Posts Tagged ‘Israel’

Genesis 35:8-10 – LETTERS TO JACOB – Part 3

From the last letter… 

Letters to Jacob
© Image created by Ross Cochrane

Dear Jacob, 

…. Tell me, did your sons actually repent and turn from their sins and turn to God? Did they seek God’s forgiveness and worship Him alone? Did your daughter find the healing she needed from her traumatic experience? I know that you finally fulfilled your vow, but did it make a difference in their lives as well?  

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

Your questions are a little personal and sensitive. I can’t answer for my sons or my daughter.  I cannot control the choices of my children. They know that God is central to my life. You will have to write to them to find your answers.

Soon after my last letter, My Mother’s old nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried beneath the oak tree in the valley below Bethel. Ever since, we have called the tree Allon-bacuth (which means “oak of weeping”) (Genesis 35:8 NLT). 

She helped my mother in raising me so many years ago. She had been staying with my father Isaac until she heard about my return. She gave me the news about my Mother’s death and stayed on to live with us until her own death. I grieve deeply over her loss. 

Deborah nursed me when my name was Jacob; thief of Esau’s blessing, and now I bury her as a new person; heir to God’s promises. I wrote a poem which I spoke over her grave. 

DEBORAH  

“Thou too, Deborah, whose indulgent cares 

Nursed great thief, and formed my tender years, 

Expiring here, an ever-honoured name! 

Adorn El-Bethel with immortal fame: 

Thy name survives, to prompt our pensive hearts; 

As sacred lessons grace to us imparts. 

Soon as thy funeral rites are fully paid, 

Beneath the oak in honour of the dead; 

The sins and tempests of the past now o’er, 

turn, as heir of paths yet to explore.  

(based on a poem by Virgil) 

The things of my past are falling away in so many ways and I have new spiritual pursuits.   

Yours in grief, 

Jacob 

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Dear Jacob, 

What a beautiful tribute in poetry in your last letter. In a time when things are beginning to be going so well for you, you have now experienced great grief. Christmas and the new year aren’t exempt from grief. Bethlehem experienced the rage of a tyrant and the deaths of innocents, but you don’t know about that yet. 

So sorry to hear about your Mum’s death and that of Deborah, your nurse. Tell me, did you ever meet up with your Mum again before she died? Deborah was obviously well-respected. I love the way you expressed your grief by naming the tree nearby, “the oak of weeping. 

May the Lord help you and me to grieve the losses of our past and bury them each with the thoughtful reflection you have given Deborah. 

God bless you as you grieve, 

Ross 

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Dear Ross, 

I’m sorry, but I can’t talk about losing my Mum. It’s all too painful. What I can tell you is that in the midst of all my grief, God appeared to me. 

I have come full circle. 20 years ago, I escaped to Paddan-aram and on the way God appeared to me at Bethel. Now I have returned from Paddan-aram, and God has appeared to me again at Bethel. God has blessed me. God has never given up on me. He said to me, “Your name is Jacob, but you will not be called Jacob any longer. From now on your name will be Israel.” So God renamed me Israel” (Genesis 35:9 NLT). This is very significant for me. 

Israel means either “the man who prevails with God” or “God prevails and rules over the man.” For me, both are true. The reason I limp is because I prevailed upon God to bless me and God has certainly prevailed over me in that I want to serve Him as my King.   

I may limp, but I am learning that blessing comes from cursing when you finally obey God. I feel as if I have finally entered into my destiny as the man God intended me to be, no longer Jacob the deceiver but Israel the authentic.  

My life has been anything but problem-free. I have experienced much pain, most of it brought about by my own actions, yet in my many fights with God, He has allowed me to prevail as Israel, to prevail not over God, but with Him, to enter into my destiny having grown through the ordeal. 

He also gave me a number of other promises for the future. 

Yours, limping but moving ahead, 

Jacob  

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Dear Jacob, 

I understand your reluctance to talk about your Mum. Sorry for asking.  

How incredible that God appeared to you personally! I have all sorts of questions however. How did God appear to you? In a dream? As a person? What other promises? This is so fascinating, but you left out all the details in your letter.  

Nevertheless, after reading your last, very moving letter, I found myself praying that God would continually return me to the place of promise and blessing, no matter what pain life may hold in getting there.  

I want Him to change any accoutrements of my past that suggest a lie, and to lead me into my destiny, and to fight for me to be authentic also. I want Him to help me not fight against Him but with Him.  

Thanks for all your inspiring letters this week. So pleased to be in correspondence and reading about your journey. 

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT) says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” 

Ross 

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Pastor Ross

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Earth in the balance.png

The Earth weighed in the balance © by Ross Cochrane using Blender

Matthew 19:27-29 – WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT – Part 4

My grandson looked at the image above and when I asked him what he thought it was about, he said, “Jesus is better than the world”. That’s exactly what it is about and about judgment.

The rich young ruler refused to follow Christ. Jesus says it is impossible for a rich man to get into heaven without God’s help. Here was a young man, with his life full of potential, blessed with riches, living a good life and gifted with leadership going away sorrowful, rich and without eternal life because he would rather follow the pursuits of the world.

The first question that comes to Peter’s mind is “What about us?” So Peter says to Jesus, “We’ve given up everything to follow You. What will we get?” (Matthew 19:27 NLT).

I guarantee he didn’t expect the answer he received.

“Yes,” Jesus replies, “and I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon His glorious throne, you who have been My followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 

And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for My sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life” (Matthew 19:28-29 NLT).

WHAT ON EARTH IS JESUS TALKING ABOUT?

Let’s continue to break this down.

  1. THE WORLD WILL BE MADE NEW (see Part 2)
  2. CHRIST WILL SIT UPON HIS THRONE

Throne speaks of Rulership and particularly Judgment. Is this the Great White Throne mentioned in Revelation? It appears to be a throne of judgment.

Matthew 25:31-33 takes up the same language and indicates a future time by saying “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit upon His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered in His presence, and He will separate the people as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep at His right hand and the goats at His left.

Christ is coming again, but this time to judge the world.

  1. ISRAEL WILL BE A DISTINCT, TRIBAL NATION

Interesting. Israel exists today but not the 12 tribes. Neither did they exist at the time this statement was made. They had been dispersed throughout the nations, lost in the ocean of humanity across the face of the earth. So, will this happen in the future? Does this take place on earth? Is this talking of the Jewish remnant of scattered tribes all over the world who will somehow be united?

The message of this passage is not about Israel as such but about reward for following Christ and judgment for not following Him. Jesus doesn’t explain the details.

Some scholars have supposed that Jesus is talking about the Church, i.e. those who have believed in Christ, judging unbelievers rather than Israel.

Jesus puts His words together carefully. Somehow, I can’t help thinking that God is not finished with Israel yet.

  1. THE APOSTLES WILL HAVE A DISTINCT ROLE IN SHARING WITH CHRIST IN HIS RULERSHIP AND JUDGMENT OF THE 12 TRIBES OF ISRAEL

But hang on! There are no longer 12 Apostles. Is Paul included or Matthias? (Acts 1:12-26). Hopefully not Judas! Is Jesus describing rulership roles in heaven somehow? Isn’t Christ the only one qualified to rule and judge? In what way do they judge the tribes – for their unbelief?

One thing is certain, the Apostles will have positions of honor and authority as a reward for the sacrifice they made to be obedient and follow Christ. Jesus doesn’t explain the details, but 1 Corinthians 6 indicates that all believers will have a similar role.

1 Corinthians 6:2-3 says, “Don’t you realize that someday we believers will judge the world? … Don’t you realize that we will judge angels?”

Jesus came to save the world, but that’s because when He returns to the earth, He will come as a judge.

John 3:13-18 (NLT) says, “… everyone who believes in Him (Jesus) will have eternal life. For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him. There is no judgment against anyone who believes in Him. But anyone who does not believe in Him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son.” 

The takeaway truth in Matthew 19:28-29 is that in knowing Christ there is great reward but not knowing Christ brings great loss. The Bible is clear about both. The Love of God offers Salvation from judgment. The Justice of God demands that you either trust in Christ to pay the price for your sin or pay the price of justice. 

The invitation of Matthew 19 is for every one of us to recognize our need for Christ and that we are unable to navigate this world or the next without Him.

Pastor Ross

 

WHEN THE WOLF HOWLS

Dagger for When the Wolf Howls

© by Ross Cochrane

Chapter 2

“The old one and his iron smiths are to be spared. We can use their skills for our own weaponry,” said Joab. “Asahel, your men will take them from behind after Abishai distracts them by attacking the soldiers from the southern side of the hill. Make sure that none of the smiths are killed. Be careful and remember, God is with you.”

Asahel could barely control his excitement. He had been on raiding parties before but this was the first time his brother Joab had entrusted him with a battalion of men. Abishai and Asahel moved their men quickly and silently into position.

The raid was sudden and unexpected as they had planned. Many of the Philistine warriors died, their senses and ability to fight dulled by intoxication and blood loss from the previous day’s celebration.

The old smith and his sons were completely taken by surprise. As Obed-edom stood bewildered by the attack from the southern side of the hill, the precious dagger was snatched from his hands by a young Israelite warrior. He was knocked to the ground before he could mobilise his considerable strength. As he struggled to his feet he felt the dagger pressed to his throat and he looked frantically for his sons. He was relieved to see that they too were being taken alive, and only then did he allow the young soldier to bind his hands without resistance.

Joab’s forces collected the newly formed weapons and smashed the central furnace. The dynasty of Philistia’s iron smiths was coming to an end. Molech had forsaken them. They were bound and forced to enter the strange world of the Israelites, a world where only one God was worshipped and a nation which at this very moment was on the brink of a full-scale civil war.

The old iron smith and his sons were paraded through the Israelite camp with the plunder of weapons and brought before the commanding officer where they were stripped of their clothes and held securely by a number of men. The humiliation of being stripped and tied was almost more than the old man could bear and he swore incessantly in his native tongue at his captors. His eldest son, who was still trying to appraise what was going to happen to them urged him to be quiet.

“Father, they may kill us if you insult them any further!”

“They don’t understand our language,” said Obed-edom, and then turning to one of the priests he said, “Do you, you worthless dog? If ever I escape I’ll make you pay for this!” It was at this moment that he saw the young man who had captured him unsheathe a dagger. Obed-edom recognised the shape of the blade immediately. This was the dagger he had so carefully designed.

“So, I am to be killed with my own dagger?” said Obed-edom. “May the curse of the dagger of Molech be upon you, you Israelite coward! May it bring vengeance upon you! May you die in the hands of your enemies!” He could not realise how demonically prophetic his words would be.

“Use this and do it quickly,” said Asahel to the priest, handing him the weapon. The strange Hebrew words meant nothing to his captives.

The blade of the dagger shone in the light as the priest approached him.

“Father, he’s going to torture us!” said his eldest son, struggling vainly against the ropes.

“No son,” said Obed-edom, for the first time realising who his captors were. “This man is one of the priests of Israel. I have seen them before at the valley of Elah. They have only one God. He is called Jehovah Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts. I have witnessed His power against our people once before. It seems that we are going to be sacrificed.” He spat at the priest and cursed again. Asahel, who had been standing nearby, responded with a blow to Obed-edom’s stomach and jaw which almost left him unconscious. His sons were horrified but could do nothing.

As the priest approached him, Obed-edom closed his eyes and said breathlessly, “Goodbye my sons. I have nothing I can leave you but my love and to show you that I can die bravely.”

The circumcision came as quite a shock to Obed-edom. For a moment he thought he was going to be castrated or mutilated but the priest accomplished his purpose on each of the captives efficiently, and returned the dagger to Asahel. Then he had them untied and gave them bandages to stop the bleeding. Obed-edom had heard of this savage practise of circumcision and soon they would realise that all Israelites and their slaves were marked in this way.

When the bleeding had stopped they were given new clothes, considerably better than their old ones, and taken away to be fed, walking carefully due to the pain. Though they were very hungry, none of them ate much that day.

Israel and Judah were involved in a bloody civil conflict and Asahel and his men were gone by the next morning.