You are Blessed to be a Blessing. Live Like You’re Blessed!

blessedGenesis 27

We are a blessed nation.  We are a blessed people in the Lord.  But even his blessing can be misused… mishandled.  We can be blessed, but not live like we’re blessed.  Take Isaac and Jacob in chapter 27 of Genesis.

Isaac is stingy with the blessing.

Now Isaac was a blessed man, but his problem is that he believes he can control the flow of the blessing.  In Chapter 27 of Genesis, Isaac calls his son Esau to his side to read his will to him before he dies.  Isaac’s favorite son, Esau, has already sold his “birthright.”  So this is Isaac’s last chance to try to rectify things by handing off the “blessing” to this son whom he favors.

1.  This is in direct violation of what God wants Isaac to do. It has already been made plain to Isaac and to Rebekah by God that they were to go against the customs of the day. The blessing would be upon the younger not the older son.  Regardless of the prophecy Isaac tries to give everything to Esau anyway.  If Isaac wasn’t trying to violate God’s plan, he probably would have had a witness at this meeting (required for it to be valid)… and a witness would have seen through Jacob’s deceit in 2 seconds.  Isaac ends up bound by his own deceit.

Now all this came about because Isaac thinks that the blessing is his to hand off.  Remember, your blessings are from the Lord and are to be at His disposal to do with what He so desires.

2.  This is a misjudgment by Isaac regarding the importance of blessing his children.

John Trent once wrote: “Dads, I wish there were some way that I could communicate to you the incredible blessing which affirming words impart to children. I wish, too, that you could sit in my office, when I counsel, and hear the terrible damage that individuals received from not hearing affirming words — particularly affirming words from a father. …words from a father can powerfully set the course of a life.”

Why did Jacob steal the blessing? Partly for the money… he was a crook after all. (His dad calls as much in verse 36.) But I also think it was because it was his last best chance to obtain his father’s approval. Even if it was by stealth… even if he had to pretend to be somebody else to get it.

Isaac had starved his own son of affection. That is a terrible legacy to leave.  Isaac was a miser with his love… and Jacob paid the price for it.

Now, while Isaac was stingy with the blessing…

Jacob thinks blessing is something you can steal.

Irving Kristol once said: “Being frustrated is disagreeable, but the real disasters of life begin when you get what you want.”  Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes (6:2) wrote: God gives some people great wealth and honor and everything they could ever want, but then he doesn’t give them the chance to enjoy these things.

Jacob’s deceit appears to give him all he ever wanted. But success through deceit has its dark side.  Want to actually enjoy the blessings God has sent your way?

1) Don’t forget who you are in the pursuit of the blessing.

Six times in verses 18-27, Isaac seems suspicious. Each time he Jacob has to lie just a little more. In verse 18, Isaac asks, “Who are you, my son?” I wonder if that was a question that kept Jacob up at night for years.  When you start playing the role of the deceiver you begin to lose who you are. You might begin to lie to get something you want… eventually you lie because it is part of who you are.

2) Know that Blessing built upon deceit ultimately is not satisfying.

“The joke is told of a pastor whose property adjoined that of a golf course. One Sunday he called his church and told them he was sick… hopped the fence onto the third fairway and began to play.  In heaven, an angel went before the Lord and asked him if He could see what was going on.  The Lord said he could see it. The angel asked the Lord what he was going to do about it.  About that moment on a particularly difficult no. 5 hole… the preacher hit his first ever hole-in-one.  The angel was beside himself. “Why have you rewarded this terrible conduct with such remarkable success?”

God replied: “It looks like success now but who is he going to tell?”

This ends up being Jacob’s problem. He heads out of town with no one to boast to about his success.

And how successful is Jacob really? He will get a beautiful wife. (after 14 years of hard labor). He will gain many flocks of animals (after more years of back breaking work). He will have 12 sons (but most of them will succeed in breaking his heart.). In the end Jacob describes his years as “few and difficult.”

And what about the main thing he wanted… the love of his father?  He obtains the blessing, but not his father’s love.  Isaac’s final words to Esau (“…it shall come about when you become restless, that you will break his yoke from your neck”) are ominous and brimming with bitterness toward Jacob.

When you grab and steal to get what you want… you may succeed… but not for long. And the judgment of God might not fall right away. But soon the deceiver Jacob will be deceived by someone even better at the game than himself… his uncle Laban.

So what’s the take away for us?  What does a 21st century Christian learn from this ancient story?

Well… Ephesians 1:3 informs us of this truth:  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.”

We ARE a blessed people.  The question is:  What are we doing about it?  Are we still striving to get what Christ has already secured for us?  Are we manipulating people or are we blessing people?

Parents, are you blessing your children?  Siblings, are you blessing your brothers of sisters?  Church members are you blessing your brothers and sisters?

Live like you’re blessed. Life has a way of turning things around and supplying needed perspective.

Blessings!

Dig Another Well

a well2Genesis 26:12-33

When we see the success of others we can at times be tempted to think:  “I would be successful too if I had the lucky breaks they’ve experienced.”  When will we learn that “breaks,” lucky or otherwise, are not the true source of life’s blessings?  In our story today from Genesis, Isaac is said to have become quite a wealthy man.  But the text is clear: he is no “self-made” man… it is the Lord that has blessed him.  (v. 12).

It doesn’t take long for the people of the land to begin to envy him and Abimelech, king of the Philistines asks Isaac to leave the region.  “Go away from us, for you are too powerful for us.” (v. 16)  He attributes all the blessings to Isaac, the man… who is using up all the resources of “their” land to become successful.  If the Philistines can just get him to leave… they can seize the secret of Isaac’s success.

So Isaac moves along and digs up the old wells of his Father Abraham. (v. 18)  It isn’t long before his workers hit “a well of flowing water.” (v. 19)  Discovering water in such a barren region is like striking oil in West Texas. This is Jed Clampett finding his “black gold” and “Texas tea.”

But then the Philistine herdsmen begin to quarrel over the ownership of this gusher.  So it gets named “Esek” meaning “Contention” and Isaac and company moved on to dig another well.  Well, the new well is quarreled over, too! (v. 21)  So they name it “Sitnah” meaning “strife” and again move on.

For all of Isaac’s hard work, there is nothing at this point to show for all his efforts!  Every time he finds the life giving liquid… the Philistines seized it for themselves!  Kind of reminds me of when I was a kid growing up in a military housing area in Germany.  The kids in my building had built a tree fort in the backyard.  One day a group of kids decided they liked our idea so much that they wanted to build their own tree fort… with the lumber from ours!

How do you handle when you are wronged?  I am amazed at the peaceful demeanor of Isaac here.  After being moved along 3 times he still doesn’t “contend” or “strive” over the wells.  He moves on and digs another.  This time the well is named “Rehoboth” meaning “wide places” because they are now far enough out that there are no neighbors who can lay claim to it.

And then, as before, Isaac begins to prosper.  No matter how much the Philistines took from him or how much ugliness that threw at him… he persevered.  In fact in verse 28, King Abimelech has to admit:  “We see plainly that the Lord has been with you.”

Has someone claimed your well?  Taken over your tree fort?  Envy can make others do some despicable things.  And sometimes, like Isaac in a country not his own, there is little you can do about it.  It is out of your hands.  In such moments, just remember… it is NOT out of the hands of God to bless you anyway!   Sometimes the only thing one can do is to just move forward and dig another well.  And when your enemies see that you are blessed despite all the setbacks… they too can receive a fresh vision of God.

Jim Petersen tells the story of a friend of his who found himself in the middle of a very difficult business deal. He was innocent of any wrongdoing but the circumstances were such that he could have very well been implicated. Before traveling to meet with the other parties in the deal to attempt to resolve misunderstandings, this young man met with Jim.  They turned to Philippians 4:6-7 and read it together, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer… present your request to God. And the peace of God… will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”  They both then agreed to pray according to this promise, and see what God would do.

On the plane the man was seated next to a business associate. This colleague was commiserating with his friend and said, “You must be nervous about all of this.” My friend said, “No, I’m really not.” To this associate’s astonishment, my friend pulled his Bible out of his briefcase and showed him the verse we were praying over.  The companion couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t touched a Bible in years and did not know about the man’s new faith. But it was what he saw in the man himself that captured him.  Now the two men study the Bible together. That is what it means to glorify God!” (Lifestyle Discipleship, pp. 142-143.)

Life isn’t always going to treat you kind… but it is how you respond to the unkindness that just might be your greatest witness to this envious world.

Blessings!

 

Developing a Healthy Appetite for Life

appetiteGenesis 25:29-34

There are a lot of new diets beginning about now.  Thanksgiving and Christmas feasting is giving way to New Year’s fasting.  But I want to talk to you here at the beginning of the year about your appetite.  Do you have a good one?  Not for chocolate or roast beef… but for things that really matter.

Continuing in our devotions through Genesis, we come to the story of Jacob and Esau “when the boys grew up.”  Like most teenagers… both of these boys have a strong appetite.

29 When Jacob had cooked stew, Esau came in from the field and he was famished; 30 and Esau said to Jacob, “Please let me have a swallow of that red stuff there, for I am famished.” Therefore his name was called Edom. 31 But Jacob said, “First sell me your birthright.” 32 Esau said, “Behold, I am about to die; so of what use then is the birthright to me?” 33 And Jacob said, “First swear to me”; so he swore to him, and sold his birthright to Jacob. 34 Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew; and he ate and drank, and rose and went on his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.

We see in this brief passage, two approaches to life.

  1. Jacob’s Method: Scheming to get ahead of the Other Guy

Jacob’s name meant “heel grabber” or if you prefer:  “crook.”  And you can tell from this tale, he was already proficient in subterfuge .   Do you know who it was that Jacob took up after?  Grandpa Abraham and Daddy Isaac!  Not once but twice Abraham got in trouble for saying his wife was his sister.  Isaac followed suit and did the same once.  The thing about Jacob, however, was that he (unlike either of them) he was very good at it.  There are those that discover young in life that they are gifted at deception. Now verse 27 calls Jacob a “peaceful man, living among the tents.”  “Peaceful” can mean “refined.”  This tells us that Jacob wasn’t a common crook… but more like an embezzler… smart and cunning in his approach.

Are you good at deceit?  Then it can be very tempting for you not to wait on God but to take what ever you want… when you want it.

  1. Esau’s Method: Consuming without thought to future.

What was at stake in this story?  The Birthright – the oldest son’s share of the material estate of the family.  Usually a double share.

Is Esau giving up all of his share or is he flipping things and giving Jacob the double portion?  We don’t know from the text.  What is most important to the text and the context is his statement: “of what use then is the birthright. “  This would have cause the readers of Genesis to gasp! To say such a thing, even with the threat of death over one’s head would have been unthinkable.

I recently read a poem by Jeanne Steig called: “Twins”

Esau said, “I’m feeling faint.”

“Aw,” said Jacob, “no you ain’t.”

“Papa’s blessing,” Esau cried

“Is mine by rights. But I’ll have died

Of hunger first. For pity’s sake—

My birthright for your lentils, Jake.”

“Your birthright?” Jacob murmured. “Sold!”

Dig in, before the stuff gets cold.

Esau ate and drank and went about his business, indifferent to the fact that he had just given up something very precious.  But Esau’s failure was not just that he was hungry or impetuous.  It was that he was godless.  That doesn’t mean he didn’t believe in God, but that God didn’t matter all that much to him.  Verse 34 says he “despised” or showed contempt for his birthright.  The writer of Hebrews (12:16) warns us that in the church there is to be… “no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.”

To live and breathe and go about your life without thought to the purpose given you by Almighty God is a godless way to live.   Is your goal of living to collect the most do-dads. Or to visit the most perfect restaurant.   Or to take the perfect vacation.

Consume them if you will. But the do-dads will collect dust, the meal will reach its conclusion as well as the vacation.

Just like Esau’s meal… you will have no return for your investment.

What are you doing with your life that will yield eternal dividends?

Josh McDowell tells about the time he was visiting with a “head-hunter” — an executive recruiter who seeks new corporate executives for other firms.  The man told him, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed.  Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’  It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question.

“Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on his desk, talking about football.  Then I leaned up and said, ‘What’s your purpose in life, Bob?’  And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’  For the first time in my career I was speechless.”  (eSermons, 6-29-04)

Better Approach to Living: Letting God bless you.

We can accomplish more than our name says we can.  We can receive more from God than we can even imagine he wants to give us.

22 times in the Bible, God is referred to as the God of Jacob.  You see the phrase the God of Israel… but more often that refers to the nation, not this individual.  Why is this designation still used even after Jacob’s name is changed?  Why is the designation “crook” not dropped?

I think it is a reminder to us Jacobs… that there is a God that loves us and wants a relationship with us.  A God that desires to give us his blessing.

Galatians 3:29 reminds us that if we “…belong to Christ, then we are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.”  Stop scheming to get ahead… stop thoughtlessly consuming life’s blessing… surrender to what God has for your life.  How is your appetite?  Is it for more of Him?

Blessings!