Sun, Jan 13, 2008

RETURN TO BETHEL! GENESIS 35:1-7

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Ministry of Pastor Joe Guglielmo teachings through the Bible, verse by verse for a better understanding of Gods Word.
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RETURN TO BETHEL!
GENESIS 35:1-7

            Please turn in your Bibles this morning to Genesis chapter 35 as we look at God’s call to Jacob to Return to Bethel!  Back in Genesis chapter 28 Jacob leaves his home because his brother Esau wants to kill him for stealing his blessing from his father Isaac. He deceived his father into thinking he was giving the blessing to Esau, when in reality, it was Jacob.  And now Jacob is heading to his uncle Laban’s house until Esau cools off.

            On his way there, in Bethel, Jacob has an encounter with God and in Genesis 28:20-22 we are told of Jacob’s response to this encounter. We are told, Then Jacob made a vow, saying, "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God's house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.  In other words, “God if you take care of me, I will serve you!”  Not a great way to start, but at least it was a start.

            Jacob then spends 20 years at his uncle Laban’s house and during those years he worked 14 years to marry the two daughters of Laban: Rachel and Leah.  He also has 12 sons with Rachel, Leah and their two maids, Bilhah and Zilpah.  And God did bless Jacob just as He said He would and by the time we get to Genesis chapter 30 God stirs the heart of Jacob to return home, to return to Bethel but Laban had Jacob work another 6 years and now Jacob is ready to leave.

And in Genesis 31:13, as Jacob is telling Rachel and Leah what the Lord said to him, we are told, “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.

But Jacob does not go to Bethel; he stops in Succoth, which is not even in the Promise Land, the land of Canaan. And by what the text tells us, he built a home, he built stables for his livestock, and thus, he could have been there for a number of years.  Then, after this period of time, he decides to go to Shechem, in the Promise Land, in the land of Canaan.  Yes, Shechem was in the land of promise but it was not Bethel, he was about 20 to 30 miles away from Bethel. It was close, but no cigar!

I realize that some of you may feel this is not such a big deal; at least he is in the land. But it is a big deal and God shows us how devastating it is to be outside His will! You see, in Genesis chapter 34 Dinah, Jacob’s daughter goes to Shechem to have some fun, to go out with the girls of Shechem and there is where Shechem rapes her.  When Jacob hears about this he does nothing but Dinah’s brothers, when they come in from the fields, they are angry and even though Shechem wants to marry Dinah now I don’t believe he was doing this out of love, but out of lust, what she could give to him and not what he could give to her.  And Dinah’s brothers are not going to let this go; they are going to take care of things if their dad won’t!

Thus, Dinah’s brothers make a deal with Shechem and his father Hamor that if all the men of the city are circumcised, he could then marry Dinah and they would share in their possessions.  Well, that was not the plan, it was a lie and they learned well from their father Jacob to deceive. You see, on the third day after these men were circumcised, when they were in pain, when they couldn’t walk, Simeon and Levi came in and killed the men of the city; they wiped them out and plundered the city! And in Genesis 34:30 we are told, Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have troubled me by making me obnoxious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and since I am few in number, they will gather themselves together against me and kill me. I shall be destroyed, my household and I.’ 

Jacob is not concerned about his daughter Dinah and that she was raped, his only concern is, “What will the people of the land think of me? Are they going to destroy me for what you have done?”  And all that Simeon and Levi could said is, “ . . . ‘Should he treat our sister like a harlot?’  Genesis 30:31. Yes, it was wrong what was done to Dinah, but they did not handle the situation correctly and killed the people of the city for what one man did!

The point is this.  When you are not walking with God, when you are not in His will, when you are disobeying the Lord, not only will you be affected by it but your entire family will, as we have seen here! God called Jacob to go to Bethel and Jacob didn’t go, at least not yet!

Walter Knight told of an old Scottish woman who went from home to home across the countryside selling thread, buttons, and shoestrings. When she came to an unmarked crossroad, she would toss a stick into the air and go in the direction the stick pointed when it landed.

One day, however, she was seen tossing the stick up several times. "Why do you toss the stick more than once?" someone asked. "Because," replied the woman, "it keeps pointing to the left, and I want to take the road on the right." She then dutifully kept throwing the stick into the air until it pointed the way she wanted to go! 

- Today in the Word, May, 1989

            Folks, that is a very dangerous place to be, not where God has called you. And we do that don’t we? We justify our sin, we ignore what God is saying, we do things until they work the way we want and that is wrong and, like I said, it is dangerous!  With that said, let’s begin reading in Genesis chapter 35, starting in verse 1 and see what the Lord has for us as we will see God call Jacob once again to return to Bethel, to return to the house of God!

GENESIS 35:1-7

            As I was reading over these verses they seem to parallel the letter that Jesus wrote to the church in Ephesus there in Revelation chapter 2. Let me share with you this illustration to set the stage for what we will be looking at this morning and then we will look at those verses there in Revelation.  We are told:

            Muynak was once a thriving fishing port on the Aral Sea. But today, according to James Rupert of the Washington Post, Muynak sits on the edge of a bitter, salty desert. Sand dunes are strewn with the rusted, hollow hulls of a fishing fleet that once sailed high above on the surface of Central Asia’s fountain of life.

Things began changing 30 years ago when Stalinist planners began diverting the Aral’s water source to irrigate the world’s largest cotton belt. No one, however, envisioned the environmental disaster that would result. Weather has become more extreme, the growing season has been shortened by 2 months, and 80 percent of the region’s farmland has been ruined by salt storms that sweep in off the dry seabed.

What happened at Muynak parallels the history of the church of Ephesus. Once a thriving spiritual community, the Ephesian believers diverted their attention from Christ to works done in His name (Rev. 2:2-4). They had lost sight of what was most important in their relationship with Christ—their love for Him.

      - Our Daily Bread, June 19, 1993

            You see, Jesus said to this once thriving church in Ephesus, Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.  Revelation 2:4-5.

Now, how does that relate to Jacob?  Jacob left his first love, he didn’t lose God, he left Him.  Remember all that he said he would do for God and now that is on hold because he is not in the will of God. Folks, you can’t say you love God and ignore His will for your life, it doesn’t work like that and Jacob was finding that out the hard way!

            Jesus gives us the key of returning to your first love, returning to Jesus and it is not very complicated if we would only obey. He said you need to REMEMBERREPENT, andREPEAT and what Jesus told the church in Ephesus was not only for them, it is for us, for we have ears to hear and may we hear what the Lord is saying. And I believe Jacob is a good example of what Jesus was talking about here in Revelation chapter 2.

            Thus, we will break these verses down into three sections this morning.  They are:REMEMBER – GENESIS 35:1REPENT – GENESIS 35:2-4; and REPEAT – GENESIS 35:5-7. So let’s look at these three points this morning and see what we can glean from them to help us in our walk with the Lord and for those who have left their first love this morning, return to Him, be obedient to His will in your life!

            Now one more point before we move on and I want you to see that this is a big deal to God, that obedience to Him is very important. Listen carefully to what Samuel told King Saul when he did not fully obey the Lord. Yes, he was victorious against the Amalekites, but he did not obey the Lord fully and if you don’t, God won’t accept half of what He asked you to do as King Saul found out.  In I Samuel 15:22-23 we are told, So Samuel said: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, And stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, He also has rejected you from being king.’  You see, it is a big deal and we need to obey the Lord, for if you don’t, like I said, you have left your first love and if you don’t REMEMBERREPENT and REPEAT, your light of witness will go out as it did in Ephesus!

1.  REMEMBER – GENESIS 35:1

            God is calling Jacob to remember that encounter he had in Bethel, the joy that filled his life. Jacob needed to go back to the house of God, back to Bethel, to remember that encounter; he was not to loose sight of it!

            As Christians the Lord is calling us to remember our first encounter with God, how things were when we first got saved.  There was that joy in your life, you just wanted to tell everyone about Jesus and what He has done for you and how the Lord wants to touch their lives and cleanse them from their sin.

            What happened since then?  “I’m busy with the family!”  “I’m busy with work!” “I’m just busy!” or whatever the excuse you want to use but that does not cut it.  You see, you will make the time for that which is important to you, that which you feel is important, that you can’t do without!  When you first got saved there were other things competing for your attention, for your time with the Lord and yet, you did not let them get in the way.

            Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.  In other words, Jesus is telling us the proper attitude to have towards this life, where our focus is to be.  And this is very simple, what do you treasure most in this life and that is where your heart will be. If the Lord is not first then you have LEFT your first love. You see, you didn’t lose your first love, you have walked away and when you do, your life will manifest that reality!

            In Galatians 5:19-21 Paul gives to us the ugliness of the flesh and yes, when we are not walking with God, when He is not our first love, then we will manifest these things in our life. Paul put it like this, Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

            That was Jacob and if you notice God does call him Jacob or schemer, heel-catcher because he is doing his own thing. And like I said, Jacob’s sin, his not walking with God affected his entire family and not in a good way.  You see, if he was walking with the Lord then the Lord would have called him Israel or governed by God instead of Jacob, but He didn’t!

            Where are you at this morning? Have you distanced yourself from God and thus, the ugliness of the flesh is seen in your actions?  And please understand, you can’t hide your sin from God and we will deal more with this in our next section. But if you don’t deal with it, God will expose it!

            Think about this for a minute. When the Prodigal Son was in the pigpen, the first step in restoration was REMEMBERING what it was like in his fathers home! In Luke 15:15-19 we are told, Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’ 

Folks, that is also the first step in getting back to where you should be with the Lord! Thus, REMEMBER FROM WHERE YOU HAVE FALLEN!

2.  REPENT – GENESIS 35:2-4

            Notice the garbage that was collected by Jacob’s family when he was not walking with the Lord- IDOLS!  You see, Jacob was the spiritual leader of the family and his actions of not obeying the Lord, not walking with the Lord, affected his family in a very negative way.

            Thus, he calls for them to remove all their idols, to bring them in and then he buries them under the terebinth tree. What I see here is repentance before the Lord and the reason I say that is because if there were no repentance there would be no change in their behavior!

           You see, repentance means we do an about face or we turn 180 degrees. We were moving away from the Lord in one direction and then we repent and we move towards God as we walk with Him.  And please understand that repentance is not feeling sorry for what you did or that you got caught, it is a change of heart that then leads to a change of action or the things we do.

            And I like what they did with their idols; they buried them under the terebinth tree. For us, we need to confess our sin, the idols we have set up in our lives, and bury them at the foot of the cross and once we do, don’t go digging them back up!

            Paul, in II Corinthians 7:8-10 tells us about two kinds of sorrow by saying, For even if I made you sorry with my letter, I do not regret it; though I did regret it. For I perceive that the same epistle made you sorry, though only for a while. Now I rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that your sorrow led to repentance. For you were made sorry in a godly manner, that you might suffer loss from us in nothing. For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

            If Paul is speaking of his first letter to the Corinthians, full of correction, it was difficult for him to send it, and yet, Paul knew it had to be sent.  And as they read it they were hurt, they felt sorry but that sorrow then lead them to repent of their sin and get right with God. It is as Trapp tells us, “In sin, the pleasure passeth, the sorrow remaineth; but in repentance, the sorrow passeth, the pleasure abideth for ever. God soon poureth the oil of gladness into broken hearts.”  It is as David said in Psalm 30:5, For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.  May we not forget that and may we give Him those things in our life that only brings hurt and pain so that we can have that joy that is fresh every morning!

            For the Corinthians, their sorrow led to repentance; it led to a change in the direction that they were going. You see, repentance is more than a feeling, it is an action word and it speaks of turning around.  They were moving away from God by their actions, they repented and came back to God that led to salvation or SOTERIA (so-tay-ree’-ah) in the Greek, and it speaks of more than just being born again, it encompasses all that God has for us, that our walk is not hindering God from pouring out His blessings upon us!

            Think about people who are sorry, prisons are full of them, sorry for getting caught.  That is worldly sorrow and it does not led to life, but to death.  It does not cause a person to change but they continue to move in the same direction away from God. That kind of sorrow produces death, spiritual death in a person!  It is as Redpath tells us, “How sorry do you thank you have to be?  What is the purpose of your sorrow for sin?  It is to bring you to trust in the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is not your sorrow that cleanses you from sin, but His blood.  It is the goodness of God that leads a man to repentance.  Has your sorrow for sin led you at one time or another to bring all the burden of it at the feet of a crucified, risen Savior? If it hasn’t, anything short of that is what Paul here calls sorrow that leads to death.”

            Onetime there were two brothers. One was an outstanding citizen and the other was a convict. The convict brother killed a man, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. His brother who was well respected went to his friend the governor and pleaded for a pardon for his brother. Since the governor respected the murderer's brother he issued the pardon and gave to his friend. The brother went to the prison and visited with his sibling.

He asked him, "What would you do if you were to escape or get released?" His brother replied from his cell, "First, I would kill the judge, then I'd murder the chief witness against me." Upon hearing this his brother ended the conversation, walked out of the prison with the pardon in his pocket and gave it back to the governor.

You see his brother hadn't repented. He hadn't had a change of heart.

- S. Toussaint

            The problem for some Christians is that they think they can live in sin and if no one finds out, they are in the clear!  How foolish that is. Yes, the Lord is gracious and merciful, He will give you time to repent, but if you don’t, He will shout your sin from the rooftop, it will be exposed so that you will repent of your sin, you will get right with God!

            A sad illustration of this is in the life of King David, who had everything, God truly blessed him and yet he sinned with Bathsheba, had sexual relations with this married woman and she became pregnant! Uriah her husband was one of David’s mighty men, a soldier in David’s army and once David finds out she is pregnant, he calls him home, hoping he will have sex with his wife and he will think the child is his. But this man is honorable and feels that if his fellow soldiers are out in the field, he should not be enjoying this pleasure. Thus, David has Uriah killed in battle and in II Samuel 11:27 we are told, “And when her mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.

            David covered his sin and he was really good at it, at least he thought he was.  The people must of thought he was a great guy, marrying the widow of one of David’s mighty men and she was pregnant! But that was all a façade and there was one who knew the truth, and that was God!  And as much as David saw this as right, and isn’t it amazing how we can justify our sin, and yet God saw this as evil!

            Now for a whole year David did not repent and it made him physically sick, spiritually dead, but he still refused to repent. We can be so hardheaded when it comes to our own sin, can’t we! I’m sure he didn’t see it as sin, as wrong. He didn’t do anything bad. Thus, what he tried to keep silent about, God is going to shout from the rooftops!

            You see, the Lord sends Nathan the prophet to David and he tells David this story to see how David will judge in this case, since he was the king. There was a rich man and a poor man. The rich man had much flocks; many herds while the poor man had one little lamb that he loved like a daughter. In fact, it slept in his house with them.  Well, one day a traveler comes to visit the rich man and instead of taking a lamb out of his own flocks, he goes and takes this poor man’s lamb and makes some lamb chops for this traveler!

            I know, when you hear that it makes you angry and it made David angry, he was so mad that he wanted this rich man to be put to death for his actions and in II Samuel 12:7-12 we are told, Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man! Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave you your master's house and your master's wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more! Why have you despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”  Thus says the Lord: “Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.”’

            Isn’t it amazing how our sin looks so bad when someone else is committing it! You see, before God, it’s all bad, it is all ugly, even when we do it! And yes, David did repent but there were consequences to his actions, to his sin and the lesson is simple. Don’t go down that path in the first place; learn the lesson ahead of time!

            If you are living in unconfessed sin, if you refuse to repent or deal with it, as a child of God, He will deal with you because He loves you. You see, sin is destructive, not only for us but also for our families, our friends. Like Jacob, like David, we are sinning against God but the sin we do affects others!

            In Psalm 139:23-24 David said, Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.  Folks, allow God to search your heart and when He exposes sin in your life, repent, turn away from the sin and turn back to God! If you don’t it just shows that you have left your first love!

            Thus, REPENT is a command to change our direction and move towards God, to be obedient to Him. The key – REPENT!

3.  REPEAT – GENESIS 35:5-7

            After Jacob REMEMBERED the encounter he had with God at Bethel.  After JacobREPENTED of his sin. Jacob then returned to Bethel, the place God wanted him to be in the first place, in fellowship with God!  What was going on inside of Jacob now overflowed into his actions and the people of that area saw the hand of God upon his life!

            For us, what does it mean to repeat or to do the first works?  I believe it is speaking of doing those things you did when you first fell in love with Jesus, when you first got saved. Remember how you use to spend time in God’s Word – REPEAT! Remember how you use to pray – REPEAT! Remember how you couldn’t wait to go to church and hear God’s Word – REPEAT! Remember the joy you had when you fellowshipped with other Christians – REPEAT! Remember how excited you were to tell others about Jesus – REPEAT! What has happened? You left your first love!

            Let me share with you these things that may stimulate you into checking to see where you are at this morning.  This is from Pulpit Helps and they say that you “lost your first love” and I don’t believe that is correct. Your first love, Jesus is not lost, you left Him! Thus, I am going to change it to “left” from “lost.”  You have left your first love . . .

1. When my delight in the Lord is no longer as great as my delight in someone else, I have left my first love.

2. When my soul does not long for times of rich fellowship in God’s Word or in prayer, I have left my first love.

3. When my thoughts during leisure moments do not reflect upon the Lord, I have left my first love.

4. When I claim to be “only human” and easily give in to those things I know displease the Lord, I have left my first love.

5. When I do not willingly and cheerfully give to God’s work or to the needs of others, I have left my first love.

6. When I cease to treat every Christian brother as I would the Lord, I have left my first love.

7. When I view the commands of Christ as restrictions to my happiness rather than expressions of His love, I have left my first love.

8. When I inwardly strive for the acclaim of this world rather than the approval of the Lord, I have left my first love.

9. When I fail to make Christ or His words known because I fear rejection, I have left my first love.

10. When I refuse to give up an activity, which I know is offending a weaker brother, I have left my first love.

11. When I become complacent to sinful conditions around me, I have left my first love.

12. When I am unable to forgive another for offending me, I have left my first love.

- Pulpit Helps, May, 1992

            If you refuse to REMEMBERREPENT and REPEAT, Jesus said, “ . . . I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.Revelation 2:5.  When the light of God is removed from your life, you still may do works, you may do this and you may do that, but it will not be accepted by the Lord, He wants your love and when He has that, good works will flow! If you are living in rebellion against God, if you are not obeying His call for your life, then you need to REMEMBERREPENT, andREPEAT or the light will go out!  It is as I Samuel 4:21 tells us, ICHABOD, or that the glory of God has departed from your life!  Don’t allow that to happen!

Do you know what happened to this church in Ephesus? What happened to this church that started out so well, that was filled with the love of Christ and that was the motivating factor for their service unto Him?  It is just as the Lord said would happen if they did not return to their first love.  You see, the Lord did His part, they just refused to obey and there were consequences to their non-action.  The city of Ephesus today is in ruins. Their light went out.  Its harbor is gone; the sea is some 6 miles away and unapproachable by ship!  The Gulf of Ephesus and the harbor is nothing more than a marsh dense with reeds.  You see, when the Lord says, or else He does really mean it, it is no joke!  The name Ephesusmeans Desirable One and the Desirable One, Jesus Christ is no longer seen in them, their light has gone out. And what is left for us to see is a vivid reminder that God means what He says and says what He means and we need to listen!

            God has given you a warning and an example of what happens when you don’t listen.  Now please, don’t get over analytical about this, but just examine your walk and do what the Lord is showing you.  REMEMBERREPENT and REPEAT, fall back in love with Jesus all over again or the light of Christ that is shinning in your life, that is shinning in your lampstand will be gone and you will no longer shine brightly for Jesus, you will not be a witness of Him in this dark world!

            Listen to how the Amplified Bible puts these verses here in Revelation 2:4-5, But I have this [one charge to make] against you: that you have left (abandoned) the love that you had at first [you have deserted Me, your first love]. Remember then from what heights you have fallen. Repent (change the inner man to meet God's will) and do the works you did previously [when first you knew the Lord], or else I will visit you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you change your mind and repent.  May we heed the warning and obey the Lord, Jacob did!

            Thus, REMEMBER from where you have fallen!  REPENT of your sin and get right with God, follow after Him!  And, REPEAT and do those first works you did when you first were saved, when you were in love with Jesus!  RETURN TO BETHEL!

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