If you ever wondered if God can use broken people, consider the story of Jacob in Genesis 27-32.
In his youth, he manipulated his brother, deceived his father and left home without one healthy relationship in his family. His first encounter with God was as he was fleeing from the anger of his brother hoping to find a refuge with his extended family. In that encounter (Gen. 28), God spoke to him in a dream, filled his heart with hope with the knowledge God had a plan and purpose for his life. A lesson we glean from this experience is that God sees something in us when others do not, and He looks past our failed relationships and invites us wonderful relationship with Him.
Jacob’s second encounter with God occurred roughly 20 years later (Gen. 31). Those twenty years were filled with the joy of marriage, starting a family and career. The problem was his career involved working for his father-in-law who was manipulative to say the least. Weary of trying to manage that dysfunctional relationship, Jacob gathered his family and possession and set out to return to his homeland. His father-in-law was in hot pursuit intended to harm Jacob, but before he reached Jacob, God had a private meeting with him and warned him to not harm Jacob. God took care of Jacob’s accuser without Jacob having to get involved. A lesson I glean from this experience is that God will go before us and protect us from our spiritual enemy. None of us know how many spiritual victories have been won on our behalf because Almighty God came to our defense.
Jacob’s third encounter with God occurred a short time later in Genesis 32 as Jacob prepared to face his brother, Esau. When Jacob last saw Esau twenty years earlier, Esau made it clear he intended to kill him. Twenty years is plenty of time for resentment and hatred to fester into an out-of-control rage. It is also plenty of time for an inner work of the Holy Spirit. The night before the two were to meet, God sent an angel who wrestled with Jacob through the night. It is ironic that Jacob’s life would be spared from the altercation with his brother because of a wrestling match with an angel. We get a glimpse into the real heart of Jacob verse 26 when he said to the Lord “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” There you have it. After a lifetime of wrestling with people, his true heart is exposed; he was a man who simply wanted to be blessed by God.
Each of the three encounters Jacob had with God occurred when he was alone. They also came at crisis points in his life. Every person needs their own experience with God, an encounter that serves to define your faith. It will happen when you get alone with God and surrender your past to His mercy and your future to His grace.
God often orchestrates His plan through “chance” meetings. Genesis 24 contains the heart-warming story of two relatively obscure people who played an important role in fulfilling God’s plan to bless mankind. The backdrop of the story is that Isaac had reached the stage in life when he was ready to marry and start a family. As part of the culture of the day, parents were intricately involved in the process of finding the prospective spouse for their children, but because of his advanced age and declining health, Abraham had to assign that task to another. Take heart those of you age 65 and older who have been advised by our government officials to stay home during the COVID pandemic. As we see in this story, we may be restricted in our ability to move around the community, but God is able to accomplish his plan and purpose regardless of our circumstances.
This story illustrates the truth of Psalm 37:23, “the steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way.” Abraham gave his servant the assignment of finding a wife for Isaac. I suspect Isaac may have had a private conversation with the servant to give him a few things to consider. As the story goes, the servant left with ten camels loaded with treasure that would serve as the dowry for the new wife. Now consider the significance of Abraham entrusting that great amount of wealth and the importance of this mission to the servant.
Reach chapter 24 again and take note how Abraham’s servant met Isaac’s future wife through a “chance meeting.” I am convinced the timing and location of that meeting were orchestrated by God. In the proper course of time, Rebekah became Isaac’s wife and consequently the mother of Jacob / Israel through whom the Messianic line would come. This should encourage each of us that Almighty God is directing our steps to have the conversation with the person who needs the words of encouragement we are prepared to share.
Let’s consider a couple of other important factors. The mission was successful because an obscure servant had already built the trust in Abraham to the point he could be trusted with the resources and assignment. The mission was also successful because of Rebekah. She is described as a virgin which means she had never had sexual relations with any man and had committed herself to a standard of purity. Also, when she met the servant she was busy fulfilling her daily and ordinary routine as a shepherdess. This tells us she was faithful to her responsibilities.
Proving yourself trustworthy, committing to a high moral standard, and faithfully fulfilling the basic responsibilities of every-day life are the keys that open the door of opportunity.
Moses’ mother was a descendant of Levi, the third son of Jacob and Leah. Levi had participated in a plot against his brother Joseph (Genesis 37). On his deathbed, Jacob spoke a curse over Levi and his brother Simeon because of their acts of wrath and cruelty recorded in Genesis 34. It was an inauspicious beginning of the family. Living down a bad reputation can be challenging, but Moses’ parents illustrate it can be done. Their second child, Aaron was the first high priest of the Hebrew people, and the tribe of Levi assumed the responsibility of the spiritual leadership of the Hebrew nation.
Moses was born in dangerous times, as Pharaoh had ordered the murder of all Hebrew baby boys. Moses’ mother hid him for three months and then acted on a plan to help protect her baby boy. She laid him in a sealed basket and placed it in the Nile River under the watchful eye of his older sister, strategically in a place where the Pharaoh’s daughter would find him and rescue him. I cannot imagine the agony of placing that 3 month old baby boy in a basket and placing it in the river, but she did what she could, used what she had, and trusted God to take care of the rest.
Moses grew up in a palace, the adopted grandson of Pharaoh. As a boy he received the best education in all of Egypt. As a young man he made connections with leaders of Egypt and surrounding countries. He would learn to look past the title and see the man, which would serve him well in his adult years. There is no hint of Moses being intimidated when he stood before Pharaoh and demanded the Hebrew people be set free.
The Hebrew nation was delivered from Egyptian bondage because of the son of an obscure woman who dared to live down the bad reputation of her family, and who dared to trust Almighty God to protect her baby boy.
Genesis 13 is a great text to consult when you are facing an important decision. Abraham and his nephew Lot had prospered to the point the land could no longer support them together, so they made a decision to part ways. As the elder, Abraham had the right to decide where wanted to live and order Lot to go in another direction, but he deferred to Lot’s choice of where to move. Verse 10 states Lot was drawn to the lush farming land near the Jordan River. Apparently not giving any thought to the decision
Lot did not give thought to the effect that decision would have on his family. He moved near Sodom, a community known as spiritually bankrupt, while Abraham remained in the area where God originally had directed him to live. A short time later, Abraham had to put himself and his household at risk to rescue Lot from danger. In a general sense, Lot got himself in trouble because he relied on what he saw, while Abraham remained blessed because he relied on what he knew God had already said.
When your business thrives, tough decision must be made. The easy part is deciding something must be done, the tough part is putting together a strategy to make the plan work. We only need to look at the decision to shut down our country and economy in response to the pandemic as an example. Shutting everything down was the easy part, but managing the effects of that decision have been problematic. This is not a commentary on the merits of shutting down our country; I have my opinion and I am sure you do as well. I am merely illustrating that prayer and care that must be invested for important decisions.
There are successful Christian businessmen and women no doubt could add to what I have to say, but let me offer these suggestions we glean from Lot.
- How does the decision fit into the overall plan of what you know God has called you to do?
- Are you feeling pressured to make a decision quickly? Take as much time as you can in making this decision, knowing the will of God is usually verified over time. If your sense of peace grows over time, you may have your answer. If your peace wanes over time, it is probably the Holy Spirit telling you to slow down and go in a different direction.
- Will this decision require you to compromise your character or values in any way?
- Identify you safety net. Who is helping you pray about this decision? To whom are you accountable and who has the right to express their concerns about the decision you are facing?
- How will this decision potentially impact your family in the long term? If you are married, are you and your spouse in agreement on the plan? If not, why?
Proverbs 19:21 There are many plans in a man’s heart, nevertheless the LORD’S counsel–that will stand.
Three chapters of Genesis bear the tales of three people and their choices.
Eve doubted God’s word. The fall of Eve and Adam is summed up in a conversation between the serpent and Eve in Genesis 3. “Did God really say?” (V.1) was an attempt to get Eve to question what God said. The second statement was “you will not die” (V.4) which contradicted the Lord’s instruction in 2:16-17 stating that if Adam and Eve ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they would die. Doubting God’s word led to disobeying God’s word.
Cain ignored God’s word. In Genesis 4:7 the Lord said to Cain “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” Cain ignored God’s word and suffered the consequences.
Noah obeyed God’s word. In Genesis 6 Noah is described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God” (v.9); “Noah did everything just as God commanded him” (V.22). Our appreciation for Noah’s testimony increases we read in verse 5 that he lived in a culture that was so vile God decided to destroy the human race and start over through Noah and his family. A great tribute to Noah is found in 6:22 & 7:5 where it says “Noah did everything just as God commanded him.” Eve doubted what God said, Cain ignored what God said and Noah obeyed what God said. In Genesis 9 it states that God blessed Noah and his family and established a covenant with him.
Doubting, ignoring or obeying God’s word – the choice seems simple enough.