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Jacob Wrestling with God May 29, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Faith, Genesis, Jacob, Prayer, Religion, Sermons.
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WRESTLING WITH GOD
Genesis 32:22-32

In the evangelical tradition there has long been an emphasis on a “crisis experience.” Sometimes it has been considered crucial to a true salvation experience and often people have a crisis experience when they get saved. In 1865 a fanatical infidel, who had written a book on infidelity, “…was persuaded to attend an old-fashioned camp-meeting. The preacher challenged the people…to give Jesus Christ a fair trial. When he asked for those to come forward who were willing to make the test, [the infidel] went…While riding home, he got down on his knees in the woods and fought the battle out-and Jesus Christ won. [B. H.] Carroll’s life was transformed, and his great gifts were dedicated to Christ.”

Sometimes this crisis experience comes to someone who is already a believer but is plagued by doubts. “[G. Campbell Morgan] went through an eclipse of his faith. In desperation, he locked all his books in a cupboard, secured a new Bible, and began to read it…The result? ‘That Bible found me!’” (both examples are from Warren Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

It should be noted that not everyone has crisis experiences and certainly not every crisis experience comes at the same time in one’s life or in the same way. In Jacob’s life his crisis experience came in a moment of great fear, his brother Esau was coming to meet him, the same brother from whom he had stolen his father’s blessing, the same Esau who had promised twenty years earlier to kill Jacob as soon as his father was dead. Jacob has now taken a step toward reconciliation (32:3-5). The messengers come back with this message, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him” (verse 6). Jacob fears now for his life. He divides his company into two groups so that at least some of them might survive and he prays to God for help but he still is fearful. He sends presents ahead to Esau, hoping to appease his anger but he still is fearful. That night he has a crisis experience, he wrestles with God.

A. Like Jacob, even though we have faith in Christ, we still might find ourselves wrestling with God. To have a crisis experience, to be fearful or depressed or doubtful, there is no shame in having a crisis experience.

1. Wrestling with God may happen when you know God’s will but do not know what you at that moment should do (32:1-23). Jacob had been walking with God for twenty years. He had been taken advantage of by his uncle Laban. During those twenty years he had been humbled by God. He tries to do what’s right by reconciling to his brother. And now four hundred men are coming, fully capable of destroying Jacob and all with which God had blessed him. Jacob knew in general that he was in God’s will but he did not know at that moment what he should do. Have you ever been there?

2. Wrestling with God happens when you want God’s will in your life no matter what the cost may be (32:24-32). People who don’t want God’s will done, do not wrestle with God. It wasn’t until Jonah was in the whale that he was willing to do God’s will. We find him wrestling with God in chapter 2 not in chapter 1. There he is simply running.

One of the best examples of someone wrestling with God is our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew God’s will. He may have not known every detail of what would happen during the next twenty-four hours but he knew that he was on his way to die. Yet he was willing to pay the price. The cost was great. The cost was terrifying to Jesus. Jesus faced death with the same emotions that many a man before and afterward faced death with but he was willing to pray the price.

Are you willing to pay the price?

B. When we wrestle with others, we must have God’s help to be blessed (32:26-29). God points out; Jacob has not only prevailed in his wrestling with God but also in his wrestling with men, particularly Esau and Laban. One thing is clear. Jacob prevailed with men because of God’s blessing and not because of his ability or wisdom. Why? Because he was part of God’s royal entourage.

1. We have a position as believers in Christ in a royal family (32:28). That’s what makes the cost worth it. Paul writes in Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” God’s blessing is based not on me but on my position in Him.

2. We know from where our help must come (32:29). Will we depend on Him?

“In 1929 [W. E. Sangster] moved to Liverpool (England) where… he pastored [and filled] two churches…[He] went through a deep spiritual crisis…After his father’s death, [his son] found a handwritten ‘spiritual analysis’ buried in the bottom drawer of the desk…It was the record of [a] spiritual conflict…It begins, ‘I am a minister of God and yet my private life is a failure in these ways…’ Then he listed eight areas of defeat. He concluded: ‘I have lost peace…I have lost joy…. I have lost taste for my work….I feel a failure.’ What was the answer? ‘Pray. Pray. Pray. Strive after holiness like an athlete prepares for a race. The secret is in prayer’” (Wiersbe’s Walking with the Giants).

Are you wrestling with God today? Do you want to do God’s will and don’t know how? Tell it to Jesus. You don’t have to wrestle alone. Paul wrote to several churches including in Rome and Colosse and asked those people to wrestle with him. Jacob wrestled alone but it doesn’t have to be that way. Let us wrestle with you.

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Graduation Sunday Sermon May 21, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Bethel, Blessing, Commitment, Genesis, Jacob, Laban, Responsibility.
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IT’S TIME TO GO
Genesis 30:25-31:55

This is the time of year when there are many new beginnings. We have celebrated one of our high school graduate’s new beginning with a small gift and a dedicatory prayer today. There are also a number of young couples throughout this nation who will be starting a new life together, truly a new beginning. With most new beginnings, however, there is also an ending. This is what we see in Jacob’s life. He has spent twenty years working for his uncle Laban and it is now time to go, to close out an old chapter of his life and to undertake a new beginning. In this sermon I would like for us to use Jacob as an example of some things that we should do no matter where in life we find ourselves but especially when we undertake a new beginning.

A. When we start out on a new beginning there are some actions we should plan on taking and on making these actions a daily part of our lives.

1. We need to take responsibility for our own actions (30:25-30). Jacob knew that he needed to commit himself to independence from his uncle.

Jacob had the right desire but he ended up waiting six more years. His commitment to his family was strong. It wasn’t enough, however to bring him to the place where he would start out on a new beginning.

2. We need to return to our commitment to God (31:10-13). Jacob had committed himself to submit to the Lord in worship specifically through his tithes. Now that he had some wealth it was time to go back to Bethel and pay that vow. Whether you realized it or not, when you put your faith in Christ you committed yourself to his service. This commitment to Christ is revealed through specific actions.

Rick Warren tells how “[in] 1943, 100,000 young people in brown shirts filled the Olympic stadium in…Germany, the largest stadium in the world at that time. They formed with their bodies a sign for a fanatical man standing behind the podium. The message read, ‘Hitler, we are yours.’ [Such] commitment allowed them to conquer Europe”

Commit yourself to daily fellowship with believers. That means going beyond church attendance. You should attend a Sunday service but you should also find a Christian group on campus or near campus and commit yourself to them. You also need to find a Christian friend or two with whom you can pray daily, perhaps even study the word together.

Commit yourself to expanding yourself in God’s Word. Go beyond the “Daily Bread” and immerse yourself in God’s Word. Start with those things that interest you, that concern you, that trouble you and proceed from there.

Commit yourself to giving. College students don’t have much money but they do have time and strength and passion. Commit those things to God.

B. When we start out new there are some things we must know.

1. In such times we need to recognize the Lord’s blessing (31:36-42).Where we are now is because of the Lord and where we will be later is because of the Lord.

“The Masai tribe in West Africa [has] an unusual way of saying thank you. Translators tell us that when the Masai express thanks, they bow, put their forehead on the ground, and say, ‘My head is in the dirt.’
When members of another African tribe want to express gratitude, they sit for a long time in front of the hut of the person who did the favor and literally say, ‘I sit on the ground before you.’
These Africans understand well what thanksgiving is and why it’s difficult for us: at its core, thanksgiving is an act of humility” (from Joel Gregory in Leadership, Winter 1993).

2. In such times we need to recognize the Lord is watching us (31:43-50).

“[Jacob] and Laban had to put up a boundary marker called ‘Mizpah’ (which means ‘watchtower’) and swear that neither would cross it and attack the other. ‘The LORD will watch between us,’ they said, which means, ‘God sees what you’re doing, so be careful!’” (Warren Wiersbe in Life Sentences, 2007).

There are high visibility sins and low visibility sins. Everyone sees our high visibility sins. We may or may not be aware of them but they are there for everyone else to notice. God sees the low visibility sins we commit. He sees the secret thoughts of pride, fantasy, envy, lust, jealousy, wild ambition, the desire for money and power, and the resentments that float in and out of our minds. A family had a rule that their daughter could not go to PG-13 movies until she was thirteen. All her friends could go at an earlier age. Every weekend she would ask her parents if she could go to some PG-13 movie. Our minds are like that but we need to resist (adapted from Patrick Morley’s The Man in the Mirror).

We need to set up a watchtower. Part of that is the setting up of a daily commitment to God in the areas of relationships with believers, time in God’s Word and prayer, and giving whatever it is that we have to him.

Does it matter? I think so. Soon Jacob would find himself wrestling with God and being renamed Israel because he wrestled with God and with man and won. Jacob was by no means a spiritual giant but he made some important choices about his actions and his thoughts, choices which God honored by blessing him repeatedly. Jacob received the earlier blessings because of the faith of his fathers. His participation in those blessings would be dependent on his on faith and the God in whom that faith was put.

Next Week: Wrestling with God (Genesis 32-33)

Mother’s Day Sermon 2012 – Two Wives, Four Mothers, Twelve Sons May 14, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Genesis, God's Goodness, Jacob, Laban, Leah, Mother's Day, Providence, Rachel, Religion, Sermons.
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TWO WIVES ON MOTHER’S DAY
Genesis 29:1-30:24

Erwin Lutzer once “asked a woman about the tattoo on her arm, she explained, ‘My former boyfriend did it-he was an abusive alcoholic.’ …every day she was reminded of the pain in her past. She would have preferred to remove that tattoo, but it was burned into her skin” (from Putting Your Past Behind You by Erwin Lutzer).

A. Many of us come from less than ideal situations, less than ideal families. For many Mother’s Day is a wonderful holiday but for others it brings sad memories and unfulfilled dreams. I doubt that they celebrated Mother’s Day in Jacob’s house, especially before Joseph was born. There were two wives, two concubines, and four mothers in this household. One wife was unloved; the other was for many years childless. The expectations of both women remained for years unfulfilled.

1. Our expectations are not always fulfilled (29:31-30:8).
i. It may be that certain things that we expected in life to happen never came to pass. That is what we have in this passage, especially in the life of Rachel, who wanted a son with all of her heart.
ii. It is also possible that things we expected to be fulfilling left us wanting. Leah had six sons, a mother’s dream in that day, but the pride of having children left her dissatisfied.
iii. It also may be that we had no expectations in life and life gave us exactly what we expected, nothing. Jacob’s handmaids, slave girls fall into this category. They became pawns in the hands of Jacob and his wives and at least in one case, in the hands of Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben (Genesis 35:22).

2. We sometimes try to manipulate the situation (29:15-30; 30:14-16). There are different types of manipulation. Perhaps Rachel tried to use guilt on Jacob to manipulate him to take her handmaid, although in this case he pointed out that the situation was beyond his control (30:1-6). Only God can give children.

3. We must depend on God for solutions (30:17, 22-23). We learn of God’s faithfulness and provision in his Word but the clearest way to depend on God is to flee to him in prayer. “In John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, a young woman and her children are seen knocking on the Wicket Gate. In a moment a ferocious dog begins to bark, making the woman and children afraid. They face a dilemma: If they continue to knock, they must fear the dog; if they turn away, the gatekeeper will be offended and they will not be admitted. They continue to knock ever so fervently. Finally, they hear the voice of the gatekeeper asking, ‘Who is there?’ and instantly the dog ceases barking.” Erwin Lutzer comments, “The moment we are serious about prayer, a thousand dogs begin to bark. If we listen to them we will turn away. If we continue to know, we will hear the voice of our Master and we will be encouraged to press on.”

B. God’s plan is not limited by our dysfunction (32:9-12). There is a story of a “beautiful piece of cloth on which some ink had accidentally been spilled[.] Though the ink could not be removed, an artist painted a picture on it and used the blotch as part of the scenery” (adapted from Erwin Lutzer).

1. His expectations are always fulfilled (32:27-28). That is why we should pray according to God’s will, desirous that God’s will be done. “When we pray for a promotion, or that a child will be healed, or that God will give us a marriage partner, the question of the will of God always emerges as a part of the picture. In instances like these we must end our prayer with ‘If it be Thy will.’ On the other hand, there are some requests we can make with absolute certainty that we are praying in His will” (Lutzer).

2. He always controls the situation (45:3-8). “When Edmund Gravely died at the controls of his small plane, his wife kept the plan aloft for two hours. She radioed for help and her distress signal was picked up, but communication was impossible because she kept changing channels. Eventually she made a rough landing, but it would have been so much easier if she had stayed tuned to the right frequency” (Lutzer). God is in control, there is no doubt about that. Are you listening to him?

3. His solutions always good (Joshua 24:1- 13). How long did this take? From the time of Abraham to the time of Joshua was well over five hundred years but God’s solution was good. It was another thousand years before Jesus came but God’s solution was good. It had been two thousand years since Jesus promised that he would return but his solution remains good.

Remember This Place (A Communion Sermon) May 7, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Bethel, Communion, Covenant, Genesis, Jacob, Jacob's Ladder, John's Gospel, Lord's Table, Promises of God.
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REMEMBER THIS PLACE
Genesis 28:10-22 and John 1:51

Jesus used the story of Jacob’s ladder at Bethel in order to indicate to Nathanael his significance as the Messiah. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man” (John 1:51). He was indicating to Nathanael that there is only one place where you can come into God’s house. It is not the church building. It is not the temple. It is not even Jerusalem or Bethel. The only place where you can come into God’s house is that place where you come to Jesus.

A. Where we meet God is significant because of our situation (verses 10-12).
1. We may be alone (27:43-45). Hated by his brother, neglected by his father, sent away by his mother, Jacob was very alone on the night he met God. Jacob understood that he was on his own without anyone to turn to. The Canaanite city of Luz was nearby but he dared not go there. It might not be safe.

Jesus understands what it means to be alone. “He could have called ten thousand angels to destroy the world and set him free. He could have called then thousand angels but he died alone for you and me.” Jesus understood what it meant to be forsaken by friend and family. Those who could have helped him had fled. Those who stayed like the women were unable to help. When we remember Jesus today, we remember that he knows our loneliness and he wants to bring us to fellowship with God through his death on the cross. First John 1:3, 7 tells us, “That which we have seen and heard (Jesus) we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

2. We may be uncertain of the future. Jacob was traveling to his Uncle Laban’s care but he didn’t know this man. The way he traveled was long and dangerous and there was no guarantee of acceptance once he arrived. His brother, Esau, might be so full of hatred that he would follow him to Haran.

We also have an uncertain future. We do not know what life may throw at us. James 3:12-14 says, “There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy…Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit’; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.”

Jesus is the one who provides for our future, whether we trust him to salvation or reject him to destruction. He died to be our Savior but he will judge those who have “trampled the Son of God underfoot, [counting] the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing…’Vengeance is Min, I will repay,’…The LORD will judge His people.’…It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:29-31).

3. We may be without comfort (verses 10-12). Lonely, without a certain future, grieving the separation from his family, a rock for a pillow. Jacob had no one to comfort him. He could not even be comforted by physical blessings. The rock on which his head lay seemed to say, “You have blown it now. Esau will now receive everything which God has promised you. You and your mom thought you could trick your dad but look who has the last laugh. You don’t really think that God is going to bless you, do you?

B. Where we meet God is significant because of his promises not the location (verses 13-17).
1. God’s promises are undeserved (verse 13). It is true. Jacob did not deserve God’s blessing. He had tricked his brother. The hatred his brother had for him was well-deserved. Rather than depending on God to keep his promises, Jacob and his mother had attempted to make it happen on their own. Jacob had acted a lot more like the serpent in Eden than he had like the God of heaven. Yet Jacob found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

“Sin and despair, like the sea waves cold, threaten the soul with infinite loss;
Grace that is greater-yes, grace untold-Points to the refuge, the mighty cross.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide-What can avail to wash it away?
Look! There is flowing a crimson tide-Whiter than snow you may be today.”
Julia H. Johnston

2. God’s promises are in Christ (verse 14). That is what Jesus was saying to Nathanael. I am the Son of Man sent from God. I am the seed of Jacob through whom the world will be blessed. I am the bread of life given to bring life to those with no hope. I am the light of the world sent to bring light to darkness. I am the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father but by me. I am the ladder by which you come to God. There is no other.

3. God’s promises are kept daily (verse 15). Before Jesus left he said, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the world.” There is nowhere you can go and there is no time in your life when my promises to you are not kept. Trust me and I will bring you through.

C. When we meet God we should respond appropriately (verses 18-22).
1. We submit in worship (verses 18-19, 21). The problem with God’s promises is that they demand we submit ourselves to God. The worship that Jacob involves himself in was appropriate to his time. The pillow becomes a pillar. The bed becomes an altar. The place of rest becomes a place of submission, LORD you shall be my God.

2. We submit in confidence (verses 20-21). “If…then…” does not imply that Jacob is hedging his bets. This is not a cool negotiation between God and man. This is the recognition of God for who he is and Jacob says, “If you do what you say, then I will serve you.” I remember well the prayer I prayed when I trusted Christ, “Lord, I’ll do anything if you will save me.” I was not negotiating. I was desperate. I was going to hell. I was throwing myself on the mercy of God. I had confidence that I could not save myself but that he could save me and I was placing my confidence for the future in Jesus Christ. I think that is exactly the attitude that we see in Jacob’s life here.

3. We submit with all we have (verse 22). Jacob set up the pillar as reminder to himself of God’s grace and promises. What would he do when he was not at Bethel. He would give to God a tithe. There was no priest available. We do not know how Jacob fulfilled his promise but we know that he committed everything he had to God by giving to God a significant portion of the blessing which God has given him. How significant of a place does God play in your budget? Ten percent? How significant of a place does God play in your schedule? Ten percent. I can’t calculate your finances for you but I can tell you what ten percent of your time would be. Almost two and a half hours a day. Let’s suppose you sleep eight hours a day. God has blessed you with sixteen hours. Can you give him an hour and a half a day, eleven hours a week? How about your relationships? Do you give God a significant portion of your relationships? The body of Christ is here for that very purpose. If this Sunday morning service was taken away, would your relationships with these people suffer?

What am I saying? To remember the place where we met God, that is Jesus Christ, begins with Communion but it goes beyond Communion to taking up our cross and following Jesus Christ. This ritual is the setting up of the pillow as a pillar and pouring olive oil on in. What, however, are you giving to the Lord in submission to his promises?

Next Week’s Sermon: Two Wives on Mother’s Day (Genesis 29:1-30:24).

Tears of Regret – Esau May 1, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Forgiveness, Genesis, Hebrews, Holiness, Isaac, Jacob, Rebekah, Regret, Tears.
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TEARS OF REGRET
Genesis 27 with Hebrews 12:14-17

When I was growing up, there was a Southern gospel song that we used to sing that went something like this:

Part of my life brings tears of regret and part of my life I would rather forget.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.
Yes, part of my life to false idols I bowed and part of my life I just followed the crowd.
Part of my life is the story of shame but the rest of my life, I will honor God’s name.

Freely I drank from life’s glittering cup, so deep in my shame, I could hardly look up.
Tears of regret are the price I must pay but the rest of my life, God can have his own way.

A. Most of us experience tears of regret.
1. Tears of regret result from not foreseeing the consequences of our actions (Heb. 12:16 and Gen. 25:29-34). Patrick Morley in The Man in the Mirror tells how he as a young businessman “made it a habit to always ask older men what their greatest regrets were, hoping [to] glean some wise tips…two [regrets] showed up on virtually every man’s list…” not being financially ready for retirement at the age of fifty and not getting to know their kids before they left home. These men had not seen the consequences of their chosen lifestyle.

2. Tears of regret come when we realize the past cannot be undone (Heb. 12:17 and Gen. 27:30-40). Esau was being a little hard on himself. After all, before he was born God had already denied him the blessing he wept for. He, however, had thought that he and his father could get around God’s will. Esau could have decided to follow God’s plan as Jonathan did when David was chosen by God to be king but instead he chose to work for his own self-interests.

3. Tears of regret can easily become the fuel of bitterness (Heb. 12:15 and Genesis 27:41-28:9). The writer of Hebrews describes the root of bitterness as something more than what the hate of Esau became. It seems to be akin to unbelief, spiritual stubbornness and rebellion. There is emotional bitterness which is painful and hurtful but the greatest danger is when that bitterness results in rejection of Jesus Christ but that often happens.

B. How do we avoid tears of regret?
1. Pursue peace with others and holiness before God (Hebrews 12:14). Thomas Jefferson valued the pursuit of happiness, which in the culture of that day meant the pursuit of property. God values other pursuits. We are to pursue, to chase after, to make peace and holiness priorities in my life.

Pursuing peace: In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus said, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

Erwin Lutzer in his book, When You’ve Been Wronged, tells of a missionary to Muslims in Egypt. The man received a letter from an angry Muslim that said, “Cursed be you, cursed be your wife, and cursed be your children. Cursed is the home in which you live, cursed is the car that you drive.” Rather than worrying about the letter or ignoring the letter, the man wrote a reply, “This is my prayer for you: blessed be your wife, blessed be your children, blessed be your home, and blessed is the car that you drive.”

How do you pursue peace? Erwin Lutzer suggests the following:
I. Offer a gesture of genuine goodwill. It may be small like a handshake and smile. It may be a gesture of generosity. It may be personal sacrifice. You may not feel like offering goodwill. Your gesture may be regarded with suspicion but that is where you can begin.
II. Humble yourself before God. If you are going to pursue peace with others you must first submit your will to God. Until you are convinced that God wants you to reconcile, to pursue peace, you will almost always find an excuse not to do it.
III. Humble yourself before others. Proverbs 15:33 says, “The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.” To pursue peace will cost you in pride and dignity and rights. It is the only way, however, to pursue peace. Don’t misunderstand, humbling yourself does not mean you never hold others accountable or set necessary boundaries but as you hold them accountable and as you set up the boundaries, humble yourself before others.

Pursuing holiness: Jerry Bridges in Pursuit of Holiness tells of “Jonathan Edwards, who resolved never to do anything he would be afraid to do if it were the last hour of his life, [he] also made this resolution: ‘Resolved, never to give over, nor in the least to slacken, my fight with my corruptions, however unsuccessful I may be.’”

How then do you pursue holiness? The context of Hebrews 12 (see verse 10) implies discipline. Hearing, reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating on the Bible is necessary. The Holy Spirit wrote the Bible for this purpose (2 Timothy 3:16-17). As we learn the Scripture the Spirit brings to our mind and illuminates what we have learned and then we obey it. That, however, takes daily discipline.

2. Pay attention to each other’s spiritual condition (Hebrews 12:15; see also 3:12-14:1; 10:24-27). The book of Hebrews is difficult for us to understand at times because the author does not do what we often do, we compartmentalize our belief and our practice. The writer of Hebrews indicates that if there is a problem with how you live, there may well be a problem with what you believe.

There is another area that makes the book of Hebrews hard for us. The writer is willing to reserve judgment on the spiritual condition of others without shrinking from his responsibility for others. We find this hard to do. We take one of two extremes: either “judge not that you be not judged” or we condemn those who we feel do not meet our standard. Both extremes are irresponsible and wrong. The writer of Hebrews says, “Know each other, become so close to each other in every way so that you will recognize the root of bitterness when it begins to produce a sprout.”

What should you do? The answer is found in Hebrews 12:25, “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” God has spoken. Will you do his will?

Next Week’s Sermon: Remember this Place

Does God Hate Some People? April 23, 2012

Posted by roberttalley in Esau, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Malachi, Rebekah, Suffering.
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DOES GOD HATE SOME PEOPLE?
Genesis 25:19-34 with Malachi 1:1-5

The Bible says that God hated Esau. What does that mean? Does God hate any of us? Our hate usually involves a sinful attitude. What is involved in God’s hate?

“Helen Rosevere was a British medical missionary to the Congo during the uprising of the Mau Mau revolutionaries. Though she had gone to the Congo to serve God and to share the gospel, she was personally and brutally…raped, but hung on with her life to a faith in God that refused to be shaken…Recovering from her ordeal in the Congo, Helen wrote a statement that each of us should consider. She wrote a question as though spoken from God’s own mouth: Can you thank Me for trusting you with this experience even if I never tell you why?” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

A. There are many things about God’s dealings with us which we do not understand. When we look at life, there are times when God seems good and other times when He seems cruel. We could easily draw the conclusion that we cannot trust Him.

1. We may not understand why answered prayer results in pain (Gen. 25:21-22). Isaac prayed for his wife to bear a child. The couple knew that they were praying according to God’s will; God had promised that the world would be blessed through Isaac’s seed. Abraham had given Isaac everything (Genesis 25:5-9; see also Genesis 17:18) because he was the promised seed and Abraham’s other children were not. God answered Isaac’s prayer but the answer was so painful for Rebekah that she began to question the answer.

How often have we longed for God to answer our prayers and then when he answers them, we are disappointed because the answer brought its own set of problems. God did not have to allow Rebekah to have twins. There needed not to be an Esau. What blessings has God given you that did not work out (from no fault of your own) the way you had hoped?

2. We may not understand why God blesses one and curses another (Gen. 25:23-24). Who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau (Genesis 25:21-23, 29-34; 27:1-17, 27-41; 28:3-4, 10-15)? God. Neither son is presented as particularly spiritual. God, however, laid his hand on Jacob.

Are we then just puppets on God’s string? Certainly not. Our choices may not be capable of changing God’s plan but that does not mean that they are not our choices. James McDonald tells of being “in Indonesia and [getting] to play against a chess master…There were ten [players]…and he played [them] all at the same time.” McDonald writes, “He would walk down the row of boards, crushing each of us with his speed and incredibly insightful moves. In fifteen minutes, we were all out of the game” (taken from Gripped by the Greatness of God by James McDonald, 2005).

3. We may not even recognize God’s blessing (Malachi 1:2-5). Israel was so obsessed with their own problems that they did not recognize that God had blessed them above all other nations, but particularly over Edom, the nation descended from Esau. God’s purposes are too great for us to grasp but it is clear that God wanted Israel to recognize their honored position and live accordingly.

B. Whatever God does, we should be prepared to live according to what He reveals of His ways.

1. What we know God has favored, we should favor (Genesis 25:27-28, 29-34).
a. Is it good when the parents favor one child over another? Is it possible for a parent to love all their children the same? Why or why not?
b. How do you think the children would react to being the favorite? How about not being the favorite?
c. What if one parent loved one child more and the other parent loved another child more?

Obviously we see this as a negative thing, yet Rebekah showed more faith than Isaac. She saw that God had chosen Jacob and she was going to go the way of God. Isaac should have known better, after all, he himself was also the chosen one of God and selected by God over all of his brothers. Yet he allowed his personal desires to get in the way of God’s will.

2. What we know God has commanded; we should do (Malachi 1:6-8). God had favored Israel, destroying Edom and yet they did not honor him but rather gave him what was inferior in their lives.

a. If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will, His ways, and His Word.

b. What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Ask him for mercy (Malachi 1:9) and seek to obey His word (Malachi 2:4-9).

c. What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will be cursed (Malachi 1:14-2:4).

In today’s bulletin we have a synopsis of the life of Fanny Crosby. Fanny wrote a poem at the age of eight:
O what a happy soul am I!
Although I cannot see,
I am resolved that in this world
Contented I will be,
How many blessings I enjoy
That other people don’t!
So weep and sigh because I’m blind,
I cannot, and I won’t.

When it seems that God is frowning on you, you can get closer to God or push back away from Him. There is mercy for those who get closer and only a curse for those who push back. Which path will you follow.

Next Week’s Sermon: Tears of Regret

Christmas is of the Jews (Christmas Foundations in Genesis) December 14, 2008

Posted by roberttalley in Christmas, Genesis, Isaac, Jacob, Religion, Sermons.
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CHRISTMAS IS OF THE JEWS

Genesis 28:10-22

As we continue to look at the foundations of Christmas found in Genesis, we should remind ourselves that if there had been no Jewish nation, there would be no Christmas. Our Scriptures today explore some of the characters who played a major role in the founding of the Jewish nation and how God’s promises to them led to the Christ of Christmas.

 

God chose the Jews according to His mercy. It was God who decided that Jacob would continue the promised seed instead of the older brother, Esau, as was the custom of that day (Compare Genesis 25:19-28 with Romans 9:10-15). One thing should be made clear about this passage. It does not say that God chose Esau to go to hell and Jacob to go to heaven. The choosing here involved the promises of God to Abraham and His descendants. In fact, there is evidence that Esau may have eventually reconciled himself with his rejection by God (Genesis 33:1-16 and 35:29).

 

Jacob and not Esau valued the promises to Abraham and Isaac (Genesis 25:29-34 with Hebrews 12:16).

 

Everyone in this family knew about the promises. Everyone also knew of the promise that God had made to Rebekah while these two boys were still in her womb. Not everyone, however, valued these promises. Esau came in from hunting but he had no success and was hungry. Jacob his brother had something akin to a thin oatmeal soup cooking. Esau asked for some and Jacob, knowing his brother, offered a trade. “Give me your birthright as the oldest son and I will let you have something to eat.”

 

The sin of Esau was valuing the temporary benefits of the physical over the eternal benefits of the spiritual. There is nothing wrong with oatmeal. There is nothing specifically wrong with spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with many types of momentary pleasure. The writer of Hebrews, however, identifies those, who exalt the physical over the spiritual in the same way that Esau did, as fornicators and profane persons, that is, ungodly.

 

Jacob made a lot of foolish decisions in his life. What made him different from Esau was not that he made fewer foolish decisions than Esau but rather that he valued the promises of God above the things of this world (Genesis 32:24-32).

 

God showed mercy to Jacob and justice to Esau (Genesis 27).

Isaac intended to bless Esau (Genesis 27:1-4). We know from Genesis 25 that Isaac loved Esau more than he did Jacob and we also know why. Esau was a skilled hunter and there was nothing that Isaac liked more than fresh game to eat. This father and son shared a special bond. Then there was Jacob. Jacob preferred to stay home instead of spending days on a hunt. He was satisfied with milk and cheese and yogurt and maybe roasted lamb on holidays. That was what his father, Isaac, had known all his life. There was no excitement there. No spontaneity. There is nothing wrong with being a homebody but that quality did not endear Jacob to his father. Jacob was a mild man. He was a good boy, we might would say today. He was not a troublemaker. Although we know Jacob as a conniver, it does not appear he began that way. He might have been boring but he was a good son. That was not good enough for Isaac.

Isaac is now getting old. He knows that the time of his death could come at any moment. He also knows that Esau sold his birthright to Jacob. Now the birthright, generally speaking, was the property of the father passing down to the oldest son but in Isaac’s case, he got a lot more than just cattle and sheep and slaves. His birthright was the promise that God made to Abraham (Compare Genesis 17:18-21). Jacob has bought the birthright but Isaac wants to take the privilege of giving the family blessing and bestow on Esau the promises of God, which he had sold for meal (Compare Genesis 27:28-29).

 

Rebekah wanted the blessing for Jacob (Genesis 27:5-10). Rebekah was not unfamiliar with the value of the blessing. In Genesis 24:58-61 we find that Rebekah herself had also received a blessing amazingly similar to that received by Abraham and Isaac and which she obviously wanted for her son, Jacob. Although it was not her right to give the blessing further to Jacob, she decided that he was the one who should have it. This does not justify her deception but it does emphasize for us the importance of that blessing in her estimation.

 

God wanted the blessing for Jacob. He did not allow Isaac to reverse himself (Genesis 27:27-41 with Hebrews 12:17 and Malachi 1:2-5). In the midst of all of this family conflict, it is God’s will that was set forth. Esau wanted Isaac to change his mind. It is likely that Isaac wanted to change his mind. Esau begged his father for a blessing but what he received was as much a curse as anything. God not only did not allow Isaac to reverse himself but underlined clearly to the whole family that God had made His choice and that no matter how they might manipulate one another, God’s choice is the one that would be selected.

He confirmed the blessing to Jacob Himself (Genesis 28:1-4, 13-15 with John 1:51). The confirmation of Isaac brought with it responsibility, assurance, and clarity. Jacob was responsible to marry someone who served the same God that he served. Then he was assured that the LORD God would be with him. Finally, Isaac made it clear that the blessing of Abraham was Jacob’s and Jacob’s alone and that the reason Jacob had this blessing was because God had given it to him. That is exactly what happened in Genesis 28:13-15. God came and assured Jacob that he was the one to receive the promises of Abraham. It is interesting that Jacob’s first reaction was very similar to that of Abraham. He set up an altar before the LORD (28:16-22). He then promised that he would return to Canaan and that he would serve the LORD.

 

Three years ago in the Middle School Sunday School Class, Pat and I studied these chapters with the young people and at the end of the class, we asked our young people three questions. These questions are also appropriate for us as adults.

 

If God is the one who decides things and not you, what should you do? Submit to God’s will.

What if you don’t understand or don’t agree with what God has decided? Believe God’s promises and live a life that is not focused on this world but rather on the world to come.

What will happen if you fight against God’s chosen ways (Esau would be a good example)? You will live your life alienated from God.

 

The blessing is fulfilled in the Jewish Messiah: You see, the story of Jacob is vital to the Christmas story. God had a plan. It was greater than Adam and Eve and Satan. It was greater than Abraham and Sarah. It was greater than Isaac and Rebekah and Esau and Jacob. It was even greater than the Jewish nation through whom Jesus came. But all of these were necessary that we might have the Christ of Christmas. This blessing was fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8,16; Romans 9:4-5; and John 4:19-26).

Christmas is about submitting yourself to God’s will.

Christmas is about believing God’s promises.

Christmas is about focusing on eternal things.

If you celebrate Christmas without submitting yourself to God’s will, without believing God’s promises, without focusing on the eternal things of God; you may be surrounded by family and friends and loved ones but you will remain isolated and alienated from God. Perhaps you need to change your Christmas plans and focus on things eternal.

Next Week: THE GOVERNMENT WILL BE ON THIS CHILD’S SHOULDER (Genesis 49:8-12)