csibiblestudy


When God Introduces Himself!
June 18, 2014, 6:36 pm
Filed under: Searching for our Savior in His book

When I was 19 years old, I did something drastic. I moved to college. I grew up in a little town called Belsprings, VA. It was Virginia’s version of Mayberry, except we didn’t have a sheriff’s department or a mayor. We did have a barber, a gas station, and a baseball field on which we played baseball in the spring and football in the fall. We had a little elementary school that went through seventh grade. I was a paper boy to most of my neighbors, put up hay, and enjoyed a simple life. I attended Belsprings Baptist Church and was known as a good kid, a reputation I didn’t deserve. I had anxiety attacks when I had to go to Dublin High School as an eighth grader, but adjusted because I got involved in sports with my friends. I was shy which caused me to limit my opportunities because I was afraid of getting out of my comfort zone. So why did I move to go to college, out of state, and out of what was comfortable? It was because I also came to know Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and He worked in my life to lead me to Winston-Salem and Piedmont Bible College. God introduced Himself to me and the encounter changed me. There was (and is) nothing special about me and I certainly didn’t do anything to earn this meeting. God was pursuing me.

My encounter with God is something like God’s initial contact with Jacob in Genesis 28. Like me, Jacob was a “momma’s boy” and like me, there was nothing special about him. But God had plans which including Jacob and in order for Jacob to understand, God set up a meeting with him. Let’s take a look at the meeting and see what God reveals to us.

Putting Genesis 28 in context, remember that Jacob has deceived his father, Isaac, and made his brother Esau angry enough to plot to kill him after his dad’s death. Rebekah realizes her favorite son’s life is on the line, so she goes to Isaac and manipulates him to tell Jacob to leave and go to Rebekah’s brother, Laban back in the homeland. I think Isaac also saw God working to use Jacob as the son through which the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled. While he had already blessed Jacob while deceived, he now knowingly blesses Jacob and commanded him to their homeland to find a wife. His command also contains a prohibition, “don’t marry a Canaanite woman”. Let me make a couple of observations about this command. Jacob was seventy-seven at this time. His brother Esau had already been married for 37 years to two Canaanite women. Why had Isaac and Rebekah not told their sons about this standard before? It seems a little late to tell them. Second, notice that Esau saw that Jacob had officially been blessed by Isaac and had been told not to marry a Canaanite but a wife from “home”. So he decides the reason he missed the blessing from Isaac was his “sin” of marrying someone from Canaan. He then goes out and marries Mahalath, Ishmael’s daughter. When you read Esau’s reaction to Isaac’s blessing, it reminds us of our misunderstanding of GRACE. Like many of us today, Esau incorrectly thought that God’s blessings come because we please Him or do the right things and the reason we aren’t blessed is because we have messed up and failed to do the right thing. So he devises a plan to get blessed by Isaac and through him, by God. Let’s look at this for just a moment. What good things had Jacob done? Was he right to deceive his blind father, steal a birthright and blessing away from his brother, and include God in this deception? God answers this question Himself in Romans 9:10 to 13. God’s blessing was decided before birth by God’s choice. Notice in Romans that they hadn’t done good or evil works when God told Rebekah that Jacob, the younger, would be blessed. If God didn’t choose Jacob over Esau on the basis of works, then it is oblivious that blessings from God on the basis of GRACE. But also remember that God blessed Esau. Esau may not have been the one through whom the promises made to Abraham would be fulfilled, but we see God working in his life just as much as in Jacob’s. At this time, however, we see Esau as the master of his own life, making the decisions he made for his own benefit.

Now back to the encounter God had with Jacob. Jacob has left his comfort zone and at age seventy-seven takes off in a new direction. With nighttime approaching, he went on what might have been his first overnight camping trip. Resting his head on a rock; he finally went off to sleep. God then revealed Himself to Jacob through a dream. In the dream, Jacob saw a ladder going from the earth up into heaven. Angels were going up and down on the ladder but the most important part of the dream was who Jacob saw at the top of the ladder. It was the Lord. The Lord reaffirmed the Abrahamic Covenant to Jacob. Not only had Isaac given the “blessing” to Jacob, now God was telling him that He was blessing him. Jacob woke from his sleep, realizing that God had been there. He set up a monument to his encounter, and renamed the place Bethel, the “house of God”. This encounter had an impact on Jacob and he wanted a relationship with God. But here is what struck me. The relationship was based on the conditions that Jacob established. When we are in a relationship with someone equal, we both set the boundaries or conditions of that relationship. But when one person in the relationship wants to be in charge, he sets the standards. When God made the covenant with Abraham, He put Abraham asleep and walked through the meat offerings alone. That established that He was in charge of the relationship, including the promises and provisions. Jacob wasn’t willing to let God be in charge of his life, but saw God as a source of blessings and protections. Jacob made a deal with God. If God met the conditions established by Jacob; to be with him, to protect him on the journey, to provide food and clothing, and to allow him to return home in peace then Jacob would let God be his God. He promised to worship Him and to give Him a tenth of that which God blessed Him.

At best, Jacob has an immature faith. But I really believe this is just the starting point from which his relationship with God will develop. But notice how Jacob tried to negotiate with God on the conditions he demanded of God before he would agree to follow. Are we doing the same when we “believe on Jesus”, but only let Him be in charge of what we determine is His (the spiritual). We continue to run the rest of our lives the way we think is best. That may describe the disciples before the cross and resurrection. They followed Jesus, but had lives characterized by selfish interests but lacked power. But their lives were radically different after the resurrection. They were redeemed sons, saints, and slaves to the One they followed. Our walk with God should be based on a totally realization that we come to God spiritually bankrupt and are totally dependent upon His completed work of the life, death, and resurrection. He is not only my Savior, but also my Master. Through Him, I can have a relationship as a son with God my Father. Through faith in His GRACE, I follow the One through whom I have sins forgiven, righteousness imputed, and the indwelling presence and enablement of the Holy Spirit.

WHO HAS ESTABLISHED THE CONDITIONS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD?

 

 

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