Monday, December 10, 2007

Humanity in Sin Part 35 - God's Revelation to Jacob

This is my personal summary of the preaching of Rev.Dr.Stephen Tong on 18 November 2007 in Newton Life. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: Genesis 28

We have seen earlier that a spiritual family also have a lot of weaknesses. But God’s sovereignty rules. The Lord blessed Jacob before he was even born. We are not worthy to receive anything from God. Grace is based on God’s sovereign will. Grace is not to be conflicted with the justice of God. When God chooses to give grace to one and not another, it is not to be mixed up with God’s justice.

Justice is to be linked with God’s judgment. But often we demand that God gives us grace as He gives grace to others based on our own understanding of God’s justice. This is not biblical. On the matter of grace, it is in God’s sovereignty to give whatever He wants to whomever He wishes. He has mercy to whom He will be merciful. On the matter of judgment, God will judge based on His justice.

In the Bible we see two matters that do not seem to be related. First, the covenant of grace will come true no matter what happens. The blessings God gave to Abraham would follow Jacob. God would give the promise land to Jacob. At the same time, God would not let go of the sin His chosen one had committed. Jacob made many spiritual errors. He took blessings from his elder brother, deceived his father and did many other deceitful things. God would not just let him go simply because he received special blessings from God. As Christians we need to have balanced view on all the works of God. Else we will fool ourselves with our misunderstanding of God.

Although Isaac loved Esau, Isaac at least had some principles of God in his heart. So when Esau married Canaanite women, he was very displeased. Because he loved his son, he did not comment too much. Often times we compromise when people we like make mistakes. Isaac then asked Jacob not to marry a Canaanite woman, but to find one from his mother’s family. When Esau heard Isaac’s instruction to Jacob, he realized that he failed to fulfil his father’s wishes on one issue. Instead of repenting, he married again. Esau was after all filial. He did many things and did not realize that his father would not be pleased. But when he realized, he did not make amends of the past but rather tried to add on other things to please his father.

Esau represents many people today. Many people just want to do one more thing to please others instead of correcting the past mistake. We are lazy to preach the gospel and get used to it. So when we are asked to preach the gospel, we give excuses and just give more money for offering, and say it is not our calling. Many people know God has called them to ministry. But they have to give up high pay. So they do other things to compensate for it but they would not give up their job. So Esau did not receive the principle of the teaching. He only felt the pain of his mistake. It is very difficult for such a person to improve because his focus is to please people.

God is very strict when He first passed down some important principles to His people. When chastisement of God comes, we cannot first be concerned about our feelings or how people look at us. Aaron’s two sons were striken dead because they gave unauthorized fire at the altar. Aaron as the chief priest would have felt really bad because of this tragedy, yet God commanded him not to wail because of this. God wants us to wail because of our sin. There is no value if we are sad because of punishment.

We often never discover the correction God gives to us through difficult people He puts in our lives. We are very insensitive to our own mistakes, but sensitive to our feelings. It is because our hearts do not care about our mistakes, but we care for the praises and satisfaction from others. We are not concerned about what is right. We are not interested to correct ourselves but just want to preserve our face. So we go around in circles and never improve. Esau behaved in this manner. His solution was to marry a non-Canaanite woman. The Bible did not tell us what the father felt after Esau married again.

An important event happened during Jacob’s journey. While sleeping, he had a vision. Before the Bible is completed, God revealed His will to His specially selected people in various ways. We have to be very careful about dreams and visions because they are very relative personal experiences. Remember that the Old Testament itself spans a few thousands of years. There are not that many times of visions recorded over such a long time. It is not like today when people claim to have visions and dreams so frequently. People who get obsessed with these will find that they do not need the Bible and are not interested in the= already-completed revelation of God.

But Jacob’s dream was a revelation from God. It happened before the Bible was completed. And it was in line with the entire revelation of God. In what way is it consistent with God’s entire revelation? He dreamt of a ladder that reached to the heaven. This is the highest ideal of Chinese culture, that is, Heaven and earth be one. How can human beings have a relationship with God?

When men built the tower of Babel, it started from the earth but could not reach to heaven. But in this stairway, it came from heaven and reached down to earth. It is not something that could be achieved by men. It is God’s grace. This revelation surpassed what God has given to Abraham and Isaac. The greatest part of revelation to Abraham is the monotheistic faith and resurrection of the dead. Important aspects of Christian faith is contained in God’s revelation to Abraham.

God did not give Isaac any important revelation. But coming to Jacob, God revealed the mediation between God and man. This medium is the salvation that Jesus Christ completed by the shedding of His blood. He opened up for us a new and living way so that we can enter to the throne of God.

In the Old Testament, the high priest could only enter the Holy of holies once in a year. When Jesus died, there was earthquake, darkness, and the temple curtain were torn from top to bottom. The grace of God is now upon us. Sinners can enter into holy of holies. This is not part of general revelation but special revelation. God’s revelation to Jacob shows how Jesus would be broken for our sin. Jacob was able to see this. The Son of God Himself is the intermediary between God and man.

Jacob was so surprised when he woke up. He said it was the gate of heaven. He was so sensitive and accurate. In the Old Testament, the house of God always refers to a physical building with visible art and design. But Jacob woke up, he immediately said that the place where he laid was the gate of heaven. He did not place emphasis on outward things. His primary goal was to understand the thought of God. So God was pleased with him. From the eyes of man, Jacob was merely a deceitful man while Esau was a filial son. But God sees things very differently. He wants to see how we understand His revelation and how much we seek after it. For his life, Jacob always grabbed hold of the opportunity to know the heart of God.

The temple of God is not a building. It is the place where God meets man, where we receive God’s revelation, where through the sacrifice of Christ, we gain access to heaven. Paul understood it in the New Testament that the temple of God is not confined in a physical building. Jesus Christ Himself taught that the temple of God is His body. Paul said our body is the temple of God. So there is consistency of revelation in the whole Bible. And the first person to understand the house of God is Jacob, when he fled from his brother after tricking him. On one hand, he did not escape the punishment of God because of his deception, but God’s blessings on him was not taken away.


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