Archive for October, 2011

Genesis 26:34-35 – INCOMPATIBLE!

Unequally Yoked – Photo Created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and MorgueFile photos

The engine of a FIESTA in a FERRARI! PICKLES and ICE CREAM! There are certain things that definitely DON’T go together. ALUMINIUM FOIL and MICROWAVES (Julie discovered this some time ago). CHILDREN and CANCER. Wouldn’t it change the world if HONESTY and POLITICS went together?

It was dark when I dressed, and when I arrived at the Church building, we sat around in a small circle of dedicated students learning and reciting Greek declensions with our Pastor. It was about halfway through one of these early morning classes that I noticed my shoes. I was wearing TWO DIFFERENT KINDS OF SHOES! Very embarrassing. I wonder if anybody else noticed? Certain things should not be worn together.

Deuteronomy 22:10 (NLT) says “You must not plough with an ox and a donkey harnessed together.” The idea here is that there are certain things that are totally INCOMPATIBLE. They were never meant to be placed in the same yoke, never meant to be together in the same equation. Just won’t fit! Won’t make sense! Doesn’t work well!

Just when everything is working out well in Genesis 26:34, Esau decides to marry two unbelieving Hittite women. MARRIAGE is one of the most important decisions we make in this life. Esau doesn’t consult his parents but instead reveals his blatant disregard for them. I know that he was 40 years old but the fact that he didn’t even talk with his parents about his decision shows he knew they would not be pleased with his choices.

Esau has already shown his blatant disregard for the promises of God by selling his birthright for a pot of stew. But why did he want to marry Hittite women, who were idol worshipers and who REJECTED THE GOD OF ABRAHAM? Esau seems to be intent on distancing himself even further from God by refusing to come under His authority in his life or to be accountable to Him in any way. He is making it plain that he is not a believer.

This decision makes both his parents miserable to the point of being grief stricken for the mess Esau is making of his life. He has blown it big time. Adultery and bigamy. Hebrews 12:16 calls him immoral and Godless.

Esau is not a believer but for followers of Christ, the principles are clear. There are certain things that DEFINITELY DON’T GO TOGETHER. Idols and belief in God. Christ and the devil. Light and darkness. Good and Evil. Righteousness and wickedness. A FOLLOWER OF CHRIST MARRYING AN UNBELIEVER. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NLT) says “DON’T TEAM UP WITH (be UNEQUALLY YOKED with) those who are unbelievers.” It’s like harnessing an ox and an ass together.

The picture of being UNEQUALLY YOKED comes from farming life. Oxen and mules don’t work well together. They will pull a load differently, so if you put them in the same harness, they’ll be very ineffective. 1 Corinthians 6:15 goes on to say How can righteousness be a partner with wickedness? How can light live with darkness? What harmony can there be between Christ and the devil? How can a believer be a partner with an unbeliever?”

“What’s so bad about believers marrying unbelievers? Big deal!”

I can’t afford to be too quick in dismissing what God has to say. Marrying someone who does not share my beliefs IS a big deal. It has to do with who I allow to speak into my life. Romans 12:2 (NLT) says “Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

I love my wife and even more important than my marriage relationship is my relationship with God. I was once INCOMPATIBLE, UNEQUALLY YOKED for any kind of relationship with Christ. He could not and would not have a relationship with me because my sin made me completely incompatible.

But on a Christmas day many years ago, I gave my life to Christ. On that day I appropriated what Christ did for me personally. Christ paid the penalty for my sin when He died on the Cross for me. He exchanged His righteousness for my sin. When that amazing transaction took place and I stood before God clothed in the righteousness of Christ, I became TOTALLY COMPATIBLE for a relationship with Him. Has that transaction taken place in your life? Have you considered the radical difference it would make in your life should you decide to believe in Christ and appropriate what He has done for you?

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button on my webpage. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Genesis 26:26-35 – WE’RE NOT GOING TO LIVE IN FEAR!

She is new to Shalom, the Aged Care Facility where I work as a Chaplain. Jane (not her real name) is old and frail, and anxious. She clings onto my hand, frantic eyes wide and pleads “Will you stay here and talk to me. I don’t have any friends here. I need someone to stay with me. Please don’t leave me alone.” I can almost smell the fear it is so palpable as she looks into my eyes and tentatively glances around the room at her new surroundings.

That’s when I notice Francis (not her real name) at a table nearby, listening to our conversation and pretending to read a book. I breathe a sigh of relief. After all Jane can’t live the few remaining years her life in fear. Meeting new friends can only help. The perfect opportunity for Jane to meet a new friend. We arrive at her table and I introduce Jane to Francis.

Fancis, a rather tall and well built woman stands to her feet and before I can stop her she slams her considerable sized book on the table in front of her. With venom in her voice she yells at the top of her vocal range, swearing into Janes face “Get a ^%#@* grip on yourself woman! … Keep her away from me!” All of a sudden the loungeroom was a battlefield, Jane’s wheelchair was her trench and each strange face her enemy. She was afraid and I was her only ally, vainly waving a peace flag while it was being shot to pieces.

The shock of this confrontation is almost too much for Jane and I quickly wheel her away from her “potential friend” before she has a heart attack. I shake my head in disbelief as Francis continues her tirade from a distance. If Jane was fearful about being in a new place she is now TRAUMATISED against meeting anybody new. Who knows how the next stranger might respond? She feels REJECTED AND ISOLATED.

Isaac is also in a new place and among strangers, but initially he is tolerated and they allow him to farm the land. For someone who has never farmed before, Isaac has an unbelievably fruitful season, a bumper crop, by the time we get to Genesis 26:12. He is being blessed by God, and God, it seems, has incredible farming skills.

Although Isaac becomes very prosperous in his business, his RELATIONSHIP with his Philistine neighbours is in a mess. Isaac is seen as a THREAT and is ordered out of Gerar by the authorities. REJECTED AND ISOLATED in a strange place. Jane understands how he feels.

Isaac moves eventually to BEERSHEBA after a number of provocative incidents which, like a fully cocked flintlock on an ancient musket, were ready to create a spark that would ignite the priming powder of war. The Philistines are itching for a fight and they vandalise his wells by filling them with dirt.

Isaac is still pretty upset about the vandalism of his fathers wells. So when the Philistine King Abimelech walks into camp with his army commander, Phicol, he isn’t exactly receptive. He says “Why have you come here? You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land” (Genesis 26:27 NLT). He’s not being paranoid. They do hate him!

Abimelech acknowledges that he can see that the Lord is with Isaac. I spoke with a man the other day who can see the difference that faith has made but he is still unwilling to commit his life to Christ. Why is that? Is it because he is unwilling to come under God’s authority and to be accountable to Him?

Obviously Abimelech is a little bit afraid of the reprisals that might occur because of the vandalism to Isaacs wells. He says he wants peace. He says “Let’s make a covenant. Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace…” (Genesis 26:28 NLT). What gall! Treated him well? He has just finished running him out of town, almost instigating a war in the process, and he says that he sent him away in peace! Thems fighting words!

Here’s Isaacs opportunity to get even by running Abimelech out of town, but Isaac doesn’t take it. He sees the bigger picture. He begins being intentional about peace. He starts thinking in effect “How long can we look at each other down the barrel of a gun?” The Australian pop singer Johnny Farnham would have been proud. “We’re not gonna sit in silence, WE’RE NOT GONNA LIVE WITH FEAR, Oh-o-o-o, whoa-o-o-o!” (The Voice).

Isaac prepares a non aggression treaty. They eat and drink together, a sign of their mutual agreement. Jesus says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9 NASB). Paul says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” (Romans 12:18 NASB). The next morning they sign the treaty by making a solemn oath with each other in front of witnesses. Then Abimelech leaves in peace (Genesis 26:30-31) and in that atmosphere of peace and security comes more good news.

That very day Isaac’s servants came and told him about a new well they had dug. “We’ve found water!” they exclaimed. So Isaac named the well Shibah (which means “oath”). And to this day the town that grew up there is called Beersheba (which means “WELL OF THE OATH”)”. Isaac sees a connection with the finding of this well and the peace treaty he has just made with Abimelech, but mostly this is the place where God appears to him and reaffirms His covenant of blessing (Genesis 26:24-25).

Don’t miss it. Not having to live in fear is not just trying to please everyone around you. Deep-seated peace comes when I am in relationship with Christ who is my peace. Jesus says “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27 NLT). Reconciliation with God leads to reconciliation with others.

The invitation of peace with God and eachother is found in Christ. To followers of Christ, Paul writes, “You were His ENEMIES, SEPARATED from Him …Yet now He has RECONCILED you to Himself through the death of Christ …” (Colossians 1:19-22 NLT).

2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (NLT) says “… we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. … anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. … And God has given us this task of reconciling people to Him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And He gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”

Now that’s some PEACE TREATY. Forgiven! Restored! Loved! “WE’RE NOT GONNA TO LIVE IN FEAR! OH-O-O-O, WHOA-O-O-O!”

Pastor Ross

PS If this post has helped you apply the lifechanging truths of the Bible, you are invited to subscribe by clicking the follow button on my webpage. It would be a privilege to share these conversations with people like you and others all around the world.

Genesis 26:12-25 – FOREIGNERS GO HOME!

Foreigners Go Home!

He is not afraid to let others excel to the point where they are better than he is. He is not THREATENED by others rising to the top. I like that about Pastor Brian Houston. How can I expect to grow if I am not willing to encourage others to reach their full potential in life and be all that God intends for them to be?

The trouble is when I begin to focus my attention on great preachers all of a sudden my ability to make a difference seems so small in comparison. They have such incredible impact in people’s lives all around the world. I can choose to either praise God for their influence or get JEALOUS, CRITICAL and INTIMIDATED BY THEM. When Isaac begins to prosper, he gets up close and personal with the destructive consequences of jealousy.

On reflection Isaac didn’t exactly get things right along the way when it came to his relationships. He uses his wife as a shield to protect himself without considering what this would do to her. He is rebuked by the Philistine leader, Abimelech, and regarded with suspicion from then on. It’s like getting the Mayor of the city offside.

All this probably contributes to the REJECTION AND JEALOUSY of Isaac by the local residents in Gerar, especially when God starts to prosper him. You can almost hear them say Not only is he a liar but these foreigners are stealing our jobs and livelihood!” You know how the conversations go when overseas investors take over iconic homegrown businesses.

Not having a belief in God and therefore not having an appreciation of God’s blessing in another persons life, the Philistines express their PROVINCIALISM and JEALOUSY by vandalising Isaacs property. They fill Isaacs wells with dirt, leaving him without a water supply (Genesis 26:14-15).

This is the Bible’s first act of VANDALISM. I’m sure there was graffiti saying “FOREIGNERS GO HOME!” Obviously the locals in Gerar were threatened and intolerant of strangers. Without water Isaac is forced to move (Genesis 26:18-22).

What makes it worse is that these vandalised wells had been in the family for years, built by his father Abraham. If it was me, I’d feel a little angry. Filling in a well with dirt was equivalent to an ACT OF WAR, a crime, an act of terrorism. Isaac had enough men to take these guys down. RETALIATE! REVENGE! GET EVEN! Perhaps Isaac is too much of a WIMP to try this. He doesn’t do anything but dodge the blows. Some suggest that he is just a PEACEFUL man. Whatever.

Isaac takes the easy way out. He moves from Gerar to Beersheba, singing the “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers. “… You got to know when to turn away, know when to run.” His relationship problems with his neighbours are reflected in the names he gives to the wells he dug. Esek – “argument”, Sitnah – “hostility”. He’s not having a good day by the time he gets to the end of Genesis 26. Ever feel like this? Alienated? Rejected? Excluded?

JEALOUSY and prejudice is a terrible thing. It’s like a splinter that irritates you and becomes infected. It also separates you in terms of your relationships. It seems that even Abimelech is jealous and intimidated by Isaacs wealth and power. And since a leader sets the culture, he orders Isaac to leave the country. “Go somewhere else,” he said, “for you have become too powerful for us.” (Genesis 26:16 NLT). “FOREIGNERS, GO HOME!” God promised this land to Isaac and his descendents but now he finds that he is a foreigner in his own land.

Jesus had the same thing happen to Him. John 1:10-12 (NLT) says “He came into the very world He created, but the world didn’t recognize Him. He came to His own people, and even they REJECTED Him. But to all who believed Him and ACCEPTED Him, He gave the right to become children of God.”

God always has a way of turning CURSING TO BLESSING and Isaac keeps moving until God opens the way for him. It takes a while but I know that as I trust in God He dispels my fears and reaffirms His desire to bless me and impact future generations. He brings me to the place where, like Isaac, I can dig wells such as REHOBOTH, which means “the Lord has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land” (Genesis 26:22). That’s when I know that I am SUSTAINED by Him and, like Isaac, I build an altar to WORSHIP Him and spend time listening to what He has to say about my life (Genesis 26:23-25). I return to that place where I am closest to God.

Beersheba is an invitation to DRAW CLOSE TO GOD. It speaks of that place where God says to me “Be strong and courageous! …. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NLT). It is that place where God says “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand” (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). Philippians 4:6 (NLT) echoes these words “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NLT) says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.” It is a place where you are ACCEPTED as a child of God. You can find Him waiting for you there right now.

Pastor Ross