Greetings in the name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Praying for you, your family, your community, and the rest of the world. Right now, the whole world is suffering because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Let’s pray together to God, Our Ever-Loving Father, His mercy and protection on all, and God’s healing on those who are infected by the COVID-19. We all believe God’s grace and love rest on all who look upon Him every moment with faith in Him.
And the Holy Spirit also testifies that this is so. For he says,
“This is the new covenant I will make
with my people on that day, says the LORD:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”
Then he says,
“I will never again remember
their sins and lawless deeds.” (Hebrews 10:15-17)
Jacob returned to the place where he prayed to God,
“If God will indeed be with me and protect me on this journey, and if he will provide me with food and clothing, and if I return safely to my father’s home, then the LORD will certainly be my God. And this memorial pillar I have set up will become a place for worshiping God, and I will present to God a tenth of everything he gives me.” (Genesis 28:20b-22)
As Jacob prayed, God faithfully protected Jacob. Under God’s protection, Jacob safely arrived at his uncle’s house, 700 km away. Jacob passed through many wildernesses and foreign lands, but no harm touched Jacob. Then Jacob forgot God.
At the same time, Jacob’s fear of his brother Esau had never left him. Jacob sinned against his brother Esau, and fled, which haunted him. Jacob believed someday; Esau would revenge Jacob by killing him. One thing that Jacob did not know was God watched over Jacob and guided Jacob continually.
God, whose wisdom is beyond any human beings, used Jacob’s sin and his fear of Esau as a means to transform Jacob. Twenty years later, Jacob returned home, but the sin came with Jacob. The sin made Jacob even more fearful of Esau.
Jacob sent three lavish gifts to Esau ahead of him to reduce Esau’s anger. Even so, Jacob’s fear of Esau did not go away. Then, out of His love, God, who dearly loved Jacob, made Jacob directly face his sin. Why? God wanted Jacob to experience how sinful sin that he committed. Before this time, Jacob hid from the sin he committed to get what he wanted while deceiving his father and stealing the most precious thing that belonged to his brother.
The following morning, Jacob stopped hiding and moved out. As he approached his brother Esau, he bowed to the ground seven times before him to get his brother’s forgiveness. Then Jacob waited. Esau, who saw Jacob, ran to meet him, embraced him, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. And they both wept. God prepared Esau’s heart for Jacob. God forgave Jacob, and Esau forgave Jacob.
Then Jacob traveled on to Succoth. There he built himself a house and made shelters for his livestock. That is why the place was named Succoth (which means “shelters”), where Jacob felt safe, and Jacob found his peace in his heart. However, Jacob did not return to the place he vowed to God.
Again, Jacob traveled and arrived safely at the town of Shechem, in the land of Canaan. There he set up camp outside the city, and Jacob carefully observed the life of the city of Shechem, which looked good to Jacob’s eye. Then Jacob bought the plot of land where Jacob camped from the family of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for 100 pieces of silver. And there, he built an altar and named it El-Elohe-Israel, which means “God, the God of Israel,” who protected the new Jacob, Israel. So far, Jacob had experienced a lot about God, who gave a new name, Israel, forgave his sin, and saved his life from his brother Esau. But he did not live out God. Instead, Jacob was slowly falling into the worldly life of Shechem.
Jacob gives an excellent lesson. Only because we call on God’s name, we are fully in God if we still love the world. We continue chasing down the earthly things which look good to our eyes. Initially, it seems innocent because we take a small sample from the world, but we slowly and steadily fall into the world deeper and deeper without knowing. Then we start making our important decision using our worldly values instead of asking God first. The worldly value is deceptive and rather quickly accumulates in our hearts, and we keep on going without knowing what will come next.
Jacob served both masters by calling on God and purchasing the plot of land in Shechem, although they conflicted. Jacob should have had returned to Bethel, where Jacob vowed to God instead of settling in Shechem.
The people in Shechem were friendly, and Jacob felt at home. All things turned out to be good as he initially expected. He continued believing he followed God because he worshipped God by building an altar. Then a disaster came into his life without warning. The prince of the town raped his daughter, Dinah.
Then Jacob’s sons tricked the people in the town and made every male in the town circumcised. But three days later, when their wounds were still sore, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s full brothers, took their swords and entered the town without opposition. Then they slaughtered every male there.
Then Jacob realized that he was in deep trouble and said, “You have ruined me! You’ve made me stink among all the people of this land—among all the Canaanites and Perizzites. We are so few that they will join forces and crush us. I will be ruined, and my entire household will be wiped out!”
“But why should we let him treat our sister like a prostitute?” his sons retorted angrily.
Jacob finally found his sin committed by following his eyes, not God. Then Jacob came back to God and prayed to God. God answered,
“Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” (Genesis 35:1b)
God reminded Jacob’s vow made to God. Following morning, Job told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.”
So they gave Jacob all their pagan idols and earrings, and he buried them under the great tree near Shechem. As they set out, a terror from God spread over the people in all the towns of that area, so no one attacked Jacob’s family.
Eventually, Jacob and his household arrived at Luz (also called Bethel) in Canaan. Jacob built an altar there and named the place El-bethel (“God of Bethel”) because God had appeared to him there when fleeing from his brother, Esau. Bethel means “House of God.” Consequently, Jacob fully called the place God of the house of God. In other words, Jacob gave all to God, not contributing to himself as he called Shechem “God, the God of Israel, that is, himself.” So far, Jacob still had a self-centered view of the world, but now, he completely gave up on himself by putting all things before God, which God truly wanted from Jacob. Finally, Jacob truly, and wholly returned to God.
God extremely rejoiced over Jacob, as He saw Jacob humbly returned to God by putting God above everything, including Jacob’s new name, Israel. To Jacob, the name was so precious, but not anymore. His new name, Israel, could not be more precious than God. It was the moment that Jacob put everything before God and began the new relationship with the Eternal Ever-Loving Father as God’s truly beloved son, Israel. Then God appeared to Jacob and blessed Jacob. God said to Jacob,
“Your name is Jacob;
You shall no longer be called Jacob,
But Israel shall be your name.” (Genesis 36: 10b)
Once Jacob gave up the precious new name before God by putting God above everything, including his pride in the new name and his love of the world, God gave Jacob back the new name, Israel. Jacob was ready to live out the new name by giving it back to God by taking off the world so much enticing to his eyes. Jacob got deep into the world without knowing because he was still a friend of the world.
God gave a new name to us, and we are no longer children of the world. But we often forget our new name and live like others who don’t know God. Like Jacob, often only after a disaster hits us, we realize where we spiritually were. Then the disaster makes us come back to God while giving up everything except God and asking His forgiveness. Then God restores our relationship with Him, the True, One and Only One Ever-Loving Father. God has been patiently waiting for the moment of our return to Him.
Indeed, returning to God is not easy. Jacob lived with the people of Shechem even after he got the new name, Israel, from God. God let the disaster happen to make him wake up. Then Jacob threw away all the idols accumulated while he lived in Shechem. He traveled through the lands and the people whom his sons irritated. However, in faith, Jacob set out to Bethel, and God protected Jacob and his family.
Bible tells that “As they journeyed, there was a great terror upon the cities which were around them, and they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.” (Genesis 35:5)
After all, God is the master of all. All living beings obey God. God can put fears in the hearts of the people around us for us, His beloved children. As God did for Jacob, and He will do for us when we set out faithfully following God because His love is with us.
And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. (Romans 8:38)
As Jacob gave up his new name, which was a just name but without power, God gave back Jacob’s new name, Israel. Then God continued blessing Jacob,
“I am God Almighty;
Be fruitful and multiply;
A nation and a multitude of nations shall come from you,
And kings shall come from you.
And the land which I gave to Abraham and Isaac,
I will give to you,
And I will give the land to your descendants after you.” (Genesis 35:11b-15)
God richly blessed Jacob and confirmed His covenant with Jacob repeating the same covenant. Indeed, God’s covenant was not confined to Jacob and his sons as God blessed through Jacob but was handed down to generations and generations after Jacob and his sons. Certainly, we, believers, are the descendants of Abraham in faith following Isaac, Jacob, and their descendants. Thus, the same blessing is with us, as God made His solemn covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Then God went up from him at the place where He had spoken with him. Jacob set up a memorial stone in the place where He had spoken with him, a memorial of stone, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob returned to the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel, and when he returned, he gave everything back to God by declaring God above all things.
Then they journeyed on from Bethel, but when there was still some distance to go to Ephrath, Rachel, who Jacob loved most, began to give birth, and she suffered severe difficulties in her labor. And when she was suffering severe complications in her labor, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son!” And it came about, as her soul was departing (for she died), that she named him Ben-oni (which means the son of my sorrow); but his father called him Benjamin (which means the son of the right hand).
Rachel suffered long by the love of her father’s idols and the sin of stealing his father’s idols, when she left her father’s house following Jacob. Then later, Jacob experienced his joy in God by confessing his sin and receiving God’s forgiveness, but Rachel suffered alone. She named her son her suffering and sorrow before passing away from her labor.
However, Jacob saw hope in God from his newly born son from his beloved wife, Rachel, who was dying out of her labor. Jacob could hold of the secret of joy under the difficult and painful situation of losing his most beloved wife, Rachel. Jacob gave the new name of strength and hope – Benjamin, the son of the right hand. By doing so, Jacob showed his true spiritual maturity in God.
We know we are spiritually maturing in God if we can give thanks to all circumstances, even in our life pains and sorrows. Many ask for blessings from God, but this spiritual maturity is God’s ultimate gift that we all truly desire to receive from God. Why? Our earthly blessing often turns into an obstacle between God and us as we easily indulge in the earthly blessing.
Why does God bless us? The short answer is because God loves us. God gives His blessings out of his pleasure in His love. Then what does God truly want to see from us who receive God’s blessing. Here is our answer: God wants us to use His blessings to expand His Kingdom on earth. However, doing what God wants on earth is indeed easier to say than done.
Then Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). And Jacob set up a memorial stone over her grave; that is the memorial stone of Rachel’s grave. Then Israel journeyed on and pitched his tent beyond the tower of Eder. Jacob’s loss of his most loved wife, Rachel, made him truly sad and painful, but Jacob moved on with God in faith.
Jacob eventually returned to his father Isaac at Mamre of Kiriath-arba (Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had resided. Jacob fled after he deceived his father Isaac and stole the blessing reserved for the firstborn son Esau, but God made Jacob return. Of course, before letting Jacob return, God patiently worked on Jacob for more than twenty years. God’s patient love made Jacob truly repent in prayer throughout one entire night. After the night, God forgave Jacob, Esau forgave Jacob, and now his father Isaac forgave Jacob. God did all things. Jacob lived together with his father Isaac and his brother Esau as one loving family. What a beautiful closure that God created out of the broken family!
Why had God done all these things for Jacob? Only one reason – God dearly loved Jacob, and Jacob was God’s beloved child.
Therefore, we, who are God’s beloved children, should not hide or flee from our sin. If so, our sin makes us suffer more. It will haunt us forever. Instead, we should immediately go back to God with our repenting prayer with our contrite heart to God and find His true love, which is even behind even our sin and transgression. Yes, God even uses our sin to make us experience His love and grow deeper into Him, who can truly please God instead of keeping sinning. (Please note that we don’t encourage sinning. Jacob suffered for twenty years. The consequence of Jacob’s sin was unbearable.)
Now the days of Isaac were 180 years. Then Isaac breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people, an old man of ripe age; and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.
God also loved Jacob’s father, Isaac, whom God dearly loved after Abraham. Isaac saw his son Jacob’s return. And Isaac found a completely different Jacob who was of God, not of the world. Isaac saw Jacob’s spiritual mature in God, seeing through pain and sorrow to God by trusting His infinite goodness behind the scene. Yes, Jacob spoke out hope and strength in God, although he was painfully and helplessly watching his dying wife, Rachel, who Jacob loved most on earth. She named her son, Ben-oni, the son of my sorrow, but Jacob believed in hope and strength from God by calling his son Benjamin. It was the maturity of Jacob in God, which was indeed the product of God’s patience and love.
Isaac spent old age with the new Jacob, Israel, and Esau before peacefully returning to the LORD. It was a truly blessed earthly ending for Isaac, Jacob’s father, and it was the new beginning of Jacob as Israel.
Abraham and Isaac just heard God’s covenant and believed, but later Jacob saw God’s blessing — forming the new nation of Israel. God had already prepared all things ahead. At that time, Jacob could not even imagine. God knew the new Jacob, Israel, endured in faith and would walk faithfully with God.
Come and let’s together praise God with all our hearts and minds. We will see our new chapter in our lives as Jacob experienced becoming the father of the twelve tribes of the nation, also called Israel. Indeed we are the descendants of God’s covenant, who inherit the same unfathomable blessing given to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Along with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we will sign our praise from now and forever.
Praise the LORD!
Praise God in his sanctuary;
praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works;
praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn;
praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing;
praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals;
praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD!
Praise the Lord! (Psalm 150:1-6)