Obedience is Blessing

Genesis 28:1-9

1So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. 2 Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram. 8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

Church Picnic

On the last Saturday of August, everyone can be pretty excited about our church picnic. While team leaders prepare some things needed for lunch and activities, everyone is encouraged to contribute whatever you may consider as essential for meaningful fellowship at the park.

While adults are responsible for things that require strength and care, young ones add fun and excitement for older people to watch. Such is a beautiful picture of fellowship, love and care for each other in a church family.

In a church family picnic, while it is great to have someone who directs affairs or activities, there is no need to dictate what should be done. Preparing the picnic table for example, adults can easily initiate what are supposed to be prepared–utensils or cutleries, plates, food and drinks.

Can you imagine the beauty of participation of each person, not necessarily biologically related but have willingness to enjoy picnic fellowship? That is an example of blessing that we experience as church family.

As part of the family of God, the Lord instructed what He wanted us to do to enjoy our involvement as His children. Just as there’s enjoyment when we participate in the church picnic, our willing involvement in the kingdom of God should reflect joy that comes from the Spirit of Christ.

The Lord declared in Deuteronomy 28:2, 2All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God.

By faith we trust that blessings are included in God’s instructions. So, when we obey the Lord, we are blessed. In short, the very purpose of God’s commands is to bless the obedient believer.

The Lord in the Old Testament who declared that when we obey God’s commands we expect blessing is the same Christ who declared in Luke 11:28, 28“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

Is it very simple to understand? Well, many believers still find it hard to obey the Lord. Why? For believers to obey the Lord, we need faith to trust that His orders are beneficial to us. When the Lord blesses us, we have gladness obeying Him. Obedience is the most practical proof of faith, a blessing in itself.

For instance: When children obey their parents, they may not be able to explain intellectually why they obey, but the parents and children relationship bound in love and respect plays a major factor. There’s gladness in the fellowship and involvement of each member of the family to achieve their goal.

Isaac may have experienced more obedience from Jacob than from Esau. Jacob preferred to stay indoors while Esau frequently stayed outdoors to hunt.

And when Rebekah told Isaac that she wished that Jacob may find a wife from her relatives, Isaac agreed because he also wanted Jacob to have wife who have similar lifestyle and spirituality of Rebekah.

Before Jacob departed, Isaac blessed him and wished Jacob will take possession of the land they dwelt in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham.

1. Possession

1So Isaac called for Jacob and blessed him. Then he commanded him: “Do not marry a Canaanite woman. 2 Go at once to Paddan Aram, to the house of your mother’s father Bethuel. Take a wife for yourself there, from among the daughters of Laban, your mother’s brother. 3 May God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and increase your numbers until you become a community of peoples. 4 May he give you and your descendants the blessing given to Abraham, so that you may take possession of the land where you now reside as a foreigner, the land God gave to Abraham.” 5 Then Isaac sent Jacob on his way, and he went to Paddan Aram, to Laban son of Bethuel the Aramean, the brother of Rebekah, who was the mother of Jacob and Esau.

Isaac told Jacob the command he desired to be obeyed. It was pleasing to Isaac for Jacob not to have a Canaanite wife but to marry from the relatives of Rebekah. Did Isaac order Jacob to marry from the family of his in-laws because he wanted someone who would be as beautiful and spiritual as Rebekah?

Was it because of the lifestyle of Canaanites that Isaac did not like sons to marry women from Canaan? Both Isaac and Rebekah were grieved by the Hittite wives of Esau. Was it because Esau did not ask their blessing when he get married that his parents grieved? Esau was old enough when he got married.

In this generation, it is not a requirement for adults of legal age to ask for parent’s consent before they are given a marriage license.

Nonetheless, asking for parents’ blessing when even with adults of legal age who get married could be a cultural practice in many cultures. That cultural tradition may have been one factor that Isaac and Rebekah were grieved. They may have felt ignored by Esau when he decided to marry. So, when it was time to give blessing, the best blessing was given to Jacob. Esau got no blessing.

In contrast, Isaac blessed Jacob with a blessing similar to what was given to Abraham. Isaac did not generalize the blessing he wanted Jacob to have. He specifically invoked that Jacob may possess the Land of Canaan which God has promised to Abraham. So when Isaac sent Jacob to Paddan Aram, he expected Jacob to come back to Canaan safe and sound for the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham that his descendant will possess the land of Canaan.

Isaac specifically instructed Jacob that he did not want him to get a wife from Canaanite women. He told him where he should get his wife.

Esau interpreted that choosing his wife from non-Canaanite women is obedience to the command of Isaac. He may not have heard that Isaac instructed Jacob to get his wife from the relatives of Rebekah.

Since Jacob was Rebekah’s favorite, was it factor that Esau did not find it necessary to get a wife from the relatives of Rebekah? Did Esau despise the idea of getting a wife from the relatives of Rebekah because he felt no love from his mother? It is probably a factor but the story is about blessing in obedience.

Jacob was blessed because he obeyed. Esau missed his blessing because he wanted to do whatever he perceived was right thing to do.

2. Performance

6 Now Esau learned that Isaac had blessed Jacob and had sent him to Paddan Aram to take a wife from there, and that when he blessed him he commanded him, “Do not marry a Canaanite woman,” 7 and that Jacob had obeyed his father and mother and had gone to Paddan Aram.

It must have been very painful for Esau to realize that Isaac shifted his care to Jacob. All his life Esau knew that he was the favorite of his father because of his hunting expertise. He depended much about his ability to gain his father’s favor. He was mistaken.

Similarly, the Pharisees have been very confident of their expertise of the law. They trusted so much their lifestyle and assumed that they have earned the favor of God. In one instance the Lord Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who were praying.

In Luke 18:9-14, To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable:  10 “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  11 The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

13 “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

14 “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The Pharisee may not have verbalized his prayer but God discerned the confidence of the Pharisee in his effort of righteousness. In contrast, the tax collector relied upon the mercy of God for him to be forgiven and justified. Therefore, our attitude toward God is more valuable to Him than our human effort.

While we rely upon God’s grace and mercy to be justified before God, it is not to suggest that we should not care much of excellence in performance.

Right to Brag

This “right to brag” is a motivation for many. Few decades ago, a 6-year-old boy was determined to learn billiard game. He waited for his turn to play. The billiard owner was gracious enough and taught him while waiting for billiard players to arrive. After few games, the boy won. Suddenly, he ran outside and shouted “I won! I Won! I’ve defeated the owner!”

The owner was amazed at the boy’s excitement in announcing his victory. It was not intentional to give the boy a break but the level of talent of the boy got him bored. The owner had no desire to play hard or to win the game. In contrast, the boy was determined to win the game with his very limited talent. He just won one game but he earn the “right to brag” as winner.

It says in Hebrews 2:14 , 14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil

By His resurrection from the dead, Christ has won the victory over death. The devil knows it but still try to win one single game to be able to achieve the bragging rights even it means nothing. When ministry becomes boring and no enthusiasm whatsoever, the devil has just won his bragging right to get believers bored from getting involved in the ministry.

When we miss to be filled or possessed by the Holy Spirit, there’s no enthusiasm to get involved in the ministry. Enthusiasm in the ministry comes from the Lord. Enthusiasm is another word for joy as empowerment of the Lord.

Ministry is not exclusive to church setting only. The situation that the Lord place us is the ministry that God wants us to be involved with. It is not what we perceive or what we personally assume that God wants us to do. We shouldn’t choose which is more convenient. We should listen and obey God’s directives.

When Esau heard that Isaac commanded Jacob not marry Canaanite woman, he assumed that he has to marry outside Canaan so he went on and find a wife among the daughter of Ishmael. He was still concerned about his “right to brag” about his choice of wife from non-Canaanite women. He did not understand that Isaac blessed Jacob not because he did not marry from Canaanite women but because Jacob obeyed Isaac’s instruction.

Instead of finding what may please his father Isaac, Esau relied upon his perception of what may please his father. His perception, however, was not reliable.

3. Perception

8 Esau then realized how displeasing the Canaanite women were to his father Isaac; 9 so he went to Ishmael and married Mahalath, the sister of Nebaioth and daughter of Ishmael son of Abraham, in addition to the wives he already had.

The perception of Esau about what may please Isaac was wrongfully guided by by his desire to do his best effort to please his father instead of asking Isaac what he should do to please him. Esau came to know that Canaanite women were a displeasure to his father but he wrongly perceived what may please his father by marrying anyone except from non-Canaanite women.

Such wrongful perception of Esau has similarity to mistake that many seminary graduates do in the ministry. Not a few seminary graduates would assume that it is very right and proper to use in any church setting the ministry strategies they learned from seminary professors. Sad to say, that such approach in the ministry create more problems than productivity.

And if seminary trained believers are misled by their personal perception of how to approach the ministry, non-seminary graduates are not exempted either. Every believer can wrongly perceive what may please God. Therefore, it is very much recommended to be filled with the Holy Spirit.

Pentecost

Acts 2:1ff, 1 When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2 Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.

The crowd made fun of the disciples but Peter stood and preach repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.

38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

40 With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” 41 Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

That was an amazing work of the Holy Spirit. The disciples were seminary trained but there was a great conversion when the Holy Spirit empowered them. They did not argue with anybody just to prove the Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior. They relied upon the Spirit of Christ.

In comparison, Paul who was a Pharisee had experienced that arguments and reasons are useful but cannot produce similar conversion result made by the Holy Spirit.  When Paul was in Athens, he explained to the Athenians about Christ and the resurrection of the dead.

It says in Acts 17:22-23, 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.

Areopagus means “Mar’s Hill or Hill of Ares.” It is an open space on a hill in Athens where the Supreme Court met at that time. And Paul, presented the gospel among the wise people of Athens but sadly, there were only a handful who became followers of Paul and believed. Paul was not able to establish a church in Athens.

Paul may have been reminded of that experience that argument cannot persuade the wise when he wrote in rebuke the believers in Corinth.

He said in 1 Corinthians 3:18-20, 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”

He also said in 1 Corinthians 4:20, 20 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.

Everyone will get a chance to write down preferred ministry involvement. When you think you are not qualified or you have no talent whatsoever, you are a candidate that God may want to use in the ministry.

Remember Esau did his best effort to impress his father Isaac but Jacob was blessed because he obeyed.

Isaac represents Christ the Lord giving instruction to believers.

Rebekah who told Isaac where she wanted Jacob to go represents the church when we sought Christ for the direction He wants our ministry should go.

Esau who was an expert in what he did represents believers who are misled by wrong perception of doing their best effort to impress the Lord.

Jacob was not very righteous but willing to obey represents believers who obey the Lord’s instruction and blessed.

Your training, talent or expertise are useful but do your best to rely upon the Holy Spirit and you will be blessed as you participate in the ministry.

Obedience is blessing when it is inspired and empowered by the Holy Spirit.

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