Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Wednesday, 2 February 2022:
Genesis 31:3 – “Then the Lord said to Jacob, ‘Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.’”
To receive the blessings God intended for Jacob, Jacob had to go where God was leading. What Jacob didn’t realize was that God was leading Jacob into a confrontation with Esau; He was leading Jacob back to the roots of Jacob’s deception. He was going to bring Jacob face to face with the reality of his infidelity. God had to deal with Jacob’s lack of integrity, and Jacob had to trust God through the process. When we know we have sinned terribly against another, the last thing we want to do is face them in our guilt, especially if we know they are resentful. When we know we have sinned terribly, the last thing we want to do is shed light on that sin, to expose it, to acknowledge it fully. However, unresolved sin and guilt is a barrier to our relationship with God and to our relationships with others; and unresolved sin is a barrier to our spiritual growth. God doesn’t want us to carry that hidden burden but rather to surrender it to Him, to accept His total forgiveness, and to walk in repentance and the confidence of His grace. We must no longer drag the heavy, confining chains of guilt and continued sin but must walk in the freedom of Jesus, in obedience to Him out of love.
- 1 John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
- James 5:16 — Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
- Matthew 5:23-24 — So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
- Ephesians 5:8-14 — …for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light.
- Hebrews 12:1 — Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
- Philippians 3:12-14 — Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Jacob was still trapped in the sin and guilt of deception, and the consequences were closing in around him – Esau wanted to kill him, and he had worn out his welcome with Laban’s clan. God was leading Jacob into crisis so he would be forced to face the truth of himself, but more importantly, the truth of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Along the way to His great confrontation, we see exposed some of the habits and attitudes associated with the deceptive life:
- “I see that your father does not regard me with favor as he did before. But the God of my father has been with me.” (Genesis 31:5) While it is true that some may never be willing to forgive you when God has, God’s grace is not an excuse to neglect our message and ministry of reconciliation. (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21) In fact, God’s grace should compel us to relentlessly pursue reconciliation with those who would resist it. We must have the same passion for reconciliation with others as Christ had for us when He went to the cross for us while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). He was completely right, and we were completely wrong, and though we kept rejecting Him and kept sinning against Him, He took the suffering of abuse upon Himself with joy and continued to pursue us (Hebrews 12:2, 3) — “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) When Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me,” He was speaking, in no small part, about pursuing those who would hurt us for sake of love, that they would come to know the love of Christ through our display of godly grace on His behalf. On the cross of daily abuse and rejection, we should be compelled by the love of Christ to say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34) “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24) Quit pursuing others when you want God to quit pursuing you.
- Genesis 31:19, 20, 31 – “Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee…. Now Jacob did not know that Rachel had stolen them.” Deception is devastating to relationships. Secret sins in marriage are particularly destructive, ungodly, and prevent the two from truly becoming spiritually one. Concealed sins between husbands and wives not only divide their spirits, but the consequences can be catastrophic to the family. A marriage must be completely transparent that the two may truly be one and that real issues can be resolved as quickly as possible. Note that the Bible does not conceal the sins of its ‘heroes’ but records them for posterity. This transparency directs all glory to God and reveals His incredible mercy and grace. God calls us to be open and transparent concerning our sins in order to remove all pride from us and to direct all glory to Jesus Christ who saved us wretched creatures for the wrath of God which we deserve.
- “Jacob had fled.” (Genesis 31:22) Avoiding issues isn’t resolving issues. God has given us the mission of reconciliation. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:8) Living at peace doesn’t involve avoiding loving confrontation when there is no peace within your heart or theirs. Leaders take the lead in reconciliation and don’t just leave things unsettled. If reconciliation means you pay the price of their sin, then pay the price – it is a far less price than Christ paid for you when you didn’t deserve it. (To be continued tomorrow when we read Genesis 32)
Matthew 23:11 — “The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
Servants have the lowest position in the house, are treated with the least respect, do the most work with the least amount of credit, enjoy the fewest luxuries, remain largely behind the scenes, and make others look good. Servants don’t live luxurious lives or comfortable lives. Today the term ‘servant leader’ is very popular, but the worldly concept falls far short of Jesus’ meaning which he personally lived. Sun Tzu said that truly great generals never receive recognition because they never fight great, glorious battles. Great generals conquer their enemies without having to fight large, costly battles; they defeat their enemies before they make it to the battlefield; their victories go unobserved, and therefore, these masterful generals receive no honor. Similarly, servant leaders live largely in anonymity, not receiving any credit for the real work they do in quiet places to change lives. No fancy titles, no reserved parking spaces, no seats of honor, no ribbons, medals, or awards; no name recognition, no big offices or big desks; servant leaders just see needs and meet needs in the name of Jesus Christ, never in their own name. If there were rank in God’s Kingdom Army, I don’t think we would know who the generals were, and those who were religious ‘careerists’ would have no rank at all. The job of servant is the greatest job in the Kingdom but the hardest for which to qualify.
Matthew 23:23 — “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
Here Jesus commends tithing but condemns the Pharisees for their legalism. Tithing is a highly-debated topic in churches today. Many feel that the tithe was part of the Old Covenant and no longer relevant today, observing that, under the New Covenant of love, all belongs to Jesus. Two points for consideration: tithing is a practice that occurred before the Law (Abraham tithed to Melchizedek), and even under the Old Covenant, all belonged to God. Tithing was never meant to place a limit or minimum on giving. God has always commanded far more than just the tithe. Tithing, unlike gifts and alms, was a public act of worship that intentionally gave the first and best part of income to God. It was something that could be measured and was used to support the collective works and needs of God’s church and people. Tithes were given by the people and administered by the leadership of the church, without bias and in accordance with God’s general and special revelation. When God’s people tithed, the church could not only resource evangelism but could also care for its people. When God’s people fell into need, they did not have to sell themselves into slavery to cover their needs (today’s slavery is debt) or turn to ungodly institutions for help. This from an article posted in 2016: “Christians are only giving at 2.5 percent per capita, while during the Great Depression they gave at a 3.3 percent rate….. What would happen if believers were to increase their giving to a minimum of, let’s say, 10 percent? There would be an additional $165 billion for churches to use and distribute. The global impact would be phenomenal. Here’s just a few things the Church could do with the kind of money: $25 billion could relieve global hunger, starvation and deaths from preventable diseases in five years. $12 billion could eliminate illiteracy in five years. $15 billion could solve the world’s water and sanitation issues, specifically at places in the world where 1 billion people live on less than $1 per day. $1 billion could fully fund all overseas mission work. $100 – $110 billion would still be left over for additional ministry expansion.” How much do you pay in taxes? How much do you pat to debt? How much do you spend on cell phone bills and internet/cable bills? Who gets that money you pay out to various institutions, and what do they do with it? What if you tithed? “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (Malachi 3:10)
Matthew 23:26 – “You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.”
Good deeds without true love give the appearance of godliness but in fact do not make a person godly. Two people can give the same charitable gift to people in need, and one gift is acceptable to God and the other not acceptable, all depending upon the motive of the heart that gave the gift. Sure, both provide a benefit to the needy, but God can use anyone to provide to the needy, even the wicked. What is acceptable to God is love.
Matthew 23:28 – “So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Obedience to God inspired only by love for Him is the true act of worship.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 2 Feb 22: Today, seek to be a true servant leader. See the notes above on Matthew 23:11.