Archive for August, 2011

Genesis 25:23-34 – DOES GOD HAVE FAVOURITES?

Favouritism

From birth ESAU has thick red hair over his body. Esau means “Hairy”. His twin brother JACOB has an unfortunate name too. It means “to defraud, deceive, to displace”. His name carries the idea of displacing someone, to replace or unseat someone. As Jacob is being born he is found holding onto his brother’s heel, as if he is trying to trip him up. This is a picture of things to come.

Esau is the FAVOURITE SON of Isaac, his firstborn and tradition demands that he be groomed for family leadership, but Esau doesn’t seem to take his role as firstborn too seriously.

Jacob is Rebekah’s FAVOURITE SON. She no doubt remembers the prophecy given to her by God at his birth. Did Rebekah share with her favourite son Jacob what God had promised as he grew up, that somehow one day he would inherit the promises of God given to Abraham and pass them on to the next generation? Was it the SPIRITUAL INTEREST that Jacob showed that edged Rebekah towards favouritism?

I know that our cultural predilection is to blame our parents for our flaws, rather than take responsibility for our own thoughts, words and actions, but was it IRRESPONSIBLE for each parent to have a favourite son and did this cause unnecessary friction in the family? Perhaps Isaac and Rebekah took it too far? The Bible doesn’t tell us.

But what about GOD! Does He have FAVOURITES? In Romans 9:13 (NASB) God says “JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED.” Isaac and Rebekah don’t go as far as that! It doesn’t say of Isaac and Rebekah that they HATED the other son, only that they each LOVED one of them. Is this just exaggerated language to emphasise God’s CHOICE of Jacob over Esau?

Ephesians 1:3-14 (NLT) says “we are UNITED WITH CHRIST. Even before He made the world, God loved us and CHOSE US IN CHRIST to be holy and without fault in His eyes. God DECIDED IN ADVANCE TO ADOPT US into His own family by bringing us to Himself THROUGH JESUS CHRIST. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure…Furthermore, because we are UNITED WITH CHRIST, we have received an INHERITANCE from God, for HE CHOSE US IN ADVANCE, and He makes everything work out according to His plan.” We are PREDESTINED! CHOSEN! Did we have a choice? Does God choose to send some to hell and others to heaven? Is this what He means when He says He hates Esau and loves Jacob?

It seems to me that the words UNITED WITH CHRIST, IN CHRIST, THROUGH CHRIST are more important than we think when it comes to being CHOSEN. When I believe in Christ I APPROPRIATE His Righteousness. His Righteousness becomes mine. When I believe in Christ I appropriate ETERNAL LIFE. His life becomes mine.

It seems to me that God chose only ONE PERSON, the Lord Jesus Christ, and IN HIM I APPROPRIATE what is HIS when I believe in Him. Because HE is chosen before the foundation of the world I too am chosen. And I am chosen IN HIM to live out HIS HOLINESS. His purpose from the beginning was that when I believed I would appropriate His Holiness and live a holy life. He is set apart for the purposes of God and I am too in Him. God has only One favourite – His Son Jesus. But when I am found in Him I too am a favourite son. I put on Christ and God sees me as He sees Jesus.

Born into the family of God I have a BIRTHRIGHT. I receive all the riches of the things that God has PROMISED from the beginning of time to those who believe. It doesn’t come to me AUTOMATICALLY because I am a good person or born into a Christian family or because I go to Church or live in a “Christian” country. It comes because of the RELATIONSHIP I have with Christ and the fact that I am IN CHRIST. Because ONE person was chosen before the earth was created, many have the opportunity to believe and enter into the promises of God. I am CHOSEN IN HIM.

One of the things that A BIRTHRIGHT carries with it is the PRIESTHOOD of the family. Fathers consecrate their firstborn sons to God (Exodus 22:29). They look after the family concerning their spiritual life in serving God. The firstborn has the responsibility of building and worshiping God at the altar (Genesis 22:9; 26:25; 35:1; etc.), as well sharing God’s word and His promises to his family.

We all know the story. Esau sells his BIRTHRIGHT to Jacob because he is hungry for some stew. Red hair. Red stew. Red name. In the red regarding his BIRTHRIGHT. Edom (Red) is an appropriate name.

Hebrews 12:16 (NLT) says that Esau was “IMMORAL OR GODLESS” despite being a firstborn son. This is evident in that he “TRADED HIS BIRTHRIGHT as the firstborn son for a single meal”. I suppose when this transaction was made it was made in front of witnesses for this to be official. Stupid thing to do. “He showed CONTEMPT for his rights as the firstborn.” (Genesis 25:34 NLT) Perhaps Jacob was doing him a favour. Esau was hungry for PHYSICAL things. Jacob was hungry for SPIRITUAL things.

Have you DESPISED YOUR BIRTHRIGHT? The invitation is to believe in Christ. When I believe in Christ and what He has done for me by dying on the Cross for my sins I enter into the things that God has promised before the world was created. Chosen in Christ.

Pastor Ross

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Genesis 25:27-34 – WHEN TALENT IS NEVER ENOUGH

Goanna

Goanna’s are common in Australia, especially up in the Northern regions. A GOANNA is a monitor lizard that can grow to a couple of metres in length, with sharp teeth and claws. And I am going to goanna, crocodile, kangaroo and red desert country, to Darwin, a city in the North of Australia, to see a friend I have known for around 20 years.

As inexperienced and totally unskilled as I was, Ian would take me on overnight camping trips with him, hunting feral goats or exploring mountain ranges, trekking through the bush, sweating in the heat and humidity until exhaustion. On one trip, having almost reached my limit, totally fatigued, out in the middle of the bush, we came to a Henry-Moore-like rockpool, a beautiful clearwater natural spring. We swam with the leaches, until the cool water rejuvenated aching muscles and we caught crayfish in the nearby stream.

Sleeping in the tent on that hot afternoon I woke up to see a large goanna beside me. Fortunately, it was as startled as I was. Later, a goat skin, which Ian had hung on the branch of a tree was taken by another huge goanna. Incredible!

If Ian had been around in the time of Genesis 25, he would be out hunting with ESAU. I read one commentary however that says that Esau was a self-centered, irresponsible man, caring far more for sports and recreation than for the responsibilities of the family business and livestock. I also read some commentaries that castigate Jacob, his twin brother, for being lazy because he stays at home, looking after the domestic livestock and cooking. I think this is both unfair and unfounded.

The Bible certainly doesn’t say that Esau is irresponsible because he is a hunter or that Jacob is lazy because he stays at home. Neither of them is necessarily sinful simply because they use their skills in different arenas of life. SKILLS in themselves are spiritually neutral.

Nothing wrong with Esau being a skilled hunter. He provides extra food for the family but also has the ability to protect the family. That is his skill and his father approves. Hunter, Protector, Defender of territory, Warrior. Perhaps Esau was being trained to be a general of the small army that his father, Isaac, inherited from Abraham (Genesis 14:14).

Years later, another hunter became an expert with a sling, killing predators that came after his sheep and a Philistine predator called Goliath who came after Israel. King David would say God “trains my hands for battle; He strengthens my arm to draw a bronze bow.” (2 Samuel 22:35 NLT).

Nothing wrong with having a GIFT OR TALENT, but what gives it SUBSTANCE is when I allow it to come under God’s authority? When David tackles Goliath with his ability with a sling he rightly recognises that “The battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam 17:47). This doesn’t seem true of Esau. He seems to DESPISE God’s purposes for his life as a firstborn son, and is all too willing to sell his birthright for immediate gratification (Genesis 25:27-34).

John Maxwell, in his book called “TALENT IS NEVER ENOUGH” says “practice sharpens your talent”, but he stresses that BELIEF is important if talent is to make a difference in my life. He speaks about BELIEF IN YOURSELF but I think that if I am to live out the purpose for which I am created then it is BELIEF AND TRUST IN CHRIST that will give me a passion to energize my talent, focus to direct my talent, perseverance to sustain my talent, responsibility to strengthen my talent and character to protect my talent. Esau lacked a BELIEF IN GOD that would sustain the destiny of a firstborn son with a God-given BIRTHRIGHT. John Maxwell is right – TALENT IS NEVER ENOUGH.

The invitation I have today is to see that God wants to use not only my spiritual gifts but all my gifts and abilities, my motivations, my personality and my life experiences to serve Him and achieve the purpose for which I have been created. Someone said “Your talent is GOD’S GIFT TO YOU. What you do with it is YOUR GIFT BACK TO GOD.” 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NLT) says “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God Himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then EVERYTHING YOU DO will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to Him forever and ever! Amen.”

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:24-27 – BEAR GRYLLS VS MASTER CHEF

Bear Grylls and Master Chef

He is an outdoorsman, an adventurer, a survivor, best known for his television series MAN VS. WILD”. He climbed Mount Everest at 23 and has excelled in sailing, skydiving, karate, climbing cliffs, parachuting from helicopters, paragliding, and along the way he has eaten snakes and deer droppings and other disgusting things in order to survive.

Recently BEAR GRYLLS came to our Church (Hillsong Church, Australia) and spoke about his adventures and about his faith in God. He describes his faith as the “backbone” of his life. He promotes the Alpha Course on the basics of the Christian faith.

The Bear Grylls of the Old Testament was ESAU, only with more body hair. Esau was a great hunter, a sportsman, an outdoorsman. Today he would have been chosen as the captain of the Rugby League team and he’d have his own survival TV show.

JACOB, his twin brother, was the total opposite to Esau (obviously not identical twins). He stayed around home, much less adventurous. Today he would be training as a Master Chef, writing recipe books, with his own restaurant called “BIRTHRIGHT” known for its great stew.

Being a FIRST BORN SON brings certain privileges. A first born son in Old Testament times is given the overall LEADERSHIP of the family, the SPIRITUAL AUTHORITY of the family as well as a DOUBLE PORTION of the inheritance. Esau is a firstborn son, if only by a few seconds so this is his BIRTHRIGHT. This is how it is always done. Or is it?

God is not subject to our expectations. He sometimes cuts right across social and cultural expectations and CHOOSES people indiscriminately for His purposes? Or at least it seems that way. We’ve seen this already in Genesis. Neither Seth nor Isaac are first born sons, but they are given the responsibility by God to carry the promises of God down through their generations. What is going on here?

Why does God want to BY-PASS Ishmael and choose Isaac? Why does He want to arbitrarily choose Jacob over Esau? Perhaps it’s NOT arbitrary at all! Is it that God FORESEES that Esau will not be interested in the things of God, that he will never be positive towards God or His promises? Is God stressing the importance of PERSONAL BELIEF in Him, of SPIRITUAL qualifications?

Romans 9:6-13 (NLT) clarifies things further by saying “… NOT ALL who are born into the nation of Israel are truly members of God’s people! Being descendants of Abraham DOESN’T make them truly Abraham’s children … Abraham’s PHYSICAL DESCENDANTS are NOT necessarily children of God..”

Abraham is described as the SPIRITUAL FATHER of those who have faith and believe in Romans 4:11f. It goes on to explain that God’s promise to Abraham and his descendants was based on a RIGHT RELATIONSHIP with God that comes by FAITH in the promises of God which ultimately speak of faith in Christ.

Romans 9:10-13 is amazing. Listen to this … “When Isaac married Rebekah, she gave birth to TWINS. But before they were born, before they had done anything good or bad, she received a message from God. (This message shows that God CHOOSES people according to HIS OWN PURPOSES; He CALLS people, but not according to their good or bad works.) She was told, “Your older son will serve your younger son.” In the words of the Scriptures, “I LOVED Jacob, but I REJECTED Esau.”” Why was Jacob loved and Esau rejected? Was it because Jacob would be a man of faith who would carry the promises of God to his descendants?

Ishmael and Esau are FIRSTBORN sons but they are not AUTOMATICALLY chosen by God simply because they are firstborn sons. Neither do Isaac and Jacob receive the inheritance of the promises of God because they deserve it or earn it or work for it in any way. I don’t claim to understand it but God CHOOSES them before they were born with the FOREKNOWLEDGE that they would make a POSITIVE non-meritorious response towards Him and His purposes for their lives. Here is the SOVEREIGNTY of God and the FREEWILL of man in perfect TENSION, which has frustrated both Calvinists and Arminianists down through the ages ever since.

Ephesians 2:8-9 (NLT) says “God saved you by His GRACE WHEN YOU BELIEVED. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Titus 3:7 (NLT) says “Because of His GRACE He declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” 

When Jacob believes he looks forward to the promise of the Saviour through whom all the nations of the world will be blessed. He looks forward to Jesus. We look back. Romans 4:23-25 says “It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous IF WE BELIEVE in Him, the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised to life to make us right with God.”

One thing I know is that God loves the Bear Grylls and the Master Chefs and every other person upon earth and longs for every one of us to believe Him and His promises. He gives every person the invitation and the opportunity to be born again into the family of God as they place their trust in Christ and come under His authority for their lives.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:21-23 – CAN OF WORMS!

Can of Worms

Some of the questions addressed in the TV show called “CAN OF WORMS” are “Is porn a normal, healthy part of adult life?” 52% of Austalians said “No!” “Is marriage necessary anymore?” 78% of Australians said “Yes!” and 68% said that gay people also have a right to marry.

Three guests, a studio audience and people from all over the world find out what Australia really thinks, especially controversial subjects such as political correctness and personal values. “Do Australians swear too much? Is the burqa out of place in Australia? Is it OK to spy on your kids online?” Each question is designed to open up a CAN OF WORMS. No absolute values. No right or wrong answers.

To open a can of worms means “to inadvertently create a host of new problems while trying to solve one.” The idea is that once you open a can of worms it is impossible to stop them from trying to escape.

Way back in Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve sinned they OPENED A CAN OF WORMS. Their actions released a host of IRREVERSIBLE PROBLEMS and COMPLICATIONS into the world that only God could resolve. As long as the “can” remained sealed through obedience to God, there was no harm, but once it was opened it set off a chain reaction of events with totally unexpected and complex consequences that irrevocably changed our world. It’s called SIN.

For 20 years Isaac and Rebekah have prayed for children and the Lord answers their prayers (Genesis 25:21). But in a sinful world, it seems that prayer always stirs things up spiritually.

Rebekah has an abnormally tough pregnancy. She prays “Why is this happening to me?” The Lord answers Rebekah directly somehow. Does she get a prophetic word from an angel? Does her answer come through a dream or a sign? Does God show up personally like He did with Abraham? Here is where I would like to know the details, but somehow God is more interested in telling me WHAT He said rather than HOW He said it. Is it just me that gets so interested in the MIRACULOUS that I miss the MESSAGE? Lord, help me focus on what is RELEVANT, not just on what is REMARKABLE.

The Lord tells her she is having twins, but reveals to her some rather unexpected twists that will take place in their lives. Something spiritually will be stirred up by the birth of these sons. The trouble Rebekah is experiencing is used as a picture of things to come.

“They will be RIVALS! One will be STRONGER! The older will SERVE THE YOUNGER!” (Genesis 25:23). This is all upside down and inside out and it only COMPLICATES things! It’s not POLITICALLY CORRECT! It messes with the CULTURE of the time. For this to happen the inheritance and blessing from Isaac will have to come to the youngest son and not the oldest. This is NOT DONE! When God answers prayer in a sinful world it can stir up a CAN OF WORMS.

Does Rebekah mention this Word from the Lord to Isaac? Is she going to try to manipulate things to help God along with this promise?

Will I try to adjust the plans of God in my life? Prayer releases the promises of God, but am I really willing for God to answer the deepest prayers of my life when I don’t know WHERE IT WILL LEAD? Who knows what could happen? UNEXPECTED CONSEQUENCES that only He can foresee, IRREVOCABLE PROBLEMS and COMPLICATIONS that only He can resolve? A MINE FIELD to navigate where only He can lead?

Just because God answers my prayers doesn’t mean I won’t experience difficulties or that I won’t feel out of my depth. Everytime I pray, something in the spiritual atmosphere of this world is STIRRED UP as God intervenes to deal with the CAN OF WORMS created by our sin.

The believing line of descendents from Abraham carry the promises of the Covenant. The Messiah Jesus will come from this line, and in fulfilling this promise the world will be IRREVOCABLY CHANGED. A battle begins, and is waged in the hearts of men and women to this very day.

Romans 8:28 (NLT) assures me “that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” When prayer stirs up a can of worms, I am unable to deal with it, BUT GOD CAN. He can sort out the mess.

Somehow only the Lord Jesus Christ can deal with the consequences of my sin, no matter how complicated, twisted and out of control things have become. It may mean He does things a little differently to our expectations and it may cut across our cultural norms and look totally upside down to us, but He knows what He is doing. He is the only WAY, TRUTH AND LIFE (John 14:6). The invitation is always to TRUST in Him.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:19-22 – WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?

Why is this happening to me?

The pain comes gradually over a three week period and crescendoes on Wednesday.

I need to stay focused in order to counsel a grieving family as we talk about the funeral, so I put the pain aside until 2.30pm when I get in my car, drive home and go to bed for the rest of the afternoon. The next day I see a trainee doctor who tells me that it is all a mystery and suggests a pain killer. The pain doesn’t go away. Will I be able to get up to speak at the funeral?

The next morning I feel completely pain free for the entire time I speak. God’s grace. The power of prayer! I am so grateful. But just as I walk out the door the pain begins again. More pain, another doctor, an Ultrasound, a CT scan, hospital for 3 days. Lord, why is this happening to me?

It seems that over the first 20 year period of their married life God wanted to teach both Isaac and Rebekah about being PERSISTENT IN PRAYER. They knew that Abraham, Isaac’s dad, had trouble having children until they were quite old and now they were faced with the same problem. All they could do was learn the principles of PRAYING WITHOUT CEASING (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

With Abraham’s example, GIVING UP was not an option for Isaac and Rebekah. Matthew 7:7 (NLT) encourages us to “KEEP ON asking, and you will receive what you ask for. KEEP ON seeking, and you will find. KEEP ON knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”

The effective fervent prayer of a righteous man makes a difference (James 5:16) and after 20 years, the Lord answers Isaac’s prayer and Rebekah becomes pregnant with twins (Genesis 25:21). After 20 years!

At what point along the way am I going to give up and take the position that God is not going to answer? What is the point that I resign myself to thinking that He isn’t going to fulfil what He has promised in His Word? Will I stop praying after a week? A month? 6 months? A year? 5 years maybe? 10 years is a long time. 20 years seems forever! Will I stop a day before I receive God’s answer? An hour? A minute too soon? Am I going to do the same thing that Abraham did and try to help God along a little with His promises? Find an answer for myself? My way?

Even when God has already promised to meet my needs, somehow the Lord wants to make me acutely aware that prayer RELEASES what God has promised. Prayer focuses our reliance upon the grace of God and the TIMING is up to Him.

But the prayer journey takes a new twist. It seems even when she has her prayers answered concerning one major area in Rebekah’s life that the story of STRUGGLE doesn’t end there. Rebekah is pregnant after 20 years but she is obviously having a tough time during her pregnancy and as a believer, like her husband she also goes to the Lord for help. She still needs to pray. She cries out to God “Why is this happening to me?” Ever cried out to God like that? I know how she feels. Not that I will ever be pregnant, but it seems that in my experience giving birth to anything that God wants for your life involves a STRUGGLE IN PRAYER.

Jesus knows what it is like to struggle in prayer. In the garden of Gethsemane He prays “Father, if You are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from Me. Yet I want Your will to be done, not Mine.” … He prayed more fervently, and He was in such agony of spirit that His sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood” (Luke 22:42-44 NLT). Lord, why is this happening to Me? The Father’s will is done but it involves a tremendous struggle. Jesus bears our sin.

The invitation that Rebekah and Isaac and Jesus Himself gives to us comes by way of a question. Are you willing to struggle with prayer for the purposes of God in your life? At what point will you give up the struggle? And what about the other struggles that can result when your prayers are finally answered? Am I willing to trust in Him when all I feel at present is the pain? …

Pastor Ross