The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Jacob’s Liars

“And he said, ‘Because the LORD your God brought it to me’” – Genesis 27:20b


Some people just do what they want to do. This is true even when God’s word is clear that what they do is sinful. They may feel guilty about what they do. They may even be convicted by the Spirit about what they do. But they do it anyway. And to relieve the pressure of the guilt of sin and God’s conviction they concoct a lie and will even misuse the name and word of God.

How can such things be? The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). Satan, the author of lies, fuels the fires of that desperately wicked heart (John 8:43-44). God knows about this dark heart (Jeremiah 17:10). He loves us anyway. He graciously, patiently and providentially works to lead people to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God responds to our darkness with goodness and patience all to turn us around to His eternal life in Christ (Romans 2:4). But there are two primary ways people try to disregard God’s will in their lives. First they say, “Well, God didn’t stop me.” Next they say, “Well, God did it for me.”

Well, God didn’t stop me. People will justify rebelliousness and sin against God’s word by saying “Well, God didn’t stop me.” Jonah is a classic example of this case (cf. Jonah 1-4). God told him to go east to Nineveh. He chose to go west instead. He went down to the docks of Joppa, purchased a ticket, boarded a boat and took off in the opposite direction to what God had called him to. God didn’t stop him. Did that mean God approved? No, definitely not.

God gave Jonah space to decide. And Jonah chose to pass judgment on Nineveh. If it was up to him they could all die in their sins and spend eternity in the torments of hell. As far as Jonah was concerned that was justice. Jonah refused to see through the lens of God’s mercy. He refused to flow with the grace of God. He chose to turn in harsh hardhearted pitiless rebellion against God’s redemptive plan. He justified his rebellion with the sinful ruthlessness of the Assyrian objects of God’s hoped for salvation. They didn’t deserve salvation. He chose to not cooperate in God’s plans. God didn’t stop him; at first.

Of course God got his attention with a storm and being swallowed by a sea creature. God will go to great lengths to convince people to participate in His gracious salvation plans. Three days in the belly of that fish gave Jonah time to reconsider his sinful journey. He did eventually go to Nineveh and preach and see a revival of that Assyrian brood. But he continued to wallow in disappointment, bitterness, and self-pity. That was his choice too. When you buck the callings of God you’re in for a dead end life.

There are a myriad ways people use a similar justification for deviating from God’s word and clear commands. People indulge in sexual promiscuity, sexual immorality, sexual deviance and sexual perversions and justify the filth by saying, “Well, God didn’t stop me.” People will connive and steal, extort and take advantage of others and justify their sinful actions by saying “Well, God didn’t stop me.” People indulge their sinful nature in countless ways using this “God didn’t stop me” strategy. Open the word of God! Receive His truth! Obey it! Does He have to send a storm, swallow you whole and keep you in darkness to get your attention and bring you to your senses? Jonah came to realize, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs” (Jonah 2:8 NIV). Jonah’s idols were revenge, hate, anger, and unforgiveness. Jesus came to make us kind and tenderhearted. He came to forgive us and called us to forgive others like He forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).

Well, God did it for me. People will hide behind eisegeted texts (i.e. reading into scriptures something that is not there). They will take scriptures out of context in order to twist God’s word to their sinful intents, which brings us to a Biblical character by the name of Jacob. Jacob had little character. He was one who would do what he wanted to do and then lie and say, “Well, God did it for me.” Jacob’s name literally means heel-catcher. Jacob was a grasper. His world revolved around himself. Jacob was a man of the flesh; always manipulating and operating in half-truths and shades of meaning. You can read about him in Genesis 25-49.

When Jacob was born he came out of his mother’s womb grasping the ankle of his twin brother. He lived his name. He preyed on his even more superficial and carnal brother Esau purchasing Esau’s birthright for pennies on the dollar with a plate of stew. Esau hated his brother because of this. It’s no fun being manipulated and robbed. Esau would hate Jacob even more when Jacob would steal his blessing. And the way Jacob would do it was more heinous than anything he had done before or would ever do again (cf. Genesis 27).

Jacob’s father Isaac was old and nearly blind. Jacob was the favorite of his mother Rebekah. At his mother’s urging Jacob went along with a plan to steal his father’s blessing. The blessing of the patriarch assured God’s favor and the prime place in His plans. The blessing of the father was precious and most valuable in their culture and in God’s plans. Isaac was all ready to bestow the blessing on Esau. The father sent his older son out to hunt down some game and then make some of his famous stew. Esau was a hairy hard hunting man. In those days they shopped for meat in the wilderness. Esau was a master at this. Isaac sent him out. When Esau returned they would sit down, eat, fellowship and Isaac would bestow the blessing on Esau.

Jacob’s mother Rebekah heard of this plan. There was no way she would allow her son Jacob to lose out on the blessing of her husband Isaac. Rebekah was a prime manipulator herself. The family was her domain. So she cooked up a meal, had Jacob put hairy goat skins on his arms and neck as a disguise and then sent him in to Isaac while Esau was still out. Jacob would deceive his father into thinking he was his brother and secure the blessing. It was a pitiless plan that would take advantage of an old blind man at his weakest.

Jacob dressed in goat’s hair brought the meal in to his father. He would have to be at the top of his game of deception. At first Isaac sensed something was not right. He noted “Esau” didn’t sound right. Isaac felt Jacob’s hair transplants and it just didn’t feel like Esau. This “Esau” didn’t even smell right. He asked the faker Jacob how was it that he had returned so fast with the meal. Jacob responded, “Because the LORD your God brought it to me” (Genesis 27:20). Then Isaac came right out and asked, “Are you really my son Esau?” And Jacob lied to his blind elderly father patriarch, “I am” (Genesis 27:24-25).

“Because the LORD your God brought it to me.” This was misusing the LORD for his own selfish profit. And referring to God with the highest most holy name of “the LORD” served to make Jacob’s conniving all the more despicable. Jacob did not appreciate the LORD of his father. To Jacob the LORD was only Someone, someone, something, a name to get what he wanted. He valued his father’s blessing and all the privileges that came with it, but only for the sake of his own personal prosperity.

Jacob had sunk to about as low as a person can go. He was a great distance from fulfilling his patriarchal calling. It wouldn’t be until he encountered God in a desperate life crisis that he would come to a place of full surrender (Genesis 32-33). We look at Jacob and think, How could he do that? We distance ourselves from the thought of doing such a thing but the truth is we stoop that low too and not infrequently.

Have you ever stamped God’s approval on your own willful ways? Come on, be honest. Are you a liar like Jacob? Are you among the heritage of Jacob’s liars? Who are Jacob’s liars? Have you ever stepped out in “faith,” even though what you’re doing is prayerlessly conceived? If so you are a Jacob like liar. Have you ever been confronted with the clear teachings of scripture that contradict and expose your sinful behavior only to respond with silence or an angry unscriptural retort? If so you are a Jacob’s liar. Have you ever justified your actions with an ambiguous “God told me,” when you know in your heart that God never told you anything let alone spoke to you? People misuse God’s name to rubber stamp their sinful choices all the time. They say, “God told me” to do this, to do that, to go here, to go there. It’s another form of Jacob’s lie, “Because the LORD your God brought it to me.” Jacob’s liars do that.

People who live and lie like Jacob think they have stumbled upon the means to quench any and all opposition to doing what they want to do. Who can argue against, “God told me,” or “God did it for me,” or “Because the LORD your God brought it to me”? A person is asked about the person they are dating or intending to marry, “Do they know the LORD?” And the response is something like, “I think they do. I hope they do. Well, anyway, the LORD brought them to me.” And they dismiss God’s warning against being unequally yoked with unbelievers. Then they just do what they want to do (cf. 2 Corinthians 6).

People justify working off the books and not paying taxes to the Caesar of the day. They excuse themselves from giving to God because how else can they pay for the four cable boxes in their home and going to the movies every week, and going to all those games, etc. When asked about working off the books and the rest of their finances they say, “Well, God gave me this job. Well, God wants us to have fun.” He may have given you the job and he does want us to have fun in life, but what about rendering to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God? (Mark 12:17).

Or what about those who settle in for a solitary isolated religious existence that neglects the fellowship of believers? What about “private” religion? When encouraged to fellowship with the church they say, “Well, God just wants me to meet alone with Him.” Maybe they say, “God just wants me to watch that TV preacher.” There’s a time for solitude with Jesus but He doesn’t want you to neglect his Bride the Church. Are these just excuses to dodge dealing with people? Is there simply an issue with laziness? God’s word tells us to not neglect gathering together with fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:24-25). Jesus died to bring people together (Ephesians 2). Jesus didn’t say isolate and hibernate, He said infiltrate and influence (Matthew 5:13-16).

There are many, many situations where people lie like Jacob. Whenever we use God’s name to justify falsehood, unscriptural behavior, or self-willed prayerless ways, we lie like Jacob. Are you convicted of this? “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jeremiah 17:10). “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account” (Hebrews 4:13). That is the truth. God knew what Jacob was doing. He knows what we are doing. Are you guilty of lying like Jacob? Are you a Jacob’s liar?

What should we do if we’ve been lying like Jacob? The first thing we need to do is repent; determine to stop and not repeat our sin. We need to confess our sins to God in Christ and receive His forgiveness (1 John 1:9). Then we need to walk in the light and truth of Jesus (1 John 1:7). We need to commit ourselves to God and His holy standard of speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). The truth of Jesus will set you free from being a Jacob’s liar (John 8:31-32).

Lying can be a deep hearted problem. It may take some wrestling with God to work it out. That’s how Jacob was changed (Genesis 32). God let him connive, manipulate and carnal his way through life until it boxed him into a corner. Maybe you’re in such a corner. Maybe the lies are coming home to roost. Maybe you’ve been living a lie so long you don’t know what the truth is anymore. Jacob wrestled with God and God brought him face to face with reality. God brought him to see his own limitations. God brought Jacob face to face with Himself so that he could come face to face with his flesh. Then Jacob learned that life is about holding onto God. He learned life is about trusting God not creating self-preserving false life fantasies. Life is about being governed by God. Life is about living with Jesus as your Lord.

This was all worked out between Jacob and God during a fateful night at a place called Mahanaim. Mahanaim means two camps. Jacob had tried one last time to manipulate his way out of trouble. He divided his family and property into two groups so that if his brother Esau caught him (who Jacob believed was coming to kill him in retribution) he could escape. But Mahanaim-two-camps was also referred to by Jacob as “this is God’s camp.” Jacob was about to meet God in a very real life changing way.

That night Jacob took his family and crossed the river Jabbok. The text says, “then Jacob was left alone” (Genesis 32:24). The consequence of his conniving was loneliness and a threatening predicament. It’s at this point of being at the end of himself that “A Man” (who is very probably Jesus in a Christophany) wrestles with Jacob throughout the night. Sometimes it takes a night of wrestling with God to work the carnality out of your system. It wasn’t that long before Jacob realized he couldn’t prevail against the Man. Jacob’s hip, that part of the body critical for standing and walking was put out of joint. It was a wound fatal to the flesh. Jacob would no longer stand on his own, he would lean on God.

It was then, as Jacob continued to hang on to the LORD for dear life that his heart was changed. The Man knew it. Jacob knew it too. His days of heel catching were over and done with. To mark the change the man would no longer be called Jacob but Israel. Israel means governed by God (Genesis 32:27-28). Jacob named this place of encounter with God, Peniel which means facing God. Jacob explained, “For I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30). “Preserved” means delivered, recovered, or rescued. Jacob used that word because truthfully, he didn’t start living for God until that night’s encounter.

Are you living and lying like Jacob? Are you a Jacob’s liar? Do you see God as merely a means to your ends? Are you misusing God’s name and manipulating His word to do what you want to do and get what you want to get? That’s not real living. That’s not abundant life. Be honest. Maybe be honest for the first time in your life. Bring your stuff to Mahanaim. Come encounter God at Peniel. Wrestle with Jesus for a night if need be. Only don’t live a lie. Speak the truth in love. Live God’s truth in the “Spirit of truth” (John 16:13).  Leave lying, like Jacob did, behind. Welcome Israel!

1 comment:

  1. A very powerful message and an indictment for many who call themselves children of God.