I am a very fine excuse maker (I think we all are.) Suggest something I don’t want to do and I’m all “Sorry, wish I could help but I’ve got this thing and I’ve got these kids and they have to nap and my man has to work and whew life is busy isn’t it? Maybe next time.” Then there’s the shortened version, “I just don’t have time” or the classic “Sorry, I don’t know how.” Cousins to the ever so popular, “What if I mess up” and “I just can’t do that.”
Devotional Scripture: Genesis 35
Key Verse: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Sometimes we even get God involved. “That’s just not how God made me” or “He didn’t gift me in that area.”
Now to be fair, sometimes we have totally legitimate excuses. Their is a season for everything and sometimes it just ain’t the season. Other times we need to pray and be brave. Really really brave and let God do something through us we didn’t think we could do. Like write devotionals (cough cough). Believe me, I gave God a lot of excuses and still do from time to time.
But heads up, I’m about to wreck every excuse in our big fat books. Or rather God already did the moment he 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.” (v. 1)
You’d think God would have totally dismissed him, benched him, canned him, sacked him – whatever you want to call it. It just makes sense. “Jacob you’ve messed up one too many times bud. It’s over. Sorry.” But God didn’t.
After years of offering God halfhearted obedience in Shechem, allowing the ways of the world to penetrate his household (the evidence is in verse 4), passively standing by when his daughter is raped, and being concerned only for himself when his sons commit genocide (of all things) – God pours grace upon grace with a command to “Arise, go up…and make me an altar.”
In other words, it’s time to get back on track Jacob. Though I’ve been fiercely faithful to you and you’ve been less than faithful to me. Though their is murder on your head, though your sons are a disgrace, though your daughter is defiled, and your leadership pathetic. Though you knew what you were supposed to do and didn’t do it. Though I have every reason to be done with you – I am still going to use you. You are still my man. So let’s get going.
My friend, if God was still willing to use Jacob – there is no doubt in my mind He can use us. We have no excuses. If genocide didn’t disqualify Jacob then I don’t think any of our excuses are going work. How great is the testimony of the sinner drenched in God’s great grace!
So how do we get started? By doing exactly what Jacob and his entire household did – they purified themselves. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
I find it interesting Jacob instinctively instructed his household to “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments” because this was not anywhere in God’s instructions to Jacob (see Gen. 35:1). But Jacob knew it was necessary. A holy God can have nothing to do with an unholy people. I also find it interesting they didn’t argue with Jacob. Atleast not that we’re told. They handed over their little gods “and the rings that were in their ears” and “Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem” (35:4).
He took their idolatry and buried it under a tree. No matter how costly – they left it there – for the sake of their relationship with God. Just as we are to dump our sin at the base of another tree, the cross. Bury it and walk away, for the sake of our relationship with the Almighty God – the name God calls himself when he appears to Jacob after he obediently builds the altar at Bethel.
God not only appeared to Jacob but blessed him. Reminding Jacob of his new name (Israel). Speaking to him (with similar wording) the same promises given to Abraham in Genesis 17. “A nation and a company of nations shall come from you…” And kings and a land.
The unconditional promises given to Abraham and Isaac were now in the hand of Jacob. It’s certainly not what I would have done to Jacob, but it’s what God does. Everyday it’s what God does – for us. He can still use you friend. Bury your idolatry under the tree and come rest in his faithfulness.
Does it mean all will be smooth sailing? Unfortunately no. Our commitment to Christ is not a guarantee for a trouble free life. There will still be hard times as there was for Jacob. Who grieved over the loss of his mother’s nurse Deborah. (Maybe she joined their group after Rebekah passed away) And then grieved over the loss of his beloved Rachel, who died while giving birth to his twelfth son, Benjamin.
Neither does it mean we’re safe from the consequences of our sins. Jacob’s favoritism towards Rachel’s boys may have already played a part in the genocide of Shechem. But hit a little closer to home when Reuben seduced and slept with Bilhah, one of Jacob’s concubines (v.22). And would soon hurt in ways Jacob never imagined with the loss of Joseph.
No, following Christ doesn’t mean life won’t sting from time to time. But it does mean when we pass through the rough waters, Jesus will be right there with us (Isaiah 43:2). So let’s get goin’. He has called you by name. You are his. It’s time to “Arise, go up…” And get back on track.
Contemplate and Evaluate
What excuses have been keeping you from serving God with your whole heart?
What is God calling you to do today? Is it time to get up and get going?