The Bare Soul - May 15, 2011
Almost Obedient

Genesis 33:18 - Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city.

Noted author and Christian Missionary Alliance pastor A.W. Tozer once said: The true follower of Christ will not ask, "If I embrace this truth, what will it cost me?" Rather he will say, "This is truth. God help me to walk in it, let come what may!"  How many believers do we know who have this sort of attitude toward the Lord? For these rare individuals, they do not hold the position that God needs to align Himself with the direction they would choose, but rather the one that God Almighty has laid out before them. They have come to a place of death to self, and come what may, they deliberately set their faces like flint to obey the Lord in all respects. While this is the "normal Christian life", many of us fall dismally short of this ideal. While it may be our desire to give our lives unreservedly to the Lord, there are too often those "hindrances" that would cause us to compromise our resolution. However, before we berate ourselves for not living a totally surrendered life, there are many biblical examples that would give us hope that almost obedient hearts can be changed to a steely resolve, not wavering in our belief. Jacob the patriarch was one of these "waverers". For years, he perfected deception, withholding complete truthfulness and honesty in his dealings with both God and man. However, things would begin to change for Jacob one day when he wrestled with God.

From the scripture, we know that Jacob's name literally means "deceiver". Jacob (with the help of his mother Rebekah) validates his namesake by deceiving his father Isaac into giving him the blessing rather than his brother, Esau (Genesis 27:12; Genesis 27). Having previously obtained his brother's birthright, and now his blessing, Jacob incurred the wrath of his older brother. So much so, that he felt it wise to relocate several hundred miles to the east to the land of his mother's relatives. However, one thing he didn't count on was finding the same less than honest dealings in his Uncle Laban as those within himself. (Laban is likewise translated "deceiver" in the Aramaic language.) For a total of 20 years, Jacob dealt with this unscrupulous fellow who tricked him regarding his marriage to Leah and Rachel, and then dealt deceptively regarding his payment to his son-in-law concerning his herds (Genesis 31:41). However, throughout these two decades that Jacob sojourned in the land of the east, this son of Isaac seemed to have learned little regarding complete honesty. We see this in his behavior as he multiplied his flocks through deception (Genesis 30:31-43). Furthermore, he obviously was not modeling stalwart behavior as his wife Rachel stole her father's idols before their hasty escape (Genesis 31:19). The stage had been set for a showdown between Laban and Jacob. Fortunately, for both sides, it did not result in hostilities. While Laban knew that Jacob had not been totally honest, and vice versa, they could not prove their cases. They simply concluded their relationship with a stalemate and parted ways (Genesis 31:43-55).

However, Jacob's perception of what would occur when he met his brother Esau was another story. Through years of deception and not totally trusting in God, Jacob's trust in his own trickery was now faltering. When he met and wrestled with the Angel of the Lord, he finally came to an understanding that he could no longer be a deceiver and prosper before God. Even though Jacob's name was changed from "deceiver" (Jacob) to "one who has striven with God and man and has prevailed" (Israel), he still had some of that old, deceptive nature to relinquish. His trust was not yet firmly grounded in the Lord. We are shown this by Jacob sending gifts ahead to appease his brother Esau rather than trusting that God indeed had sent him back to the land of his birth.  Even after meeting with his brother Esau the next day, he lied to his brother, telling him he would join him in a few days. Rather than heading south into Seir, Jacob headed west to settle near the city of Shechem. Ironic to the Angel's proclamation regarding Jacob's new name, he did exactly the opposite. He broke faith with both his brother and God by his retreat to Shechem. First of all, he should have never told his brother that he would follow him to Seir since the Lord had commanded him to return to the land of his birth (Genesis 31:13). Jacob knew that this was a deception, even as he knew stopping in Shechem was a compromise to returning south to Mamre, the land of his father. Although technically in the land of Canaan, Jacob had not followed through and returned to the land of his birth and to his father, Isaac. This disobedience would cost his family dearly as his daughter Dinah was defiled and his sons are led into murder by deception (Genesis 34). Even when they finally do settle in the land of their fathers, the sons once again act shamefully by betraying their brother Joseph and deceiving their father about his supposed death. Indeed, deception had become a generational curse upon this family (Genesis 37).

Jacob truly became Israel in his latter years. No more was he the deceiver, yet his deceptive ways were still passed on to his sons which caused much trouble. Even so, God caused all these things to work for good. Even in the midst of deception and "almost obedience", we see a compassionate God always steering and leading these biblical examples into the way He desired. What would their lives have been like if Jacob, his wives and their sons had shown total obedience? Certainly, there would not have been much of the heartache created by their compromise and deception. However, God's hand was there to make good come out of their evil. While this does not justify compromise, it explains how God can use deceivers like Jacob and turn them into His vessel of honor. Through the heartache that compromise creates, God was able to lead a man like Jacob into the promised land and to create the man, Israel. It is the same for us, beloved. God will take our concessions to sin and turn them around for His glory. The key is to never give up and to not give in, much like Jacob refused to yield to the Angel of the Lord. We must continue to strive for complete obedience to the Lord, for with it is peace and security. The alternative, an "almost obedience", will only result in hearts that continue to be broken due to the situations our willfulness creates. May we look to the Lord and obey him unconditionally with no fear, trusting that He indeed will bring us to our respective promised land that is filled with God's abundance.

Heavenly Father, may we lay down our "almost obedience" and surrender our will to You for Your good pleasure. You will only lead us to a place of security in You if we will but obey. Take away our deception and our mistrust and fill us with Your love and faith. In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Your Barefoot Servant,

Rick

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