January 12, 2018

Know God or No God


INTERESTING FACTS : The Bible was written over a period of some 1,500 years, from around 1450 B.C. (the time of Moses) to about 100 A.D. (following the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ)[1].
Daily Reading : [GENESIS 35 - 37]
TEXT : Gen 35:4  And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem. Gen 35:5  And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob. Gen 35:6  So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, he and all the people that were with him. Gen 35:7  And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.
"And God said unto Jacob," in verse one of chapter 35 shows the continuous guidance of God in the life of the patriarch Jacob. As we read these particular statements throughout the Bible, we should remind ourselves of God's sovereignty, foresight, and wisdom in controlling the history of humanity. God is both the beginning and the end of this world, even as Jesus stated in the Book of Revelation that He is the "Alpha and the Omega." Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. For the Christian, it is no small comfort to know that God does not wait for us to know or do everything, but rather since He is Omniscient [all-knowing], He "carries" us throughout our lives to keep us safe and secure. In fact, the Greek word for being "led" of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:14 means "to carry or to bring." That is why the Apostle Paul would write under the guiding influence of the Holy Spirit, and amid heavy persecution during the era of the Roman Empire - "If God be for us, who can be against us?"[2] We can be confident that God will finish what He started, and will keep us safe - now and forever!
God told Jacob to go to Bethel soon after his meeting with Esau, which turned out better than Jacob thought at first. Instead of death, Jacob received a kind reception and warm reunion with his brother. Not only did he not die, but also God restored him and Esau as brethren. God had promised to be with Jacob wherever he went to fulfill His promise to Jacob and his ancestors - Abraham and Isaac. God was also fulfilling His plan for humanity. Often, we are concerned about events that never transpire. In Jacob's case, although he had intelligent reasons to believe that Esau would kill him since Esau vowed to do so years before, Esau had changed and no longer had a wish to kill his brother. Still, no matter what, God made a covenant with Jacob, his ancestors, and his descendants. Therefore, God would follow through on His pledge since God cannot lie. Either way, Jacob had nothing to fear. Neither do we. God always keep His Word.
Now, let us go back to Genesis chapter 28 for a moment. Here, when Jacob first saw God's angels going up and down a great ladder between Heaven and earth in a dream [again, a picture of the God's supreme authority in Heaven and earth], God told Jacob he was part of God's ever developing plan. This plan was to give birth to a nation yet formed, who would have their own country and bring forth the Savior of the world. The place where Jacob had the vision was the Canaanite city of Luz whose name Jacob changed to Bethel - "the House of God" - after the vision. Further, Jacob vowed a vow. He said if God would provide for him giving him food and clothes and bring him back from his journey to Padanaram in peace, the God of Abraham and Isaac would be his God. This is an important lesson from the Bible for you and me.
First, when God directs Jacob to return to Bethel, He tells him to build an altar. Second, after he builds the altar he names it El - Bethel. When we examine how Jacob vowed to serve God if God would provide and protect him in his journey, and after God fulfills His promise, he builds an altar named "El - Bethel," provides a significant message, example, and meaning for you and me as Christians.
To begin, the meaning of the word altar from Hebrew is "to slay." Altars were not mere ornaments in the Old Testament. A living creature [i.e. an animal] had to die. Shedding blood in the death of the sacrifice is what made the altar a place of supreme commitment and consecration to God. This is what Jacob did at Bethel. He sacrificed an animal on the altar - in obedience to God's command - and dedicated both the altar and himself to God. This is what makes the name "El-Bethel" so important. As you know, Bethel means "House of God." However, El-Bethel means - "the God of the House of God." It is these two details we gain a wealth of information and a challenge for our lives.
Jesus Christ was the last sacrifice any believer in the one true God would need. This is what God was doing in the lives of the Jews, the Old Testament saints and patriarchs. He was guiding their lives to bring forth the last and decisive sacrifice - His Lamb, Jesus the Son of God. Everything prior to the cross is preliminary. God's plan all the time was to offer the final sacrifice on the altar of the cross, the slaying of His own Son. In this, that is the death of Christ on the cross, we have a "New Testament" or "New Covenant." The writer of the Book of Hebrews tells us it is a better covenant based on better promises!
How many professing Christians go week after week to "the House of God," but never truly know Him? They are tares in the wheat. They are false brethren, imposters. They hear much, learn a little, but never come to knowledge of knowing "the God of the House of God." Jesus said - "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." [Joh. 17:3] All their Bible verses, hymns, and Sunday school lessons are mere form and ceremony. They are in the House of God yet, they do not know Christ. Further, there are reasons they do not know Him.
First, there is no obedience to the command of God to leave their lives on the altar of the cross. These people will sing, read, and even pray. Yet, when the call of duty comes to serve Christ in "dying daily" to the sinful ways of the flesh, they fall short. Though God may have shown them much mercy in the past, they will not change, or have Christ to rule over them.
Second, they will not put away the gods of this world as Jacob, his family, and his servants did in chapter 35:2. A supreme love of God they do not have. Neither will they make themselves clean and confess their sins. They will not "change their garments" as Jacob and his company did because Jacob knew God is Holy.  Nor will they put away their "earrings" [an ancient symbol that the person who wore the earring was dedicated to a particular false god. This is not to be confused with a women's ornamentation, which God allowed. Also, an earring was a sign under Jewish law that a slave wanted to remain forever a slave to his master once he had his ear pierced]. They prefer to be a slave to sin, and to enjoy the pleasure of sin, which is only for a season. Therefore they know not God who said through Christ -
"As he spake these words, many believed on him. Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free? Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed. [John 8:30 - 36]
Reading a book is not the same as knowing the author. Reading a biography is not the same as being a friend or family member of the person you study. Jacob not only knew what God wrote or said - he knew God. That is, he knew "the God of the House of God." The nations around him - with personal exceptions - had not God. That is, they did not have the true God. Jacob, on the other hand had security and peace because he knew God, not just facts about God. We too will have peace and security if we know God, and not just know some facts about God. With God, we are secure and free. At the end of this world, which God has told us beforehand will occur, one will either know God for eternity, or have no God for eternity. In other words, it is either - know God, or no God! Let us be thankful, appreciative, and grateful we know God through Jesus Christ His Son!

  • [1] http://bibleresources.bible.com/afacts.php
  • [2] "What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
[Rom. 8:31 - 39]
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