Posts Tagged ‘Blame’

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Genesis 34:3-4 – AT RISK

Genesis 34:2-3 speaks of a sexual predator, a pedophile, parading as a prince. “But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her. But then he fell in love with her, and he tried to win her affection with tender words. He said to his father, Hamor, “Get me this young girl. I want to marry her.” 

Shechem, prince of the Hivites, who has just violated a little girl, Dinah, now demands a child marriage arrangement! Unbelievable! It is still happening in our world so I shouldn’t be so surprised, but I am sickened by this man who I can understand being described as a sleazy creep.

He “fell in love with” a child, … after raping her! He tries “to win her affection with tender words”, … after abusing her! There is no evidence of any kind of consent. How could there be with someone so young?

HAMOR, you should have…

Shechem then commands Hamor, his father, to arrange a marriage, anyway. He orders his father around and Dinah is a commodity of trade. He doesn’t even use her name. It seems his father is willing to overlook his son’s “indiscretions” and give him anything he wants. Does his father know of the rape and do nothing? Is this all Hamor’s fault for letting his son run wild and have no boundaries.

Does his father simply condone Shechem’s behavior? Is sex before marriage and blatant child abuse so rampant in our society that I must simply accept it as normal?

Dinah is not returned home (Genesis 34:26). Is she held captive in his house until the marriage is arranged? What kind of depraved distortion of a marriage is this? Why doesn’t Hamor step in?

The law in Australia says it allows parents to bring up their children according to their own values and beliefs. This means that they have the right to make decisions about how they bring up their children without interference unless there are very good reasons and their child’s well-being is at risk. This all depends on what the law considers to be a risk.

In Australia what is considered a risk for children and parental responsibilities is often being determined by fringe groups whose lobbying voices are loud or by politicians with liberal moral agendas, or by educationalists who seek to impose radical philosophies which are at odds with Biblical values and morality. Nothing has changed.

As a father, Jacob is no example of moral purity either. He has two wives and two concubines. He has chosen to live in a district known for its wickedness. What hope is there for Dinah?

Yet there is a glimmer of faith burning in Jacob’s heart. He has heard from God. Jacob has built an altar to declare his faith in God and no doubt sought to teach his children about God’s promises to him and the faith heritage they have from Abraham’s time to the present. Now he is confronted with a moral dilemma. What will he do? What standards can he employ? What is my gauge?

In 1 John 2:15-16 followers of Christ are told, “Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.” This is certainly true of Shechem and Hamor, and Hivite society, but John goes on to say, “These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

Galatians 5:19-25 (NLT) says, “When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, … (the list goes on). Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” 

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect upon my own life and attitudes; the heritage and example I am passing down to my children and grandchildren in terms of the Biblical model for relating to women and to my own marriage. I am constantly urged by the Bible to have my thinking re-adjusted and renewed.

Romans 12:1-2 (NLT) says, “… do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Pastor Ross

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Blame and Excuse – © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – IF ONLY …

Genesis 34:1 says, “One day Dinah, the daughter of Jacob and Leah, went to visit some of the young women who lived in the area.” 

Only one of Jacob’s daughters is ever mentioned in the Bible. Tracing the years from her birth, evidence suggests that Dinah is young, perhaps as young as 7-12 years old.

There is nothing to indicate that she is rebellious, naïve or ignorant as some have suggested. She is a normal little girl who obviously wanted to make friends. Did she leave her home that day without permission from her Mum or Dad? Why didn’t her brothers accompany her? Whatever the reason was for her to be alone that day in the neighborhood, she could not have foreseen what would happen.

It was a dangerous neighborhood. The Hivites were known historically for social and religious customs which cut across God’s purposes. Their cultural norms made them so detestable to God that later he would tell Moses to conquer them and destroy them completely. Racial cleansing? Nothing would cleanse the extent of their sin. This was a people group who were so wicked the wages of their sin was war. Nothing has changed.

MOSES, you should have…

If only Moses had been around. Moses would later say to the Hebrew tribes, You must completely destroy the Hittites, …, just as the Lord your God has commanded you. This will prevent the people of the land from teaching you to imitate their detestable customs in the worship of their gods, which would cause you to sin deeply against the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:17-18).

The Hivites were to be judged for the nature of their depravity, such was their evil influence. Moses can’t be held to blame for what happened to Dinah. There are certainly consequences for such blatant wickedness, but this evil rears it’s ugly head long before Moses appears on the scene.

Genesis 34:2 speaks of a sexual predator, a pedophile, parading as a prince. “But when the local prince, Shechem son of Hamor the Hivite, saw Dinah, he seized her and raped her.”

This is the first recorded rape in the Bible, the first example of pedophilia, carried out by a man with social standing, the local prince of the Hivites.

Yet, strange attitudes of blame and excuse have persisted concerning this event. Calvin, the great theologian intimates that Dinah is the one responsible for her own rape. He writes, “…not less danger hangs over weak virgins at this day, if they go too boldly and eagerly into public assemblies, and excite the passions of youth towards themselves.”

DINAH, you should have…

Many people suggest a cautious approach when it comes to women walking alone, and suggest that if Dinah ignored the danger of walking alone, she was asking for it. It becomes the victims’ responsibility entirely and so to Dinah, they shout…

“Stay safe! – Don’t walk alone, especially at night, ask someone to accompany you, work out the safest route to where you want to go, keep to well-lit streets, avoid parks, be hyper-aware of your environment; all escape routes, all doorways and obstacles. Better still – take a cab, don’t travel on the train, wear clothes to run in, dress as a man, don’t wear flimsy clothing, short skirts or anything that exposes the breasts. Scream “Fire!” if you are attacked.” If only Dinah had been more careful …

Others intimate that Dinah should have carried a sword, responding to violence with violence – “buy a gun or pepper spray, take self-defense classes and walk where you want.” If only Dinah was taught to fight …

Feminists would talk to Dinah about a rape culture. They would say it is not a matter of teaching young women how to avoid rape by not going anywhere on their own. They would declare to educators and parents, “Don’t tell us to restrict our freedom. Tell them not to rape!” N Fitzsimmons says, “The safety of women is not just about women having to always be fearful, and it’s not her fault if she’s attacked. It’s about teaching children from an early age to be respectful of all people. And that means the adults setting an example by always being respectful of all people.” If only Shechem had been taught not to rape Dinah …

Even in between all these views there is no real answer and these are not the insights that can adequately be directed towards a little girl. Was Dinah responsible for being raped? Obviously not! Was she able to defend herself? No! Did she live in a lawless culture who regarded women as commodities for sexual exploitation? Yes! Was she too young to really appreciate the danger? Yes.

IF ONLY…

If only her parents or brothers had been aware of her wandering away that day. If only Moses had been on the scene long before this had happened. If only Jacob and Leah had shown a little more foresight and care for a little girl in the family. If only her brothers had accompanied her that day.

If only, if only, if only! … then this tragic situation could have been averted. Living in regret for what we could have done is living in the “If only’s” and “What if’s”. Who’s to blame? Moses, Dinah, her parents or her brothers? Or all of the above? Who will take responsibility for Shechem’s behavior and shield the perpetrator from blame?

Should we lobby governments for better lighting in the parks, security cameras everywhere, laws to make parents transport their children everywhere, curfews at nightclubs, mass rallies to protest against rapists? Longer jail sentences? Less personal rights?

Should we bubble wrap our children? Cocoon them in cotton wool? Shield them from any of the harsher edges of reality? Never let them walk in the park in case something will happen? Even Jesus said to His disciples, Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16).

Fear of harm and “If only…” and “What if…” mentalities will never be enough to solve the real problem of sin in our world. Oh, yes, let’s do what we can to protect our children, but let’s be aware that they are at best band-aid solutions.

Not legislation or even education could ever be enough to deal with the problem of sin. Yes, I will take measures to protect our children and grandchildren, but I hope not to forget or fail to include the only real answer for this world – the life-changing transformation only Christ can make in a person’s life. Only the message of Christ has the capability to adequately solve the problem of sin. In Romans 1:16 (NLT) Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes …”

Ephesians 2:1-22 (NLT) says, “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, … All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. … 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. … For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago. … In those days you were living apart from Christ…. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to Him through the blood of Christ. For Christ Himself has brought peace to us. …You are members of God’s family.”  

Genesis 34 invites us not to whitewash the tombstone, but know Christ and make Him known, so that resurrection life will arise and true love for God and each other can be extended.

And by the way, when it all comes down to it, only Shechem himself can bear the blame for his perverted and abusive actions.

Something to think about.

Pastor Ross

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Blame or Excuse? © Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34 – SEND IN SOMEONE TO BLAME

Genesis 34 reads like a Newspaper article on terrorism.

A local prince, Shechem, seizes Dinah, the daughter of Jacob, and rapes her. When Jacob’s sons discover what has happened, Simeon and Levi, who were Dinah’s full brothers, take their swords and enter the town and slaughter every male there, including Shechem. Meanwhile, the rest of Jacob’s sons plunder the town – everything they can lay their hands on. They also take all their little children and wives and lead them away as captives.

With such a terrible story, I was interested to read some commentary on this part of the Bible. Some commentators actually seek to defend Jacob’s sons saying they performed an act of judgment sanctioned by God for their murderous acts. Other commentators blame Dinah for what happens to her. She is at fault for carelessly placing herself in danger of being raped. Some blame Jacob for settling in a pagan neighborhood for the sake of doing business and putting his daughter in harm’s way by not escorting her wherever she went. Still others blame Hamor, Shechem’s father, for pandering to his son and not providing him with a moral compass.

But why try to excuse the actions of murderers who misuse God’s covenant for their crimes? Why try to blame the victim of rape? Why try to blame fathers for the crimes of their sons? Such distorted commentary does not seem to me to be helpful in finding the message here. In hindsight, we can always point the finger.

JACOB, you should have….

Genesis 33:17-20 says Jacob settles in Succoth and builds a house so he obviously stays for some time. Later he travels to Shechem in the land of Canaan and sets up camp outside the town. He buys a plot of land from the family of Hamor for 100 pieces of silver, again obviously intending to build a house and settle down with his family, and do business in the town. He builds an altar to God to declare his allegiance, a witness to his faith in God.

So is Jacob to blame for what happens? Is it wrong to settle down in a foreign place with foreign customs and moral values very different to ours and expect that God will protect us as long as we state that we are Christians? What responsibility does a parent have in the supervision of children?

Apparently, if Jacob had chosen to live in Sydney’s CBD area or Liverpool, Mount Druitt and Campbelltown, Dinah would have a higher probability of sexual assault than some other areas of Sydney. Residents in these areas report dozens of sexual assaults each year. Does Jacob place his daughter at risk?

Australian law says “Decisions such as … where your child lives are your right and responsibility to make … Parents have a responsibility to protect their children from harm and provide safety, supervision and control.”

As a parent, Jacob provides for Dinah’s welfare – food, clothing, a place to live. But would he pass Australian laws concerning protecting her from harm and providing safety, supervision and control?

Dinah is probably between 7-9 years old. If Jacob lived in Silver Spring in the USA and let Dinah walk to her friends’ place alone, he might face criminal charges for leaving his child unsupervised. He might have Children’s Protective Services require him to sign a safety plan promising not to leave his children unsupervised. If he refused he would face criminal charges. In the light of what happened, would you like to see Jacob charged? Was Jacob’s parenting at fault?

Or is it OK for parents to allow their children to wander free range to explore the world at their own risk and learn to be street wise? Is Jacob to blame for neglecting his daughter’s safety? If he had not settled here this blot would not have occurred on the page of history and would not have interrupted the flow of the story of faith in the book of Genesis. But who can live their lives according to “What if’s” and “You should have’s”?

No word is given to justify or condemn what takes place in Genesis 34. It is simply depicted, in all its raw violence and abuse of power. No interpretation is needed. It is obvious that all have sinned and all fall far short of the glory of God, pagan’s and God followers alike. There are no heroes of faith here.

I find no mention of God in Genesis 34, only two of His institutions desecrated and used to excuse rape and murder. Religion used for criminal actions. Nothing has changed. God chooses not to speak in the midst of such perversion of His grace or is it that He is not being consulted? He looks for faith and trust, for humility and Godly dependence, but does not find it here.

Genesis 34 invites me to reflect, but not so much on my rights or even my responsibilities, not so much on the altars I build to declare to the world my faith, not so much on my distorted views of justice and revenge, not so much on excusing or blaming and not even on hedging myself and my family from from harm without any willingness to take reasonable risks. It simply invites me to reflect on and be confronted by what happens when human life is devalued and lawlessness is given free reign without any reference to God.  

Genesis 34 reminds me of the risk of life where I can never predict what will happen next. This is not about regret and what I should or should not have done in my life, but a reminder of how much I need God for each step. It reminds me to reflect on the importance of listening to God so I can gain better perspective. Really listening. Listening through the noise and confusion of my world. And yes, I can choose not to abuse, accuse or excuse. I can choose to seek for the whisper of His still, small voice and obey. His promise is that I will be able to navigate the path ahead with discernment and apply wisdom.

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 31:19, 30-37 – CLEARING AWAY THE OLD COBWEBS

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

Clearing away the Cobwebs © Photo by Ross Cochrane

A spider weaves it’s web, silk extruded from its spinnerets. For weeks I watch it sitting in the middle of it’s lair just outside our window and then suddenly it is gone. I often wonder what happened to that spider. Now over the weeks only the tangled architecture of an abandoned snare remains. The magnificent lines of aerial craftsmanship are now sagging, sticky filaments flailing in the wind. The tensile strength of mellifluous spider silk stretched in etched lines in space has become a confusion of snarls.

RECOGNISE MY OLD COBWEBS

  1. AM I TRUSTING IN FALSE SECURITY?

What was Rachel thinking? Was she trying to hedge her bets? Was she rejecting a relationship with God, trying to enrage her father, or does she see these idols as valuable items to sell as a forfeited dowry? (Genesis 31:19). Jacob had stolen his brother’s birthright and family blessing. Now Rachel steals to get what she wants. Theft and lying still plagues this family. In a world full of spiders, it seems stupid to risk getting caught in your own web.

You locate trust where you find your security. You know the common ones; health, wealth, intelligence. (All such are temporal. Believe me; I work in aged care. I see how temporal it can be, everyday). Trusting in an eternal God clears away the cobwebs of false security.

  1. AM I PLAYING THE BLAME GAME?

Laban’s sons and relatives already view Jacob with suspicion, and now once again Laban tries to discredit him – “Why have you stolen my gods?” (Genesis 31:30 NLT). Implying that this is another motive for leaving, Laban attacks Jacob’s integrity. Watch out for the fangs, Jacob. The web is a problem but how will you avoid the cruel venom of the spider?

But is the secret to success really found in knowing who to blame for your failures? Deny all, admit nothing, and blame someone else? Politicians, parents, wives, God? Blame is a cobweb in Laban’s window that blocks his ability to see his own reflection. When you blame others you give up the power to change.

  1. AM I ALLOWING FEAR TO RULE MY DECISIONS?

Jacob has no interest in idols. He explains honestly that fear was the basis of his deception in rushing away, not theft. “I was afraid … I thought you would take your daughters from me by force” (Genesis 31:31 NLT). 

The kind of fear that disturbs our trust in God. Fear that frantically seeks for methods to help God protect us rather than cooperate with His plans was the fear that justified Jacob’s decision to leave secretly. He was obeying God, but fear chooses the way of deception once again to escape harm. Arachnophobia. The vibration of panic pulling at the web has only attracted the malice of the spider. Trust uses the broom of faith to sweep away fear.

  1. AM I GIVING NEGATIVE WORDS POWER?

Jacob has nothing that belongs to Laban. Even his wives were sold to him for 14 years of labour. It all legally belongs to Jacob, except of course for the idols. Not aware that Rachel has stolen the household gods Jacob makes a rash statement of bravado. He says “But as for your gods, see if you can find them, and let the person who has taken them die! And if you find anything else that belongs to you, identify it before all these relatives of ours, and I will give it back!” (Genesis 31:32 NLT).

Negativity misuses our words; and turns words of life to words of death. It makes rash statements without thinking of the consequences. Jacob gives negative words power and says things he doesn’t really mean.

James 3:8-10 (NLT) says that “no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!” 

  1. AM I RELYING ON LIES AND SECRETS?

Laban doesn’t take Jacob’s word. He is looking for any excuse to discredit and humiliate Jacob. He searches the web. Rachel is not about to let her sin find her out. She has hidden the gods in the camel’s saddle and she sits on the saddle. I love what Sherry Car writes about this. She talks about “Sitting on false security! … What kind of false securities do we have beneath us?” https://www.bible.com/

Will the spider find his prey? Laban doesn’t think of asking her to rise because she says she is having her menstrual period. There was an uncleanness associated with this and no-one comes near her. Laban doesn’t find the gods (Genesis 31:35).

Lies and secrets are cobwebs on the soul, hindering our ability to see the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

  1. AM I RULED BY SELF DECEPTION?

Rachel is no less guilty of the crime. She escapes facing up to what she has done but perhaps this opens the door to the curse of idolatry into the life of her family and to future Israel? “Be sure that your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23 NLT).

God changed Laban’s capacity for harming Jacob by warning him in a dream (Genesis 31:24), but that doesn’t change his heart. Even after having a direct encounter with God he is still looking for his household idols!

The scene is pathetic. Laban is more concerned to prove that Jacob is a thief and liar than admitting his own need to repent and give his heart to God. Rachel is more concerned with sitting on false security in idols than in trusting in God. Jacob just wants to get out from under Laban’s bullying influence and finds deceptive means to to try to help God. The angelic host must be killing themselves with laughter at the standoff but horrified by the human capacity for deceiving themselves. “Oh what a tangled web we weave…”

GETTING RID OF THE OLD COBWEBS

Robert Zoellick says “All of us make mistakes. The key is to acknowledge them, learn, and move on. The real sin is ignoring mistakes, or worse, seeking to hide them.” The Bible says that the wages of sin always leads to a spiritual death sentence without God’s grace (Romans 3:23,24).

Genesis 31 speaks of the tangled web of self-deceit. The invitation God gives us is to admit our ridiculous pretence. Jacob, Rachel and Laban all have the opportunity to trust in God. 

The nature of trust compels us to confront our self-deceit. It does not sneak away from problems, lay blame on others or trust in false security but declares God’s purposes, inviting us to come freely and choose to refuse being entrapped by our circumstances. It is being open and honest with God, allowing Him to clear away the cobwebs (Galatians 5:1, Ephesians 6:13). 

Security, responsibility, trust, words of life, and truth in life are found in a loving relationship with Christ (John 14:6). He died for my sin so that I could be clean and forgiven and live life to my full potential (Proverbs 3:5,6). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 31:6-16 – HOW TO MAINTAIN A VICTIM MENTALITY

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

Maintaining or Overcoming a Victim Mentality. © Ross Cochrane

I AM A VICTIM

For over 20 years he has agreed to play the part of the victim. He is now trapped, his wheels condemned to running in the ruts of Laban’s tracks, with only limited influence over the direction of his life, especially his work situation.

I DESERVE SYMPATHY

For many years he has experienced the loss of vision believing that he has been harmed, the object of an injustice which initially violated his rights to marry the person he desired and then to make a living for his family. In his eyes he deserves sympathy. He has worked hard and has been cheated and lied to in return.

I BLAME OTHERS

In Genesis 31:6-7 (NLT) Jacob complains to his wives “You know how hard I have worked for your father, but he has cheated me, changing my wages ten times…” He blames Laban but Jacob has also acquiesced, passively accepting the demands of a bully.

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE

Until now he fails to take responsibility for his own actions. His paranoia that Laban is the source of all his failure is a form of negativity that has kept him focused on the problems. In the end he has been a victim by choice, behaving as if it was his destiny that dealt him a disservice.

Laban had wronged him in all kinds of ways and of course Jacob can recall them all in detail to his wives (Genesis 31:5-6). This tape has been running in his head for years. It has been part of the soundtrack of being a victim. It is always someone else’s fault; Esau, his father, Laban, Laban’s sons, his wives. Everywhere he turns something goes wrong and there’s always someone else to blame. Laban deceived him. Laban changed his wages 10 times.

JOIN ME IN MY MISERY

As he talks with his wives they also begin to focus on the problems. He plays the martyr. Misery loves company and his wives start to play the game. They can also see the blameworthiness of their father and they are indignant. Laban is out to get them also.

In Genesis 31:15-16 (NLT) Jacob’s wives say “He has reduced our rights to those of foreign women. And after he sold us, he wasted the money you paid him for us. All the wealth God has given you from our father legally belongs to us and our children….”

Will Jacob continue to engineer opportunities and attitudes in his own life to ensure that he will remain a victim? He has been stuck for so long that he is not sure what it will look like to fly. An intelligent innovator, nothing is really holding Jacob back except his fear of Laban and his victim mentality.

I SET MYSELF UP TO BE A VICTIM

I wonder if Jacob was secretly hoping Laban would come after him and validate that he was a victim (Genesis 31:22-28). Perhaps then he can retaliate and give Laban some of his own medicine or become locked again into being bullied by Laban. “Life is so unfair! Why does it always keep happening to me?” What would he do without Laban to dictate what happens in his life? 

By not telling Laban of his plans to leave, he is inviting trouble and provoking punitive action. Rachel helps by taking one of the household gods just to make sure there’s a possibility of failure and subconsciously sabotage their success. She can always blame Jacob for wanting to leave and she knows it’s a way of hurting her father.

Are they really ready to break free from their self-destructive cycle? Are you? If Jacob decides to act on what God has said what would it look like in their lives? What will it look like in yours?

Genesis 31:1-18 – HOW TO OVERCOME A VICTIM MENTALITY 

“Focusing is about saying No” (Steve Jobs).

I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

In Genesis 31:3,5 (NLT) the Lord says to Jacob, “Return to the land of your father and grandfather and to your relatives there, and I will be with you.” Jacob says to his wives “God of my father has been with me.” His speech is now peppered with hope. His wives agree “So go ahead and do whatever God has told you.”

Laban is a bully but in the end it is Jacob who has been responsible for his own disappointment. In Genesis 31:7-9 (NLT) Jacob admits that “God has not allowed him to do me any harm.” He says to his wives “God has taken your father’s animals and given them to me.” He’s not talking about stealing them but about the success of building up his own livestock in the deals he has made with Laban.

It’s no longer Laban’s fault. Nor is it the fault of Laban’s sons who are criticising him and lying about him (Genesis 31:1,2). He doesn’t have to be a victim anymore. There are no excuses left. No deceptive defences, nowhere to go but towards God’s promise. He has been blessed whether he likes it or not.

20 years have passed and he is getting old. There is no more room for self-pity. He will take responsibility for his life and family or continue to drown in his sorrows.

I BELIEVE IN GOD’S PROMISE

God gives us a choice to really live, and invites us all to take responsibility and move toward our destiny. God will not be Jacob’s rescuer in the sense of doing it all for him, but will give him the perspective of eternity so that he can make some decisions and not stagnate in his own misery. He is spiritually dysfunctional until he takes action to leave.

I REFUSE TO BE A VICTIM

Taking responsibility will mean he loses the fringe benefits credit card that comes free for everyone applying to be a victim. He has to hand in his licence to feel sorry for himself and he won’t be able to cash in on sympathy and offers of help from others anymore. “I am a victim of a bully! Can’t you feel sorry for me?” won’t cut it in the promised land. Will he continue making deals with Laban the Abuser instead of taking the opportunities God presents to him?

There will be no excuse left for not pursuing God’s promises. Nowhere to hide anymore. No-one to blame, no avoidance from taking a risk. This time instead of his mother it is up to him to be the hero who rescues himself and his family. They will have to abandon victimhood.

So Jacob puts his wives and children on camels, and he drives all his livestock in front of him. He packs all the belongings he had acquired in Paddan-aram and sets out for the land of Canaan, where his father, Isaac, lives (Genesis 31:17-18).

I INVITE YOU ON MY JOURNEY

The invitation Jacob gives us is to throw off martyrhood and uncover the mystery of our identity, to throw off the yoke of slavery and find our independence. God has given us His promises but He is not going to simply hand it to us on a plate. We will have to take responsibility and be proactive to appropriate His promises by faith. There may be a few anxious moments along the way. 

Being honest with myself doesn’t come easy. It wasn’t easy for Jacob. But God has empowered him with a promise which demands he gives up being a victim. 

When he faces Laban there must come a sense of letting go of the resentment, any feelings of revenge, and consider forgiveness. They will need to come to some kind of agreement to make it work (Genesis 31:44-55). 

He is now on an adventure and who knows where it will lead. Will Laban come after him? Will victimhood pursue him? Will it pursue you? How can I give up being a victim? The death and resurrection of Christ is the supreme example of how to appropriate victory over victimhood. I choose to die to Victimhood and live to the Creative journey of life and purpose by embracing Christ as my Lord and Saviour. His victory becomes mine. I am a Victor not a Victim.

2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT) says “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”  

Pastor Ross

Part 5 – Matthew 12:14-21 – HEAL ME OR KILL ME BUT NOT THIS!

Bruised Reed!

As I talked with Nancy that day she said, “I pray to God every night and ask Him why He has been so unfair to me. Why did He leave me alive?” She is an elderly woman suffering the results of a stroke. She said “My Mother died of a stroke. Why didn’t He take me too, instead of leaving me like this? It is so unfair. Why is God so unfair?” Where is the JUSTICE of God when you end up with a stroke instead of dying in the process? How am I supposed to answer that?

In obedient response to Jesus a man with a deformed hand in Matthew 12:13 reaches out and is HEALED. Nancy blames God for NOT HEALING her and then NOT KILLING her. The Pharisees blame Jesus for HEALING on the Sabbath and they want to KILL Him (Matthew 12:14). Others gladly receive healing and restoration (Matthew 12:15). It seems God can’t please anyone! TO CARE OR NOT TO CARE – that is the question.

In Matthew 12:15 Jesus HEALS ALL THE SICK among them. How cool is this! My grandson would not have had a cold or tonsillitis if he had been there. My friend Fred would not have trouble walking because his arthritis would be gone and Alice would be able to breath properly again. Amelia would stretch out her stroke affected hand and not dribble food from the right side of her face.

So WHERE IS HE NOW? Do all these people somehow happen to be in the wrong century and the wrong country and is Jesus still in the “have LIFE TO THE FULL” business or is it now the “LIFE WHICH IS CRUEL” business? Has He CHANGED His purpose? Is He now into STROKES! Perhaps a few “RANDOM ACTS OF BLINDNESS, arthritis and dementia”?

What about Nancy? She would say to God “HEAL ME OR KILL ME BUT NOT THIS!” I can’t help but take that one step further and ask why is it that Nancy can be so insistent about not including God in her life and then blame Him when things go wrong? Is God TAKING IT OUT on Nancy? Or is it Nancy who is being UNFAIR? What would it look like if God was really fair according to our standards?

In Matthew 12:20 (NLT) a prophecy from Isaiah about Jesus is given. It says “He will NOT CRUSH THE WEAKEST (or BRUISED) REED OR PUT OUT A FLICKERING CANDLE. Finally He will cause JUSTICE to be victorious. And His Name will be the HOPE of all the world.”

So let me get this right. Why did He come? He came for a number of reasons but essentially He comes to give me HOPE in a world that is BRUISED by injustice and pain. He comes to heal, not to break the “BRUISED REED”. He comes to RESTORE my life when I am hurt and crushed by life’s experiences, discouraged to the point of giving up, and depressed to the max. He comes to encourage me when I am weak and my motivation for life is a “FLICKERING CANDLE”.

And then when I see Him for who He is I can’t do anything but care for others also. I am able to put Thessalonians 5:11-14 into practise “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another … encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone” (NASB95)

I prayed with Nancy that day, that God would show her His purposes for her life as well as heal her. I assured her that God wasn’t into giving people strokes or into killing them. That was more the kind of thing Satan would do, not God. In John 8:44 Jesus says that Satan “… was a murderer from the beginning…” (NLT). In John 10:10 (NIV) Jesus says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have LIFE, and have it to the FULL.” So Jesus makes it clear that His purpose is not to TAKE something from us that we have, but to RESTORE something to us that has been stolen.

Will Nancy be healed? I don’t know. I don’t have the full picture of what God is doing. I do know that I can experience life to the full as I know Jesus personally, whatever circumstances I face. “He will not break the bruised reed” (Matthew 12:20). I have HOPE in Him.

God bless you Church as you make a choice to respond to God and come under His authority rather than blame Him for what goes wrong. I can see a distorted picture of Him through the glasses of my circumstances and sin, or I can seek Jesus in my pain and begin to see Him for who He really is. In Him there is always HOPE.

Pastor Ross