Posts Tagged ‘Promises of God’

Ancient E-mails to Esau © Image created by Ross Cochrane

Genesis 36 – E-MAILS TO ESAU – Part 1 

Hi Esau, 

It was great that you and I were there when our Dad died. So strange to think we won’t see him or Mum again. I feel a little like an orphan.  

I appreciated spending a bit of time with you after all these years, but I realised that I don’t have any real idea of who is in your family. You spoke of some of your children but I really don’t know much more. I have been compiling our family history and wondered if you would mind letting me know about your side. 

Your brother, 

Jacob (now Israel) 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Jacob, 

So, you’ve changed your name. Sorry, but you’ll always be Jacob to me (the deceiver). I’m not really into family histories and you might not like my tribe. My parents certainly didn’t. I married Canaanite wives, outside the family of faith. 

I called our tribe the tribe of Edom, partly because of my red skin colour at birth (Genesis 25:25) and partly to never forget the pot of red stew that I exchanged for my birthright. After you stole my blessing from my father, the name Edom fed my desire to kill you if I ever saw you again. But then time got in the way and it didn’t matter anymore. 

Esau  

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Hi Esau, 

I’m glad that we were able to reconcile our differences. You have certainly done well for yourself. I was wondering if I could come and visit you and perhaps further heal old wounds and get this family tree thing in order. 

Jacob 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Jacob, 

I wouldn’t come here to visit if I were you. It not exactly a safe area for strangers. But it’s your call.  

I call the country where we live Edom, South East of the Dead Sea. It’s a mountainous area, good for hunting and we are starting to build a rock hewn city, unlike any you have ever seen.  

Seriously, I wouldn’t attempt coming here any time soon. You wouldn’t be welcome. My people don’t like strangers. They think I should have killed you when you returned to Canaan. We are an independent people with no need for God. I am building a nation that doesn’t need birthrights or blessings to survive. 

Keep writing, however, brother, and when I have time, I’ll give you a rundown of the black sheep side of the family. Your side of the family tree must be the white goat side. Do you still like wearing goat skins on your arms and neck (just joking Jacob. Relax). 

Esau 

___________________oOo_____________________ 

Esau is the firstborn of twins, a hunter, Isaac’s favorite son. He sells his birthright to Jacob for a pot of red stew, loses his father’s blessing through Jacob’s deception, marries Canaanite women to the displeasure of his parents.

An independent man, Esau hated Jacob for a time but then reconciled after 20 years of being apart. He is proud and rejects God. His success is temporary. 

Genesis 36 invites me to choose long-term commitment to God and His purposes for my life over short-term gain without Him. There will be a cost, but it is the cost of choosing to be patient for the promises of God to be fulfilled.

Pastor Ross 

Genesis 31:22-29 – THE MATADOR OF HEAVEN

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The Matador of Heaven. © Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and Filter Forge

The spectacle of Spain has been transported to the hill country of Gilead. There may be many historic bullfighting venues in Mexico but on this day all eyes are on this arena in Jordan (Genesis 31:21 NLT). 

The Matador, Jacob, has tried to evade the horns of Laban, but today he has no choice as he turns to face his opponent, eyes wide with fear. Jacob has always sidestepped fighting but this time his escape from the ring has only attracted the attention of this bull of a man. Laban has been taunted to charge. “So he gathered a group of his relatives and set out in hot pursuit. He caught up with Jacob … in the hill country of Gilead” (Genesis 31:23 NLT).

The trumpets sound. Jacob would prefer to be at the stairway chapel, where God offered him a promise of protection, but now although he has no particular style, technique or courage, he has been thrust into the arena.

Jacob the matador is unaware that he is distinguished by the gold of his traje de luces (“suit of lights”), clothed in the assurance of God’s covenant. He can see Laban’s picador sons and servants entering the ring on horseback armed with the vara (lances), and he perceives they are not for the bull. Laban the bull is cruel, and Jacob suffers severe stress as he begins this encounter.

Over the years Jacob has observed the behaviour and quirks of Laban the bull. More reason to be afraid. Trembling, the red cape of his integrity (muleta) seems hardly defence enough as the bull snorts and kicks up the dust with his feet, preparing to make his run. Laban is enraged and restless as Jacob now stands alone to confront him.

The horns of Laban’s power glint in the sun. His authority has been challenged and he is committed to charge in and win back his control by force. Motivated by malice he moves with all his muscle in unrelenting haste, pounding the earth with his very presence toward Jacob. He is determined that Jacob’s devious actions will be met with his malevolence. Jacob has already reaped some lessons from his deceptiveness but now he can expect punishing instruction from Laban’s spite.

Jacob is a reluctant matador. Will he lose his resolve? Will he face his fears with dignity and respect? Will he stand up to Laban? He has had 10 days of looking over his shoulder before his worst dream is realized.

Laban the bull is released into the arena where Jacob stands unarmed and totally unprepared for the corrida, or fight. If not for the Bullfighter of heaven, Jacob would be at some risk of being gored or trampled but, in reality, Laban, for all his rhetoric, has been greatly weakened already.

Because of his bungling attempts at trying to help God out with His promises, Jacob has already received a succession of serious interventions to stay the hand of harm. Jacob’s family seems to have a history of bullfighting mediations (Genesis 12:17; 20:3-7). During Laban’s intense pursuit of Jacob, God once again intervenes by interrupting Laban’s sleep with a dream filled with dread, “I’m warning you—leave Jacob alone!” (Genesis 31:24 NLT).

Laban resigns himself against harming Jacob but not to be dissuaded, he proceeds with a verbal goring. He is outraged that Jacob would even think of challenging him. “What do you mean by stealing away like this?” 

Intent on destroying Jacob’s character Laban launches his tactical retaliatory strike, the hot stinking breath snorting directly in Jacob’s face at his first tanda (pass). Laban demands “How dare you drag my daughters away like prisoners of war? Laban has treated his daughters as saleable commodities and so to accuse Jacob of treating them as prisoners of war is a bit hollow.

It is Laban who is the unworthy adversary, yet he parades himself bullfaced amidst pomp and pageantry, with his supporters at hand. It is unusual for the bull to have his own cuadrilla (“entourage”). The picador sons have prepared him with their discontent and stand by for the charge. A series of tandas, or “series” of passes are made, each frighteningly close.

“Why did you slip away secretly? Why did you steal away? And why didn’t you say you wanted to leave? I would have given you a farewell feast, with singing and music, accompanied by tambourines and harps. Why didn’t you let me kiss my daughters and grandchildren and tell them good-bye? You have acted very foolishly!” (Genesis 31:27-28 NLT).  

All valid questions. His aggressive cross-examination of Jacob is designed to bring shame and keep Jacob off balance. His indignation runs deep with jealous rage and he is determined to shake Jacob’s confidence by challenging his integrity with each tanda. 

This is not a father simply wanting to say goodbye to his daughters but an enraged, aggressive and belligerent adversary seeking to get revenge, to ruin Jacob’s reputation, to manipulate, slander and assault Jacob.

A master of character assassination by interrogation, Laban, leaves out the vital facts that would explain Jacob’s action. Jacob is a monster who has robbed his daughters and grandchildren of a farewell celebration. How selfish! How thoughtless! He claims to have integrity and virtuous intentions. He is the noble and good father and grandfather whose only concern is for his family. Not!

It is all Jacob’s fault. Laban plays the part of the innocent victim of a terrible subterfuge. He plays the martyr like a bull parading as a ballerina. This family tyrant subtly maligns Jacob’s character while trying to parade as a saint. Laban is a self-righteous bully trying to give the impression that he loves his family despite his neglect and cruel games over the last 20 years.

Do you feel guilty yet, Jacob? Jacob, you have broken up the family! You are a coward matador with no cuadrilla for support. Now comes the clincher, “I could destroy you, but the God of your father appeared to me last night and warned me, ‘Leave Jacob alone!’” (Genesis 31:29 NLT). Despite his vehemence and false offendedness, Laban is helpless to do anything to Jacob except berate him. There will be no goring from Laban’s horns this time.

Who or what is the bully in your life standing between you and the promises of God? What charges does the devil use against you as you make your stand in the ring? What are you holding onto that attracts a spiritual battle like a red rag to a bull? Listen to the promises of the Matador of Heaven not the snorting passes of the bull. Christ invites you to trust Him in the midst of the fray. He has faced the bullying taunts of the enemy before. Enter the ring as once again His whispers from the chapel shout to you in the ring “I am with you, and I will protect you wherever you go. … I will not leave you until I have finished giving you everything I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15 NLT). 

Pastor Ross

Genesis 30:25–35 -PLEASE RELEASE ME, LET ME GO! 

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

Speckled. Image by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net, FilterForge, and Morguefile.org

I hear the old long-playing (LP) record droning on even today, and my Dad’s voice singing above it, “Please release me, let me go…To waste our lives would be a sin…” I watched my Dad waste his life in work that promised him a management position but kept him waiting on meagre wages until he was too old to care.

Jacob wants out. He says to Laban, “Please release me so I can go home to my own country.” Home to my own country. I have a promise to pursue. Let me explore it’s implications before I am too old to care.

Laban is a wealthy business person but spiritually bankrupt. God and Jacob are his good luck charms. As God unfolds His truth and reveals His character even to Laban, Laban understands it only through the eyes of potential fortune. “Please listen to me,” Laban replies. “I have become wealthy, for the Lord has blessed me because of you. Tell me how much I owe you. Whatever it is, I’ll pay it” (Genesis 30:27-28 NLT). 

So you finally admit it. All of a sudden you want to get generous and give me what is owed. No, old man. It won’t work. Not this time. You don’t want me to stay because I am your much-loved Son-in-law, husband to your daughters. All you want is to accumulate more wealth. Watch it uncle, your greed is showing.

Jacob is willing to leave with nothing. The promises of God are more reliable than yours, uncle. All my life I have heard my mother, my father, you and your daughters persuading me to be involved in your plans for my life. I have played the part of a deceiver and been deceived. I have always felt like a sheep in a pack of wolves, but this old lost wether is not willing to be taken by you this time. I have already worked for you for fourteen years, Laban. But I have heard the voice of the Shepherd calling me home, words of destiny in the silence of my heart. If I stay it will be at the request of His voice alone.

“Let me take my wives and children, for I have earned them by serving you, and let me be on my way. You certainly know how hard I have worked for you and how your flocks and herds have grown under my care.” This is business language and he still speaks of his wives as the commodity that he has earned by his work for Laban. Not a romantic bone in his body. You’ve had a good deal. I’ve got Rachel even though you tricked me. We are even. Now feel a little pain yourself. Maybe even enough pain to agree to a deal before I go.

“You had little indeed before I came, but your wealth has increased enormously. The Lord has blessed you through everything I’ve done. But now, what about me? When can I start providing for my own family?” (Genesis 30:29-30 NLT).

“What wages do you want?” Laban asks again. (Genesis 30:31 NLT).Finally, old man. I knew you would get to a deal, but this time you’ll have to do things my way even though one day you may wish you had let me go. “Jacob replied, “Don’t give me anything. Just do this one thing, and I’ll continue to tend and watch over your flocks. Here’s the deal, uncle. Take it or leave it. “Let me inspect your flocks today and remove all the sheep and goats that are speckled or spotted, along with all the black sheep. …” (Genesis 30:32 NLT) Let them be a part of a different flock and take them away to be looked after by your men.

Let’s start with a clean slate; with a flock that consists of only single coloured animals. Let me look after that flock. Most of the sheep are pure white and most of the goats a dark chocolate-brown. You’ll get a good deal, uncle. You can keep all your existing flocks. But this time there’ll be no room for deception. No cheating! So uncle, here’s the deal. I get all those born from your pure, plain coloured flocks that are spotted and speckled as well as any black sheep that are born from your flock (Genesis 30:32). “Give these to me as my wages. In the future, when you check on the animals you have given me as my wages, you’ll see that I have been honest. If you find in my flock any goats without speckles or spots, or any sheep that are not black, you will know that I have stolen them from you.” Take the deal! I’ll trust God and you trust in your greed. 

“All right,” Laban replies. “It will be as you say.” Jacob, you’re a fool. What are you trying to do? You know that plain sheep produce far more plain coloured animals than speckled ones. You’ll only end up with a few animals, if any. You really will need some divine intervention. So Jacob and God go into partnership.

“Please release me, let me go … to waste our lives would be a sin” (Engelbert Humperdink). The story of Jacob invites me to be released from my own deception and the sin that so easily entraps me and to make a fresh start. We are to be released from wasting our lives and from allowing others to govern our lives instead of God. We are to take the risk of faith with nothing but hard work in our hands, and live in the expectation that God “is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20 NLT). “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all Your needs from His glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 NLT).

Pastor 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 26:1 – GOD RIDES A MOUNTAIN BIKE

Rachel's Bicycle

She has no money or likelihood of obtaining the $500 needed for its purchase, but my daughter Rachel sees a beautiful green bicycle with a basket advertised and decides that it is hers. She continues to believe that God will provide as she prays for her bike even though seemingly there is no way ahead. Psalms 37:4-5 (NLT) says “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you.” It’s not unusual then when Rachel’s husband Joel informs her that money that had been promised to them has unexpectedly been forwarded to him, more than enough. He purchases the bike, the basket, and everything she needs to ride her new green bike. Very cool.

In Genesis 26:1 Isaac and Rebekah are experiencing a time of “Not enough”. “A severe FAMINE now struck the land, as had happened before in Abraham’s time.” Why does the Lord allow FAMINE in a land where He said He would BLESS Abraham? Doesn’t seem to be right. Isaac is very wealthy. Not much good having wealth if he goes bankrupt because of a famine.

Isaac moves to Gerar. This is still in the promised land. Why did he go to Gerar on the coast, where the Philistines live? More water? Trade? But LESS SAFE. Later the Philistines are enemies. Isaac has a large retinue of people trailing after him and he is responsible to protect and feed them. Why go there in the middle of danger?

During this famine time the Lord appears. We are not told exactly how He shows up but obviously Isaac was intending to go to Egypt like Abraham had done during a similar time of famine, and the Lord specifically tells him not to go. He doesn’t want him there. Why? Was it because people in Egypt served other gods? Was it because it would mean Isaac would have to leave the promised land? Later a descendent of Isaac called Joseph would go to Egypt, but not by choice. Why does God so often want me to stay where He has put me rather than quit?

What interests me is that we are NOT necessarily protected from the “FAMINE” times. Don’t misunderstand me. What I am saying is that God can bless us even in times of extreme need, when the finances aren’t there, when the river runs dry, when there seems no way ahead. In fact God seems to speak the LOUDEST in the midst of the famine and testing times. Unfortunately when all I see is famine, potential loss and difficult circumstances then my spiritual hearing is affected and I can easily miss the powerful voice of God’s authority.

God gives Isaac the OPPORTUNITY TO OBEY Him during a tough time and to stay within the sphere of His PROMISES. The land He promises is the land that sustains them. What God promises in His Word will always sustain my life no matter what I am going through. I don’t need to look elsewhere just because it gets tough.

I am reminded that Psalms 23:5 (NLT) says that the Lord prepares “a feast for me in the presence of my enemies”. He promises to provide for me even when all I can see is potential trouble. That means that when God calls me to a ministry, and things get a little tough, then I won’t simply get off my bike and resign because it isn’t working for me. I will trust in God to help me work things through.

In Genesis 26:3 God tells Isaac to “Live here as a foreigner in this land, and I will be with you and bless you. I hereby confirm that I will give all these lands to you and your descendants, just as I solemnly promised Abraham, your father.”

This famine is a TEST OF TRUST for Isaac as it was with Abraham. Same test, different member of the family. The question – “Will I trust the Lord to provide?” Will I face such a test? Even Jesus faced a desert experience with no food and extreme temptation to take the easy way out.

As a follower of Christ I am a CITIZEN of heaven but I walk as a FOREIGNER in this world. God’s intention is that He will be with me and BLESS me. He will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5). The invitation is to TRUST Him during the difficult times I am facing.

Do my desires for my life reflect His! When the going gets tough am I staying within the boundaries of His promises and trusting Him to provide and bless.

You have no money? What colour is that bike again? When even my wants are in line with the desires of the One who has authority in my life, then God will provide for me, and His presence will RIDE WITH ME! Only I’m sure that He would want me to ride a mountain bike. Lord?

Pastor Ross

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

Bear Grylls and Master Chef

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Ross

Genesis 25:1-4 – HOW TO LEAVE A LIFECHANGING LEGACY?

Leaving a Lifechanging Legacy

The artwork and design of my wife’s book on her family tree is magnificent. The storyline is clear and so interesting. Hours and hours of work, a labour of love. I am so proud of her. A legacy for generations to come.

In the prologue of her book, Julie writes “It seems a strange thing, almost a disrespectful thing, to reduce the lifetime of one person to a page, a line or just a photo in a book. If only we could go back in time and spend an hour, a day, with each of our forebears, and listen to each one express their lives in their own words – the highs and lows, the challenges and accomplishments, the disappointments and surprises, the heartaches and celebrations – not only would we know more about them, we could appreciate more of the valuable contribution each made to following generations, and understand more about who we are ourselves.”

In Julie’s family tree we can trace back a history of ten generations and a history of faith in Christ for at least five generations. Who knows how many generations to come will seek to find a relationship with Jesus Christ as part of their family heritage? Others in the family tree we know very little about, however.

Everyone knows about Sarah and Hagar in the story of Abraham, but very few know that he also had another wife. In Genesis 25, Abraham Marries Keturah.

We all know he had trouble having children with Sarah. God healed both Sarah and Abraham in order for them to have children, so by the time he marries Keturah all those problems are long gone. Did you know that he had SIX MORE SONS, as well as Ishmael and Isaac?

Psalms 92:12-15 (NLT) says that “the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.” This is certainly true of Abraham.

What is the story with these other sons and grandsons of Abraham? They are given generous gifts and sent away. Strange names like Zimran, Ishbak, Ashur, (We named a cat Ashur. I wonder what ever happened to Ashur?) and Letush (great name for a market gardener), and Dedan (the trail goes dead with Dedan), and more. We never really find out? The line is followed only through Isaac, the promised son, not though these other sons.

It is strange to get a mention in Abraham’s family tree and then disappear into OBSCURITY. It seems they do nothing of any real significance worth mentioning. These other sons and grandsons made no real contribution to God’s purposes on the earth except to fulfil a promise made to Abraham of numerous descendents. Why are they mentioned by name at all? Perhaps God deliberately CONTRASTS them with those who follow the believing line which runs through Isaac. Will I leave a lasting Legacy or disappear into obscurity?

Abraham was a very wealthy man and at the time of his death Isaac inherits a huge fortune, everything Abraham has. But the HERITAGE OF FAITH that I give to my children is worth more than all my possessions. We have no idea of the difference we make when we believe in the promises of God and pass them on to our children. Genesis 25:11 (NLT) says “After Abraham’s death, God blessed his son Isaac” (see also Genesis 17:19).

The choices Abraham makes in his life give me an invitation to explore what it would look like if I believed in the promises of God. What if I, like Abraham, believed in the promise that one day through Abraham the nations of the world would be blessed. Isaac will continue the LINE OF FAITH that one day will lead to the Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ. What if I believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, who died for my sins?

Genesis 25 is not about Abraham’s death. It’s about LEAVING A LEGACY. I choose to believe in Christ and LEAVE A LIFECHANGING LEGACY of faith for generations to come. What about 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

Genesis 23 – WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITHOUT YOU?

Staking a Claim in a Promise

When dementia had taken it’s course, Bess (not her real name) was left with just a couple of words, but one word which she used to respond to almost any situation was the word “AMAZING!” After a lifetime of words, what a great word to have on your lips at the end of your life. Matthew 12:34 (NLT) says “whatever is in your HEART determines what you SAY.” By declaring life to be AMAZING Bess was not defeated by NEGATIVITY. Of course we sang AMAZING GRACE at her funeral.

In Genesis 23 Sarah’s life could also be summed up by the word “AMAZING” yet there were times when she was defeated by negativity and doubt. “Amazing!” describes the hope given to Sarah of having a son when she was 90 years old. It describes the laughter she felt welling up within her as she was overwhelmed by the joy of such a miracle when Isaac was finally born. She WAS AN AMAZING PERSON. In 1 Peter 3:5-6 she is used as an illustration of what it means to be someone who is truly beautiful. In Hebrews 11:11 she is listed as one who leaves behind an AMAZING LEGACY of faith and confident hope in the promises of God.

I wonder how Sarah responded when Abraham told her that God had told him to sacrifice their only son. Some suggest that the traumatic events of Genesis 22 shocked Sarah so much that she died before her time? I don’t think so. My grandmother died at 108 years old. Sarah dies at 127. She dies of old age, don’t you think? Abraham is even older at 137 years of age. For Isaac it must have been like living with his great grandparents. Imagine Parents Day at school? “No, this is my Mum.”

What am I supposed to do without you? How will I cope with the death of the one I love? I thought about this fleetingly when my wife, Julie, went into hospital recently for an operation. It’s not a thought anyone wants to dwell on. It is predictably heartbreaking for Abraham when Sarah dies. Many years, many adventures together. Now she is gone. “Abraham mourned and wept” (Genesis 23:2 NLT).

When we were living in the Whitsundays a Pastor told me that you will always feel like a stranger and a foreigner in a place until you buy a house and a burial plot. There’s something to that, taking ownership over a given area by saying “I intend to live and die here!”

After expressing his initial grief, in the midst of his pain, Abraham takes responsibility and makes an important decision in terms of appropriating what was his inheritance. He BUYS A PLOT OF LAND. Sarah is the first to die in the promised land. Buying her burial plot is STAKING A CLAIM in the promises of God.

This is the first and only land Abraham owned in his lifetime in Israel, a burial plot. Interesting. I could make some analogies about dying to self before you enter into the promises of God but the analogy would be pushing it.

When Abraham purchases this land from the Hittites, it is also interesting how he describes himself. In Genesis 23:4 (NLT) he says to the Hittite elders “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”

Abraham is financially well off. He is well respected. He is called a PRINCE (Genesis 23:6), so perhaps he is already a leader among them. They also recognize him as a FRIEND (Genesis 23:15) and offer him the very best land for free, but he sees himself as a STRANGER, and refuses to accept land that will cost him nothing. In Genesis 23:13 he pays 400 pieces of silver and in Genesis 23:18 “it was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate.” God sees him as owning the whole country!

Perhaps the invitation for me is that when I am facing the grief of loss and I find myself asking “What am I supposed to do now?” that’s when I have an opportunity to stake a claim in the promises of God as found in His Word, the Bible. They are my permanent possession. Yes it will involve a cost to make such a decision but it will also shape my destiny and life will continue to be painted with the colours of what can only be described as “AMAZING!”

Pastor Ross