EXPLOITS EVEN IN THE WILDERNESS

Wilderness

When God brought the nation of Israel from Egypt to the border of Canaan, they didn’t believe that they could overcome the giants in the land. Because of their unbelief, God sent them into the wilderness to wander for forty years.

God’s purpose in the wilderness was to starve out their unbelief and bring them to the place where they would have faith to enter Canaan and conquer the giants of the land.

Although the wilderness was designed to grow the corporate faith of the nation, it also served to expose their unbelief. We can see this in the following passage:

     How often they provoked Him in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! Yes, again and again they tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel (Psa. 78:40-41).

The wilderness brings you face to face with your unbelief.

One reason they struggled with unbelief in the wilderness was because their surroundings were so bleak. Everywhere they turned, the terrain screamed at them, “This place is hopeless! You cannot live here. If you stay in this wilderness, it’ll be your end. It is impossible for you to do anything productive in this barren land. This place is too hard—even for God.”

Your wilderness probably screams similar things at you. “This is impossible! Your life is over.”

When times are good, we feel good about our faith levels. When our faith isn’t being challenged, it’s easy to think that it’s stronger than it actually is. When God leads us into the wilderness, those illusions are stripped away and we are confronted with our unbelief. Will we heed the voices of unbelief that suddenly accost us in this barren wilderness?

Some of the things you see about yourself in the wilderness will shock you. “This wilderness is stronger, in my eyes, than my God!”

When confronted with your unbelief in the wilderness, launch on a pilgrimage—a quest for authentic faith in the Holy Spirit. View your wilderness as a “school of the Spirit,” designed by God to mentor you in mountain-moving faith. If you’ll pursue it, God will lead you into great exploits even while you’re still in this wilderness.

A prayer: “Lord, I purpose in my heart, by Your grace, to refuse to allow this wilderness to limit how You can use me in this season. I choose to believe that even now, in these wilderness years, You can gain great glory through my obedience.”

Your current limitations do not limit God. O desert dweller, refuse to “limit the Holy One of Israel!”

AND PAUL CAME TO EPHESUS – CONSIDERING THE IMPACT OF ONE’S LIFE AND DECISIONS

paul came to ephesus

Sylvia Evans is a personal friend and beloved teacher in the body of Christ. She serves on the faculty at Elim Bible Institute (Lima, NY), hence the reference to the Ephesians class she teaches there. You will enjoy this piece. -Bob Sorge

He couldn’t stay long.  He was just passing through on his way from Corinth.  He had to get to Jerusalem for the feast and get back to other places where he had already been.  It was a short-term mission.  But Paul “came to Ephesus.”  The significance of that little fact would manifest over the next few years…and decades…and down through time to our very day.

“And he came to Ephesus”!  The tip of the spear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had pierced the pagan wall of the city of Ephesus. At that “point,” no one knew how penetrating it would be.

“And he came to Ephesus.”  Shortly thereafter, Luke says, Paul departed from Ephesus. He didn’t stay long.  He left, but he left something there. He left a deposit of the word of God and the truth of the Gospel, imparted in the synagogue.  He left a hunger in the hearts of those who had heard him and a desire on their part for him to stay.  He left a promise, “I will return again to you if God will.” Then Luke says, “And he sailed from Ephesus.”

But he left something else.  He left a personal deposit, an investment in the city — he left two people in whose lives he was making a personal investment.  He had brought Priscilla and Aquila there, just a humble, exiled couple whom he cared for in their major transition — Jewish tentmakers, chased out of Rome in one of those historical movements to annihilate Jews. They had left Rome and had come to Corinth.  Soon afterward, Tentmaker Paul “departed from Athens, and he came to Corinth” and met them there — “found” them, I should say, because Luke chose to say it that way — “found a certain Jew…with his wife,” and “he came to them.”  Personal connection.  He “found” a treasure of a couple with a love for God.  He may have found them on the street or at the market — or at a tanner’s shop — or maybe in the synagogue.  It may be their conversation had started over tent-making…or their common heritage as Jews…or the persecution and what was happening in Rome…and then Christians…and then Jesus.

Or maybe it had started with Jesus.  Did they already know Jesus? Were they already Christians?  We don’t know, and Luke doesn’t tell, but after finding commonality, giving hospitality, and making friendship with Paul, living and working with him, it is sure they knew Jesus! Now a love for Jesus was their common bond, and Paul didn’t want to leave them in Corinth.  He wanted them to go with him.  So he took them, and “he came to Ephesus,” bringing them with him, only to leave them there.

It was much like his meeting and apprehending Timothy, as Luke had recorded two chapters before — “him would Paul have go forth with him.” Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; Paul found Timothy; Paul wanted him to go with him.  And he did. Personal connection. Young Timothy’s life would never be the same.  It would take turns he never could have imagined, and he would take journeys he might never have hoped for, with a forward thrust into a future destiny he might never have dreamed of — all because Paul came to Galatia…and came to Derbe and Lystra.  Now Paul had come to Asia…and to Ephesus, with young Timothy at his side.  Thus Timothy came to Ephesus. One day Paul would leave him there — to pastor the church that was yet to be formed.

But before there was a church, the tentmakers were on the team with Timothy.  Personal connection.  They all “came to Ephesus” together with Paul.  Then he “left them there” — Priscilla and Aquila.  Destiny — not only theirs, but others’ — was in that leaving.

Then Apollos “came to Ephesus” to teach in the synagogue — an eloquent and educated teacher, who was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and to some degree he “was instructed in the way of the Lord.” Then he met Priscilla and Aquila.  Personal connection. His life and ministry were about to be changed.  I’m sure Apollos shared “perfectly” what he had learned, but “knowing only the baptism of John,” he needed to know “the way of the Lord more perfectly.”  That would be happening soon — because Priscilla and Aquila had come to Ephesus, because Paul had come to Ephesus, and now because Apollos had come to Ephesus.  It was the Gospel juncture in the will of God according to His purpose — for their lives and for Ephesus.

Modern English grammar rules say that the word “perfectly” can’t have degrees — once “perfect,” there’s no “more” or “most” to be added, but the old KJV translation says “more perfectly” in English, the proper Elizabethan-Shakespearean English. “More perfectly” suggests we can never get a complete and perfect knowledge of “the way of the Lord.” We always want and need to know more.  We may share perfectly what we know perfectly up to that measure we already have received of instruction, but there is more.  We are always learners. And the more of Jesus we have, the more of Jesus we want.  (I’ve often said, “The more of God you know, the more of God you have to go.”)  Infinite God!  Infinite knowledge is His, but mine is finite unless I open myself to learn more!  As I’ve often said, I want a “satisfied unsatisfaction” or maybe better said, an “unsatisfied satisfaction.”  Satisfied that I’ve found the right thing, but never satisfied that I’ve had enough.  I’m not “dissatisfied,” as though what I’ve found is not the right thing nor the thing that I need.  I’m just not “satisfied” that I have drunk enough from the infinite supply of Living Water.  I can’t drink it all all at once; but I can drink all that it is …once and again…and again…and again.  I know that Jesus is enough for all I need, but I never have enough of Him!  “More about Jesus would I know,” an old hymn says.

As a young high school teacher, I declared about myself, “I am a teach-learner.”  It seems that so was Apollos. He was hungry for more, and he was willing to learn. Now, because Paul had come to Ephesus…and had brought them…and had left them, the simple tentmakers were in place to make their impact. They, too, were in the synogogue in Ephesus.  They were learners, making themselves available to hear his eloquent exposition of the Scriptures, but they were also teachers…teachers of “the Way.”   When Apollos next came to Corinth, he had something more to give, because “he came to Ephesus” first!

Then Luke says again, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”  He was back — and this time to stay for a while.

That simple statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus,” has grabbed my heart.  I have looked back over the “comings and goings” in my own life to consider whether there was any impact for the Kingdom of God — any effect in the lives of others because I “came” to those places.  But at first I was not thinking only of myself.  As those words leaped off the page while I was teaching my opening class on “Ephesians and the Church at Ephesus,” they took on a prophetic unction as I saw before me the potential “Paul” and “Apollos” and “Timothy” and “Priscilla” and “Aquila” in this generation of Elimites.  I remembered that last year the Lord had instructed me not to look at my students for who and what they are now, but for who and what they will be — pastors and missionaries and apostles and prophets and teachers and…and…and….

So I stopped to challenge my students in the Ephesians class to consider the possible impact each of them can have just by coming to a city, a village, a country, a school, a business, a street corner.  How will the very place be changed — its atmosphere, its religion, its politics, its culture, and even its economy?  What will be the influence on that place just because this Elim student has come?    Whose life will be touched, changed, redirected, set on a path toward a divine destiny? Whom will this future leader choose to take with him?  What personal connections will she make?  Who will find a new sense of value and purpose just by being asked to “come along” with one of these leaders-in-the-making? Whom will he or she bring to that place and leave there, set in place for future impact?

Looking out on my class, I knew there was a “Priscilla” and/or an “Aquila” there who could one day instruct an “Apollos” in “the way of the Lord.”  There was a “Timothy” who would one day be set in and left by an “Apostle Paul” of our day to do what Timothy did in Ephesus.  He established a “called out” company of “holy ones” — “saints” — who would become the “church” of that city and that region of the world.  He would nurture a growing “body” and help every “member” to know its place and every “joint” to supply its part.  He would prepare a spotless “bride” for Christ, and set “living stones” into a “holy temple.”  He would bring a “household” together and see unity working in a “family” made up of “chosen ones” who were formerly estranged and “far off,” but who would now be “made nigh” by the blood of Christ and made “one” by “the spirit of adoption.” He would be the steward over God’s “inheritance,” His treasures, the “saints,” in that place. (These are all portraits Paul painted of the Church in his letter to the Ephesians.)

And many centuries later, even in our day, Paul’s personal letters to Timothy would give  structure for church leadership, spiritual principles and guidelines for church leaders, and character-coaching for leaders on all levels. They were all written to Timothy, young pastor in Ephesus.  Paul found him, Paul chose him, Paul fathered him, Paul taught him, and Paul trained him.  Paul brought him, Paul set him, and Paul left him.     And then when he was about to offer his life in Rome, Paul sent for him, to come (probably from Ephesus) so he could entrust to him the Gospel ministry. Timothy — the young man Paul had taken from his home place, the one he had often sent from place to place, the “son” who would go in his place, now the one he had chosen to set in this place — in Ephesus.

Paul had had his own season there, of course, teaching “the things of the Kingdom of God” in the school of Tyrannus for two years — during which time “the word of the Lord went throughout all Asia.”  That means both the message and the messengers spread out from the Ephesian hub into Asia Minor — and not just the message, but also the manifestations of the Gospel at work.    Miracles, deliverances, “demonstrations of the spirit and of power.”  Manifestations of the power of God as the antithesis and the antidote to manifestations of the power of Satan.  “And the word of the Lord prevailed”!

Individual men and women were being saved, healed, set free, and apprehended by the Gospel and for the Gospel.  It was a better “way” to live!  They became known as “people of the Way” — “the Way of the Lord.”   One by one and then in droves, people forsook witchcraft. They burned their expensive books and fetishes — burned and stopped buying.

Pagans left their idols.  Forsook them.  Destroyed them.  Forsook and stopped buying.  Problem!  Those idols were tied to the economy of the region by the purse-strings of the silversmiths.  Snap!  The Gospel was breaking the purse-strings.   Kingdom conflict at its peak.

The culture of the Kingdom of God was overtaking the culture of the kingdom of Satan.  The culture of the Kingdom of Light was penetrating the culture of the kingdom of darkness.  The culture of the worship of God was undoing the culture of the worship of Diana (Artemis).  The Prince of Life was being exalted and the principalities of darkness and death were raging with jealousy!  The conflict moved into the amphitheater of the community — the whole city in an uproar!  And Puny Little Paul was at fault, accused of “turning away much people” from the worship of Diana — not only in that city but in “almost all Asia.”  Puny Little Paul, with a powerful Gospel of a powerful God and a Prince of a Savior, had “persuaded” people to turn to Jesus, the Son of God.  The “persecutor” had become the “persuader” with a positive Gospel of a powerful Savior.

Demetrius accused him of “despising the temple of Diana,” but Paul was simply telling the Ephesians that they were becoming the Temple of God!   Becoming that Temple of God, they would no longer be coming to the temple of the goddess!

All this because of the little statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”

And with him, for most of the time, was Paul’s own “son in the Gospel,” Timothy, who “ministered unto him” and who ministered with him and who one day would minister after him.  Set in as pastor at Ephesus to establish the church, he would perpetuate the message and the ministry of the Gospel after Paul. As Paul had taught him, Timothy would find faithful men and teach them, and then they would “teach others also.”

“And Timothy came to Ephesus,” history would read — and time would tell the impact of his coming.

 

LESSONS FROM JACOB – COMPLETE SERIES

lessons from jacob full

Waiting on God

Jacob was the only person in Genesis to talk about waiting on God. While prophesying over his sons, he stopped to exclaim, “I have waited for your salvation, O LORD!” (Gen. 49:18). The statement appears out of place in its context, but when you realize how waiting was so central to Jacob’s story, it makes sense. Even though it took many years, eventually he saw the day when God sent from heaven and saved him.

After Jacob, the Scriptures are virtually silent on the discipline of waiting on God until the advent of David. The whole thing burst to life in David’s writings. David’s psalmist anointing, which was fueled from a place of long and loving meditation in the word, necessitated an awakening to waiting on God in His presence. Perhaps it is not accidental that as the first scriptural writer to place considerable focus on the grace of waiting, David was also very taken with Jacob. David mentions Jacob in his writings more than any other patriarch.

After David, the next Bible author to pick up the banner of waiting on God was Isaiah. Isaiah is “the king of wait.” Is it accidental that he mentions the name of Jacob forty-two times? Both David and Isaiah placed profound significance upon Jacob as an example for us to follow.

“Waiting” is an excellent word to summarize Jacob’s life. It’s true that over his span of 147 years he had some bell-ringing, catalytic moments. But the vast majority of his story was marked by extended periods of waiting on God. Brief bursts of divine activity were separated by vast expanses of virtual inactivity.

Actually, this is one of God’s signature ways. He separates His most outstanding works by protracted periods of seeming silence. Then, when He finally manifests His glory, it shines all the more brilliantly. Consider the lengthy span between each of God’s most outstanding wonders: from creation to the flood, to the exodus, to the return from exile, to the resurrection of Christ, and then to the future coming of Christ. There’s a long time between each of those six mighty events! It’s those prolonged lapses between His major activities that put the flair into the way God invades and redirects human history. The deafening silence of the thousands of years between each mighty intervention has rumbled throughout history in timpanic drumrolls of suspenseful anticipation.

The waiting seasons actually give God the room He needs to write the story. Those who demand resolution too hastily can forfeit the grandeur of what God was intending to write. By taking things into your own hands prematurely, you can undermine the basis upon which God was planning to write your last, great chapter.

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, nor has the eye seen any God besides You, who acts for the one who waits for Him (Isa. 64:4).

Takeaway: Wait on God. Give Him some material to work with.

 

Wrestling to be a Prince

In the wrestling match with Christ, Jacob asked Him to tell His name.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (Gen. 32:28-29).

Jesus did not divulge His name to Jacob. But if He had, He might have said to him, “Israel.” Because Israel is one of the names of Christ. This is seen in Isaiah.

And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa. 49:3).

This verse appears in the “Servant songs” of Isaiah. The context clearly indicates that the Father is the speaker, and He is talking to His Son, the Servant. The Father, addressing His Son, calls Him Israel.

Israel means “Prince with God.” Truly Jesus is the ultimate Prince with God! He wears the name gloriously. Jesus is the true Israel of God. To be in Israel, you must be in Christ, because Christ is Israel.

At Peniel, Jacob was wrestling with Israel! When Jesus gave Jacob the name Israel, He was giving him His own name.

Jacob did not really understand it at the time, but he was wrestling for his name. “If you are to be a Prince with God, Jacob, you are going to have to wrestle down the name.”

Takeaway: To wear the name Christ has for you, don’t be surprised if you have to wrestle it down.

 

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

Several times in Scripture, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (e.g. Ex. 3:6). Let me explain one reason why that designation is significant to me personally. It helps me define who I serve.

In today’s world of multiple gods, I consider it wise to identify precisely which God I serve. I serve the God of Abraham. But I need to be more specific because Abraham had several sons (1 Chron. 1:32). I do not serve the God of Ishmael (one of Abraham’s sons), but the God of Isaac.

But even that is not precise enough because Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. I do not serve the God of Esau but of Jacob.

Still, that is not specific enough in today’s world because two major world religions (Judaism and Christianity) trace their roots to Jacob. I serve the God who gave to Jacob the name Israel. In other words, I serve the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Yes, I can tell you exactly which God I serve. My God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 3:13). For me, there is no other.

Takeaway: Serve the only and true God of Jacob: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

The Hard Way

We learn from Jacob’s life that sometimes God wants things to transpire the hard way. God could have made everything so much easier on Jacob by just saying to him, “Jacob, go down to Egypt.” God led Abraham down to Egypt, and He could have just as easily done the same with Jacob.

But instead, God put the squeeze on Jacob. First, he lost Joseph; then he lost Simeon; and the man in Egypt was wanting Benjamin next. Add to that, the intense distress from the famine. His entire household was hungry! The combination of stress factors put incredible pressure on God’s beloved servant. He went through all kinds of emotional gyrations before he was finally presented with the solution of going to Egypt to meet Joseph.

After Jacob was finally settled in Egypt, I can imagine him wondering, “Lord, why did You make it so hard on me? I would have happily followed Your voice. All You had to do was say to me, ‘Move to Egypt.’ Why did You make it come down the hard way?”

The truth is that often God leads His favorites in the hard way. (The leading example, of course, is the cross of Christ.) Why? Because God accomplishes so many things at multiple levels by letting the thing happen the hard way. He uses the difficulty to excavate hearts and produce greater eternal fruit than if an easier path had been taken.

Takeaway: Do not be thrown off balance if God allows a portion of your journey to come down the hard way.

 

Even Numbers

I have noticed that sometimes God uses even numbers, or numbers with a meaningful association, to draw attention to the significance of a certain person’s story in that moment. Let me give a few examples.

Enoch walked with God for 365 years, and then God took him (Gen. 5:24). Why did God not take him at age 364 or at 366? God waited until Enoch was precisely 365 because of the significance of the number. That number in itself was a message from God: “I want to walk with man 365 days a year in unbroken fellowship.”

God waited to send the flood until Noah was precisely six hundred years old (Gen. 7:6). Why the even number? To indicate that God’s timing was based not on some calendar in heaven but on the calendar of Noah’s life. Through his faith and righteousness, Noah became a timepiece and chronometer to his generation of heaven’s movements in the earth. This underscored the significance of Noah as the man at that time around whom God was writing human history.

How old was Abraham when Isaac was born? One hundred. The even number arrests us. It tells us, “Look at Abraham. He’s My man. What I am doing with him right now is very important.”

Moses’ life divides into three forty-year periods. The timing of the exodus and entrance into the promised land was calibrated to the life of one man, Moses. 40, 80, 120 years. The emphasis of those even numbers highlighted the importance of Moses in God’s redemptive plan.

God waited to lead Israel out of Egypt until their exodus fell precisely on 430 years to the day since God had spoken to Abraham (Ex. 12:41). This was God’s way of saying, “This is purposeful. Pay attention.”

Several men are emphasized in the Bible by making significant moments happen when they were thirty years old. At age thirty, Joseph rose from the prison to the palace; David became king of Judah; God visited Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1); John the Baptist’s ministry was launched; Christ Jesus’ ministry was launched. Quite often God lines up everything on earth to the timeline of His servant, so that he literally becomes God’s calendar.

Now, here’s how this principle applies to Jacob. The Bible makes a point of noting that when God brought His salvation to Jacob’s life and brought him down to Egypt, Jacob was 130 (Gen. 47:9). The even number is intended to alert us. God did not deliver him at 131, but at an even 130.

At this juncture in Jacob’s narrative, Joseph was 39. Some readers might think that Joseph was the key character in the story at this point, but the use of the numbers tells us otherwise. If Joseph were the main player, God would have waited one year until Joseph was 40 and Jacob 131. But no, Joseph was to be 39, and Jacob was to be an even 130. The numbers, just by themselves, tell us who the primary person is at that moment. Jacob is the man. It is his story that we are to behold.

Takeaway: Be watchful for ways in which God uses numbers to bring emphasis to your story.

 

Compounded Generational Blessings

Jacob was desperate to receive the blessing of his father, Isaac. The intensity of Jacob’s desire for the blessing pointed to its significance. The blessing that Isaac had to give was powerful and eternally important. But now here’s a stunning statement from Jacob, as he spoke to his sons.

The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills (Gen. 49:26).

Jacob was telling his sons, “As much as I wanted my father’s blessing, I have more to give than he. What I have to give greatly excels the blessing of my father, as high as the everlasting hills.”[1] The implication of his statement is, “I wanted my father’s blessing desperately and did my utmost to get it. How you have lived your lives has demonstrated how badly each of you, in turn, have wanted the blessing that I have to give.”

Reuben, the firstborn, obviously did not earnestly covet his father’s blessing. You don’t sleep with your father’s wife if you are passionate about receiving his blessing.

Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the one who demonstrated the greatest zeal to receive his father’s blessing, so he was the one who got the greatest share.

Genesis 49:26 (above) shows that Jacob had become a profoundly spiritual man. The deposit of grace that he was able to pass to his sons was richer and deeper than the grace on Abraham or Isaac.

Takeaway: You have more to give your children than your parents gave you. Your pinnacle becomes your children’s platform.

 

A Grandfather Anointing

When Joseph brought his two sons to Jacob for a blessing, Jacob crossed his arms, placing his right hand on the younger grandson.

Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head. And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.” But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.” So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’” And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:17-20).

Joseph was thinking analytically. He thought it proper for his father to place his right hand upon the firstborn. Jacob, however, was functioning out of his spirit, not his head. In the Spirit, Jacob perceived a greater inheritance for the younger Ephraim.

The grandfather had greater clarity into the calling and destiny of the sons than the father. Where Joseph was clouded, Jacob could see.

It was not uncommon in Scripture for fathers to lack discernment regarding their sons. For example, Isaac favored Esau, even though Jacob was God’s choice. Jesse favored his oldest sons, although David was God’s choice.  Joseph favored Manasseh when Ephraim was God’s choice.  Preconceived ideas can blind a father from accurately recognizing the grace and anointing that rests upon a certain child. This is where the perceptivity of a godly grandfather can complete the picture.

Takeaway for grandparents: Ask God for an anointing in the Holy Spirit to call forth the destiny of your grandchildren.

 

Intimacy Makes it Personal

At the end of his life, Jacob made a statement that is easy to gloss over and not fully absorb. Jacob uttered these words in the context of his blessing over his son, Joseph.

But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) (Gen. 49:24).

In this verse, Jacob described God as “the Mighty God of Jacob.” It was quite a bold affirmation. It was a very assertive way to say, “He is my God.”

If I were to use the same language, I would say, “He is the Mighty God of Bob.” Go ahead, insert in your own name there. Do you have the confidence—the ownership—to call Him the God of (insert your name)?

I wonder what kind of intimacy and conviction rested in the bosom of Jacob when he spoke to his children of “the Mighty God of Jacob.” The confidence behind this assertion came as a result of God’s salvation in his life. God showed His salvation by returning Joseph, Simeon, and Benjamin to him, and providing abundantly for his family in Goshen. That’s when Jacob realized how vested God was personally in their relationship.

When God took Jacob’s hip out, Jacob took it personally; then, when God restored Jacob’s losses, Jacob realized that the whole story was profoundly personal to God, too. The affection between them was torrential. It was all about love and loyalty.

I am asking God to finish my story in such a manner that at the end of my race I might be able to talk to my children, like Jacob, about “the God of Bob.”

Takeaway: By the time your last chapter is complete, may it be that personal for you, too.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – INTIMACY MAKES IT PERSONAL

PERSONAL

At the end of his life, Jacob made a statement that is easy to gloss over and not fully absorb. Jacob uttered these words in the context of his blessing over his son, Joseph.

But his bow remained in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob (from there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel) (Gen. 49:24).

In this verse, Jacob described God as “the Mighty God of Jacob.” It was quite a bold affirmation. It was a very assertive way to say, “He is my God.”

If I were to use the same language, I would say, “He is the Mighty God of Bob.” Go ahead, insert in your own name there. Do you have the confidence—the ownership—to call Him the God of (insert your name)?

I wonder what kind of intimacy and conviction rested in the bosom of Jacob when he spoke to his children of “the Mighty God of Jacob.” The confidence behind this assertion came as a result of God’s salvation in his life. God showed His salvation by returning Joseph, Simeon, and Benjamin to him, and providing abundantly for his family in Goshen. That’s when Jacob realized how vested God was personally in their relationship.

When God took Jacob’s hip out, Jacob took it personally; then, when God restored Jacob’s losses, Jacob realized that the whole story was profoundly personal to God, too. The affection between them was torrential. It was all about love and loyalty.

I am asking God to finish my story in such a manner that at the end of my race I might be able to talk to my children, like Jacob, about “the God of Bob.”

Takeaway: By the time your last chapter is complete, may it be that personal for you, too.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – COMPOUNDED GENERATIONAL BLESSINGS

gen blessings

Jacob was desperate to receive the blessing of his father, Isaac. The intensity of Jacob’s desire for the blessing pointed to its significance. The blessing that Isaac had to give was powerful and eternally important. But now here’s a stunning statement from Jacob, as he spoke to his sons.

The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills (Gen. 49:26).

Jacob was telling his sons, “As much as I wanted my father’s blessing, I have more to give than he. What I have to give greatly excels the blessing of my father, as high as the everlasting hills.”[1] The implication of his statement is, “I wanted my father’s blessing desperately and did my utmost to get it. How you have lived your lives has demonstrated how badly each of you, in turn, have wanted the blessing that I have to give.”

Reuben, the firstborn, obviously did not earnestly covet his father’s blessing. You don’t sleep with your father’s wife if you are passionate about receiving his blessing.

Of the twelve sons, Joseph was the one who demonstrated the greatest zeal to receive his father’s blessing, so he was the one who got the greatest share.

Genesis 49:26 (above) shows that Jacob had become a profoundly spiritual man. The deposit of grace that he was able to pass to his sons was richer and deeper than the grace on Abraham or Isaac.

Takeaway: You have more to give your children than your parents gave you. Your pinnacle becomes your children’s platform.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – EVEN NUMBERS

EVEN NUMBERS

I have noticed that sometimes God uses even numbers, or numbers with a meaningful association, to draw attention to the significance of a certain person’s story in that moment. Let me give a few examples.

Enoch walked with God for 365 years, and then God took him (Gen. 5:24). Why did God not take him at age 364 or at 366? God waited until Enoch was precisely 365 because of the significance of the number. That number in itself was a message from God: “I want to walk with man 365 days a year in unbroken fellowship.”

God waited to send the flood until Noah was precisely six hundred years old (Gen. 7:6). Why the even number? To indicate that God’s timing was based not on some calendar in heaven but on the calendar of Noah’s life. Through his faith and righteousness, Noah became a timepiece and chronometer to his generation of heaven’s movements in the earth. This underscored the significance of Noah as the man at that time around whom God was writing human history.

How old was Abraham when Isaac was born? One hundred. The even number arrests us. It tells us, “Look at Abraham. He’s My man. What I am doing with him right now is very important.”

Moses’ life divides into three forty-year periods. The timing of the exodus and entrance into the promised land was calibrated to the life of one man, Moses. 40, 80, 120 years. The emphasis of those even numbers highlighted the importance of Moses in God’s redemptive plan.

God waited to lead Israel out of Egypt until their exodus fell precisely on 430 years to the day since God had spoken to Abraham (Ex. 12:41). This was God’s way of saying, “This is purposeful. Pay attention.”

Several men are emphasized in the Bible by making significant moments happen when they were thirty years old. At age thirty, Joseph rose from the prison to the palace; David became king of Judah; God visited Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1); John the Baptist’s ministry was launched; Christ Jesus’ ministry was launched. Quite often God lines up everything on earth to the timeline of His servant, so that he literally becomes God’s calendar.

Now, here’s how this principle applies to Jacob. The Bible makes a point of noting that when God brought His salvation to Jacob’s life and brought him down to Egypt, Jacob was 130 (Gen. 47:9). The even number is intended to alert us. God did not deliver him at 131, but at an even 130.

At this juncture in Jacob’s narrative, Joseph was 39. Some readers might think that Joseph was the key character in the story at this point, but the use of the numbers tells us otherwise. If Joseph were the main player, God would have waited one year until Joseph was 40 and Jacob 131. But no, Joseph was to be 39, and Jacob was to be an even 130. The numbers, just by themselves, tell us who the primary person is at that moment. Jacob is the man. It is his story that we are to behold.

Takeaway: Be watchful for ways in which God uses numbers to bring emphasis to your story.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – THE HARD WAY

the hard way

We learn from Jacob’s life that sometimes God wants things to transpire the hard way. God could have made everything so much easier on Jacob by just saying to him, “Jacob, go down to Egypt.” God led Abraham down to Egypt, and He could have just as easily done the same with Jacob.

But instead, God put the squeeze on Jacob. First, he lost Joseph; then he lost Simeon; and the man in Egypt was wanting Benjamin next. Add to that, the intense distress from the famine. His entire household was hungry! The combination of stress factors put incredible pressure on God’s beloved servant. He went through all kinds of emotional gyrations before he was finally presented with the solution of going to Egypt to meet Joseph.

After Jacob was finally settled in Egypt, I can imagine him wondering, “Lord, why did You make it so hard on me? I would have happily followed Your voice. All You had to do was say to me, ‘Move to Egypt.’ Why did You make it come down the hard way?”

The truth is that often God leads His favorites in the hard way. (The leading example, of course, is the cross of Christ.) Why? Because God accomplishes so many things at multiple levels by letting the thing happen the hard way. He uses the difficulty to excavate hearts and produce greater eternal fruit than if an easier path had been taken.

Takeaway: Do not be thrown off balance if God allows a portion of your journey to come down the hard way.

 

LESSONS FROM JACOB – ABRAHAM, ISAAC, & JACOB

abe, iscaac, jacob

Several times in Scripture, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (e.g. Ex. 3:6). Let me explain one reason why that designation is significant to me personally. It helps me define who I serve.

In today’s world of multiple gods, I consider it wise to identify precisely which God I serve. I serve the God of Abraham. But I need to be more specific because Abraham had several sons (1 Chron. 1:32). I do not serve the God of Ishmael (one of Abraham’s sons), but the God of Isaac.

But even that is not precise enough because Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob. I do not serve the God of Esau but of Jacob.

Still, that is not specific enough in today’s world because two major world religions (Judaism and Christianity) trace their roots to Jacob. I serve the God who gave to Jacob the name Israel. In other words, I serve the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

Yes, I can tell you exactly which God I serve. My God is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob, and the God of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 3:13). For me, there is no other.

Takeaway: Serve the only and true God of Jacob: the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

LESSONS FROM JACOB – WRESTLING TO BE A PRINCE

wresting to be a prince

In the wrestling match with Christ, Jacob asked Him to tell His name.

And He said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked, saying, “Tell me Your name, I pray.” And He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name?” (Gen. 32:28-29).

Jesus did not divulge His name to Jacob. But if He had, He might have said to him, “Israel.” Because Israel is one of the names of Christ. This is seen in Isaiah.

And He said to me, “You are My servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified” (Isa. 49:3).

This verse appears in the “Servant songs” of Isaiah. The context clearly indicates that the Father is the speaker, and He is talking to His Son, the Servant. The Father, addressing His Son, calls Him Israel.

Israel means “Prince with God.” Truly Jesus is the ultimate Prince with God! He wears the name gloriously. Jesus is the true Israel of God. To be in Israel, you must be in Christ, because Christ is Israel.

At Peniel, Jacob was wrestling with Israel! When Jesus gave Jacob the name Israel, He was giving him His own name.

Jacob did not really understand it at the time, but he was wrestling for his name. “If you are to be a Prince with God, Jacob, you are going to have to wrestle down the name.”

Takeaway: To wear the name Christ has for you, don’t be surprised if you have to wrestle it down.