a principle here that we have seen before: God keeps his promises. We can trust in that and believe that he will always keep his promises to us as he did for the patriarchs. We also see our big idea in that Laban has not been blessed on his own account but on Jacob’s account. God has blessed Laban in order to fulfill his own divine purposes. (Big Idea).

Laban asks Jacob to name his wages. We have seen this before and are reminded of Jacob negotiations with Laban to take Rachel as his wife back in Genesis 29:18. This was a cunning reply on Laban’s part because he didn’t owe Jacob anything and it implies that in order to leave Jacob would need to compensate Laban. Having an opening defense is the most important moves in the early part of a chess match. And next Jacob continues to set up his defense as he again reminds Laban of his service to him. He reiterates his service saying that Laban’s flocks have done well and Laban has been a witness to it; he can’t deny it. Jacob may be exaggerating a little when he says that before he arrived on the scene Laban had “little” and now his flocks have increased to a multitude. But he agrees with Laban that the Lord has blessed him wherever Jacob turned. It didn’t matter what pastures or wells that Jacob led Laban’s flocks to, they have increased and thrived because of the Lord’s blessing. Now after providing for Laban’s family, Jacob wants to provide for his own family. This would have been a practical and logical request. One that Laban shouldn’t turn down because Jacob’s family was also Laban’s family. But Laban was not just going to turn him loose, family or no family, because Jacob was too much of an asset to him. We can really see the character of Laban here.  ​​​​ 

Laban’s last opening move was to inquire what he should give Jacob. Jacob had already asked him to give him his wives, children and his freedom. Laban has ignored that request and asked what wages he could pay him. Now he asks what he can give Jacob. As the opening part of the chess match comes to a close and the middle game starts it gets interesting as both parties have set up their defense for what will happen next. (Chessboard – both parties castled)

Our second point is the middle game called the Bishop’s sacrifice, found in verses 31b - 36. This is what God’s Word says, And Jacob said, “You shall not give me anything. If you will do this one thing for me, I will again pasture and keep your flock: let me pass through your entire flock today, removing from there every speckled or spotted sheep and every black sheep among the lambs, and the spotted or speckled among the goats; and those shall be my wages. So my honesty will answer for me later, when you come concerning my wages. Every one that is not speckled or spotted among the goats, or black among the lambs, if found with me, will be considered stolen.” Laban said, “Good, let it be according to your word.” So he removed on that day the striped or spotted male goats, and all the speckled or spotted female goats, everyone with white on it, and all the black ones among the sheep, and put them in the care of his sons. And he put a distance of three days’ journey between himself and Jacob, and Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks.”

Jacob now makes his next moves. He doesn’t want to be beholden to Laban. He doesn’t want anything from him but he will stay and continue to pasture his flocks if Laban will do one thing for him. Jacob asks to go through Laban’s flock and remove every speckled or spotted sheep, every black lamb and every speckled or spotted goat. This is what Jacob asked to be his wages for as long as he stayed in Laban’s employ. There were two reasons on the surface that Jacob wanted these particular lambs and goats. First, the majority of the Mediterranean flocks consisted of white sheep and black goats. The abnormally colored sheep and goats were in the minority. Jacob probably felt that by choosing the abnormally colored animals that Laban would be more agreeable. Second, all Laban would have to do is look at Jacob’s flock to see that he hadn’t taken anything that wasn’t his. Jacob’s honesty would be at stake. So Laban readily agrees probably because this move by Jacob on the surface was not a great one. Laban was getting the better end of the deal. The normal shepherd wages of that day were between 10-20% of the newborn sheep and goats. With this arrangement, Jacob’s wages would probably amount to 10% or less of Laban’s flock. But to Jacob, starting with nothing, even 10% would be a good beginning to his own flock. Gangel & Bramer in their commentary, quote Morris, “The arrangement clearly was highly favorable to Laban and of very doubtful value to Jacob. It was an act of pure faith on Jacob’s part. He had put himself entirely at God’s mercy. It would be up to the Lord to indicate, by a very unlikely set of circumstances whether Jacob should prosper personally or not.” This was Jacob’s middle game. His plan was to make a sacrifice by offering to take less wages trusting God to give him what he needed from Laban to improve his situation.

Laban counters with moves of his own that seem to be deceptive. Laban, probably not trusting Jacob to be fair, preemptively goes through his flock and removes all the abnormally colored sheep and goats. There was probably no deception on Laban’s part for two reason: First, Jacob doesn’t complain so it must not have mattered who removed the animals from Laban’s flock. Second, remember that the shepherd’s wages back then were usually from the newborn sheep and goats. The initial flock was still considered to be the owner’s property. But by separating the abnormal sheep and goats from his flock before Jacob can pass through it left only solid colored sheep and goats. By doing this, Laban has significantly lowered the percentages of his flock that will produce Jacob’s wages. It was clever but not necessarily against the rules in this battle of wits between the two. Laban also took those separated animals and put them in the care of his sons putting a three days’ journey between them and his flocks that Jacob would be tending. This would guarantee that none of those animals would stray and come back to Laban’s flock making it easier for Jacob to produce the abnormal offspring. Laban was going to get any advantage he could. Once these moves were made our scriptures says that Jacob fed the rest of Laban’s flocks. He started to tend and take care of them as he promised. At this point in the “game” it may seem as Laban has the upper hand as we continue to the endgame. (Chessboard – after Bishop’s Sacrifice).

Our third point is the endgame called the Rook Strategy found in verses 37 - 43. This is what God’s Word says, Then Jacob took fresh rods of poplar, almond, and plane trees, and peeled white stripes in them, exposing the white that was in the rods. He set the rods which he had peeled in front of the flocks in the drinking troughs, that is, in the watering channels where the flocks came to drink; and they mated when they came to drink. So the flocks mated by the rods, and the flocks delivered striped, speckled, and spotted offspring. Then Jacob separated the lambs, and made the flocks face toward the striped and all the black in the flock of Laban; and he put his own herds apart, and did not put them with Laban’s flock. Moreover, whenever the stronger of the flock were mating, Jacob would place the rods in the sight of the flock in the drinking troughs, so that they would mate by the rods; but when the flock was sickly, he did not put them in; so the sickly were Laban’s, and the stronger were Jacob’s. So the man became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys.

As I just said it seems that Laban has the upper hand but as in any chess match one opponent or the other makes a fatal mistake. Laban has gotten overconfident and probably ignored Jacob thinking there is no way that he can produce a very big flock with what he has to work with. Plus he is confident that as long as Jacob is in charge, his flocks will prosper as before. He is probably feeling pretty good about his odds. Jacob’s next move seem weird to us today as he took rods or tree limbs from poplar, almond and plane trees and peeled them so that they seemed striped. The commentators aren’t sure why he picked these particular trees. It may be because of the play on words for “poplar” and “Laban.” In Hebrew “poplar” sounds similar to “white” and Laban’s name means “white.” Jacob put these striped rods in the watering troughs so that when the flock came to drink during mating season they would see them. This caused the offspring to be striped, speckled and spotted. Then he separated the lambs and made them face toward the striped and all the black in Laban’s flock during mating season.

In that time and culture it was believed that these acts could influence the kind of offspring they would have. Briscoe says “It was a common belief in that culture that when animals were breeding the embryo was affected by any strange sight which might confront the mother during pregnancy.” The use of the striped rods were the equivalent to using mandrakes to get pregnant that Pastor Stuart showed us a couple of weeks ago. They were folk traditions that didn’t have any power to accomplish what the people thought it would. But Jacob at some level either believed the folk traditions or was doing as he was directed or maybe both. Of course the real reason for spotted and speckled offspring was due to the recessive genes inside the white sheep and the black goats and, of course, the power of God to quickly affect these results.

Jacob had been building his flocks up and now separated his herd from Laban’s herd. Then he started to employ selective breeding. He knew which sheep and goats were the strongest and when they were mating he would put the rods in their sight in the drinking troughs. But when the sickly and weaker animals would be mating he would not put the rods in their sight. The result was that the strongest animals would mate with other strong animals and their offspring would be striped and speckled and would become part of Jacob’s flock. And the weaker animals would mate with other weak animals and their offspring would remain a solid color and would become part of Laban’s flock.

I didn’t make the final verse of our scripture this morning its own point but if I did I would have called it “Checkmate.” Jacob’s strategy was to build up his flocks so that when he was able to go home he would have the assets and resources to make the journey to Canaan and then be able to prosper once he arrived there. Verse 43 tells us that the man, talking about Jacob, became exceedingly prosperous, and had large flocks, and female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. “Exceedingly prosperous” reminds us of God’s promises to Jacob at Bethel that he would “expand and spread out” which included descendants, possessions and later the Promised Land. His possessions now include large flocks, female and male servants, and camels and donkeys. His prosperity in seen in a couple of ways: One, camels were considered rare and costly. Two, this list reminds us of what Abraham acquired in Egypt from Pharaoh. God had prospered Abraham in Egypt and now Jacob in exile. Jacob is more ready to return to Canaan than he was when he approached Laban asking for his release. God had promised the patriarchs possessions and prosperity and he fulfilled that promise to Jacob using Laban’s own sheep and goats. Checkmate!

In thinking about next steps I wanted us to think about the blessings of God in our lives. First, the big idea states that God’s blessings are not for our benefit but to be used to fulfill his purposes. Second, having received the blessings of God in the past we can and should anticipate his continued blessing in our lives in the future That brings us to the first next step on the back of your communication card which is to anticipate God’s blessings in my life and be ready to use them to fulfill his purpose to pursue, grow and multiply disciples. Third, we should not only anticipate his blessings but give him glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving for the blessings we receive from him. The question becomes: Do we take the credit ourselves for the blessings that come our way? ​​ Or do we forget to thank him when we receive his blessings? Or do we gratefully give him the glory for what he has done for us? That brings us to the last next step which is to give God the glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving for the blessings I receive from him.

As the praise team comes to lead us in a final song, let’s bow our heads in a closing prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, we thank you for the blessings you have given us and to our church. Help us to realize that those blessings are not for us to keep to ourselves but to be used to fulfill your purposes in the world. Help us to anticipate your blessings in our lives and church and to remember to give you the glory, honor, praise and thanksgiving as we receive them. Take us from this place willing to speak of your blessings and your glory to those we come in contact this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

Origins

The God of Possible

(Genesis 30:22-24)

 

INTRODUCTION

“I was surprised to read a Facebook posting from a friend in South Dakota named Diane. She wrote, ‘Had a nice surprise last night. At about 10:30 p.m. the phone rang. It was Governor Mike Rounds checking in with us to see how the road repair was going.’ There had been a lot of flooding in the area where Diane lives, and the roads were a mess—and the governor actually called her to see how she felt about the repair progress.

 

When I wrote Diane to express my surprise, she said it wasn't the first time a governor had called her. Another time, some years ago, one of South Dakota's previous governors called about some FEMA money for the area. She told me that when the governor called she was in the middle of a home perm, but couldn't very well tell the governor to hold while she rinsed her hair. She added: ‘That frizzy hair haunted me for weeks.’

 

I know that South Dakota is a small state, but this was incredible to me. I asked Diane if she was in county government or something, and she said she wasn't. Sensing I was blown away by her interactions with the government, she had this to say: ‘I have found that shaking the tree from the top gets the fastest results. When there is a problem, I usually become the ‘squeaky wheel,’ and I think they just want to get me off their case!’

 

My conversation with Diane made me think of the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:1-8—the one about the persistent widow and the judge who finally relented and granted her request. Jesus concluded: ‘And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’

 

The issue isn't whether God cares or is listening. The issue is whether we have faith enough to persist in ‘shaking the tree.’”

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2010/august/4083010.html].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Praying about the tax debt

        • My prayer about the tax debt has been that God would miraculously and supernaturally provide a large lump sum that would eliminate the entire tax debt

        • God has answered that prayer in several ways

          • He recently provided $28,000 in three weeks toward the tax debt in three smaller lump sums

          • He has been providing each month through the rental of the other parsonage and the multipurpose room to Monelli Educational Services

          • He has also been providing through consistent giving from individuals within the church

        • Through all of those ways I know that God cares and listens

    • Personal answered prayers

        • Judy and I know that God cares and listens

        • We had complications with our last two pregnancies

          • We fervently prayed for those pregnancies

          • We saw God answer in miraculous ways to allow us to have our second and third sons

        • We have experienced God’s care through healings

        • We know that God cares and listens when we have transitioned from one job to another

        • God has shown His love and care to us through providing financially throughout our married lives

        • The Lord has given us wisdom in relationships as we have sought Him through prayer

 

  • WE

    • Continue asking

        • How many of us have continued to seek the Lord in prayer for something?

        • Many times, we ask and keep on asking for salvation of a loved one (husband, parent, child, grandchild, etc.)

        • At other times we continue to pray about a financial situation

        • Still others get on their knees daily for a job or job related circumstance

        • At times we fall face down in desperation concerning an illness, whether our own, a family member, or a friend

        • We do not stop petitioning God until we hear from Him

    • Answered prayer

        • How many of us know that God cares and He listens?

        • Take a moment to reflect on a recent answer to prayer

          • What were you praying about?

          • How long had you been praying about it?

          • How did God answer your prayer?

 

Rachel experienced God’s care and knew that He listened to her cries of desperation. ​​ The Lord would open her womb and allow her to conceive. ​​ It would be an answer to her prayers and not human schemes or a magical fruit or root. ​​ She experienced what many of us have experienced, that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – God cares for us.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 30:22-24)

    • Remembered (v. 22a)

        • God remembered Rachel

        • This is not the first time that God remembered a human being

          • We see this phrase used for Noah and Abraham in Genesis also

          • Genesis 8:1, But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and the livestock that were with him in the ark, and he sent a wind over the earth, and the waters receded.

          • Genesis 19:29, So when God destroyed the cities of the plain, he remembered Abraham, and he brought Lot out of the catastrophe that overthrew the cities where Lot had lived.

        • PRINCIPLE #1 – God does not forget about His people.

          • He is all-knowing

            • He knew what Noah needed after being cooped up in an ark for long time

            • He knew what Abraham and Lot needed

            • He knew Rachel’s heart and her desire to have her own children

          • God’s timing and purposes are perfect

          • God has not forgotten about you

            • He knows your heart and your desires

            • He knows that you want your spouse, parent, child, grandchild, friend, schoolmate, coworker, etc. to believe in Jesus

            • He knows that you want to be healed from the physical issues you are having

            • He knows that you want your family member or friend to be healed

            • He knows about the financial struggles you are experiencing

            • He knows about the relational tensions that are happening in your family, at school, in your neighborhood, and at work

            • He knows that you want to be married and have a family

            • He knows that you want to have children of your own

            • He knows about your fears, anxiety, and depression that accompany the issues mentioned above

          • Biblical promises/truths

            • Proverbs 18:24, A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

            • Hebrews 13:5-6, Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have; because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” ​​ So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. ​​ What can man do to me?”

            • Isaiah 49:15-16, “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! ​​ See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

            • 1 Peter 5:10, And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.

          • Perhaps you need to be reminded today and claim the truth that God has not forgotten you

            • You have not slipped His mind

            • He is aware of everything you are going through

          • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Find encouragement through the truth that God has not forgotten about me.

            • God cares for you.

            • He knows the struggles you are going through

            • He knows your heart desires

        • God had not forgotten about Rachel and her desire to have a child of her own

        • He had heard her prayers

    • Listened (v. 22b)

        • The fact that God listened to Rachel tells us that she had been crying out to Him

          • “His attentive ear implies that she continued her petitions for a child, resulting in his gracious answer.” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 490]

          • It is likely that Rachel’s prayer also included a petition that the Lord would remove her disgrace within the community

          • God answered her prayer and opened her womb

          • Rachel had probably been praying for a child from the beginning, which would have been around seven years

        • Application

          • What have you been crying out to the Lord about?

          • How long have you been petitioning Him?

          • Are you beginning to question whether or not He is listening?

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – God hears and answers our prayers.

            • God was listening to Rachel and her prayers and He had the perfect time set aside to answer her prayer

            • Biblical background

              • 1 Peter 3:10-12, For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. ​​ He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. ​​ For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

              • 1 John 5:14-15, This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. ​​ And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.

              • 1 Thessalonians 5:17, pray continually.

              • Isaiah 65:24, Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.

              • Philippians 4:6-7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. ​​ And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

            • The same is true for you and me – God hears our prayers and has perfect timing in answering them

              • We know that God answers our prayers in three ways: ​​ Yes, No, and Wait

              • Our desire is that He always answers Yes, right away – that is our immediate gratification culture at play

              • We struggle when He answers No or Wait

              • The Lord had been answering Rachel – wait, but eventually He answered yes

              • Maybe the Lord is currently answering your request with wait

              • That does not mean that He has not heard your prayers or has not answered

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Have confidence that God hears and answers my prayers, even if His current answer is No or Wait.

              • God cares about you by hearing and answering your prayers.

          • God opened Rachel’s womb at just the right time, in answer to her prayers

          • Notice that the mandrakes she asked for did not have any influence on her infertility – it was God who opened her womb

        • God provided a son for her

    • Provided (vv. 23-24)

        • After God opened her womb, she became pregnant and gave birth to a son

          • God is the One who provided a baby boy for Rachel

          • “There are four keys that God personally holds on to, so that only he can open the door: ​​ rain, food, tomb, and womb (Tg. Neolf.).” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 476]

          • It was according to His timing and purpose for Rachel

            • Rachel tried to speed up God’s timing by giving her maidservant Bilhah to Jacob

            • Rachel tried to supersede God’s purpose by bargaining with Leah for her son’s mandrakes, hoping that the “magical” fruit and root would reverse the curse of infertility

            • She realizes now that God is her provider

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is our provider!

            • We have to be careful that we do not try to run ahead of God and His timing

            • We also have to make sure we do not try to supersede God’s plan and purpose by using other people and things to accomplish our desires

            • We need to patiently and faithfully wait for God to provide according to His timing and purpose

            • When He provides, we know it will be good

            • Biblical background

              • Philippians 4:19, And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

              • James 1:17, Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

              • Matthew 6:31-33, So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” ​​ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. ​​ But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

            • God cares about you and provides for you

            • You can claim that truth today!

            • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Claim the truth that God is my provider.

          • God had provided a son for Rachel at just the right time and according to His plan and purpose

          • God also answered Rachel’s prayer to eliminate her disgrace

        • Rachel’s disgrace removed

          • Rachel’s response to becoming pregnant was to recognize that God had removed her disgrace and exalted her in His time

          • My guess is that perhaps Rachel needed to learn to rely on God instead of herself, her husband, her maidservant, and some magical plant

          • Maybe when she learned that lesson and God saw growth in her, He opened her womb and allowed her to become pregnant

          • PRINCIPLE #4 – God exalts us in His time.

            • I am certain that no one else struggles with pride, like I do

              • In my humanness, I want to be exalted and looked at with high regard by others (colleagues, friends, family, parishioners, etc.)

              • I want to recognized and praised

              • I know that no one else has those same desires

            • My guess is that most of us struggle with some pride in our lives – wanting to be praised and recognized by colleagues, family, and friends

            • We all need to be reminded that we work and serve for an audience of One

              • Matthew 25:21 & 23, “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! ​​ You have been faithful with a few things; I will put in charge of many things. ​​ Come and share your master’s happiness!’”

              • Colossians 3:23-24, Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. ​​ It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

            • God will exalt us in His time, so we need to faithfully serve Him where we are

            • Through that we will know that God cares for us

          • Rachel names her son, Joseph

        • Joseph

          • His name means, “Jehovah has added”

          • Rachel is hopeful in naming her Joseph, that the Lord allow her to have another son

 

  • YOU

    • Be encouraged today that God has not forgotten you, because He cares for you

    • You can have confidence that God hears and answers your prayers

    • Know that God is your provider

    • God is the One who exalts you in His time

 

  • WE

    • God has not forgotten about Idaville Church

    • He answers our prayers

    • He provides for us

    • He will exalt us in His time

 

CONCLUSION

“Author and speaker Brennan Manning has an amazing story about how he got the name ‘Brennan.’ While growing up, his best friend was Ray. The two of them did everything together: bought a car together as teenagers, double-dated together, went to school together and so forth. They even enlisted in the Army together, went to boot camp together and fought on the frontlines together. One night while sitting in a foxhole, Brennan was reminiscing about the old days in Brooklyn while Ray listened and ate a chocolate bar. Suddenly a live grenade came into the foxhole. Ray looked at Brennan, smiled, dropped his chocolate bar and threw himself on the live grenade. It exploded, killing Ray, but Brennan's life was spared.

 

When Brennan became a priest he was instructed to take on the name of a saint. He thought of his friend, Ray Brennan. So he took on the name ‘Brennan.’ Years later he went to visit Ray's mother in Brooklyn. They sat up late one night having tea when Brennan asked her, ‘Do you think Ray loved me?’ Mrs. Brennan got up off the couch, shook her finger in front of Brennan's face and shouted, ‘What more could he have done for you?’ Brennan said that at that moment he experienced an epiphany. He imagined himself standing before the cross of Jesus wondering, Does God really love me? And Jesus' mother Mary pointing to her son, saying, ‘What more could he have done for you?’

 

The cross of Jesus is God's way of doing all he could do for us. And yet we often wonder, Does God really love me? Am I important to God? Does God care about me?

 

Source: Adapted from James Bryan Smith, The Good and Beautiful God (IVP, 2009), p. 142.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2010/july/6072610.html].

God cares about you!

  • Gospel

    • John 3:16

    • Romans 3:23

    • Romans 6:23

    • Romans 5:8

    • John 1:12

  • Next Step: ​​ Receive Jesus and believe in Him and become a child of God

10

 

Origins

“Superstition Ain’t The Way”

(Genesis 30:14-21)

 

INTRODUCTION

There are all kinds of wives tales or folk wisdom concerning what a couple needs to do or eat while they are trying to conceive a child in order to guarantee that it will be a boy or girl.

 

Babycenter.com lists some of the folk wisdom about this.

 

If you want a boy…

  • Eat more meat – the redder the better

  • Stick with salty snacks, such as pretzels and chips

  • Dads-to-be: ​​ stock up on soda, especially cola drinks

 

If you want a girl…

  • Both partners should eat lots of fish and veggies

  • Give in to your chocolate craving, or just sweets in general

 

Women should sleep to the left of their husbands

 

Mark your calendars: ​​ more boys are conceived on odd days of the month and more girls are conceived on even days of the month.

 

Hairline of your last child: ​​ if the hairline at the base of the neck of your last child is a ducktail, your next baby will be a girl. ​​ If it is straight across, it will be a boy.

 

There are many more wives’ tales and folk wisdom surrounding how to help determine the sex of your next baby.

 

[https://www.babycenter.com/getting-pregnant/how-to-get-pregnant/choosing-your-babys-sex-the-folk-wisdom_7061].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Three boys

        • We have three boys and no girls

        • I wish I could remember if we ate more red meat

        • I have always loved snacking on pretzels

        • I do not drink very much soda, and if I do drink soda, it is not normally the cola kind, because it has caffeine

        • I do not remember if our boys were conceived on an odd day of the month

        • I don’t remember what our two oldest boys hairlines looked like, but our youngest has a ducktail, so perhaps if we had tried for one more child, we might have gotten a girl

    • Faith in God

        • I do not subscribe to the wives’ tales or folk wisdom about the gender of a baby

        • In fact, with our first two children we did not find out their sex until after they were born

        • I liked the surprise factor

        • We did find out the sex of our third child before his birth

        • We trusted the Lord to provide the children that were best for us

        • He knew that my brother, and our only other male cousin with the last name Johns, would only have daughters

        • There is no pressure, but our three boys are the last Johns’ in our line

        • Of our three grandchildren, we have one grandson now, who will carry on the family name

        • We are hopeful for more grandchildren in the future – whether boys or girls (if you are listening boys, hint, hint!)

 

  • WE

    • Rhetorical question

        • How many of us have heard of some of these wives’ tales or folk wisdom?

        • How many of us have tried one or more of them when we were conceiving children?

        • How did it work out?

    • Faith in God

        • How many of us waited until our children were born to find out whether they were a boy or a girl?

        • How many of us are grateful that God knew how many children we could handle and what gender they were?

 

Rachel and Leah continue to compete with each other and are now turning to “love apples” to help with their infertility issues. ​​ They have tried human schemes by giving their maidservants to Jacob as additional wives and now they are trying superstition and legend concerning the properties of the fruit and root of a certain plant. ​​ What we will see in this message and the next one is that God is in control of the timing of when couples have children. ​​ We can try all kinds of things, from human schemes, bargaining and manipulation, to wives’ tales, and much more, but . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Faith in God supersedes everything.

 

Let’s pray

  • GOD (Genesis 30:14-21)

    • Time stamp (v. 14a)

        • The wheat harvest would have been around March or April

        • Laban was not only a shepherd, but also a farmer – he was diversified in what he did for a living

    • Bagged (v. 14b-c)

        • Reuben

          • If you recall, Reuben is Jacob’s firstborn son

          • He is probably between seven to nine years old

          • We are not told if he is working in the fields with the other farmers at this point

          • Perhaps he was just hanging out with the farmers and looking around for something to do

          • He obviously knew what a mandrake was and my guess is that he knew something of the plants importance and value, which is why he brings it back to his mother (Leah)

        • Mandrakes

          • It is likely that Reuben brought the entire plant(s) back with him, because the fruit and the root were both used

          • “The plant exhibits long, dark green leaves in a rosette pattern; from the center of the leaves are flower stalks that each produce a ‘purple, bluish, or greenish-white flower.’ ​​ During the spring the plant produces a yellow-red fruit, likened to a plum in size and shape . . . Especially interesting are its dark roots that resemble the lower torso of a human form, which probably contributed to the mysteries surrounding its magical, sensual powers.” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 486]

          • The mandrake was believed to be an aphrodisiac that caused sexual desire and encouraged conception [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 474]

          • Depending on the culture, the fruit from the mandrake was given a different nickname: ​​ the Greeks called them “love apples,” while the Arabs called them the “devil’s apple.” ​​ [Mathews, 486]

          • Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, and sex was called ‘Lady of the Mandrake.’” [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 412]

          • There was definitely legend and superstition surrounding this plant and its fruit

          • It was believed that it promoted fertility and both Leah and Rachel were currently dealing with infertility

          • They both realized that having their maid servants act as surrogates was not fulfilling and did not bring true happiness

        • Rachel’s request

          • It seems as though Rachel is coming to Leah in humility and with kindness when she asks for some of Reuben’s mandrakes

          • Rachel is probably aware of the medicinal properties of the root and the fruit and was willing to try anything to reverse the curse of infertility

        • Leah’s response to Rachel’s request shows the continued tension between the sisters

    • Bitter (v. 15a)

        • Leah lashes out by accusing Rachel of taking away her husband

          • It is not that Leah has lost Jacob as her husband, but she realizes that Jacob’s affections are focused primarily on Rachel

          • There seems to be a sense in the text that Jacob is not fulfilling his husbandly duty of sexual intimacy with Leah at this point

          • It is not certain whether Jacob stopped being intimate with Leah because she stopped having children or that Leah stopped having children because Jacob had stopped being intimate with her [Goldingay, 474]

        • Leah wants to know if Rachel is going to take away her sons mandrakes, like she took away her husband

          • If Leah is dealing with infertility, she is hoping that her sons mandrakes will somehow, magically, restore her fertility

          • If Rachel takes her son’s mandrakes, what will that leave for her

          • If Leah is dealing with bitterness about being loved less, then she does not want her sister to stop being infertile

        • Application

          • PRINCIPLE #1 – Turmoil is the result of not depending on the Lord.

            • The turmoil that we see between Leah and Rachel is the result of not having what they want and not depending on the Lord to provide it

            • As was mentioned several weeks ago, Leah wanted the affections of Jacob and Rachel wanted children from Jacob

            • The same is true of us – turmoil is a result of not depending on the Lord

            • When we try to use superstition to accomplish something in our lives, it inevitably results in turmoil

            • When we try to do anything without depending on the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and help, chaos can ensue, because we will probably approach the situation from a human perspective instead of a godly perspective

            • Think of a time when you tried to resolve an issue without first consulting and depending on the Lord for help

              • I may be different from the rest of you, but when I have tried to resolve an issue or conflict without praying about it first, I usually do or say the wrong thing or act in a way that creates turmoil instead of peace and reconciliation

              • My humanness gets in the way and I fail

              • My assumption is that the same thing has happened to you all too

              • Are you currently dealing with a family situation that is volatile?

              • Perhaps there is a situation at work that is causing you frustration

              • Maybe relationships at school are difficult and chaotic

              • Remember to turn to the Lord, first, and depend on Him for His help, guidance, and wisdom

          • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Depend on the Lord for His wisdom, guidance, and help with a current tumultuous situation.

        • Both women wanted the mandrakes for their “magical” properties in helping to deal with infertility

        • Faith in God supersedes everything, including superstition

    • Bargain (v. 15b-16)

        • Rachel’s offer

          • Rachel offers a night of intimacy with Jacob, to Leah, in exchange for her sons’ mandrakes

          • “Apparently Rachel, as Jacob’s favorite wife, had the questionable privilege of deciding which of Jacob’s wives or concubines would sleep with him on any given night.” ​​ [Youngblood cited by Waltke, 413]

          • The Hebrew word for “sleep” that Rachel uses seems to support the idea that she somehow controls Jacob’s sexual activities

          • “Like the English expression ‘sleep with,’ šākab (shak-have) as a euphemism for having sex applies to irregular sexual liaisons rather than regular relations between husbands and wives (19:32-35; 26:10; 34:2, 7; 35:22; 39:7-14). ​​ So Rachel’s use of this verb is neatly snide.” ​​ [Goldingay, 474]

          • The tension is thick

        • Leah’s desperation

          • Leah goes out to meet Jacob when he returns from the fields

            • There seems to be an urgency, a desperation to be the first to greet Jacob

            • We are not told why Leah goes out to meet Jacob

              • We can only speculate that perhaps she did not trust Rachel to follow through on the deal that was struck

              • Maybe it had been awhile since she had been intimate with Jacob and wanted to make sure it happened

              • We know that she was desperate to be loved by Jacob the same way that Jacob loved Rachel

            • When she meets Jacob, she informs him of the deal that has been struck – she has hired Jacob for the night with her sons mandrakes

          • Jacob does not object

            • Scripture says he slept with Leah that night

            • “First he was hired by Laban, and now he is hired by a woman who has already borne him four children. ​​ He raises no questions about Leah’s arrangement with Rachel.” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50, 275]

            • I do not know about you, but I am finding myself wanting Jacob to stand up and be the spiritual leader of his household

            • I want him to be fair and equitable with his wives and to try to meet their needs a little bit

            • And yet, I realize that Jacob is human and fallible and struggles with the same things that men struggle with today – we are no different

            • Men, I want to challenge you to be fair and equitable with your wife and try to meet her needs

            • It should be a little easier for us, because we only have one wife instead of four

          • Leah should have been seeking the Lord through prayer about her desperation to be loved by Jacob instead of bargaining with Rachel to able to spend time alone with him

            • The same is true for us also

              • In our desperation, we should be seeking the Lord through prayer instead of bargaining with others

              • He knows what is best for us

              • He knows the best time for us to receive what He desires for us

            • Faith in God supersedes everything, including bargaining to get something we want

        • Results

          • Rachel is going to be disappointed with the outcome of the bargain between her and Leah

          • PRINCIPLE #2 – Manipulation and bargaining do not always provide favorable results.

            • Rachel does not immediately become pregnant after obtaining the mandrakes and probably using them

            • Leah is going to conceive three more times and provide Jacob with two additional sons and a daughter

            • Perhaps you have experienced this truth in your own life

              • You bargained for something only to realize that the other person receive far more benefit from the bargain than you did

              • How did that make you feel?

              • Have you made bargains with God that you felt did not work out the way you had hoped?

              • Did that affect how you viewed God and felt about Him?

              • Just recently I was in a group where one of the people was sharing about their experience with terminally ill individuals as their hospital chaplain

                • Two interesting things they experienced, shocked me

                • When they went to talk with individuals who had claimed to be atheists, they admitted that there was a God and they wanted to know more about Him – their illness drove them to the Lord

                • When they talked with individuals who had claimed the name of Christ for most of their lives, they questioned God about why He was allowing this terminal illness to happen to them, especially since they had served Him all of their lives

                • The Christians had made some kind of bargain with God that sounded something like this, “If I follow You, God, then I can trust that You will never allow anything hard to come into my life.”

                • God and Jesus have never promised that in Scripture

                • In fact, we are to expect hatred and persecution from the world, and potentially illness or hardships that God allows to remain in our lives to keep us humble

                • The Apostle Paul asked three times that the thorn in his flesh would be removed

                • This was the Lord’s response, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” ​​ (2 Corinthians 12:9)

                • Faith in God supersedes everything, including bargaining

              • Application

                • Are you currently angry with God, because the bargain you made with Him did not work out the way you wanted?

                  • Was the bargain you made with God according to the promises in His Word, the Bible?

                  • If they were not, then God cannot and will not go against those promises and His own word

                  • I want to encourage you to confess those feelings of anger and hurt to the Lord today

                  • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Confess my feelings of anger and hurt to the Lord.

                • Are you contemplating making a bargain with God about something you want?

                  • First, is it according to the promises found in His Word?

                  • Second, does it show faith in God that supersedes everything else?

                  • Third, are you willing to trust in God’s grace to be sufficient for you and for His power to be made perfect in your weakness?

                  • #3 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for me, even in my weakness.

          • Rachel’s bargaining and manipulating seem to back fire on her

        • In the remaining verses, we see that Leah begins having children again

    • Babies (vv. 17-21)

        • God listened

          • These words should be noted and not glossed over too quickly

          • We are not told if Leah gave Rachel all of the mandrakes or kept some for herself

          • The mandrakes did not affect Leah’s fertility at all

          • It was God who determined when Leah would begin having children again and not some “magical” fruit or root

          • PRINCIPLE #3 – God is ultimately in control of everything.

            • God was in control of when Leah would conceive again

            • God was in control of when Rachel would conceive for the first time

            • God is in control of the circumstances of our lives and He knows when certain things will happen for us according to His purposes

              • Proverbs 16:9, In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.

              • Proverbs 19:21, Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

              • 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. ​​ Yours, O Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. ​​ Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. ​​ In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all.

              • Job 42:2, “I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

              • Psalm 135:5-7, I know that the Lord is great, that our Lord is greater than all gods. ​​ The Lord does whatever pleases him, in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths. ​​ He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses.

            • This is an important principle and truth that we must understand as followers of Jesus Christ

            • God is in control of everything and we need to have faith in that fact

            • Faith in God supersedes everything.

          • Leah recognizes that God is in control

        • Three more children for Leah

          • Issachar

            • Leah conceives and gives birth to her fifth son

            • She believes that God has rewarded her for giving Zilpah to Jacob as his fourth wife

            • Issachar’s name can mean, “my wage” or “he rewards”

          • Zebulun

            • Leah conceives again and gives birth to her sixth son

            • She considers him a precious gift from God and hopes that Jacob will now treat her with honor

            • Zebulun’s name can mean “honor,” “dwelling,” or “endowment”

          • Dinah

            • We do not know the time frame of when Dinah was born, but it was after Issachar and Zebulun

            • She is probably mentioned here because of the role that she plays in Genesis 34

            • Her name means “judgment”

 

  • YOU

    • Do you need to depend on the Lord for a tumultuous situation in your life?

    • Do you need to confess your feelings of anger and hurt toward God?

    • Do you need to trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for you?

    • Do you need to embrace the truth that God is in control of everything?

 

  • WE

    • We can depend on the Lord for any situation that we may be experiencing at church

    • We can trust God by faith that His grace is sufficient for us

    • We can acknowledge that God is in control of everything here at church

 

Faith in God supersedes everything!

 

We do not need to trust in wives’ tales, folk wisdom, or superstitions.

 

CONCLUSION

Superstition

 

Very superstitious, writing's on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout' to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past

 

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain’t the way

Hey

 

Very superstitious, wash your face and hands,
Rid me of the problem, do all that you can,
Keep me in a daydream, keep me goin' strong,
You don't wanna save me, sad is the soul

 

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain't the way,
Yeh, yeh

 

Very superstitious, nothin' more to say,
Very superstitious, the devil's on his way,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin' glass,
Seven years of bad luck, good things in your past

 

When you believe in things that you don't understand,
Then you suffer, superstition ain't the way,
No, no, no

 

Source: Musixmatch

Songwriters: Stevie Wonder / Douglas Davis / Chris Howard / Kareem Davis

Superstition lyrics © Black Bull Music, Stone Agate Music, Sawandi Music, Jobete Music Co., Inc., Jobete Music Co Inc.

 

[https://www.musixmatch.com/lyrics/22/47009574].

12

 

Origins

The Baby Race

(Genesis 30:9-13)

 

INTRODUCTION

The Space Race was between the United States and the Soviet Union. ​​ It began with the Cold War, but quickly focused on space exploration. ​​ The Soviet Union struck first by launching Sputnik, the world’s first artificial satellite and the first man-made object to be placed into the Earth’s orbit, on October 4, 1957. ​​ In 1958, the United States launched its own satellite, Explorer I. ​​ In 1959, the Soviets launched the space probe, Luna 2 that hit the moon. ​​ April 1961 had the Soviet Union taking another giant leap in space travel; by sending Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the earth, (he was the first person to accomplish that). ​​ Alan Shepard was the first American in space (though not in orbit), which happened on May 5, 1961. ​​ In February of 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit Earth. ​​ The lunar landing program began at the end of 1962, but did not see success until July 20, 1969 when Neil Armstrong was the first person to walk on the moon.

 

By landing on the moon, the United States, in effect, “won” the space race.

 

[https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/space-race].

 

BODY

  • ME

    • Uncle race

        • This is not actually a competition in our family, but it is mentioned from time-to-time

        • Our middle son, is only an uncle once

        • Our oldest son, is an uncle twice

        • But, our youngest son is an uncle three times

        • Some people may try to make this a competition

    • Aunt/Uncle race

        • I am an uncle twice

        • My brother is an uncle three times

        • My sister is an aunt five times

 

  • WE

    • How about in your family?

        • Are there any healthy competitions going on?

        • Who is “winning”?

    • How about at work or in your friend group?

 

Last week we saw that Rachel’s maidservant Bilhah had two sons. ​​ Rachel named the second son, Naphtali, which meant “struggle.” ​​ Rachel then claimed victory in the struggle with her sister, Leah. ​​ What we will see today is that the baby race has not stopped. ​​ In fact, it seems to be heating up. ​​ Leah follows her sister’s example without consulting God. ​​ Human schemes seem to be playing a larger role in the narrative than God. ​​ Perhaps Rachel, Leah, and Jacob should have been involving God instead of relying on themselves and their maidservants. ​​ We will learn today that . . .

 

BIG IDEA – Involving God in our plans is important.

 

Let’s pray

 

  • GOD (Genesis 30:9-13)

    • Leah’s plight (v. 9a)

        • Leah saw that she stopped having children

        • Perhaps she understood a little bit about how Rachel felt at not being able to conceive children, but probably not

        • Instead of being content with four sons at this point, Leah continues the baby race by following her sister, Rachel’s, example

        • She wanted to make sure she had a commanding lead in this “contest”

    • Leah’s plan (vv. 9b-13)

        • Jacob’s fourth wife

          • Leah should have involved God in her plans

          • Leah took her maidservant, Zilpah, and gave her to Jacob as his fourth wife

          • Two important principles we see here

            • PRINCIPLE #1 – Just because something is socially acceptable does not make it wise or right.

              • It was mentioned last week that in the ancient Near East it was not uncommon for a woman, struggling with infertility, to offer her maidservant to her husband, so that the children born to the maidservant would be considered the children of the husband and wife

              • Jacob is silent when Rachel and now Leah offer their maidservants to him as wives

                • He does not object

                • He certainly could have refused to give in to the socially acceptable practice and trusted God for His timing and plan

                • However, he doesn’t

              • How about us?

                • Is there something we are participating in or believing as followers of Christ, because they are socially acceptable in our culture?

                  • You would be surprised how many Christians accept things that God’s Word say are wrong, just because the court system in our country has ruled that it is acceptable and/or right

                  • Abortion, same sex marriage, use of marijuana, etc.

                • Are there things we have embraced as followers of Christ, because other people, including Christians, are doing them?

                  • Abuse of alcohol

                  • Use of marijuana, either illegally or with a doctor’s card

                  • Having sex before marriage

                  • Living together before marriage

                  • Gossip

                  • Foul language and coarse joking

                  • Looking at pornography

                • We can refuse to participate in, believe, and embrace what we know God says is wrong

                • We can choose, instead, to pursue holiness, righteousness, and purity

                • We can choose to wait on God’s timing and His plan for us

              • #1 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Refuse to give in to what is socially acceptable and pursue holiness, righteousness, and purity instead.

              • Involving God in our plans is important.

              • This is so important, because others are watching what we are doing and determining what they should do as a result

            • PRINCIPLE #2 – Our actions/example may lead others astray.

              • This is what happened with Rachel and Leah

                • Leah saw what Rachel did in reaction to her infertility

                • So, Leah did the same thing when faced with not having any more children – she followed her sister’s example

              • When we participate in, believe, and embrace what our culture says is socially acceptable, we run the risk of leading other people astray

              • This happens with social issues, but it can also happen with spiritual issues

                • It happens all the time when someone takes just one verse from the Bible and uses it out of context to justify what they believe

                • Others try to make God in their own image, so they can continue to do what they want without feeling guilty

                • Still others try to reinterpret Scripture to have it say something that it does not say, so they can feel better about themselves or believe that God is accepting of their belief and/or actions

              • #2 – My Next Step Today Is To: ​​ Evaluate my actions to make sure they are in alignment with God’s Word, so that I am not leading anyone astray.

              • Rachel should have evaluated her actions to see what kind of impact they would have

            • Rachel, Leah, and Jacob should have refused to embrace what was socially acceptable in their culture and trusted God to fulfill His plan for them

            • Involving God in our plans is important.

          • Instead, Leah followed Rachel’s example and gave Zilpah to Jacob, which resulted in two additional sons for Leah

        • Zilpah’s children

          • Gad

            • Zilpah’s first son had Leah feeling fortunate, which is why she exclaimed, “What good fortune!”

            • Leah named him Gad, which can mean “good fortune” or “a troop”

            • “Does she attribute the birth to Fortune/Luck, not God? ​​ She is not represented as in prayer or praise, unlike the case of her own children (29:31-35; 30:14-20).” ​​ [Waltke, Genesis: A Commentary, 412]

            • “Elsewhere in the Middle East, Gad is the name of a deity who brings good luck, but in the First Testament it is simply a term for luck (except in Isa. 65:11).” ​​ [Goldingay, Baker Commentary on the Old Testament, Pentateuch, Genesis, 474]

            • It is fascinating that Leah names her first four sons in a way that recognizes that the Lord saw her, heard her, and blessed her

            • With Gad it seems to be different – it is almost as though she is embracing the pagan beliefs of the nations around her

            • It is not definite that this is what she is doing, because the text does not really tell us that

            • Leah now has five sons, but it does not stop there

          • Asher

            • Zilpah bore Jacob a second son

            • Leah is really happy to have six sons

            • In fact she believes that the women in her community will call her happy

            • Asher’s name means “women will call me happy”

            • Waltke says, “Essentially, Leah is saying, ‘I am to be envied.’” ​​ [Waltke, 412]

            • “That Leah refers to the ‘women’ (‘daughters’) indicates the community setting in which the prestige of children accrued for a woman. ​​ The women of Bethlehem present just such a benediction for Naomi at the birth of Obed (Ruth 4:14-15).” ​​ [Mathews, The New American Commentary, Volume 1B, Genesis 11:27-50:26, 485-86]

            • Ruth 4:14-15, The women said to Naomi: ​​ “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. ​​ May he become famous throughout Israel! ​​ He will renew your life and sustain you in your old age. ​​ For your daughter-in-law, who loves you and who is better to you than seven sons, has given him birth.”

            • Leah’s naming of Asher brings to mind Mary’s song of praise in Luke 1:46-55

              • Luke 1:48b, From now on all generations will call me blessed

              • “The major difference between the two is that Leah speaks of the ‘women’ (LXX A ‘all the women,’ pásai hai gynaíkes), while Mary speaks of ‘all generations’ (pásai hai geneaí).” ​​ [Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, The Book of Genesis, Chapter 18-50, 273]

              • Leah is talking about the women who are in her immediate community, while Mary is talking about women throughout history

 

  • YOU

    • Have you involved God in your plans?

    • Do you need to refuse to give in to what is socially acceptable and pursue holiness, righteousness, and purity?

    • Are there some actions that you need to evaluate to make sure they are in alignment with God’s Word, so that you do not lead other people astray?

 

  • WE

    • Are there spiritual issues that we need to evaluate as a body of believers to ensure that they align with God’s Word, so we are not leading others astray?

 

CONCLUSION

“In the late eighties and early nineties, there were several hundred studies about happiness published each year; by 2014, there were over 10,000 per year. It was an exciting shift for psychology, one that the public immediately responded to. Major media outlets clamored to cover the new research. Soon, entrepreneurs began monetizing it, founding start-ups and programming apps to help ordinary people implement the field's findings. They were followed by a deluge of celebrities, personal coaches, and motivational speakers, all eager to share the gospel of happiness. According to Psychology Today, in 2000, the number of books published about happiness was a modest fifty. In 2008, that number had skyrocketed to 4,000. Of course, people have always been interested in the pursuit of happiness, but all that attention has made an impact: since the mid-2000s, the interest in happiness, as measured by Google searches, has tripled. ‘The shortcut to anything you want in your life,’ writes author Rhonda Byrne in her bestselling 2006 book The Secret, ‘is to BE and FEEL happy now!’

 

And yet, there is a major problem with the happiness frenzy: it has failed to deliver on its promise. Though the happiness industry continues to grow, as a society, we're more miserable than ever. Indeed, social scientists have uncovered a sad irony—chasing happiness actually makes people unhappy.”

 

Source: Emily Esfahani Smith, The Power Of Meaning (Crown, 2017), pages 9-10.

 

[https://www.preachingtoday.com/illustrations/2017/march/6030617.html].

6