7. Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph: Keeping Our Eyes on the Promise

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By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau, even regarding things to come. By faith Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff. By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones. ~Hebrews 11:20-22

Isaac

The God of the Living blessed Isaac according to his father’s blessing, and because of it, Isaac knew a fruitful life. He and Rebekah had heard the tale of What God had promised Abraham concerning his offspring. Isaac was the beginning of that offspring. Could you imagine being the first son among innumerable children? Isaac’s life had already been given back to him, and so now all he had to do was wait, and keep walking with God, enjoying His bounty and thanking him.

Now Isaac favored Esau, but with a little finagling according to the predetermined plan of God, at the end of Isaac’s life, Jacob got the greater portion of the blessing. And all Isaac needed to do was just keep living according to the promise. The nobly simple life of the first son of Abraham is an example of resting in the continuous stream of God’s faithfulness to His promise. God had chosen to bless Abraham forever, and there was nothing Isaac could do about it, except pass the blessing on to the next generation.

Jacob

Faith in the life of Jacob has been hard for some to find. After all, he got much of his wealth, blessing, and advantage by tricking other people out of theirs. Indeed, what wealth and advantage did he seek to gain from God?

At Bethel, after Jacob slept on a stone, and saw the angels and God in his dream, Jacob made a vow to God. “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God. This stone, which I have set up as a pillar, will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You.” ~ Genesis 28:20–22.

I have often wondered why God wanted to “back this horse in the race” so to speak. I mean he had promised Abraham, and this was two generations, and already we’ve got a conniving swindler and deal-broker. Where is Faith in this? Why is God called the God of Abraham, Isaac, AND Jacob?

I think the answer lies in the encounter Jacob had with God, as a result of which he leaned on his staff in worship. When he wrestled with God in Genesis 32, he refused to let go of the Angel until He had blessed him. He laid hold of God until God gave him what he wanted. This is the kind of faith that is worth learning from. The story of Jacob is about God materially blessing him, and making good on the vow-deal Jacob had made in faith that God was faithful to do what He had promised. And once Jacob returns to the land of his father, he erects the altar to Yahweh as his own God, and takes on the name God has given him.

Joseph

The stories of Joseph are told in such a way as to inspire people with his faithfulness to God when going through extreme difficulty– how he faced his brothers and Potiphar’s wife, and prison, but got elevated to the second highest place in all the land! Surprisingly, this is not the lesson of faith this passage is seeking to teach. It’s rather about the bones being carried out of Egypt. What could be the purpose of this seemingly trivial thing in light of all Joseph went through?

Faith doesn’t just look back at the glory days, or consider the victories for the present only, but faith looks forward and gives direction to those about to walk the next league of the journey so they too can keep in line with the promise. This is the lesson of faith learned from Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. Faith is a larger commitment than the short time we live on this earth. The real task for many of us is to nail our own faith down during this lifetime by grappling with God as Jacob did, and resting in it as Isaac did. And when it comes time to pass it on to the next generation, we must keep our eyes on the Promises of God, so that the generation to come may See Him who is Unseen by looking at our lives to help them understand the mystery of their own.

Application:

  1. Keep track of your story: how you got here, and where you’re headed.
  2. Rest in full assurance of faith and communicate that to all whom God has given you to continue your journey.
  3. Grapple with God to accomplish His desire. And you be fully assured of his presence with you, and power to work in you.
  4. Pass your faith on to the next generation. This can look like passing on inheritance to your children, or telling them how God has worked in your life to get you here. Specifics really help, because a lot of youngsters these days need to hear the hard-core details about how God got you through your own self-made nightmares, and still proved to be good. Remember it’s a story about Him, not you. It is the sober reality of our failures and God’s salvation that makes up the most profound heritage one can leave to one’s children. Then, they too will know what promises to keep their eyes on.
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To a Mature Man: Closing Remarks

To a Mature Man:

The Ten Stages of the Christian Walk

# Stage Do Acquire Avoid
1 Birth Meet a Christian Exposure to Christ False Religion/ False gods
2 Temple Listen to God’s Word Blessing/ Understanding Traditionalism/ Formalism
3 Baptism Repent and Obey Holy Spirit’s filling License to Sin
4 Wilderness Depend/ Trust/ Devote/ follow him Confirmed power of Spirit Compromise
5 Community Testify/ serve/ seek Mission announced Man’s approval
6 Service Meet physical and spiritual needs Power’s achievement Worldly concern
7 Justice Stand against evil man for God Refute and remain

disentangled

Appeasement/ Cowering
8 Persecution Endure; forgive The Cross’ victory Apostasy
9 Resurrection Stand and give thanks To see His face Deception/ Disobedience
10 Ascension Rule Heaven & Earth A good world Pride

Insights:

  • You may notice that the beginning stages of walk with Jesus are quite individual, but the middle stages are communal. This is not by accident, nor intentionally. I think it is discovered design. It is because the life of a Christian is a life in conjunction with other believers. God will need to have his time alone with you, but you will need to be with the body of Christ if He is to use you to the fullest.
  • It may seem superfluous to write about the last two stages, since beyond the grave, we will have fewer cares and concerns. But I see that when they are all laid out, certain patterns and relationships emerge.

Example.

  • Humility–Stage 1 and Stage 10 are both largely concerned with Humility and avoiding Pride in exaltation.
    • Truth–Stage 2 and Stage 9 are both concerned with Heeding God’s word and not being deceived by anything less than him.
      • The Cross–Stage 3 and Stage 8 are the initial death to the world at Baptism, and the world’s fulfillment of that death in Persecution.
    • Battle–Stage 4 and stage 7 are the initial testing before God, and then the fulfillment of that testing before man as one stands against the people who are controlled by the Evil one who was faced already in the wilderness.
  • Love–Stage 5 and 6 are the community living together and fully operating in the power of the Holy Spirit as a witness to the world what community and love really look like.

So is the first Chiasmic pattern recognizable in these stages. In it, the emphasis on Humility, the Cross, and Love are emphasized as the beginning middle and End of the Christian life.

  • Another insight, looking back on the stages: you may notice the ordering of the stages from inner-most circle to outermost circle. Once a believer is baptized, he grows in the innermost circle of relating with God, then he grows outward to the next circle of inter-relating with believers, then the next circle out is relating to the world, and then the outer circle of standing against the forces of evil. Our ministry does indeed spread outward from this central locus of being with God, and extends outward to offense against the enemy.
  • This insight lends itself to another: This, for all believers is the order of ministry, and let it never be forgotten, as some tragically have forgotten, and have lost all power, life, and effectiveness, and courage for their ministries.
  1. Stage 4: Our first ministry is to the Lord
  2. Stage 5: Our second ministry is to the Church
  3. Stage 6: Our third ministry is to the World
  4. Stage 7: Our fourth ministry is to the Powers

Dear Brother, no matter where you go, never forget this principle! Minister to Him first, then give first consideration to the Church, then the world, then go against the powers of the enemy. This will render you fruitful in your ministry, and abundantly so.

  • I also hope that it has become obvious through these writings, how important it is for a believer to be set apart from the world to God. The Holy Spirit is what distinguishes a Christian from a non-believer. In stage 3: Baptism there is a clean break, in stage 4: Wilderness there is no compromise, in stage 5: Community there is a casting off man’s approval, in stage 6: Service there is an avoidance of worldly concerns, and in stage 7: Justice there is a disentanglement that must be kept. The reason for the separation at all of these stages is stage 8: Persecution. It is the most profound and most defined manifestation of the Gospel, and few are they who will endure to the end. This is the Cross the Christian must carry, and the world will seek to pull the believer back into its clutches from the day he says he will follow Jesus. And the world needs the cross every generation, in every place for the reminder of God’s love living in his followers.
  • Another word: some who read these stages may say, “This isn’t Christianity. This is SUPER-Christianity.” I would like to reply to such a person that any Christianity that does not measure itself by the standard of Christ isn’t Christianity at all. Therefore, there is no real Christianity without the Holy Spirit. Any Christianity that is assured in itself apart from the measure of Christ and leads others into the same folly is nominal and misguided at best and at worst blasphemous and diabolical.
  • Finally, there may be some who say, “What do I do if I have fallen into one of these pitfalls along the way? What do I do, if I am stuck?” One word: REPENT! Run straight into the arms of God, and out of the world’s (and thereby the devil’s) clutches. Just as Jesus told Peter who was opposing him when he said,

“Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.”

No matter what pitfall you are in, this is how we get back on the path with Jesus: by putting off the old life, embracing His new life, and following Him to maturity.

Closing

Ephesians 4:11-13

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

It has been my hope, dear brother, to equip you for the work of service, and to build you up with the body of Christ until we all attain unity of faith. The knowledge of the Son of God in these posts, will, I hope, grow you to a mature man, according to the measure of the fullness of Christ’s stature.

May you rise to the occasion of these posts and press onward to the prize of what awaits in the New Heaven and Earth for all who love His appearing. My heart is opened to you, and I trust that God will raise you up so that you will be able to soar with Him on wings of eagles as you trust in Him.

I look forward to walking with you for as much longer as the Lord will have us together. God’s grace and peace go with you, my friend.

Your older brother

“To a Mature Man”: Stage 2–Temple

My dear little brother,

– – Last week, I shared about Jesus in his Humanity being born of man, and having a lot in common with us. Since the day He was born, He has been showing us the real meaning of the Image of God in man: Humility. The next stage is what comes after a person has been exposed to Christ and how he grows in the blessing and knowledge of God’s goodness.

Jesus

The next stage is what we have in Luke’s Gospel at Jesus’ 8th day old and his 12th year old. The significant stage when Jesus was recorded at the Temple has two different parts which are super important for the man or the woman who is coming into their fullness as a Little-Christ.

The First, is Blessing,  (Luke 2:21-40.) A parent has such love for their children, and here it seems to me that God showed favor to the little boy Jesus by sending Simeon and Anna to bless him. This was such a wonderful practice which ties to the Old Testament like in Genesis when Isaac, and Jacob blessed their children and spoke words that would come to shape their direction. (Genesis 27, 49) Notice that it is the blessing that precedes any command. From the beginning we have this pattern,

  • “God blessed them, and told them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ (Genesis 1:28)
  • In the Ten commandments, “I am the Lord who brought you out of the land of Egypt. You shall have no other gods before me . . . ” (Exodus 20:2-3)
  • The Sermon on the mount opens with blessing and continues with commands. (Matthew 5)
  • Even if you look at the Great Commission, you have a very interesting phrase, “And he blessed them and said, ‘All authority has been given me in Heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples . . .'” (Matthew 28:18)

It appears that God’s pattern is to bless his creation, profess his goodness, then to stress what he wills for the creation to do. If we see this pattern throughout the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, should we be surprised to see it in Jesus’ life?

The Second thing, is Learning in the temple at 12 years old. In Philippians, Paul said, Jesus ’emptied himself.’ in Philippians 2. He needed to be taught. His understanding and his ‘answers’ amazed the teachers in the temple as he submitted to their teaching. Recently, I saw a Mormon video of Jesus in the temple himself doing the teaching, but the Canon of Scripture the Church worshipfully chose and keeps says, in Luke’s account that he was

. . . sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.~Luke 2:46

That is the pattern of one who humbly receives from those wiser and older than he. It is this stage of Jesus’ life where he was growing super familiar with the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings. As Jesus did for his disciples in their “stage 2” when he “opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:45) In the later stages, Jesus was only able to do the teaching he did because he had passed through this stage, having received God’s blessing, and having been taught God’s Word. He had been given the full framework for His own person and spread out his understanding to fully grasp his story.

Christian

These days, I have seen a fading in the excitement of seeing mass conversions to Christ, because so few of them seem to be followed up by something evidently genuine. People hear the Gospel, (which is a crucial part of Stage 2) but they do not progress beyond that. It appears that the person who has only reached this stage where they receive God’s blessing and learn God’s teaching, but progresses no further in their walk are merely shown to be soil that is hard, stony, or thorny. The word of God bears no fruit, and their heart is proved worthless.

The importance of this stage, however must be kept at the level with all the others. It is the blessing of God which reminds us how much we owe him in worship, glory, and thanks, for making us and giving us such good gifts. Many churches still are very intentional about blessing their congregations. Also, exposure to and training by Christians keeps on shedding light and nourishment on the soil of the heart filled with the faith of a child– faith which according to Jesus is necessary to be saved. In today’s time, a Christian will likely receive much of this stage in the temple of the church, though in relationship with a small number of believers it is possible. In this stage a Christian has certain things he must be sure he gains, things he must take care to avoid.

Application:

Gain:

  • Blessing– learn how much Good blesses and loves you through the blessings of people in the church. Learn how his love has shaped them, and as one who is in a later stage, take it upon yourself to extend God’s blessing to the world so they can know God’s love and goodness in a personal way.
  • Knowledge of God— Many claim to know Him, but have no idea who He is, or how or why he does things. The Scriptures bear witness to this: “In [the gospel] the Righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Romans 1:17. It is this faith by which a Christian can live. If he lacks this knowledge of God, he can by no means be saved.
  • Understanding about yourself. I am hesitant to put this in, because there’s all kinds of hoaky stuff out there about “be the best you.” and “Know thyself” etc. Still, even some popular theologians like John Calvin have recognized that the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self are inseparable. Here, the value on self-understanding is not for the purpose of Maslov’s self-actualization. It is more for the purpose of the prodigal son when he “came to himself.” It’s that moment when you come to the end of all that you are and recognize that you are totally broken and corrupt and in rebellion against God. This is crucially important for the Christian who seeks to enter the next stage.
  • Wisdom of God–Paul wrote to Timothy saying, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) There’s a certain way the world works. It needs to be understood in light of the Story of God’s interactions with fallen humanity. Stories teach us wisdom even more so than they do knowledge.

Avoid:

  • False Teaching– Jesus reserved his “Woes” for those who taught God’s word incorrectly. People who twist the Scriptures having neither, the spirit nor the letter correctly settled in the heart create great problems in the life of God’s people. Matthew 23. Measure up everything to the Scriptural revelation of Jesus Christ. If it doesn’t ring true with him ask more questions.
  • Traditionalism— There are those who have sought to make the church accessible to the three bad kinds of soils previously mentioned: the shallow, the hard-hearted, and the worldly. Avoid these things as you grow in Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding.
    • For the hard-hearted, they can still hear about Jesus, but they won’t be required to actually believe it. Maybe to fit in they will be required to do only superficial demonstrations of devotion like raising their hands, giving money, and attending regularly, nothing really all-involving.
    • For the stony-hearted, they can come to church, but there won’t be any really challenging doctrine that requires them to take deeper looks at themselves. They will have plenty of good man-teaching that will teach them have to grow maybe some AstroTurf lawn grass but no fruit.
    • For the thorny-hearted, they can come to church, and hear God’s word and even do some worthwhile things, but they won’t be required to clear out all the other stuff that’s important to them. They can come to church one day a week and six days of the week keep a garden of worldly thorns like entertainment, work, family, and possessions.

Summary: The Second Stage of a believer’s life is where the truth and blessing of God pour into a person. A person who is seeking to grow “To a mature man” needs to gain the blessing, knowledge, wisdom and understanding of this stage while avoiding False teaching or Tradition. Until a believer has biblical faith, he is not ready for stage 3.

Final thought: This stage could be compared with childhood, and for the Christian, I believe he can take comfort in this: that he is fulfilling this part of his Savior’s word, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” ~Mt 18:3.