Tag Archives: Adam

The Family of Jacob

Sermon given for the 4th Sunday of Lent–a mini-series.

Scripture connections: (using the New Living Translation)

Genesis 25:19-26

     This is the account of the family of Isaac, the son of Abraham. 20 When Isaac was forty years old, he married Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel the Aramean from Paddan-aram and the sister of Laban the Aramean.

     21 Isaac pleaded with the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was unable to have children. The Lord answered Isaac’s prayer, and Rebekah became pregnant with twins. 22 But the two children struggled with each other in her womb. So she went to ask the Lord about it. “Why is this happening to me?” she asked.

     23 And the Lord told her, “The sons in your womb will become two nations. From the very beginning, the two nations will be rivals. One nation will be stronger than the other; and your older son will serve your younger son.”

     24 And when the time came to give birth, Rebekah discovered that she did indeed have twins!25 The first one was very red at birth and covered with thick hair like a fur coat. So they named him Esau.[a] 26 Then the other twin was born with his hand grasping Esau’s heel. So they named him Jacob.[b] Isaac was sixty years old when the twins were born.

Genesis 28:10-17

     10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.

     13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

Genesis 28:20-22

“. . . If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

Genesis 32:24-29

     24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

     27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

     28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel,[a] because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

     29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

 

Reflection: The Family of Jacob

Working through the stories of the Old Testament Bible is showing some interesting life patterns. Obviously the stories of Adam’s and Noah’s family are related because they offer new beginnings—the first a creation story and the second a re-creation story.

Abraham’s story has an interesting comparison to Jacob’s story, too. Obviously, giving birth to sons was an ancient cultural expectation (and really some cultures today still have similar values). The first-born son carried on the family lineage. Therefore, if a woman was barren, the lineage was jeopardized.

Abraham’s wife Sarah was barren and so was Jacob’s wife Rachel. The pressure to have sons lead both wives to encourage their husbands to have a child through their hand-maiden, through a surrogate in today’s terms.

This similarity is interesting, but really is not a major focus of the lessons Jacob’s family can teach us today. The lesson Jacob’s family has for us is not wrapped up in the genealogical similarities and differences, but rather a lesson on forgiveness.

Forgiveness is a common theme in all the stories of the Old Testament families. As humans, we make mistakes. As faithful followers of God, we must learn to accept our human mistakes and ask for forgiveness.

Jacob was a twin, but he was the second one born. His twin was Esau and, by the ancient culture’s standards, would take over as head of the family upon his father’s death. But, Esua focused on hunting and on immediate needs rather than using farsighted planning; so when he was hungry, Jacob easily traded his birthright with him for a hearty stew.

The family dynamics changed at that moment. God’s story does not follow the human culture; it follows human decisions.   Humans make mistakes, use poor judgment, manipulate situations, and cheat each other. Jacob was human and he made mistakes; so why is his story preserved?

A profile of Jacob includes this analysis:

  1. Strengths & accomplishments—father of the 12 tribes of Israel; 3rd in the Abrahamic line of God’s plan; determined & willing to work long and hard for what he wanted; and a good businessman.
  2. Weaknesses and mistakes—when faced with conflict relied on his own resources rather than going to God for help; and tended to accumulate wealth for its own sake.

This analysis compares to many humans, male and female. All of us have strengths and weaknesses. We all are susceptible to temptation; we all make the wrong decisions; yet we also are given certain gifts that we can choose to use or to ignore. Jacob used his gifts to get what he wanted.

Not only did he trick his own twin to get his birthright, but he also tricked Esua later to get his father’s final blessing.   Jacob’s role as the father of the 12 tribes of Israel was the result of trickery. How easy to miss the lesson of God’s forgiveness when the story appears to be based on human weakness.

God knows we are weak. He knows we are gong to make mistakes, but he also accepts us for our weaknesses. And amazingly, when we maintain a faithful life, we have the potential to take a negative and make it into a positive—with God’s help.

Jacob tricked Esua, and then his mother Rebecca urged him to go and stay with her brother Laban. The story is complicated as Rebecca wanted Jacob to marry one of her people; and even when he finds Rachel, his uncle continues the trickery and he ends up with Leah.

One trick seems to lead to another. Yet, one of Jacob’s strengths—hardworking—drives him to reach his ultimate goal of marrying Rachel as well as Leah. At the same time, Jacob was a successful businessman and became wealthy.

And beneath Jacob’s human story lies faithfulness in God woven into the story through Jacob’s dream:

     10 Meanwhile, Jacob left Beersheba and traveled toward Haran. 11 At sundown he arrived at a good place to set up camp and stopped there for the night. Jacob found a stone to rest his head against and lay down to sleep. 12 As he slept, he dreamed of a stairway that reached from the earth up to heaven. And he saw the angels of God going up and down the stairway.

     13 At the top of the stairway stood the Lord, and he said, “I am the Lord, the God of your grandfather Abraham, and the God of your father, Isaac. The ground you are lying on belongs to you. I am giving it to you and your descendants. 14 Your descendants will be as numerous as the dust of the earth! They will spread out in all directions—to the west and the east, to the north and the south. And all the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your descendants. 15 What’s more, I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. One day I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you.”

 

The dream moved Jacob into action, building a memorial pillar where he had the dream and names it Bethel. And he made a vow:

“. . . If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, 21 and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the Lord will certainly be my God. 22 And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.”

 

The dream establishes the faithful relationship Jacob has with God. The complicated story of Jacob’s life as he goes on to his uncle’s land and earning his wives, Leah and Rachel, teaches that God is with us always.

Not one of you can look back at your lives and say it was simple because you believed in God. Each one of you can look at your life and recognize that you made mistakes, but God never left your side. Jacob was not a model of perfection, but God used his weaknesses and his strengths to carry the story forward.

The Story: God loves us. God forgives us.

Jacob’s story is complicated and begins with his birth in Genesis 25 and ends with his death in Genesis 49. The twists and turns in Jacob’s life are really no different than those you and I experience in our own lives.

When Jacob decided to seek out Esua and make amends, he was so worried that Esua would be angry that he sent gifts and even sent others before him with messages before he risked crossing into Esua’s land.

And that night, while alone, Jacob wrestled with God:

     24 This left Jacob all alone in the camp, and a man came and wrestled with him until the dawn began to break. 25 When the man saw that he would not win the match, he touched Jacob’s hip and wrenched it out of its socket. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking!”

But Jacob said, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

     27 “What is your name?” the man asked.

He replied, “Jacob.”

     28 “Your name will no longer be Jacob,” the man told him. “From now on you will be called Israel, because you have fought with God and with men and have won.”

     29 “Please tell me your name,” Jacob said.

“Why do you want to know my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there.

Jacob’s story shows us how God used him to continue developing the nation of faithful followers. The story is filled with human faults as human stories continue to be filled with faults. Yet, the Old Testament story continues through the Jacob’s lineage as we learn of his youngest son Joseph.

The families of Adam, Noah, Abraham and Jacob share common themes: God’s unconditional love, the value of faithfulness, and the forgiveness of sins. The stories are preserved by the generations so you can learn the truth of living a God-centered life. You may wrestle with God, but remaining faithful will maintain the relationship throughout eternity.

Closing prayer:

Dear Father of all the generations,

You are with us always,

Waiting on us to accept your love.

You are with us when we do wrong,

Waiting for us to admit our mistakes.

You offer us forgiveness

When we turn back to you.

 

Thank you for the work of the faithful

Shared in the stories of your servants.

Thank you for sending us Jesus Christ

Who showed us how to live faithfully.

Thank you for speaking to us personally

Through the presence of the Holy Spirit.

 

May we be your disciples

Working to transform others

Through unconditional love, too. –Amen

 

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Lent, a season of mindfulness Did God really say that?

given on Sunday, March 5, 2017:  Week 1 of Lent 2017

Each Sunday of Lent a memory verse and a challenge will be given as an exercise in mindfulness. The memory verses are selected from O. S. Hawkins’s book, The Joshua Code and the Jesus Code. This book has 52 verses from the Joshua Codes and 52 verses from the Jesus Code recommended to commit to memory. In Hawkins’s introduction, he states, “Scripture memorization enables us to take God’s Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles. It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds, and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power.” (p.11)

 Opening scripture: Genesis 1:1-5 (NLT)

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[a] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.

Scripture connection: Romans 5:12-19 (NLT)

12 When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. 13 Yes, people sinned even before the law was given. But it was not counted as sin because there was not yet any law to break. 14 Still, everyone died—from the time of Adam to the time of Moses—even those who did not disobey an explicit commandment of God, as Adam did. Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. 15 But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. 16 And the result of God’s gracious gift is very different from the result of that one man’s sin. For Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. 17 For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ.

18 Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone. 19 Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. But because one other person obeyed God, many will be made righteous.

 

Closing scripture: Romans 5:20-21 (NLT)

20 God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. 21 So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

 

Week’s memory verse: Genesis 3:1 (NLT)

“Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

Week’s challenge:

Identify the Devil’s 5 Ds in your life this week: Doubt, Discouragement, Division, Defeat, and Delay.

 

Reflection: Did God really say that?

Setting up for today’s sermon began weeks ago as I kept thinking about Lent and what can make it meaningful, challenging and even memorable. Lent is a season that traditionally is filled with negative images and I struggle with framing my faith in negative thinking. Then the phrase, a season of mindfulness, filtered into my thoughts and stuck.

Lent is a time for reflection but also discipline; and that lead me to mindfulness. Discipline is mindfulness. Discipline guides Christians in their faith journey and, just like New Years Day when resolutions are made, Lent provides Christians a 40-day timeframe to honestly examine whether or not they are living the Christian principles they profess.

Therefore, maybe we could call Lent a time for “true confessions.” Admittedly that is a catchy phrase, and in my frame of reference, that phrase was considered to be a racy publication. So I had to discard that. I did not want any misunderstanding that Lent is a time for confessing one’s personal forays, rather Lent is for private reflection and recommitting to following God’s commandments.

Let’s begin Lent with a commitment to memorize one Bible verse each week. Today we begin with a verse from Genesis 3:1. The setting is the Garden of Eden, after creation, and God tells Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge. The conflict develops when the serpent, also known as Satan a fallen angel or the Devil, challenges Eve that eating that fruit will not cause death. The serpent says, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”

That one question is sometimes accredited as all the start of sin, but is it really that question or is that question just the critical line in the story that changes everything? If we trim that one verse down to one reflective question and memorize it, we have a self-check available at any time: Did God really say that?

The author of The Joshua Code and the Jesus Code, O. S. Hawkins, writes:

Scripture memorization enables us to take God’s Word with us anywhere and everywhere without carrying our Bibles. It enables us to receive the Word into our hearts, retain it in our minds, and recite it with our mouths that we might speak it with power. This is exactly what our Lord did during His days of temptation in the wilderness of Judea. With each temptation Satan brought Jesus’ way in Matthew 4, Jesus answered with, “It is written . . .”  The word received and retained in our hearts and minds overcome temptations when recited with our mouths. (Hawkins 2015, 11-12)

 

The challenge for this week is to memorize “Did God really say that?” Those few words provide us a tool to use whenever Satan confronts us.

Of course using that question to reflect on our own behaviors successfully must include an understanding of what sin is and how Satan/the Devil can lead us to sinful behaviors. John Wesley identifies sin as one of his ‘core terms’ defined in the study notes of the Wesley Study Bible:

. . . convinced by his study of Scripture, the cumulative wisdom of the church, and reflection on his life and the circumstances of his time that there lies within us a power, working with such force that it is capable of destroying us. Wesley saw that naming the source of our problem as sin, that is, willful action setting us against the will of God and turning us away from communion with God . . . (2009531)

 

One’s definition of sin can vary, but primarily Wesley states sin is knowing what God expects from us, but then giving in to a “force” that causes us to turn away from God’s expectations. This is not “original sin” that some denominations profess. This is a believer going against what they believe God tells them.

In the Life Application Bible study notes, sin is defined as “giving in to temptation.” (199112) As Christians we are to realize that temptation alone is not the sin, but giving in to that temptation is sin. This definition parallels Wesley’s and places us in the position to know what temptation or what Satan does to influence us.

How do we recognize what Satan or the Devil is doing that makes us consider going against what God tell us? There are 5 Ds listed in the Life Application Bible notes that help clear this up: doubt, discouragement, diversion, defeat, and delay. (199113) Beginning with the memory verse, “Did God really tell you that?”, add these questions and thoughts for reflection:

  • Doubt: What made you question God’s words and goodness?
  • Discouragement: What caused you not to trust God to manage it?
  • Diversion: What happened that caused you not to follow God’s commandment?
  • Defeat: What did you not do because you thought you would fail?
  • Delay: What did you put off you knew you should do?

These days of Lent are the ideal time to review your life—its decisions, its lifestyle, and its present state. Are you listening to God through prayer and through scripture? Are you listening to God through the words of family and friends serving as God’s spokesman? Or are you listening to the Devil’s 5Ds?

Lent is the ideal time to review what practices can help defend you from the Devil’s temptation. Wesley recommended the acts of piety as the tools to remain in right relationship with God:

Works of piety are acts we do that express reverence and love for God. They include such means of grace as studying Scripture devotionally, hearing Scripture read and sermons preached, receiving the Lord’s Supper, praying, fasting, and coming together for conversation and mutual support as we seek to live faithfully. (20091066)

 

The acts of piety may seem daunting at first, but implementing these acts defends us from the temptations to doubt, to give in to discouragement, to be diverted, to sense defeat, and to delay action. The acts of piety keep us from sin.

On the same page as the definition of sin in the Life Application Bible, are three steps to resisting the Devil:

  1. Pray for strength to resist temptation.
  2. Run, sometimes literally run away from temptation.
  3. Say no when confronted with what we know is wrong. (199112)

 

Three simple methods to defend one’s self from sin.

 

During this first full week of Lent, keep practicing the memory verse: Did God really say that? To complete the self-reflection, ask yourself which way is Satan trying to get you to sin. The challenge to put the memory verse into action is easier if one knows the Devil’s 5D’s well enough to identify them, too. Did the Devil try to tempt you through doubt? Through discouragement? Through a diversion? Through defeat? Through delay?

As Christians, we must acknowledge our humanness. We cannot live in today’s world unaffected by the influences that swirl around us. Sometimes the evil is so evident we can easily spot it, but sometimes evil quietly sifts into our thoughts distracting us from what God teaches us in scripture and by the disciples that have lived before us.

God accepts us even with our sins, but through his grace we are forgiven. The scriptures share the stories and the lessons of those who believed so that we may learn how to live as disciples, too. Paul personally knew God’s forgiveness and turned his life completely around accepting Jesus as the promised Messiah who died so that we may also be forgiven and receive life eternal.

Use Lent as a season of mindfulness to memorize a weekly verse and then accept the challenge to purposefully reflect on how that verse can strengthen your faith.

Closing prayer:

Dear Forgiving Father,

 

In your story, we find grace.

In your story, we find love.

In your story, we find guidance.

 

Help us to avoid temptation.

Help us to hear your words.

Help us to live our faith.

 

Let the bread and the cup

Bring us closer to you

As we reaffirm our faith.

 

In the name

Of the Father,

The Son,

And the Holy Spirit, amen.

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