A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it. Isaiah 35:8
When the pathway you travel is overgrown with weeds and thorns, and the next step is obscured, do not fear. I have already cleared the path up ahead and it is sunlit with the rays of my glory.
I call my disciples to what feels like too great a risk. Most turn back because they do not trust Me enough to lead them by the hand. You are proving to be an exception. Though you have had many years of experiences that might prove otherwise, you still choose to believe that I am true to My character. You are putting me to the test and I inhale the essence of such obedience.
BILHAH AND OTHER USED AND ABUSED
While Israel lived in that land, Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father’s concubine. And Israel heard of it. Genesis 35:22
Bilhah is a woman without rights. She was Rachel’s maid all the way back to before Rachel was married. She learned to obey orders very young. She never knew freedom. In fact, much of her life was characterized by being used by others.
When Rachel couldn’t conceive, she gave Bilhah to Jacob as a secondary wife. She used her as a surrogate mother to conceive babies. Once they were born, Rachel would keep them and adopt them as her own sons. Once again, Bilhah had no choice.
Years later, she was victimized again as Jacob’s oldest son, Reuben, took her honor. He snuck in her tent and in the darkness, lay with her. Bilhah could teach a class today on what it means to be victimized.
Did she know God? I want to believe so. She was immersed in all the teaching, the worship, the building of altars at pinnacle moments of faith. She saw it all and probably clung to God for the strength to endure hardship.
What can be said for the Bilhah’s of this world? Perhaps you are one. From a young age, you were taken against your will, used for someone else’s pleasure. Your life was a set up and choices were made for you. How do you come to believe in a God that appears to bless some and curse others? Those with heartbreaking stories have posed the question to me on many occasions. Can He be trusted to rule fairly? Continue reading
COPING WITH CHANGE
Rachel went into labor, and she had hard labor. And when her labor was at its hardest, the midwife said to her, “Do not fear, for you have another son.” And as her soul was departing (for she was dying), she called his name Ben-oni; but his father called him Benjamin. Genesis 35:16-18
Too many changes in one’s life, all at once, put a person in a fragile place emotionally. It seems too much to process. When I initiate the changes, it’s easier. But most change is what happens to me and I have no control over it. Good changes are challenging enough but bad changes, one after another, bring the onset of grief. Continue reading
HAVE YOU EMBRACED YOUR IDENTITY?
And God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel. Genesis 35:10
God has always been an identity changer. One cannot be near someone like God and not be severely affected. Either one is repelled and runs the other way or is smitten by His glory and wants to make Him their home. The identity-changing nature of God has never been more evident than when He personally changed the names of people. Jacob, in spite of all of his failures, persevered with good faith intentions and God acknowledged the change in his heart with a name change. The name Jacob means ‘supplanter’….one who takes something by force through treachery. Fitting, since he tricked his brother and stole his blessing. Years later, God saw that Jacob was one who literally wrestled with Him in order to receive God’s blessing. He persevered until faith in God defined Him. God chose the name Israel for him….one who perseveres with God.
While God may not give new earthly names to every person, my identity has radically changed if I was adopted into His family. God says that I’m no longer an alien, but a resident of heaven. He says that I’m no longer an enemy, but friend. I’m no longer cursed, but blessed. I’m no longer lost, but saved. I’m no longer rejected because of my sin, I’m chosen. I’m no longer unclean, but righteous. I’m no longer without purpose, I’ve got a calling. I’m no longer hopeless, but hopeful. Continue reading
HOW CREATIVELY GOD KEEPS A PROMISE
And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. Genesis 35:5
God makes His child many, many promises. As long as my heart is sensitive toward sin and I’m quick to repent after falling on my face, the blessing of God is on my life. Living without sin is not a pre-requisite. Who can do that? Instead, God asks me to live a cross centered life characterized by daily repentance and daily grace.
Jacob and his sons sinned greatly at Shechem. Their murderous rage took the lives of many innocent men. God appeared, gave new orders, and Jacob quickly made a course correction for his family.
The fallout of his sin complicated the picture though. They had been known as a peace loving people; a tribe of shepherds. Heathen nations had not seen them as a threat. That all changed with their latest rampage. They were now considered a viable threat. God keeps His promise of protection to the sons of Abraham. He sends a wave of panic to all the inhabitants of foreign cities. The fear was so severe that no one entertained the thought of attacking Jacob’s tribe. God stepped up to define the psyche of alien peoples.
Sometimes I can panic when I feel my future is being decided by an unbeliever. I can wrongly assume that my life is held in their reckless hands. Continue reading
THE EYES OF YOUR SPIRIT
Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live; and I will observe Your word [hearing, receiving, loving, and obeying it]. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law. I am a stranger and a temporary resident on the earth; hide not Your commandments from me. Psalm 119:17-19
Can you not see the significance of these days? I planned them from before the time of your birth. I knew you would find your home in My presence and live astonished and amazed. I knew that others would mock you and misunderstand the signs of my miraculous work in your life. All of heaven aligns with you; the apostles, the saints of old who were nameless, yet faithful. Even your fathers. They stand shoulder to shoulder today and bear witness to the truth of the manifestations you are seeing with the eyes of your spirit. To those who believe, I make possible to receive glories that defy explanation. For any who choose to wander in the land of disbelief, they will suffer perplexity.
Continue to stretch forth your hand for more of Me. My resources always exceed your desire. The tragedy is that my children do not reach, do not believe. I am the God who gives above all that one would ever ask, think, or dream. To assume otherwise is to not know Me at all.
BEGINNING AGAIN AFTER NEAR RUIN
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Genesis 35:1-2
Oh, what a mess of things I can make. A series of bad choices can eventually result in a train wreck. With everything in shambles, it appears as if it’s too late to have a clean start. I believe I’ve passed the point of no return.
Jacob knows how that feels. This is where he is in his family’s story. They have narrowly escaped assimilation into a pagan society. Intermarrying would have destroyed the line for the Messiah. His sons have tricked the men from Shechem and then they murdered them in cold blood. The covenant with God is certainly null and void now, right?
But God appeared to Jacob with instructions for a new beginning. His prescription for starting again is quite simple. Continue reading