Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 17 Jan 18:
1. Genesis 33:2 – “And he put the servants with their children in front, then Leah with her children, and Rachel and Joseph last of all.” There was certainly no question who Jacob favored. Facing a threat, the last people Jacob wanted to see harmed was Rachel and Joseph. How do you think the rest of Jacob’s family felt about that? As we read, watch a see how God responds to Jacob’s favoritism.
2. Genesis 33:4 – “But Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept.” Despite being the offended party, Esau took the initiative in reconciliation.
3. Genesis 33:9 – “But Esau said, ‘I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself.’” It is far easier to be patient and kind when you have everything you need or when you are comfortable in your position. However, when people feel vulnerable or threatened, they are susceptible to attacking others. Contentment is an attitude that doesn’t have to depend on external conditions. If you learn to be content in any situation, you will be in a good position to love others as you should.
4. Genesis 33:10 – “For I have seen your face, which is like seeing the face of God, and you have accepted me.” Guilt and fear can consume our lives. Jacob has spent most of his adult life essentially exiled and living in the shame of having deceived his brother. Esau’s welcoming of Jacob was like taking an enormous burden off of Jacob’s shoulders, a gift Jacob didn’t deserve, and to Jacob it was similar to the grace God bestows. How will your forgiveness affect others?
5. Genesis 33:16, 17 — “So Esau returned that day on his way to Seir. But Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built himself a house and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.” Reconciliation is critical to a Christian. Reconciliation is a total forgiveness that restores two parties back to complete harmony or unity, back to the same quality of relationship that existed before any disagreement or divisive offense – no emotional barriers, perfect peace, fullness of relational joy. The Bible says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10) In this reconciliation, our trespasses were covered over, not counted against us. (2 Corinthians 5:19) Having been reconciled through Christ, Christians have subsequently been given the mission and purpose of reconciliation – “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20) To be worthy to carry the message of reconciliation, we must be reconciled in our own personal relationships. How important is this? Jesus said, “Leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:24) Reconciliation requires five conditions: first, the offender must be repentant and humbly recognize the need for forgiveness; second, the offender must desire forgiveness and be willing to ask for forgiveness and/or receive forgiveness; third, the offended must be willing to forgive (truly forgive) the offender; fourth, the offender must TRULY believe and accept that he is forgiven; finally, the two must agree to return to their original relational conditions and activities (Amos 3:3 – “Do two walk together, unless they have agreed to meet?”). The primary stumbling block for most Christians is with the fourth condition – they don’t really BELIEVE that they are totally forgiven by God. Therefore, their relationship with God is still uncomfortable, lacking of the fullness of joy and blessings that are potentially available. There remains an elephant in the room. There remains a feeling of guilt and unworthiness that causes the believer to keep up emotional/spiritual barriers, to ‘hide in the garden’; to continually, awkwardly, and painfully seek to make up for what has already been nullified, to earn the forgiveness that has already been given, and/or to keep a more comfortable distance or go their separate way. We have all seen this in human relationship that ‘just weren’t the same’ after a major offense, despite the proclaimed forgiveness. The two that were once so close slowly drift apart. This is what we see happen with Jacob and Esau. Jacob was guilty and very fearful. It would appear that Esau was ready to forgive. However, Jacob could not trust in the forgiveness and politely went his separate way – the relationship was never fully restored; they never again experienced the joy and blessings of brotherhood. This is a sad story, given to us for a reason. To fulfill the Great Commandment and the second one like it, we must pursue genuine reconciliation in our relationships with God and other people respectively. With God, we must truly believe in and trust in (faith) our forgiveness and then return to our original relationship (serve and walk) with God without fear – “Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21) “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) With other people, we must master forgiveness and graciousness. We must deny self and surrender our rights before others. We must be ready to receive persecution from others and to bear the burden of that offense upon ourselves. This is a big part of what it means to ‘take up our cross’. How are your relationships, both with God and with others? Are you experiencing the fullness of joy that comes from reconciliation in all of your relationships? Do you fully forgive because you truly know that you are fully forgiven? Is the truth of Christ Crucified and Risen revealed in how you treat others? If not, “leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”
6. Genesis 34:1 – “Now Dinah… went out to see the women of the land.” Engaging the world is extremely dangerous. Because so much of the world seems so appealing, we can forget the destructive power of sin and to what extremes to godless can go. Some of the most evil people appear to be the ‘nicest’ people.
7. Genesis 34:5-12 – Shechem did a disgraceful thing and deeply offended Jacob’s family, but Shechem apparently desired to make restitution and seek reconciliation – “Let me find favor in your eyes, and whatever you say to me I will give.” However, in their self-righteous indignation and anger for what happened to Dinah, the sons of Jacob sinned terribly against the House of Hamor. Their resentment resulted in great destruction and hatred that would last for generations to come.
8. Genesis 34:13 – “The sons of Jacob answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully, because he had defiled their sister Dinah.” Jacob’s sons returned sin for sin, resulting in the slaughter of many who had nothing to do with the original offense.
9. Genesis 34:13 – Jacob was a model of deceit for his children. What did you learn from your parents, and what habits are you teaching others?
10. Genesis 34:27-39 – “The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.” Because of the sin of one person, the sons of Jacob slaughtered countless unsuspecting, peaceful bystanders. If we are not careful, we too can let our anger get out of hand and hurt the innocent around us. For example, strife between a mother and father hurts the children.
11. Genesis 34:30 — Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.’” Jacob was not as concerned about the spiritual significance of what his sons did as he was about the social impact. Jacob was only concerned about his own skin. You will see this character trait continue to play out as we read on.
12. Genesis 34:31 – The sons of Jacob put revenge ahead of justice and mercy, and they were willing to sin in order to get revenge and make a statement.
13. Proverbs 17:1 – “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” Strife takes the joy out of everything.
14. Proverbs 17:1 — What good are riches and resources if you can’t enjoy them because your heart is not right?
15. Proverbs 17:3 – “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” The Lord is testing your heart through your circumstances to see if you will remain loving and faithful. What you say about your situation reveals more about you than your situation. How does God test your heart? What is God revealing to you about your walk with Jesus?
16. Proverbs 17:5 – “He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” Is there a part of you that is happy when offensive people suffer the consequences of their behavior, or do you pray that they will be driven to the comfort of Jesus. Jonah couldn’t stand the thought of God forgiving evil Nineveh. Do you ever feel that way?
17. Proverbs 17:6 – “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.” God calls us to have plan for generations.
18. Proverbs 17:9 — “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.” Gossip is contrary to your God-given mission of reconciliation and makes you an adversary of God.
19. Proverbs 17:14 – “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Just drop it – that is the Christian thing to do.
20. Proverbs 17:15 — “Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent–the Lord detests them both.” Personal forgiveness and civil accountability are two different things. You should personally forgive the criminal, but he still must be held accountable to society.
21. Proverbs 17:16 – “Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom when he has no sense?” There is a political theory that says that poverty (economic plight) and poor education is the cause of strife. However, the issue is the heart, and no amount of education or money can fix the heart.
22. Proverbs 17:19 – “Whoever loves transgression loves strife.” Strife is the product of sin. Avoid the love of transgression. When someone transgresses against you, don’t respond with transgression.
23. Proverbs 17:20 – “A man of crooked heart does not discover good.” Heart problems keep you from the fullness of God’s blessings.
24. Proverbs 17:27, 28 — “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered. Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” Your temper and rash words reveal your spiritual immaturity and lack of Spirit-enabled self-control. All the Bible knowledge in the world and logical thinking can’t hide this heart problem.
25. Matthew 13:1-15 – People will respond differently to God’s word, but we must spread it everywhere.
26. Matthew 13:12 – “For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” To receive more truth from God, you must obey the truth you have already been given. If you won’t obey what God has already revealed to you, not only will you not receive more, even what you have will depart from your life. God will not allow you to stay where you are – you are either growing or withering.
27. Matthew 13:15 – “…understand with their heart.” Understanding comes from the heart, not from the head. You can have all the Bible ‘knowledge’ in the world but no understanding if God’s word doesn’t change your heart. If God’s word hasn’t transformed your life, if it hasn’t inspired you to fulfill the Great Commandment of love, you don’t really understand and have only empty knowledge that is powerless.
28. Matthew 13:15 – “For this people’s heart has grown dull.” Every time you hear God’s word and neglect it, your heart grows dull, and you lose a bit more of your ability to hear from God in the future. You will still be able to study God’s word, but less and less are you inclined to be changed by it.
29. Matthew 13:17 – “Many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.” Everyone of God’s faithful in the Bible that you are reading about would have loved to have the opportunities that you have been given to know Jesus and to serve Him. The authority of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit has been given to you as a priest and ambassador of Jesus to fulfill the Great Commission during a time when God’s word is available to just about everyone, and the whole world can be reached due to technological advances. What are we doing in our age?
30. Matthew 13:18-23 – Which seed are you?
31. Matthew 13:18-23 – God does not expect all labors for Him to produce similar results or success.
32. Matthew 13:22 – “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” Most Christians in America seem to fall into this category. So easily do we replace the Great Commission with the American dream. We are worried about so much, harried, busy, consumed. Too often, our Kingdom mission gets what little is left.
33. Matthew 13:28-30 – “So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” Don’t waste your time trying to figure out who isn’t saved or really a Christian. Rather, spend your time making more disciples. God will separate the weeds from the flowers in His own time.
34. Matthew 13:33 — “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” Your role as yeast is to slowly influence others. Like yeast, we slowly influence others, and eventually the Kingdom grows very large. You have no idea how much your small impact on others will produce tremendous results.
35. Matthew 13:44 – When we have truly discovered Jesus Christ, our joy is complete and nothing else matters, nothing else gives us greater joy. Our joy in complete in Him.
36. Matthew 13:46 – When we truly know Jesus Christ, giving up everything to follow Him is not a difficult thing to do but rather comes naturally. Everything else loses its value, and all that you have is dedicated to drawing closer to Him. If you are still hanging on to something, you need to work on your relationship with Jesus Christ.
37. Matthew 13:54 – Amazement is not faith.
38. Matthew 13:58 – A lack of faith robs us of God’s blessings in our life.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 17 Jan 18: Consider what truly gives you joy more than Jesus. Consider what influences your daily decision-making more than Jesus. Consider what, if it were lost, would cause you to doubt God or love Him less joyfully. Whatever that thing is, it is an idol to you that ultimately robs you of the joy God desires for you, joy that can only be found in Jesus. Chances are, your idol is not necessarily a bad thing, rather your preference for it over God has made it a bad thing. Don’t make that thing less important, make your relationship with God more important.