Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 6 February 2022:
Genesis 35:1, 2 – God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.”
God demands total loyalty and purity from His people. An encounter with God caused Jacob to seek holiness in his life and the lives of those around him. How has the reality of the presence of God in your life driven you to holiness and purity? Is your holiness evident to everyone around you as a visible testimony to the power of the Gospel in your life?
Genesis 35:3 – “God… answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Jacob had a life testimony based upon his personal experiences with God, a testimony he shared with others. What is your personal testimony, and how do you share it with others?
Genesis 35:4 – “So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.”
Jacob’s people committed to get rid of their foreign gods but Jacob ultimately didn’t. He hid the idols which is certainly not the same as destroying the idols. Outwardly he looked pure, but in reality his idols remained, waiting to influence in the future. The Latin of the word “decision” literally means, “to cut off” completely. Making a decision is about “cutting off” choices or removing possibilities from your life. Jacob made a ‘decision’ to purify his life but not really. He kept open the possibility of the idols remaining idols. When we repent, we must cut off completely whatever was impure or unholy in our lives. Don’ t leave a door for sin to reenter into your heart.
Genesis 35:10 – And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.
“Israel” means, “He struggles with God,” and many believe that this name refers to when Jacob struggled with “a man” in Chapter 32. However, it seems from our readings that the name “Israel” applies to Jacob’s whole life as he struggles to transition from the “deceiver” to a godly person. Jacob struggles with his sin nature his whole life. Can you relate to that? Jacob/Israel relies solely on God’s mercy and grace. It is worthy to note once again, that the Bible reveals its main characters to be terrible sinners, not superheroes as would had been the case if the Bible were written by men. The Bible reveals the humble condition of man and the need for salvation through Jesus Christ.
Genesis 35:11 – And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.
God commands His people throughout the Bible to grow in numbers, to make more and more disciples regardless of the world situation. During COVID, many churches shut down permanently, but many churches grew tremendously. The faithful will be fruitful.
Genesis 35:22 – “While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it.”
Israel’s family was corrupt, in no small part due to Israel’s poor example and leadership. Israel seems to do nothing when his sons sin terribly. He did nothing when they slaughtered a town, and here he seems to do nothing when his son commits this abomination. Beyond being an unthinkable sin, Reuben’s action was a challenge to the headship of his father Israel. Reuben clearly had no respect for his father or his father’s authority. To remain silent and passive before sin is to be complicit. Where the light doesn’t shine, darkness remains. Christians must confront the sin around them in a loving way.
Psalm 14:1 – “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds; there is none who does good.”
The obvious point of this verse is that atheism and secular humanism is utterly foolish. The less obvious point is that all sin (foolishness) is, essentially, a moment of saying, ‘There is no God.’ In sin, God has been removed from the decision-making cycle or rendered a non-factor. When the atheist rejects God, he essentially makes himself the god of his life — the one to be served, the decider of right and wrong, the only hope for salvation, etc. That person, though (s)he may appear fun-loving or respectable, is corrupt at the core and guaranteed to do abominable deeds.
On the other hand, the believer who sins has become his own god (idol) for the moment. The first letter in “idol” is “I.” When we make ourselves the priority against the First Commandment, we become the embodiment of foolishness, we become corrupt, and we are guaranteed to do abominable things. So, to restate the point — This verse does not apply just (or even primarily) to those self-proclaimed, at times outspoken, atheists out there; but also more importantly to the ‘practical atheist,’ that person who proudly proclaims faith, but who thinks, speaks, and acts as if there is really no God. It is the person who proclaims faith without a true heart of faith that is perhaps most troubling because they, by their actions, bear false witness of the Lord before others; they proclaim a weak god of poor character. These are they who Jesus says, “because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16)
The practical atheist may believe ‘in God’ (as the demons do) but doesn’t believe God to love, trust, and obey Him. Counter to Hebrews 11:6, the practical atheist doesn’t believe God means what He says. The Practical atheist doesn’t take seriously the call to be a critical part of “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:6). The practical atheist does not take Exodus 20 very seriously. The practical atheist recklessly takes matters into his own hands without waiting on God. (Exodus 14:14)
Psalm 15 points out today that the true believer is revealed by how they treat others — truthfully, fairly, compassionately, graciously, generously, etc; the true believer never takes advantage of those less fortunate (such as by lending money with interest – profiting from God’s blessings), and the true believer obeys God regardless the personal cost. (Psalm 15:4) Whenever we sin, we are essentially, at least for a brief moment, saying that God is not Lord. What a terrible thing. We must never take sin lightly as it is an affront to God. It is a constant daily endeavor to ensure that your Savior remains the Lord and Savior of your heart.
Psalm 14:4 – “Evildoers… eat up… people as they eat bread and do not call upon the Lord?”
Sin is self-centeredness and selfishness that violates the First Commandment and the Great Commandment. Self-centered, selfish people always hurt themselves and others. We were created to be interdependent. Outside of love, you are like a fish out of water, struggling violently and hopelessly for life, only expediting death the more you struggle. Jesus is the Living Water required for life.
Psalm 14:5 – “There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous.”
We have a tendency to think in the physical realm and apply physical rules to the spiritual God. We tend to think of God being “with” us in terms of time and space – He is physically here and then He is physically not here. However, God is spirit and is not bound by the physical attributes of time and space. Being with God or walking with God is a spiritual condition that is determined by the heart condition and by obedience. God is omnipresent and unchanging. We choose to separate from God and lose awareness of His omnipresence when we choose to separate from Him in sin. He is still present, but we become blind to His presence. We are like an out of tune radio that cannot receive the unseen radio waves that are being transmitted continually. The radio waves don’t change; it is the radio that must be adjusted.
Psalm 15: 1, 4 – “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? in whose eyes a vile person is despised, but who honors those who fear the Lord; who swears to his own hurt and does not change.”
Presence with God is an issue of the heart and requires obedience that is motivated by love. God does not expect you to overlook the sins of the unrepentant.
Psalm 15:1, 5 – “Who shall dwell on your holy hill?…. who does not put out his money at interest.”
God does not intend for His people to lend money with interest. Money was originally intended to replace objects in trade. For example, rather than transferring a sheep, a person could transfer the worth of a sheep without the burden of logistics. However, interest adds no tangible (object) value but only transfers wealth from one person to another. Interest takes advantage of another person’s need. In most cases, one person needs or wants something they can’t afford, so they essentially give someone else who can afford it more than it is really worth. Interest creates a debt that makes a richer person richer and a poorer person poorer. The original word for debt is a word derived from another word meaning “snakebite: — it takes life from you slowly. The only time Jesus displayed violence directed at others was when He attacked the moneychangers in the temple, calling them thieves. There are many ways to gain wealth, and many ways merely transfer wealth rather than adding real value (production). God wants His people to add value to the lives of others.
Psalm 15:5 – “He who does these things shall never be moved.”
One last time – this is a spiritual statement meaning never moved from the presence of God. You can be “with” God anywhere and under any circumstances, all depending on your faith, trust, love, and obedience.
Proverbs 6:1-11 — The Bible commands that you stay out of debt and to work hard for what you need rather than borrowing from others for what you need. Let no debt remain but the debt of love.
Proverbs 6:6-8 – Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer….
Self-disciplined people diligently do what needs to be done without needing any external motivation or immediate payoff. God wants you to be led by the Spirit but also self-regulated and self-motivated, a love that inspires discipline.
Successful people have the self-discipline and self-control to do what needs to be done today to prepare for tomorrow. Successful people are willing to do what unsuccessful people aren’t willing to do – give up instant gratification for long-term reward. Successful people can lead themselves into victory.
Proverbs 6:9 – “How long will you lie there, O sluggard?”
There are many forms of procrastination. One form is to think about doing something for eternity. Successful people spend most of their time, 70-90% in execution, learning as they go. You learn the most by doing. It is important to read and think, but this too can be a form of procrastination. We often overthink it. Read God’s word and then do it. You don’t really understand it until you have experienced it.
Proverbs 6:12-15 — A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with crooked speech, winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, points with his finger, with perverted heart devises evil,
continually sowing discord; therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.
“A worthless person….” A deceitful person is worthless in God’s economy.
Don’t play games in your relationships. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. Put all your cards on the table and be open and upfront with everyone. God expects you to always tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in a loving way. Let your “yes” mean “yes” and your “no” mean “no.” Ensure your aim is to always heal and to bring peace and greater unity.
Proverbs 6:16 – “There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him…. “
As a servant of Christ, you should know what God hates, and you should hate these things too. Do you know the six things the Lord hates? Don’t you think you should have those memorized if God hates them? For one, “…the Lord hates…. a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Never, ever lie or start a quarrel — the Lord hates it!
Proverbs 6:23 – “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life.”
The Holy Spirit uses God’s word to convict you of sin and keep you on tack. If God’s words are not enough, He will use discipline. Better to do what you are told than to receive a God smack.
Discipline (external discipline in the form of punishment) today is intended to protect us from temptation tomorrow. It helps us connect pain (negative consequences) to a behavior to counter the pleasure we desire from instant gratification. God’s desire for us is that the fruit of the Spirit of self-control (internal discipline) inspired by love (the first fruit of the Spirit) will eliminate the need for external disciplines in our lives.
Proverbs 6:25 – “Do not desire….”
Following Jesus requires fighting your sinful desires and struggling to obey when it is hard for you. It requires determined effort and perseverance. With persistent effort, before long, our sinful desires are no longer desirous and no longer a struggle — “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
Proverbs 6:27, 28 – “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or
can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”
Moral failure does not happen overnight, and people don’t fall into it, they slip and slide into it. Little compromises lead to complete surrender. Be an extremist when it comes to your holiness and your purity.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) — 6 Feb 22: Today, practice the presence of God. Think and act as if God is within you, using you to reveal Himself to the world around you, because He is. Radiate and communicate the truth of God today through your attitude, words, and deeds. Be holy because He is holy. Exude the love, joy, peace, and contentment which should be expected from someone who is perfectly loved and protected by the Creator of All Things.