amazing, abounding grace–part 1

The Word for today:
Genesis 37

mark this: Romans 5:20
But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more.

While you microscopically examine the list of Esau’s descendants in chapter 37, we are going to step back and take a look at Genesis through a telescope.

When we look at its panoramic whole, we see that the prevailing theme of Genesis is grace.

Grace means that God is good even when we aren’t. God’s grace is what saves us:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
What Ephesians 2:8-9 means, when stripped of its theological terminology, is that God didn’t save me because I am good, he saved me because he is good.

Grace to Adam and Eve.
On the occasion of their fall, God did not destroy them, but covered their sin:
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Their covering skins, involving the unprecedented taking of life, pointed directly to the cross of Jesus Christ.

Grace to Cain.
Despite Cain’s fratricide, he was was guarded by God:
Then the LORD said to him, “Not so! If anyone kills Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.” And the LORD put a mark on Cain, lest any who found him should attack him. (Genesis 4:15)

Grace to Noah.
Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. (6:8)
This is the first occurrence of the Hebrew word chen–translated in our Bible’s as ‘grace’ or ‘favor.’

Grace to Abraham.
Abraham, as a man of faith, was subject to a polishing process wherein God worked through the ups and downs of his life. The process turned a man who (twice) palmed off his wife off to a king because of a lack of faith into the man who could offer his son because he believed that God would raise him up on the spot.

Grace to Jacob.
Where do I begin?
The vision of a ladder girded him throughout twenty years of soul-shaping consternation under the “tutelage” of Laban.
Then, returning from Mesopotamia, he was gripped by an unknown assailant. He had no idea that he was in the grip of God’s relentless grace. That night Jacob was crippled, renamed, and blessed.

Grace to Joseph.
At every twist and turn of Joseph’s story–from pit to pinnacle–grace was there to meet him.

***

(We will conclude this topic tomorrow, when we will look closely at our most popular hymn–John Newton’s “Amazing Grace.”)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posted in Stand in the Rain Blog | Leave a comment

“Do not fear, for you have another son.”

“Rachel Dies While Giving Birth to Benjamin,”  Cayley

 

The Word for today:
Genesis 35

If I had to reduce the Bible to a single passage, it might be this one:
And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.”
And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin.
So Rachel died, and she was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem).  (Genesis 35:17-19)

Do not fear, for you have another son…
A dying race, dead in sin, would bring forth another son–the Son of Man. He was already on his way to Bethlehem:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.  (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This Son of Man would be Ben-Oni, the Son of Her Sorrow. He would die giving birth to many.

And this very same Son would be Benjamin, the Son of His Right Hand–the son of power, the victorious one.

Who is this Son of Man?
We live in the valley of the shadow, in Psalm 23. Behind us, in Psalm 22, her Son of Sorrow died:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?

Ahead of us, in Psalm 24, lives the Son of His Right Hand:
Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle! (Psalms 24:7-8)

The Son of God is the Son of Man–
and we are the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

Selah. (1)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) see Psalm 24:6

Posted in Stand in the Rain Blog | Leave a comment

all the way from “Jacob” to “Israel”

The Word for today:
Genesis 34

mark this: Genesis 32:10-12 –
I am unworthy of the kindness and continual goodness you have shown me. (32:10)
Save me, I pray… (32:11)
Remember that you promised to make everything go well for me and to give me more descendants than anyone could count, as many as the grains of sand along the seashore. (32:12)

Jacob’s story is the closest the Old Testament comes to a conversion story. There are other conversions, but we don’t know the stories behind them to the extent that we know Jacob’s story.

A lot has happened to Jacob in the twenty years since he ran away from his self-induced problems. A lot happened, but nothing really changed. Jacob remains Jacob, until he admits his sinfulness:
I am unworthy of the kindness and continual goodness you have shown me. (32:10)

In the next verse, he asks God for salvation:
Save me, I pray… (Genesis 32:11)

In the next verse, he trusts in God’s promise:
Remember that you promised to make everything go well for me and to give me more descendants than anyone could count, as many as the grains of sand along the seashore. (Genesis 32:12)

***

Jacob believed the same promise that Abram had believed:
The Lord brought Abraham outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars–if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”
And Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.
(Genesis 15:5-6)

The righteousness of God, which had been credited to Abram and now is credited to Jacob, is pictured in 35:2–
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.”

Throughout scripture, salvation is depicted by the change of clothes:
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness. (Isaiah 61:10)

***

These are Old Testament pictures of coming to the cross of Jesus Christ for salvation from our sins. When we do, Jesus becomes sin for us, and we are imbued with the very righteousness of God himself:
God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Just as Abram became a new man (2 Cor. 5:17) with a new name (Gen. 17:5), Jacob is now a new man, with a new relationship to God and a new name:
“Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel.” (Genesis 32:28)

***

How did he get all the way from “Jacob” to “Israel?” Let’s review his first steps:

32:10:  I have sinned.
32:11:  Save me, I pray.
32:12:  I am trusting in your promise to save me.

The kingdom of heaven is never more than three steps away, and today is a perfect day:
God is ready to help you right now. Today is the day of salvation.  (2 Corinthians 6:2)

So go ahead: Rise, and walk.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Posted in Stand in the Rain Blog | Leave a comment

little footnote, huge difference

XIV

(written by Pastor Joe)

The Word for today: Genesis 33

mark this- Genesis 33:20 –
“There he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel.”

Sometimes it is good to have connections. If you’re searching for a coveted job, or trying to get into an exclusive college, or looking to make it in Hollywood or Washington DC, then most likely your connections will take you further than any real competency you possess. This is how the world operates. But not so the Kingdom of God.

All the connections in the world cannot connect you to God. There are no stand-ins, substitutes, or representatives that can take your place. Your soul is your own responsibility.

Jacob had to learn this lesson the long and hard way.
He certainly knew about God, and even had intense and personal experiences with God.
- Dream of the ladder (28:10-18)
- Command to return home (31:3-13)
- Met personally by the angels of God (32:1)
- Famous wrestling match with God (32:30)

But notice in every instance prior to this chapter, when Jacob refers to God, he does so by proxy. He acknowledges God, but it’s never his own God. Look at these examples from Jacobs words:

“The God of my father has been with me (1).”
“If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me…(2)”
So Jacob took an oath in the name of the Fear of his father Isaac (3).
“O God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, O LORD… (4) ”

The change happens in the last line of this chapter.
So what’s the big deal with “El Elohe Israel?”
Check your footnote! The phrase means- God, the God of Israel
(or possibly, the Mighty God of Israel).

In either case, the significance is that Jacob’s name was recently changed to Israel (5), and this is the first time in Jacob’s life where he acknowledges God as his personal God. There’s no longer any reference to Abraham or Isaac. No more spiritual nepotism. He finally stands on his own. He finally understands that he needs to relate to God on his own.

Finally, after so many years, the relentless God of his daddy Isaac and grandpa Abraham becomes his own God. Notice that God Himself did not change, but Jacob’s understanding and relationship with God did. That is the same journey that each person must make in our relationship to God:
From secondhand to first hand
From theoretical to actual
From distant to personal
From the God of my _____________, to My God

The all powerful, all knowing Creator and Sustainer of the universe wants to know you personally. He sent His one and only Son to make this possible. He has invited each of us to His Kingdom. But no one enters into the Kingdom of God through another person. There is no second-hand faith that saves anyone. We all can be immensely blessed and influenced by godly people in our lives. But no connection to a father, a mother, a spouse, a grandparent, a relative, a pastor or a friend will qualify. “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (6).” We come to God through Him or not at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Genesis 31:5
(2) Genesis 31:42
(3) Genesis 31:53
(4) Genesis 32:9
(5) Genesis 32:28
(6) 1 Timothy 2:5

Posted in Stand in the Rain Blog | Leave a comment

punched by an angel

Jacob wrestling

(written by Pastor Joe)

The Word for Today: Genesis 32:3-32

mark this: Genesis 32:27 –
“What is your name?”

Jacob was born to wrestle.
In utero, he first tried a half-nelson on his brother Esau. Upon his birth, he had poor Esau in an ankle lock. As he grew up, he found that he couldn’t out muscle his brother by brute force, so, led by his personal trainer, his mom, Jacob learned how to outfox other people by schemes and deception. He wrestled away his brother’s birthright. (1) He did the same with his father’s blessing (2).

He then found himself in a Battle Royale with his equally conniving uncle Laban . What a match- there were all sorts of battles won by each side, involving daughters & decoys, idols & sheep. It was a dramatic and sordid tale- fit for the likes of a soap opera, or better yet, the soap opera for men- professional wrestling.

How fitting then was it, that God used an epic wrestling match to change Jacob’s life?

The amazing dream and vision of the ladder at Bethel didn’t do it (3).
Nor did God’s abundant blessing in making him a successful shepherd.
It wasn’t even God’s personal message that made him a new man (4).

No, it was the old figure-four leg lock that gave Jacob a new walk and a new name. It was a wrestling injury that finally ended all the years of running and deception. It was a charlie-horse punch by an angel that finally got him on track.

Jacob is just one of a long line of those for whom it takes something severe and alarming to awaken them to God. I suppose a lot of us are on that list. But even more amazing that the turning back to God through great pain motif, is the actual line of questions that the Angel of the Lord puts Jacob through.

Put yourself in Jacob’s place. You’ve narrowly escaped the whole ordeal with Laban that could have very much ended in bloodshed. Now you’ve received word that the last person in the world you want to see, Esau, is headed your way, with 400 men! You’re scared witless. You decide to send three separate bribes of animals to smooth things over. You divide all your family and possessions into two groups to minimize losses if things get dicey. It is not looking good. You decide to spend the night alone to think things over. Here’s what happens next:

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Tenacious Jacob is hurt, he’s fighting tooth and nail and cannot win, but he refuses to lose and clamps on to the angel like a tick. He must hold on, he must overcome. He will not cry “uncle!”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.

Of all the questions in the world that the Angel could have asked Jacob, this one at first seems odd. Did the angel really need information? No.
But consider this, in the Bible, when was the last time Jacob was asked such a question? What was his response? Think back to that bit of trickery Rebekah and Jacob pulled on blind Isaac many years before. Isaac asked the same question, and “Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn (5).”

Here, we at last get the truth. Finally Jacob admits to being Jacob- a cheater, a heel grabber, a deceiver. No more games or deception to get ahead. Jacob owns up to who and what he is. AHA!!! This is the exact definition of confession! This is the exact moment of repentance!

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.”

Jacob is given a new name. Jacob is given a fresh start.
God wants to do the same with each of us, and He will go to great lengths to do so.
Jacob’s story is the story for all of us. The question is, am I being honest with God and myself? Can I agree with Him that I’ve made a mess of my life and I don’t want to run from Him anymore? Because until we do so, were just running in circles, playing games, and on the lam from God.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Genesis 25:21-34
(2) Genesis 27:1-29
(3) Genesis 28
(4) Genesis 31:3 & 11
(5) Genesis 27:19

Posted in Stand in the Rain Blog | Leave a comment