We're finishing up a series of six sermons on Jacob today. This is about Jacob's homecoming. It's based on Genesis 34 and 35.
Jacob had been wandering in the wilderness for a number of years, and also maturing in that process like Moses spent those years in the desert and grew from it. Jacob did likewise.
You know, I sometimes think that God allows us to go through desert experiences of life that we might grow. And it's never comfortable. But it is a growth process.
But Jacob had a problem. Jacob was told by God to go and return to his father who live in southern Palestine. But Jacob stopped short of following God's will.
You know, whenever God tells you to do something, you always want to do it all the way. You never want to stop half-way. Partial obedience often results in big trouble. When we step off God s path we ditch God s blessing. Jacob's large family stopped at Shechem, and it was not a good stop. Apparently Jacob did not pray about this new location. Never make a move without first consulting God. Pray. Read Scripture. Stop to ask directions. Give it time.
Come to Genesis 34 and I want us to begin with verse 1. Now Dinah, the daughter Leah had borne to Jacob, went out to visit the women of the land. You can read about what happened to here there. Every time you go to make new friends you ought to pray about it because you're going to be like your friends. Whatever they're like you're going to resemble. Ask God to direct you. She didn't. She left God behind. You can search in chapter 34 for the name of God and it's not there. God is out of this chapter and out of her experience. What she did was not godly.
They moved into a bad neighborhood. Dinah's new friends worshipped idols. They were heathen. They were painted up and jeweled up like Jezebel.
The prince of that area was a man named Shechem. Dinah was likely captivated by his luxuriant city with its polished pagan idols. She was enamored, and when you're raised in a sheltered environment some of these things really dazzle you. One day he took beautiful Dinah and violated her. You can read this here. It's very bad what he did. The upshot of it all was that the Shechemites offered to inter-marry with Jacob's whole family. They thought that if she was going to be pregnant we should have a marriage. They were pagans but their proposal was truthful and honest. Notice Jacob's sons reaction: Genesis 34:13. Because their sister Dinah had been defiled, Jacob's sons replied deceitfully (They were chips off the old block.) as they spoke to Shechem and his father Hamor. Heathen Hamor seems saintly compared to Jacob s sons.
Genesis 34:14-16 They said to them, "We can't do such a thing; we can't give our sister to a man who is not circumcised. That would be a disgrace to us.
"I'll tell you what we will do: We will give our consent to you on one condition only: that you become like us by circumcising all your males.
"Then we will give you our daughters and take your daughters for ourselves. We'll settle among you and become one people with you." The pagans were jubilant. "This is great. Jacob is wealthy. We'll have all this soon."
But Jacob's sons had lied. They had no intention to do such a thing. Just like their daddy, they had no intention of doing that. They set up a trap which the non believers fell for. This is not good. This is not a good picture here. Every male in that city was painfully circumcised. Three days later when they were hurting badly and totally immobilized, Simon and Levi came with their swords and like the gestapo, they systematically massacred every male in town.
Genesis 34:29 All eleven sons now joined in and They carried off all their wealth and all their women and children, taking as plunder everything in the houses. What would that include? That included their idols, didn't it. All these idols came right into the camp of Jacob. Can you imagine such a thing? Can you imagine the disaster that's taking place here? Right in there very midst, all the idols, all the ear rings, all the pagan widow women along with their fatherless children joined the Israelite family, infiltrating the camp with every imaginable sinful pagan behavior, idols and occult, the whole thing.
Israel never ever got over idolatry. Here's where it got its start. For centuries they struggled in vain against idolatry. They never overcame idolatry. Had Jacob been able to cleanse his family of idolatry maybe the future nation of Israel would have remained true and how exceedingly different both the Bible and history would be. You might never have had the book of Jeremiah and lot of the books that condemned Israel for their backsliding. But alas they had idols by the thousands and only a few altars available.
Why did all this happen? Because Jacob the Patriarchal Father, did not follow God all the way. He did not go all the way that God told him. He stopped and settled in a pagan environment. He gave partial obedience. The spiritual leader of the household stopped short of God s revealed will for his life. Oh, fathers be faithful! You children are going to be just like you. Don't short-circuit your family. You be faithful to God. Jacob's sin darkened the future for hundreds of years.
Are there foreign gods in your household? May I step on some toes? Plug your ears if you wish. Do you have cable TV? Do you return a faithful tithe? If not, why not? "Oh," you say, "I can't afford to pay tithe." Well, why can't you? If the money you spend on that satellite dish is even partly preventing you from doing God s will, then you tell me why it isn't a foreign god!
What about your automobile. Are the high payments for that really nice or even new car preventing you from giving what you should to God? If so, you just might have a foreign god. You do need a car, but do you really need that high monthly payment?
Are your high charge card payments preventing you from faithfulness with God in regular and proportionate giving? Living beyond our means stifles our participation in God s work. Anything could be a foreign god to you. Get rid of anything that hinders you from fully following Jesus.
Gradually it must have dawned on Jacob the magnitude of the dangerous mistake he had made. He must have prayed about it. Perhaps now after prayer and God s urging he finally took action.
God told him to move on. Look at Genesis 35:1,2. This is a chapter of funerals by the way. Then God said to Jacob, "Go up to Bethel and settle there and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau."
"So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, (See, there are two distinct groups with him now: His household and all that were with him., all of these pagan women, all of their children, were with him. There are two groups here.) "Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes." Now please observe that both groups were asked to remove the strange gods that they had. Both his family and the kidnaped pagan widows and their children were to do these things.
All this idolatry began with Rachel. Remember she stole her father's household gods, she sat on them in the tent when Laban came in to check. She lied. She said, "No, no. I don't have them." And now it widens when the pagans moved in to camp and had now apparently spread to the entire household. Sin takes root quickly!
Genesis 35:3,4. "Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone." So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem.
Notice that when they surrendered their idols and removed their ear rings, and buried them, then God blessed them and protected them.
Verse 5. Then they set out, and the terror of God fell upon the towns all around them so that no one pursued them. Isn't that amazing? God protected His people. God does that. When you follow God, He will follow you to protect you.
Jacob buried the ornaments and idols to signify that they were gone forever. They were buried under that giant oak tree near Shechem. The old ways were buried. Sounds like Baptism doesn't it? When you are buried in the waters of baptism those things are gone.
Some of these idols were for safety. Imagine them giving up their safety idols and now they are depending totally on God for their safety. That's pretty special. They now faced a counterattack from the neighboring and angry townspeople. It must have been a big step for some of them to give up their idol protection and trust completely in the true God. Religious icons do not bring protection. They journeyed in safety because the Living God was their security.
Now in this chapter, I told you it was the funeral chapter, you have four sad burials. Sad things often happen when we are away on a Trip.
Rachel died in the process of giving birth to her son, Benjamin. She named him Ben-Oni, which means "son of my pain." And then she died. But after she died, Jacob renamed him "son of my right hand." You must understand that that also means "son of the south." When you are facing east, your right hand is pointed to the south, you left hand is pointed to the north. "Son of the right hand." This was the very first boy that was born in the south. All the other boys had been born in the north. So, you have eleven Yankees and one Southerner. Did they get along well? No! It was a miniature civil war.
Both Jacob's wife and his heart died the day that Rachel died. The Bible says Jacob buried Rachel, but it was Israel who sadly journeyed on toward home. So, right there is the dividing line between Jacob and Israel. Imagine the grand reunion when he came home and he saw his father Isaac for the first time in twenty years. Of course, Isaac was totally blind, and last time Isaac had seen Jacob, he thought that he was Esau, because he felt his arms and they were hairy and this time he probably felt his arms and he said, "You are really Jacob, aren't you?" "Ye, I'm Jacob." I think Isaac realized that his son was finally telling the truth.
You know, when you realize that your children are becoming something good, it just does something to you. And I could just see that Isaac thought, "I've lived long enough to see my son become what I wanted him to be. And what a great thing that is when your children honor you with their lifestyle and they honor Jesus Christ.
Isaac lived until he was reunited with his long departed son. Then he died at the age of 180. The Bible says he was "old and full of years." I think that would be mighty full. Then in verse 29 it concludes by stating that his two sons Esau and Jacob buried him. Now, that's significant. I thought Esau was out of the picture. And here comes Esau right back. They buried him in the family tomb which was a cave in the field of Machpelah which they had purchased (Genesis 49:30 and 31).
Let s put on our thinking caps and focus on Jacob and Esau for a minute here. I want you to think about Jacob and Esau. Have you ever thought what a really fine man Esau was? Now, we've been upholding Jacob all this time. He is the patriarch, he's the one that is following God. But have you ever thought what a wonderful man Esau was? Think about Esau for a minute. Who was the grabber? It was Jacob who grabbed Esau's heel. Who was the deceiver? Not Esau. It was Jacob. Who was the liar? It wasn't Esau. Esau was hurt by Jacob but Esau did not hurt Jacob back. Esau listened to God and completely forgave his brother when Jacob came to meet him. Esau put his hairy arms around Jacob and kissed him and wept and forgave him. Esau was a great man. Esau was far more open and honest than Jacob. Jacob was a schemer, full of faults. Jacob was dishonest. All dishonesty is wrong. Esau was also strong. He conquered Petra, the most impregnable fortress in the ancient world from the Horites. Deuteronomy 2:20-22 says they were giants like the ZamZummim tribe. And Esau did that. Esau was hard working and prosperous. He earned an honest living. It is not easy to earn a living down there in the southern mountains of Seir where he lived. It's dry, it's remote. There's not much pasture there. Esau was successful.
Yet Jacob was the one chosen by God. Why is this? Why is Jacob the "Christian" and he's the liar, he's the deceiver, and Esau is the honest one and he is not chosen? Why is this?
I think Esau undoubtedly swore some. He probably used some four- letter words but he always told the truth. You could always depend on Esau. He was totally honest! The Bible never ever records Esau telling a lie. Jacob was a habitual liar and could never be counted on to tell the truth even after his conversion.
Even Paul seems to question this. Come over here to Romans 9:13, 14 Just as it is written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."
What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Why did God love the liar and hate the honest man? Why did God choose Jacob over Esau? Paul asked, "Is God unjust?" Why did God choose Jacob? It doesn't make sense.
Jacob was a deceiving lying Christian and Esau was an honest forgiving non-Christian. Esau was honest, big-hearted and a good citizen but Esau was lost. How do we explain this? Well, I would like to attempt to explain it to you. The difference between the lost and the saved apparently is not a level of attainment because Esau attained far more in the record we have read so far. In fact, I have met many wonderful, honest, gentlemen in every way who were pagans, who were not born-again- Christians. They were wonderful men of integrity. You have, too, but they are not saved. So, what is the key to this puzzle?
The key to this puzzle is that Jacob and Esau were as different as a piano and a potato. What do a piano and a potato have in common? Well, they begin with "P." The piano sounds good but I want you to know that that piano is dead. But the potato is alive! If I plant this potato, what will happen? It's going to grow. This potato has potential. The one is polished and the other is rough, crude, and ugly. But only the potato has potential for growth. A seven foot grand piano can never grow into a nine foot grand. That grand piano can never be more grand. But this potato can. It's alive! It's living! But a single potato properly cared for over just a few years could eventually feed the entire world. There's a difference. Jacob was alive and Esau was dead, spiritually. Can you see the difference here?
When Jesus lives in your heart you have life! Unless Jesus is living in your heart, you're lost. God always chooses the one with life. That one may not be perfect. It may not be polished, but it has potential for growth. And it's growing, it's maturing and it's becoming. And that's what God wants. Probably never will. But God chooses the one with growth potential. The one that is alive towards Him. The difference between the Christian and the non Christian is not who might be the finer gentleman or the lady with the most elegant manners, or be even the best neighbor. But it depends on which one has Jesus living in their heart.
When Jacob and Esau met (Genesis 33:11) both said they had enough sheep and flocks. But notice that Jacob gave God the credit and Esau didn't. Jacob had a testimony and Esau had nothing. There's a difference. Esau chose the present world with its pleasures and Jacob chose the world to come. One valued the eternal the other the earthly. Can you see why God chose Jacob? Jacob loved God and Esau did not. This is the last we hear of Esau. What ever happened to Esau? Come over to Obadiah 1:18. This talks about Esau. "The house of Jacob will be a fire and the house of Joseph a flame; the house of Esau will be stubble, and they will set it on fire and consume it. There will be no survivors from the house of Esau." The LORD has spoken. So what ever happened to Esau?
Esau's descendants were the Edomites. What modern nation stems from Esau? Not one! There aren't any. It's gone. Just as God said, they fizzled out and disappeared. On the other hand, what modern nation started with Jacob? Israel! Israel is now a powerful nation. Friends, if you want to amount to something, you had best invite the Creator of the universe to take up residence in your heart. Jesus is what brings life. Are you alive in Jesus like Jacob or are you spiritually dead like Esau?
Hymn of Praise: #138, Rise Up, Shepherd and Follow Scripture: Genesis 35:27-29 Hymn of Response: #125, Joy To The World 001209Gettys#491
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last updated 12/9/2000 by Bob Beckett.