Monday, November 28, 2011

God's power to deal with tragedy

Genesis 33:20 Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel

The Pattern of the Faith-walk following your conversion
A couple of days ago we began looking at Jacob's wrestling match with God in the earlier parts of Genesis 32.  We saw that God did a work in Jacob's life whereby he learned how to die to self.  If you were to survey Jacob's life for just a moment, it gives us a preset pattern for what would be the full and complete teaching about the faith-walk with Christ in the New Testament: Conversion by grace through faith in Genesis 28 and death to self and the world in Genesis 32 and 35. 

Today we want to look closer at Jacob's life following this incident where he died to self, and discover the benefits that come from submitting to this ongoing truth in the life of the believer.  Now as we look at the passage above, Jacob built an altar following his historic meeting with his estranged twin brother Esau.  Remember how we discovered Jacob running from Esau for twenty years?  God broke that tendency in Jacob's life, Jacob died to self in that area, and now was renamed Israel. 

How "dying to self" prepared Jacob to go from the mountain to the valley of faith
Jacob builds an altar, and names it "El=Elohe Israel" which translated means: "God, The God of Israel."  Undoubtedly Jacob's encounter with Christ (see previous blogs) would be termed by many a mountain top experience. He had conquered his greatest fear through the power of God.  The big meeting with his brother was over.  However for Israel (formerly Jacob), difficult times were around the corner.  In fact, when one considers what took place in Jacob's life over the course of 10 years (from Genesis 33-35), it is staggering:

1. His only daughter Dinah, a teenager, was raped by the mean of the land in Genesis 34:5
2. His sons kill those who violated Dinah, but in the process bring shame to Israel Gen 34:30
3. Deborah, Israel's mother's nurse, undoubtedly like a mother to him, dies in Genesis 35:8
4. Rachael, his beloved wife of 50 years, dies in Genesis 35:17
5. Reuben, Israel's firstborn son, committs incest, and Israel finds out about it in Genesis 35:22
6. Isaac, Israel's father, dies in Genesis 35:29

Anyone one of those events would had devestated anyone of us.  Yet Israel persevered.  God speaks to him in Genesis 35, while he is still reeling, telling him to go back to the spot where he had first met him.  Without hesitation Israel tells his family to pack-up - its time to do as God says. 

When self dies, The Lord's life can shine more clearly in and through you
I am convinced that when we are in God's will, trials and testings will actually increase. (please compare Romans 5:3-4; James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7)  Why?  Because we have committed our hearts to intentional living for God.  Dying daily to your interests in favor of God's desires sets hell on high alert - that your faith-walk is poising itself to be empowered by God, rather than you.  Despite these trials that attended Israel's life, God's power was there every step of the way.  Jesus reminds us in Hebrews 13:5 - "Never will I leave you nor forsake you". 

Despite whatever horrendous circumstance you may be facing, the Lord is desiring to manifest Himself to you, so as to lead you through the valley of the shadow of death.  When self surrenders - it lays the believer's life into the arms of Jesus.  Paul writes as a man in prison these words in Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength."