Posts Tagged ‘Marriage’

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Unbelievable! © by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 34:7-10 – UNBELIEVABLE!

Was it while they were on their way, that anger erupted, and they plotted their plan for vengeance?

“Jacob’s sons had come in from the field as soon as they heard what had happened. They were shocked and furious that their sister had been raped. Shechem had done a disgraceful thing against Jacob’s family, something that should never be done” (Genesis 34:7 NLT).

Jacob sends a messenger to his sons and they come immediately. Shocked and angry, at least they recognize that pedophilia and rape was something that should never be done; a disgrace! Finally, someone actually cares about what happened to Dinah and they are concerned for her personal well-being. Taking it as an offense to them as a family, they identify with her. Where is Jacob in all this?

JACOB, where is your leadership?

Jacob doesn’t say anything! Not a word. He doesn’t seem to take part in any of the proceedings until later, when murder gets in the way of his reputation and standing in the community.

“Hamor tried to speak with Jacob and his sons. “My son Shechem is truly in love with your daughter,” he said. “Please let him marry her” (Genesis 34:8 NLT).

Why is Dinah still at Shechem’s house? Perhaps if Hamor had brought Dinah back to Jacob, humbly apologized for his son’s criminal actions, spelling out an agreement for terms of discipline, offered a huge amount of compensation and an assurance that he would not tolerate such actions in his community, it might have gone down a little better. Hamor, if only…

HAMOR, what are you thinking?

Hamor speaks nothing of his son’s behavior and instead points to the economic and community benefits of intermarriage. Unbelievable!

A child marriage is Hamor’s way of turning an awkward situation into an equitable arrangement. Wanting to put the whole incident behind him, Hamor just wants to carry out the wishes of his son and get a good trade deal along the way. Win-win, … except for Dinah.

It annoys me that some commentaries actually agree with Hamor’s suggestion! What kind of planet are they on?

Hamor is on-a-roll. He says, “In fact, let’s arrange other marriages, too. You give us your daughters for our sons, and we will give you our daughters for your sons. And you may live among us; the land is open to you! Settle here and trade with us. And feel free to buy property in the area.”  (Genesis 34:9-10)

The economic advantages are significant. But still, not once is any consideration for Dinah taken into account. He wants friendly relations with Jacob, but Dinah’s rape is just a catalyst for his business transactions.

Settle down, trade, be partners with us, assimilate.

Abraham and Isaac had encouraged their children not to intermarry with the Canaanites. Xenophobia? Obviously not. Jacob had settled in the area, bought land, traded. He had set up an altar as a witness to his faith in God. It was not a hatred of other people groups, but a healthy disgust of their wicked cultural and religious influences which would put them in danger of compromising and defiling the heritage of their faith in God.

This story is so unsettling and so is the Christian commentary I have been reading on this chapter of the Bible.

I am left with so many questions. How do I show leadership when I am needed the most? What kind of compromises to my faith am I willing to make that may put the Christian heritage of my family at risk? How much do I water down my sinful attitudes and actions? Am I willing to call out evil for what it is? When it comes to the crunch, do I treasure the welfare of those around me or my own interests?

There is no wisdom here with Jacob, with Hamor and certainly not Shechem. Where is justice, leadership, wisdom and compassion when it is needed? The anger of Jacob’s sons proves later to have no God-given boundaries. 

Perhaps the author paints with a palette of black in Genesis 34 but the canvas is primed with light and gives me opportunity to clearly perceive the contrasts. Genesis 34 invites me to show compassion and love, especially to my own family, to apply wisdom, leadership and responsibility when I see evil, to treat people with respect and show repentance when I have wronged them, to be willing to pay the consequences and make reparation when needed, and not to compromise my faith. Most of all it invites me to ask for God’s wisdom, to include Him in my responses when confronted by those who accept the defiling influences of the world in which we live. Some serious things to think about here.

James 1:21 (NLT) says So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.”

Pastor Ross

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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

40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE – RUBY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Dear Julie, 

Ruby - 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

Ruby – 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

I have been reading Job and thinking how much my ignorance gets in the way of my relationship with God. I want to know things that are not relevant to the passage of scripture I am studying or I want to know answers I don’t need to know about. God teaches me more and more to trust in Him each day despite the things I don’t know. 

I have been married 40 years to you and I am still astounded of how ignorant I am about marriage, except that I have come to know and love you. Much of our marriage works simply because you are the best person I know and I keep noticing more about you as the years go by that makes me appreciate and love you more. 

I cannot imagine life without my beautiful wife and family. We have grandchildren who reflect a lot of your character because of the time you invest into them. They will look back and cherish times when they have laughed and cried and shared with you about everything (including difficult questions about Jesus). Most of all they will recall a woman who lived out her faith and the example that you gave them. 

God makes Himself known in all kinds of ways through His creation but I am so privileged that our paths crossed because I constantly see God’s character reflected in you. 

Why did he link you up with me? I can only see God’s grace in allowing me to be your husband. I thought from the first time I saw you that you were out of my league. So when we began to go out together, I was humbled and wanted from the outset to treat you with as much love and respect that I could. I didn’t want to hurt you, but inevitably we went through all kinds of hurts and blessing and the things that can either tear people apart or bring them together. We stayed together because of God’s grace. 

You certainly gave me incentive to trust God in order to become a good husband and father to our children. I still don’t know how we have managed to end up with such wonderful people as those in our immediate family. Some things I am so grateful for but will never fully understand. 

I am pleased to be on a journey with you that started 40 years ago and has led us to this point. I am looking forward to the future. It has been quite a journey and who knows where it will lead.

I love you,

Ross

THAT WHICH GRACE RESTORES 

Our world is filled with the beauty of grace

It’s touch sweeps out, a soft cloud on a beach;

It beckons us to seek what is beyond our reach,

To shout and sing and worship face to Face.

Generations to come will take our place

And they in time will take their turn to teach.

For now we share our hearts and love to each

With footsteps in the sand they can retrace,

For timeless truths can never be removed

By waves that crash upon eternal shores,

But last to lead them to a life approved.

Now morning dawns and destiny explores

The path ahead, all obstacles removed.

Our world awakes to all that grace restores.

© Ross Cochrane

A RUBY – THE SYMBOL OF 40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

A ruby is blood-red, speaking of the blood of Jesus shed for us and His grace in our marriage.

In Job 28:18 and Proverbs 3:15, wisdom is more valuable than rubies. In Proverbs 31:10, a wife of noble character is worth more than rubies. Certainly this is true of you. You are valued highly.

Some place rubies beneath the foundations of a building to symbolise a good foundation. Our marriage is based on a good foundation in Christ.

All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including color impurities. We may have our imperfections but we serve a perfect God and we share the colour of His perfect character.

Some rubies reflect a three-point or six-point “star”. This shows our connection to God who is 3 in one and to the Star of Bethlehem that led wise men to Jesus. We have always looked for Him in our marriage.

Imitation rubies exist but those with all their flaws are still considered the most valuable. We don’t look for the flaws but the value in our marriage. Despite our flaws we share a genuine love for eachother.

Improvements to rubies include heat which improves transparency by healing of fractures (cracks) or even completely filling them. Our marriage has been tested and approved for 40 years.

I praise God for the honor of being your husband. I love you.

Ross

Genesis 30:1-3- CHECK MATE

Jealousy's Pawn - Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

Jealousy’s Pawn – Image by Ross Cochrane using FilterForge and Paint.net

She begins the game by attacking her husband, who is standing nearby. She is jealous of Leah, her sister, whom she now considers an opponent. She blames Jacob for not concentrating. She needs his support. She is running out of time and patience! The game will be lost! Rachel pleads with Jacob, “Give me children, or I’ll die!” (Genesis 30:1 NLT).

Rachel has chosen the black and God has made the first move, but she seems to think that she is playing against Leah. She is ready to make her first move, but her strategy is flawed and will serve only to achieve short-term advantage and place her emotions and marriage in danger.

Focused on more than simply achieving equality on the board, Rachel feels she must develop a counterplay to unbalance Leah’s position, to neutralise her gains. She does not know how to lose graciously and she feels that her sister has put her at a disadvantage by bearing children while she remains barren. She knows that she must manoeuvre her resources and bring into play some “interferences” and “underminings” to gain a tactical gain and she is willing to make whatever “sacrifices” are necessary to achieve “check mate”.

The game has reached a critical level even at this early stage. She is flustered, not considering the consequences of her action. She refuses to see the big-picture. She is not aligning her actions with God’s strategy for her life. Her next move is too hasty and unexpected, unconventional, wild, crazy!

“Take my maid, Bilhah, and sleep with her. She will bear children for me, and through her I can have a family, too.” (Genesis 30:3 NLT)Move the pawn! But Rachel, you can’t have Check Mate in one move!

When your thinking is distorted then nothing is learned from the failures of history. Instead, they are repeated. Like Sarah, Rachel tries to manipulate the hand of God by giving her maid to Jacob in order to obtain children. Like Hagar, Bilhah is the Pawn moved around the board by Rachel.

Afterall, surrogacy is an acceptable tactical custom of the day, like polygamy, or multiple sexual partners. I guess things haven’t changed. One commentary suggests that this is why Laban provides his daughters with maids; as a back-up in case his daughters had no children; pawns in a game of Chess! Bilhah will never have full rights as a wife and mother. She is owned and her children are owned.

Today, we would call it human slavery and trafficking. For Rachel it was a part of the strategy, an ill-considered move to gain short-term advantage over Leah. Jacob is also playing the part of a pawn. Why doesn’t Jacob object? No complaints from Jacob. He’s in his 90’s and sleeping with three and soon four young women. He’s suddenly not interested in asking God about it. For Jacob and Rachel, there is an erosion of faith and trust concerning God’s promises. Neither of them seem concerned enough to pray. Doesn’t Check come before Mate? 

Without God, life is lived like a game of chess where we try to remain in control and determine the moves we play, but ultimately we lose. Each move we make effects the lives of those around us and their moves influence ours, but our selfish choices can seriously damage relationships. 

Rachel does not accept responsibility for her actions nor does she consider the consequences of the moves she makes. The invitation is to stop treating life like a game of Chess and begin to look for God’s perspective, His strategies, His plans and take His purposes for our lives into consideration. 

The strategy was planned from the beginning of time; Jesus experiences the jealousy of the religious leaders of his day and just as they think they have defeated Him, He makes His move. They are astounded. Slaves of sin are set free. The pawns have become royalty. Death defeated, sin forgiven, sacrifice sufficient! Check mate! The white King wins! He invites us to share in His victory. 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 29:21-35 – CAUGHT IN A TRAP! I CAN’T WALK OUT!

Caught in a Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Caught in a Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

“What have you done to me?” Jacob rages at Laban. “I worked seven years for Rachel! Why have you tricked me?” 

Treating Rachel as a commodity to be worked for, a mail order bride on lay-buy for 7 years, he is surprised when he receives the wrong package. Perhaps he had celebrated with just a little too much wine at the wedding feast but “that night, when it was dark, Laban took Leah to Jacob, and he slept with her” (Genesis 29:23).

How do you confuse Leah for Rachel, even in the dark. They obviously don’t talk? Or is it that in 7 years Jacob really doesn’t get to know Rachel except for her “beautiful figure and a lovely face” (Genesis 29:17).

Has her father forced Leah to say nothing? Surely Leah could talk, but to do so will lead to Laban being embarrassed by his guests and by the community. Retribution for her will be swift and perhaps brutal. Leah will never escape the life she lives with her greedy father unless she marries this man who will one day inherit a double portion of Isaac’s wealth and take her away. After 7 years she knows Jacob to be a hardworking man and it seems she has fallen in love with him. When she bears him children, she laments that he does not love her. Caught in a trap. She can’t walk out.

Jacob the deceiver is deceived. By pretending to be Rachel, Leah was inadvertently treating Jacob in the same way he had treated his father. As Jacob had pretended to be Esau to obtain his birthright and blessing, now Leah pretends to be Rachel to obtain freedom from Laban. He reaps what he sows. What he expected to be his dream life is rapidly becoming his nightmare. Caught in a trap. He can’t walk out.

Discovering he is married to the wrong woman makes him feel like an old fool, but there is nothing Jacob can do about it, … except to marry Rachel as well. It seems bigamy is an acceptable practice in Haran. He receives Rachel a week later after an agreement with Laban to work another 7 years for her.

Was Leah God’s choice for Jacob in marriage? We are not told. Jacob only sees that Rachel has a beautiful face and figure. Does God approve of this second marriage? No statement of judgment is given, but it is interesting that He gives children to Leah and not Rachel.

The Lord sees that Leah is unloved, but why does He decide to take sides in this matter? Jacob prefers Rachel. Is it that the Lord prefers Leah? Is it only because Leah is hated that He blesses her with children or is there more to it than that? (Genesis 29:31). Perhaps it is also that Leah is a woman of faith and Rachel is yet to believe in the Lord. Jesus would come through a line of believers.

Leah expresses her belief in God through the names of her children, Reuben, Simeon, Levi. She is grateful for children because she is miserable in her marriage. Each time she has a child she expresses her desire to be loved and says, in effect “The Lord has noticed my misery. I am unloved, but now my husband will love me” (Genesis 29:32-34 NLT). We all want to be loved. Many life-lessons unfold in the years to come.

When she names her fourth son Judah (“praise to Jehovah”) she seems to have come to a place where she is content to simply trust in Jehovah, God of the Covenant, to work out His purposes in her life. From Judah the Saviour will come and the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be fulfilled.

God is Leah’s marriage counsellor and she finds her strength in Him. When our heartaches collide with His purposes, soap operas are transformed into stories of salvation as we learn to trust in Christ. 

Pastor Ross

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Image adapted by Ross Cochrane from MorgueFile Photo

Spider and Trap - Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Trap – Photo by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table - Photograph by Ross Cochrane

Spider and Dining Table – Photograph by Ross Cochrane

 

Genesis 28:1-9 – HOW TO AVOID MISSING THE POINT ENTIRELY

Missing the PointIt was the first time I had spoken before Doc Gibson, a respected theological professor. Having been given a classic passage in the Old Testament on which to speak I had spent many hours reading every book and commentary I could find. By the time I came to speak I was exhausted from lack of sleep but felt I had something worthwhile to offer. The professor, however, after hearing what I had to say, told me that I had missed the point entirely. I was devastated. In a few minutes he summed up my blind spot and I went home a little annoyed, affronted, embarrassed and feeling sorry for myself. Over the next few days I reflected on how I could face the professor, but I kept coming back to the only conclusion I could make – he was right! How could I have missed something so obvious? Taking his advice, and seeking to diligently “find the point”, I was greatly encouraged at the end of the next year when I won the preaching prize.

All of a sudden in Genesis 28, Jacob, not Esau, has the full support of his father. Isaac has just blessed Jacob (Genesis 28:6), instead of him. How does Esau feel about all this? Understandably he feels he has been robbed. It’s as if he has caught the thief, laid charges but somehow on a technicality the case has been reversed so that the thief is awarded the damages. There is no justice. He is upset, rejected, annoyed, angry, hostile towards his brother, struggling to find answers. But hasn’t he also missed the point?

Jacob, his brother, is told not to marry a Canaanite and is sent to Syria to find a wife (Genesis 28:7). He is to go back to Rebekah’s family in Padan-aram, and marry one of his own cousins, one of the daughters of his uncle, his mother’s brother, Laban. Repeating the blessing of Abraham over Jacob (Genesis 26:3-5), Isaac, his Dad, tells Jacob that he will be a father of a great nation, and his descendents will own the land of Caanan. And just like that, by necessity, Jacob is propelled from the presence of his family.

It is obvious to Esau from this conversation his Dad has with his brother that his parents don’t approve of his choice of wives (Genesis 28:8). This has been clear since Genesis 26:34-35. If you had married Hittite wives (Canaanites, Philistines, Genesis 26:34), how would you feel listening to this go down between Jacob and his father Isaac? Esau, as impulsive as ever and so desperate to win back his father’s approval, does the only thing he can think of. Since Jacob is sent off to marry his mother’s niece, he will marry his father’s niece. That should solve the problem.

If you remember the story, Ishmael is the son of Abraham and Hagar. Abraham was married to Sarah and couldn’t have any children so Sarah gave Hagar, her servant, to Abraham as a surrogate mother. Hagar bore Ishmael (Genesis 16:1-4, 15). No Hittite blood here. Esau hopes his marriage into Ishmael’s family will please his parents. He wants to fix things outwardly by marrying someone who is not a Canaanite, but he missed the point entirely!

Esau’s descendents are called the Idumeans. One famous descendent is king Herod, who features in the Christmas story, is the Idumean who tried to take the throne of David, but who was merely a puppet king of the Romans. He was the Idumean who tried to kill Jesus after he was born by slaughtering every male child in Bethlehem two years and under. Unfortunately he highlights the characteristics of the Idumean line.

Although Ishmael was Abraham’s son his family line did not have faith in God. Esau aligned himself by marriage to Ismael and to the Hittites and although he was from the line of Abraham he did not have the faith of Abraham. Esau is still so spiritually blind that he just doesn’t get it! He thinks any connection by marriage to Abraham will regain approval with his Dad, but marrying into the family of Abraham is not the point! All through his life he has opportunities to submit his life to God. Even in marriage he misses the opportunity to marry a woman of faith and to serve God from his heart, but he is not interested.

He misses the point concerning his birthright! He misses the point concerning his blessing! He misses the point concerning his marriage! A birthright, a blessing and a marriage are all associated with responsible spiritual leadership under God. A birthright bequeaths spiritual leadership, a blessing bestows spiritual leadership and a marriage is a betrothal that gives expression to spiritual leadership as we submit to eachother and to God. He misses the point on 3 counts. But the invitation of this passage is that you don’t have to.

You have a birthright in Christ that has been bequeathed to you, a destiny to fulfil that is yours. In Christ you are blessed with the blessing of Abraham, blessed to be a blessing. The Bible says His Church is in marriage relationship with Christ, His bride. The invitation to have a personal relationship with God is yours. He loves you and wants a relationship with you. What would be the point of Christ dying for your sins if you were to gamble with your life at the Cross and not get the point of relationship with Christ?

Pastor Ross

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

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Genesis 26:1-17 – LIAR LIAR!

Liar! Liar!

I will always remember him. He lay in a bed seat, slightly twisted and looking at me with one eye half open. I was finishing a small Bible study devotional with a group of aged people. With a croaky voice filled with the bile of his past and exposed by his dementia he shouted “He’s a fraud! He’s a fraud! Don’t listen to him! Don’t listen to him! He only wants your money! He’s a fraud!” It was disconcerting to say the least.

The Bible says that it is the devil who is a LIAR and a FRAUD! John 8:44 (NLT) “…He has always HATED THE TRUTH, because there is NO TRUTH IN HIM. When he LIES, it is consistent with his character; for he is a LIAR AND THE FATHER OF LIES.”

REBEKAH WAS BEAUTIFUL. Rebekah had been married for many years to Isaac but she could still turn the heads of men wherever she went. I am sure she wasn’t trying to do this, but she was the Audrey Hepburn of the ancient world (What do you mean you don’t remember Audrey Hepburn? How about Sophia Loren? OK, Catherine Zeta-Jones or some other aging movie star?)

I don’t know what it was about the Philistines, but Isaac didn’t trust them. He thought they would try to kill him just because he had a beautiful wife. Where did that thought come from? Even if I go through a bad part of town, I don’t expect to die just because my wife is beautiful. This passage has never made any sense to me. Isaac’s life in Genesis 26 is looking like a B grade RE-RUN of an old movie from Genesis 12:13 and Genesis 20:2.

Anyway, he passes Rebekah off as his SISTER. How this protects Isaac, I don’t know! It certainly puts Rebekah in danger. What kind of a husband does this? What is he trying to do? How is a brother any safer than a husband? And how did Rebekah feel about all this? She is the one most in danger!

You know the story. Abimelech sees Isaac caressing Rebekah and he confronts them. I like Abimelech. He has more character here than Isaac. He gives orders to his men not to touch Rebekah or Isaac (Genesis 26:8). Abimelech is more willing to protect Rebekah than Isaac. Is Isaac some kind of wimp who has to have a Philistine fight to protect his wife? Abimelech is more aware of sexual sin. He doesn’t want the guilt to rest on his men should they try to sleep with Rebekah because of Isaac’s deception. Where did he get such a healthy respect for God and being judged for sin? If he lived today would he have still had such a conscience? HE LOOKS MORE LIKE THE BELIEVER THAN ISAAC!

Well done Abimelech! At least he has some form of integrity which is more than I can say for Isaac. Isaac JUSTIFIES HIS LIE to Abimelech because he thought his life would be endangered by telling people he is married to this beautiful woman. Why do we think that we need to LIE in order for God to keep us safe? I mean, do we really think that God needs me to SIN in order for Him to help us? Der!

Isaac shows me that I can move to a different part of the country and still find myself in the same place spiritually. I can get a little older and still be just as immature. Maturity has nothing to do with aging. Believe me, I know. ROUND AND AROUND. The sins of the father.

God wants me to love my wife and respect her enough to protect her and our marriage. That alone will provide a great example for others, and apart from anything else my wife is worth risking death for. How would I respond in a situation like this? I’d like to think that I would come out of it with my WITNESS and my MARRIAGE intact, but I know that anyone is capable of falling. Lord, protect my marriage and my witness for both our sakes.

The false accusations of an old man crying out “You’re a fraud!” hurt me but they also made me realize that I need to stay close to Christ who is the Truth and to His Word, the Bible. 1 Corinthians 10:12 in the Message version says “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence.” Galatians 6:7 says “Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always REAP WHAT YOU SOW.”

Jesus said “I am the way, the TRUTH and the life…” (John 14:6). He is my Truth. He enables me to live a life of INTEGRITY. With Christ in my life I am able to live how God intends me to live and be GENUINE before Him and others and even myself, WITHOUT HYPROCRISY. Nothing fraudulent about that!

Lord, KEEP ME FROM EVIL so that I don’t bring disrepute to You or others or to myself. Let me live righteously before you today and in the joy of my salvation. Let me be a blessing to others today and live a life without hypocrisy.

God bless you as He replaces the habits of a lifetime with the habits of Holy living and the harvest of a fruitful life in Christ. In Him, you are not a FRAUD but a FORGIVEN, FAULTLESS, FAITH-FILLED FRIEND OF GOD, through Christ who strengthens you.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – THE PERFECT WIFE OR A DOMESTICATED DOORMAT? – Part 6

Perfect Wife or Doormat?

The Formula in the 50′s FOR THE PERFECT WIFE get your work done, have dinner ready for your husband, look good for him, minimize any noise before he arrives at the door after work, be happy to see him, don’t greet him with problems and complaints, don’t complain if he is late for dinner, make him comfortable, listen to him and make the evening his (Was this designed by the PERFECT WIFE OR A DOMESTICATED DOORMAT?)

Now picture this scene found in Genesis 24. Abraham sends his servant with 10 camels and a sizable fortune in gifts to find THE PERFECT WIFE for Isaac. He asks God for a SIGN so he’ll recognise who is the right girl. The sign? The girl who not only gives him water to drink from her jug but also offers to water his 10 camels will be the one. Rebekah makes such an offer. This is like having someone offer to fill up 10 EMPTY TRUCKS with petrol. It’s going to take a long time. But so far so good. She seems like the perfect wife for Isaac (not to mention that it will save him watering the camels).

He discovers a number of things about Rebekah at the well that day. She is BEAUTIFUL, SINGLE. She is CONFIDENT, WARM AND FRIENDLY despite the fact that he is a stranger. She calls him “lord” which was a way of showing RESPECT. She has a SERVANT HEART. She’s THOUGHTFUL, CARING, CONSIDERATE, SELFLESS, willing to go the EXTRA MILE to help out. She puts the needs of others before her own. She’s a FITNESS FANATIC (Carting all that water would keep anyone fit). She’s STRONG AND HEALTHY. She is definitely NOT AFRAID OF HARD WORK. She’s FLEXIBLE with her time. She is there to get water for her family but she goes out of her way to help someone else first.

Apart from this she has FAITH IN GOD and she is HOSPITABLE. She invites him to stay with her family

Genesis 24:26-28 (NLT) says that the servant “…bowed low and worshiped the Lord.” As far as he is concerned, God has answered his prayer. He gives her some EXPENSIVE JEWELLERY including a nose ring and Rebekah runs home “… to tell her family everything that had happened.”

What would you do if your DAUGHTER COMES HOME LATE, wearing expensive jewelry and raving on about a man she has just met that evening? I’d be a little suspicious if it was my daughter and I’d want to get rid of the man. Not Rebekah’s brother Laban. He’s the head of the family but he is also a business man so when he SEES THE JEWELLERY that Rebekah is wearing all of a sudden this servant becomes HIS BEST FRIEND. In Genesis 24:31 he says “Come in, blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside since I have prepared the house, and a place for the camels?”

Just before the evening meal the Servant explains how he asked God for a sign and that he thinks that Rebekah is God’s choice for Isaac. He lays it on the line “Please tell me yes or no, and then I’ll know what to do next.” (I knew a girl once who said she knew that it was God’s will that she marry a friend of mine. Strangely, God didn’t tell him too and he ended up marrying another girl). Is this man being EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATIVE or has he really heard from God?

Laban and his father Bethuel believe in God and when they hear of how the servant received a sign from God, they say, “The Lord has obviously brought you here, so there is nothing we can say. Here is Rebekah; take her and go. Yes, let her be the wife of your master’s son, as the Lord has directed.”

The servant lavishes the family with a FORTUNE IN GIFTS. What is this? Human trafficking, SELLING YOUR DAUGHTER? Rebekah hasn’t had a say in any of this yet! What is she? Some KIND OF DOORMAT OR OBJECT OF EXCHANGE?

By early the next morning, it looks like the deal has changed however. Laban has been talking to Rebekah’s mother and they say “We want Rebekah to stay with us at LEAST TEN DAYS, then she can go.” Abraham’s servant is straight with them. He says “Don’t mess me around. This is God’s will and we’ve made a deal.” Actually he says “Don’t delay me. The Lord has made my mission successful.”

“Well,” they say “we’ll call Rebekah and ASK HER what she thinks.” IT’S ABOUT TIME that Rebekah actually gets to say something about their plans for her life! Ever felt like God loves you and EVERYONE ELSE has a wonderful plan for your life? So they call Rebekah. Oh, by the way Rebekah, “Are you willing to go with this man?” they ask her.

Rebekah is no doormat. She’s INTELLIGENT enough to make up her OWN MIND. She’s heard everything the servant said and she is ASSERTIVE AND DECISIVE. She makes a decision immediately based on what she has heard. What would you have said? She replies, “Yes, I will go.” She is quick to recognise that God is in this and that this is her opportunity to fulfill her GOD GIVEN DESTINY. She doesn’t insist on staying an extra 10 days like her family requests. Just as well! Major spanner in the works if she had said “NO. I’M NOT GOING ANYWHERE AND I’M NOT MARRYING ANYONE!”

Sometimes people say that CHRISTIANS ARE JUST PASSIVE DOORMATS who follow GOD’S RULES AND REGULATIONS MINDLESSLY. I don’t follow Christ because I HAVE TO. I follow Him because I WANT TO. He has won me over with who He is and what He has done for me on the Cross. There’s a difference between CO-OPERATING WITH GOD and being a DOORMAT. I have a CHOICE.

Rebekah is a RISK TAKER. Faith is always a risk. GIVING YOUR LIFE TO CHRIST is always a risk. Some people say “FAITH IS BLIND because it involves taking a risk. FAITH MAY BE BLIND BUT IT ISN’T DEAF! Faith comes when we HEAR what God has to say for our lives and then we CHOOSE, by an act of our own FREEWILL, after receiving His revelation of Truth, to step out and act upon it without knowing what the future holds. Rebekah courageously takes a step of faith by her willingness to give up her life with her family and go with this man to a land she has never seen, to marry a man she has never met. I like this woman of faith. It is no wonder that Isaac falls in love with her.

Although everyone else seemed to have a plan for her life, Rebekah listens and responds to what God is saying to her and makes a decision that changes the world. She doesn’t know it but this decision will impact the future as God fulfils His promises. One day Jesus will come from the line of Isaac.

Rebekah encourages me NOT TO BE A DOORMAT to my circumstances or to other people. God bless you as you COOPERATE WITH GOD’S PLAN for your life today and in doing so LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL and make a difference in the world.

Pastor Ross

Genesis 24 – TAKE AN OATH AND PLACE MY HAND WHERE? – Part 4

Oath on Bible – Photo created by Ross Cochrane using photos from MorgueFile.com

SUBPOENA AD TESTIFICANDUM. Ordered by writ of the court to testify. The maintenance man drove us in his van to the courthouse. Two young women, both relatively new to Australia had been issued with subpoenas. They had never testified before and for them going to court implied that they were going to be convicted, or at least have their reputations ruined by their association with another persons guilt. As their Pastor and Chaplain, I was there to support them. They would make AN OATH ON THE BIBLE and would be constrained by that oath to tell the truth.

In Genesis 24:2-9 (NLT) Abraham subpoenas his oldest and most trusted servant “TAKE AN OATH BY PUTTING YOUR HAND UNDER MY THIGH. Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, that you will not allow my son to marry one of these local Canaanite women. Go instead to my homeland, to my relatives, and find a wife there for my son Isaac.” Abraham says “Be careful never to take my son there. For the Lord, the God of heaven, solemnly promised to give this land to my descendants.” So the servant takes the oath by putting his hand under the thigh of his master, Abraham and swears to follow Abraham’s instructions. He is constrained by that oath to fulfil Abraham’s requests.

Strange way to take an oath. What is this “place your hand under my thigh” business? If someone told me to do this I would say “You want me to place my hand where?” I certainly wouldn’t go telling anyone today to place his hand under my thigh and take an oath. He’d hit me! Perhaps this is why the Bible discourages the making of oaths (James 5:12)!

It is clear that this is not your normal “swear to tell the truth by placing your hand on the Bible” oath. Many commentators agree that the servant probably kneels before Abraham and places his hand between Abraham’s thighs (the thighs symbolise power and strength), under his genitals, because that’s where he bore the MARK OF CIRCUMCISION, the sign of God’s covenant concerning a great nation.

This oath to find the right girl for Isaac as a wife is related to the COVENANT PROMISES God has made to Abraham concerning his descendents who would come from the “loins” of Abraham.

Today such an oath would almost look like a homosexual act, but it has nothing to do with homosexuality. In fact just the opposite. It is related more to the marriage of a man and woman and procreation. (Mind you, if it had been me, I’d make sure no-one was around when this kind of oath was made. It wouldn’t look right).

But the idea of this oath is to have integrity about the things you say you are going to do based on the things that God has said He would do concerning descendents. You will notice this oath even has an escape clause. If the girl didn’t come with the servant he would be free of the oath.

From my point of view as a Westerner it is a repulsive way of making an oath. Imagine if we used this method in court today? I’m glad it’s not a ritual like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. But if I am not careful I can miss the real emphasis of these verses in the Bible because I am looking at it through the eyes of my culture.

The invitation is to see BEYOND THE METHOD of making the oath to the commitment that is being made to God and the fulfilment of the covenant promises He makes. The servant is to “Swear by the Lord, the God of heaven and earth, …” (Genesis 24:3 NLT) that he will find the right girl for Isaac to marry, so that the promises a great nation through Abraham will be realised.

As I commit my life completely to the Lord Jesus Christ I am saying that God is my Lord and has authority over my life. He is my God, the God of heaven and earth. His authority is well beyond anything that I can imagine. I am asking that Heavens purposes be fulfilled on earth. I am agreeing that His promises and purposes be accomplished and that I am willing to co-operate with Him.

Pastor Ross