Jacob's Fleshly Walk
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Genesis, chapter 33. You will remember that we left Jacob where the Lord Jesus Christ had wrestled with him and had touched him in the sinew of his thigh and caused him to cling to the Lord. We said that that was a spiritual experience for Jacob. We saw the effect in the change in his name.

You will remember that after a night of wrestling…not Jacob with the Lord Jesus Christ, but the Lord Jesus Christ with Jacob…when the Lord Jesus saw He prevailed not over Jacob, He touched him in his thigh. Then Jacob, clinging to the Lord Jesus, said, “Oh, that Thou would bless me. I will not let Thee go until Thou bless me.” Jacob was clinging to the Lord for a blessing.

Confession of Weakness

The Lord Jesus Christ said, “What is thy name?” He was not asking a mere question. He was seeking a confession. Jacob answered immediately, “My name is Jacob.” As we pointed out to you, the name Jacob means supplanter , deceiver , and Jacob was making a confession. He said, “I am a supplanter. I am a deceiver. You cannot depend upon me at all.” The Lord Jesus said, “I am going to change your name. I am going to change your name to Israel.”

You will remember that the meaning of the word Israel is God commands . He told Jacob why He was changing his name to God commands . He said, “In the past you have contended with men, you have contended with God, and you have prevailed, but that day is gone. No longer need you contend in your own strength. From here on out, all you need to do is follow My command and the victory will be yours.”

This is a spiritual experience that every one of us will have to come to sooner or later. It may be sooner in the lives of some of us. It may be later in the lives of others of us. But we have to come to that place where we say an eternal no to self and an eternal yes to God. If we do not, we will never amount to anything at all.

Victory Over the Flesh

You will remember that I pointed out to you that though the Lord Jesus Christ touched Jacob in the sinew of his thigh, He did not remove it. He weakened him. He robbed him of his strength, but He did not remove the sinew of his thigh. It was there . He limped because of this experience with God, we are told in the last verse of chapter 32, all the days of his life.

The reason we emphasized that to you was because of what we want to say to you now. We told you that the experience Jacob had is an experience which we all have when we realize the forcefulness of the flesh, the strength of the old man as the Scripture calls it, and the need of yielding the old man to the power of Christ.

We told you that as far as theology is concerned, there are two schools of thought. There is a school of thought that teaches that the old nature, the old man, is completely eradicated and you never have any trouble with him again.

I have said many, many times, and I repeat now, that I wish that were true. I wish that by one experience the effectiveness of the flesh could be nullified once and forever. I wish that the old man could be robbed of his power. I wish that the sinful nature could be eradicated. But we may as well face facts. We may as well face the fact of the Scripture, and we may as well face the fact of experience. The Scripture does not teach that the old man is eradicated, and experience certainly proves the impossibility of it.

So even though Jacob had this wonderful experience…and it was wonderful…he failed to walk in the light of his experience. That is our problem today. We have a glorious experience with the Lord and we say, “From here on out everything is going to be wonderful.” Then we fail to walk in the light of that experience. Sometimes things, instead of getting better, are even worse. That is what the Scripture means when it says, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

Failure to Walk According to Faith

Using New Testament terminology, if Jacob had walked in the Spirit, there would not have been a chapter 33 and 34 of the book of Genesis. Because he failed, self asserted itself, and tragedy was the result.

I would like for us to read chapter 33 and then we will see what we can learn from it:

Genesis 33:

1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids.
2And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
3And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.
4And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.
5And he lifted up his eyes, and saw the women and the children; and said, Who are those with thee? And he said, The children which God hath graciously given thy servant.
6Then the handmaidens came near, they and their children, and they bowed themselves.
7And Leah also with her children came near, and bowed themselves: and after came Joseph near and Rachel, and they bowed themselves.
8And he said, What meanest thou by all this drove which I met? And he said, These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.
9And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.
10And Jacob said, Nay, I pray thee, if now I have found grace in thy sight, then receive my present at my hand: for therefore I have seen thy face, as though I had seen the face of God, and thou wast pleased with me.
11Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee; because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. And he urged him, and he took it.
12And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.
13And he said unto him, My lord knoweth that the children are tender, and the flocks and herds with young are with me: and if men should overdrive them one day, all the flock will die.
14Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.
15And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me. And he said, What needeth it? let me find grace in the sight of my lord.
16So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, and built him an house, and made booths for his cattle: therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
18And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.
19And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.

Let us stop our reading there. This chapter presents the sad example of a man who walked in the flesh when he could have walked in the Spirit.

Of course you will remember that chapter 33 and this incident were what concerned Jacob so tremendously. He had fled to Padan-aram, you will remember, some twenty years before this incident, because he had cheated his brother, Esau, out of those things that, humanly speaking, were rightfully his. He had fled for his life, but he was homesick. He wanted to come home, and God told him to come home. He started back home, but he knew he would have to deal with Esau because Esau was unfinished business. He did not know what would happen. He did not know whether Esau would kill him or not. He thought in all probability he would.

Trying to Impress Esau

And so, you will remember, before he had the experience at the Brook Jabbok, he made up a great herd of goats and a great herd of sheep and a great herd of cattle, and he put spaces between those groups and sent them on to Esau.

That is what Esau was talking about in verse 8 of chapter 33 when he said, “What meanest thou by all this drove which I met?” Jacob said, “These are to find grace in the sight of my lord.”

Jacob had always bought everyone off. That had been the way he had gotten everything. Anything that he wanted, he bought, and he thought he could buy Esau off, too, no matter how deceptive the process might be.

So, he sent these things across the Brook Jabbok, and he was ready to cross when the Lord Jesus got hold of him. That is when He wrestled with him all night long. That is when He changed his name. That is when He said to him, “Now, the secret of success is not to do it yourself, but to ask what to do, and then do what I tell you to do. The secret of success is not to walk by your own planning, but to walk at My command.”

So what do we read in chapter 33? As soon as Jacob got across the brook, in verse 1:

Genesis 33:

1And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men…

Those four hundred men accompanying Esau scared Jacob to death! What did he do? Did he say, “Lord, I have already talked with you about this, so I know you are going to take care of this situation?” That is what he should have said because, you will remember, back in chapter 32, verse 9, he talked to God about it. He told God that if He did not undertake, there would be no hope for him. But when he came to meeting Esau, he did as so many of us do. He forgot that he had prayed and asked God to do it. He thought the whole thing had to rest upon him.

So, he began the everlasting conniving that was the plague of his life. It is so hard for us to ask God what to do. It is so easy for us to plan ourselves. It is so hard for us to say, “God, I am at Your command, and I will wait on You.” It is so easy for us to say, “We have got to do something.”

Wasted Energy

You heard what we read and what he did. He divided his children according to the wives and according to the handmaids and according to his own favoritism. We have learned his family was split asunder with favoritism. He put the handmaids first, then Leah, then Rachel and her children, and he thought (oh, the conniving of Jacob), “When he sees the handmaidens and their children he may kill them. But he may get tired before he gets to Rachel. That is the best I can do. I will just have to work this situation out for myself.”

But he did not have to. Do you know why he did not have to? Because he had already talked to God about it. Oh, the energy we waste! The efforts that go for nought because after we pray, we work! Someone might say to me, “You ought to put feet under your prayers.” No. Someone might say, “Do you not believe God helps those who help themselves?” As I have told you, that is one of the biggest lies and one of the most profitable the Devil ever told. God does not help those who help themselves. God helps those who leave things in His hands.

Notice what happens in verse 3:

Genesis 33:

3And he passed over before them, and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother.

What a shocking thing this is! Seven times over he bowed to his brother, which meant complete submission. He was saying,“Esau, I will do anything you ask. Anything you want, I am ready to do.”

Actions Contrary to Prayer

Look at verse 11 of chapter 32 and notice what he said when he was praying:

Genesis 32:

11Deliver me, I pray thee, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he will come and smite me, and the mother with the children.

Do you see what he was doing? He was acting absolutely contrary to the way he prayed. He had prayed, “Oh God, deliver me from the hand of Esau.” And now he was bowing seven times with his face to the ground before Esau, saying, “Esau, I put myself in your hands. Please have mercy on me.”

Does that sound familiar? Don't we do that so often? Don't we ask God to deliver us from a certain temptation and then place ourselves right in the midst of the temptation? Don't we ask the Lord to deliver us from a certain problem and then go right on and try to work out the problem ourselves?

What worked? Did Jacob's bowing to the ground work? Did Jacob's gift work? Or was it God that worked? Look at verse 4:

Genesis 33:

4And Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him: and they wept.

Then he asked questions about the women and the children. Then he asked about the herds of gifts that had been given to him, and in verse 9:

Genesis 33:

9And Esau said, I have enough, my brother; keep that thou hast unto thyself.

Esau's Heart Changed by God

“You do not need to appease me. I am not even mad at you.” Now, he had been mad at Jacob. He was mad enough at him to kill him. That is the reason his mother (as a lot of mothers do) got his father off and said, “I cannot stand it if Jacob married one of those girls like Esau married. I think he ought to go off to Padan-aram and get him a wife.” She did not say Esau was trying to kill Jacob, but that is why she was scared. She was not too interested in the kind of wife he got. She was trying to get her boy out from under trouble. She got him into it because she did not pray any more than Jacob did.

But here is Esau on the return trip saying, “Man, forget it. I have not got anything against you.” A lot of people talk about how generous Esau was. I do not think he was generous. I think that God worked on his heart. I think that God changed his mind. I think that God gave Jacob favor in the eyes of Esau.

Have you ever tried to pray that way? Someone has been mad at you, trying to do everything against you, and things are not working right. What do you do about it? You say, “I think I will do something really nice for him and maybe he will like me.” Well, he won't. He will say, “I wonder what he thinks he is going to get by that, the old hypocrite.” That is what he will say.

But if you slip away to God and say, “Oh God, deliver me from his hands. Give me favor in his eyes. God, help him somehow to look with favor upon me.” Well, you will meet him on the street and the next thing you know he will run up to you and shake your hand and say, “Man, I have been missing you. Where in the world have you been?” And you will say, “Are you not mad at me?” “Why, I never was mad at you.” If you have got good sense you will let well enough alone. You will not go on and say, “Well, I thought surely you were.” You just say, “Thank you, Jesus,” and stop there.

You see, Jacob was not that way. He could not trust God even to do what He said He would do. Jacob said, “God, deliver me from the hand of Esau.” And when Esau met him and they kissed each other and wept and had such a good time, Jacob deep down inside said, “Maybe he does not mean it. Maybe Esau does not mean it.”

Have you ever asked God to do something, and then God did it and you said, “I do not know whether this is real or not”? Have you ever done that? Have you ever asked God to meet a need that you had, and God met that need, and then you said, “Well, maybe God did not do it. Maybe it was just a coincidence.” Instead of trusting God and praising God, you did not believe. Have you ever been sick, and you asked God to heal you, and then you got to thinking that you might die anyway? Somehow or other we cannot even trust what God does for us.

Continuing to Walk in the Flesh

Jacob was not able to trust what God did for him because, remember now, he was not walking in the Spirit. He was walking in the flesh. In verse 12 of chapter 33, Esau said:

Genesis 33:

12And he said, Let us take our journey, and let us go, and I will go before thee.

That is a natural thing. But what did Jacob say? Instead of saying, “Amen, Esau. I am so glad our fellowship is restored,” he said, “Now Esau, you are a wise man, and you know that the children are young, and you know that if we drive them too hard the first day, they will all die.” That old dollar mark was in Jacob's eyes. He was willing to forsake a blessing from God in order to conserve a little bit of profit.

If he had been walking in the Spirit, and if he had been walking according to the commandments of God, he would have said, “Esau, come along. I am so glad we are together again.” If Rachel had said, “Jacob, he might kill the flock,” he would have said, “What difference if he does? Fellowship has been restored.” But no! Jacob said, “You know, I have got all this problem, so I do not think we ought to travel together.” Actually he was still afraid. In verse 14 he said:

Genesis 33:

14Let my lord, I pray thee, pass over before his servant: and I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure, until I come unto my lord unto Seir.

Esau, still wanting to show that he had forgiven Jacob and wanting to show that everything was all right, said:

Genesis 33:

15And Esau said, Let me now leave with thee some of the folk that are with me…

Jacob was afraid even of that. He must have said to himself, “If Esau leaves some of his folk here and we all go to bed tonight he is liable to kill us all and steal all the cattle.” You see, he could not trust God.

Praying by Faith and Accepting by Faith

Have you ever stopped to think of the blessings that God so graciously provides that you and I miss because we are afraid to trust the wisdom of God? There are people, Christians, who miss material advancement which could be used for the glory of God because after they have prayed and asked God for wisdom and for direction and God opens the door, they are afraid to go through the door for fear it might not work out. They miss a whole lot that way.

If you by faith ask God to do something, then you ought to accept the results by faith because God is an unchanging God. James says concerning Him, “With Him there is not variableness, neither shadow of turning.” He does not turn. The gifts and calling of God are without repentance because when God says it, that is the way it is. That is the way it is going to be.

If you pray and ask God to lead you in something, and you believe He does and you thank Him for it, and then you do not take advantage of His leadership because you are fearful or for some other reason, you miss the blessing that God has, and…listen carefully…you get into worse trouble!

Jacob said to Esau, “Go on, brother Esau, over to Mount Seir and I will meet you.” In verse 16 we read:

Genesis 33:

16So Esau returned that day on his way unto Seir.
17And Jacob journeyed to Succoth…

Failure to Keep A Promise

It would be better to say, “But Jacob journeyed to Succoth,” because if you had a map before you (and this does not sound very flattering for a man who had had such a great spiritual victory) you would find that Jacob was a point blank liar! He told Esau he would meet him at Seir, and he did not go even in that direction. As soon as Esau was completely out of sight, he turned and went the other way. You see, he did not even keep his word.

You say, “Do you mean that a man who had had a great spiritual experience such as Jacob had in chapter 32 could be guilty of a thing like this? This sounds like the man before the experience.”

Keep in mind what I said to you at the beginning of our discussion about our failures to walk in the light of the experiences that we have. If Jacob had only said, “Oh God, You commanded. You commanded Esau to be nice to me. Thank you. I will go right along to Seir with Esau.” But he did not. He went over to Succoth.

You will notice in verse 17 that he built him a house and he made booths for his cattle: “Therefore the name of the place is call Succoth.” Succoth means booth .

Failure to Follow God's Instructions

You say, “What is wrong with building a house? What is wrong with building a barn for your cattle?” Nothing, if God has told you to build a house. Nothing, if God has told you to build barns. But everything if God has not told you to do it. What is wrong with building a house? Nothing, provided God has not told you to live in tents. If He has told you to live in tents, then it is wrong for you to build a house. Well, what is wrong with settling down at Succoth? Succoth was a nice place. Succoth may have been fine for any number of people, but it was not fine for Jacob.

Do you know why? Because God had told him to go to Bethel, but it took him ten years to get there, ten years of traveling and more hours of heartbreak than we could possibly describe, all because he settled down in Succoth when God told him to go to Bethel.

Getting Farther from Bethel

Look at verse 18:

Genesis 33:

18And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padanaram; and pitched his tent before the city.

You see, he went from bad to worse. He tarried a while at Succoth, and then he decided he would go to the city of Shechem. Look at verse 18 again:

Genesis 33:

18And Jacob came to Shalem, a city of Shechem…

Literally, what it says is, “He came in peace to Shechem.” Why am I emphasizing that to you? Because you need to learn, if you have not already…you need to refresh your minds along these lines because you may have forgotten…that the devil can give you a false peace to delude you.

You see, Jacob built his barns at Succoth and God did not stop him there. He built his barns at Succoth and God did not let some terrible thing happen to him. So he moved even closer to Shechem…further away from Bethel. And he did so with a certain sense of peace.

Look at verse 19. He got his roots in deeper. He was a stranger and a pilgrim on his way to Bethel.

Genesis 33:

19And he bought a parcel of a field, where he had spread his tent, at the hand of the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for an hundred pieces of money.
20And he erected there an altar, and called it EleloheIsrael.

You say, “Wonderful! Jacob built an altar.” Listen closely to what I am going to say so you will not misunderstand this. God is not as interested in the altar you build as He is in where you build it. Will you remember that? He is not as interested in the altar being built as He is in where you build it.

He had told Jacob several chapters back to go back to Bethel and build the altar, and Jacob was building it at Shechem. You will notice the uncertainty that Jacob had in his own mind.

You know, when we are doing what we know God does not want us to do, and we are trying to convince ourselves that we are right in doing it, it is amazing how we use extra spiritual language and become very, very earnest in our talk.

Jacob said when he built this altar, “This is the altar of El-elohe-Israel .” That means, This is the God; He is the God of Israel alone . Israel was his own name, and you see, he was getting an exalted opinion of his own spirituality. The Devil did that. He did not want Jacob to feel too convicted. If he did, he would get right with God. So the Devil wanted him to think that he had a special relationship to God, and he was foolish enough to think that, and he built an altar accordingly.

Disaster Through Disobedience

The Devil was going to collect. God was going to chasten. Jacob was going to pay for his disobedience. Notice verse 1 of chapter 34:

Genesis 34:

1And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

I am not going to read the rest of the chapter. You probably have already read it, and if you have not, read it in the privacy of your own home sometime. But remember, though the chapter describes a horrible sin, the tragedy lay in the ruin of a life. Do you have a daughter? Well, let me tell you, if you have a daughter, and God tells you to go to Bethel, you had better not build your house at Shechem. As sure as you do, your daughter will go out to see the daughters of the land of Shechem, and if she does, you may bring her home, your own heart breaking and her life ruined.

This terrible thing that happened to Dinah would never have happened if Jacob had gone to Bethel. It happened because he bought a parcel of land, built his house…pitched his tent…in a place where he had no business being.

A Ruined Testimony

Because of Dinah's sin her brothers got involved and everyone of the twelve boys of Jacob became a murderer. Jacob, if you will look at verse 30, uttered some words that I trust I will never have to utter. If you are a Christian parent, I trust that you will never have to utter verse 30 of Genesis, chapter 34:

Genesis 34:

30And Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, Ye have troubled me to make me to stink among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites: and I being few in number, they shall gather themselves together against me, and slay me; and I shall be destroyed, I and my house.

Jacob, instead of having a testimony among all the people of that land as he journeyed on to Bethel, as most certainly he would have had, had he been walking in the pathway of obedience, was a stench in the nostrils of all the people in that land.

Do you know what the Apostle Paul said about himself and about every Christian? Everywhere he went, he said he was a sweet-smelling savor. That is what you and I ought to be everywhere we go. We ought to leave a pleasant taste in the mouth and a pleasant smell in the nostrils of the people whom we pass. But I wonder whether, if we are walking more in the flesh than we are in the Spirit, we are not more of a stench than we are a fragrance. That is what Jacob was.

Hearing God After Tragedy

In chapter 35 Jacob could hear God's voice. It is amazing how hard it is to hear God's voice until after tragedy comes. It is amazing. God does not talk any louder than He does at other times, but sometimes the only time we hear Him is after tragedy comes.

Jacob's beautiful daughter was ravished. His twelve sons were murderers. In verse 1 of chapter 35:

Genesis 35:

1And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God, that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.

If you are familiar with these chapters, you know this was not anything new that God was saying. He had already said it two times. This was the third time He had said it. Two other times He had said, “Jacob, go on to Bethel.” Now He was saying it again. But oh, the difference in the response! You see, tragedy had struck so the response was the quicker.

The reason I am emphasizing these things is that I would like for you to respond to the voice of God before the tragedy happens. It does not have to come. I would like to remind you that the tragedy costs you. It does not cost God. You see, God does not change. His message is still the same. All we need to do is to obey.

Preparing to Go to Bethel

Look at verse 2 of Genesis, chapter 35, as it is most interesting:

Genesis 35:

2Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him, Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments:
3And let us arise, and go up to Bethel; and I will make there an altar unto God, who answered me in the day of my distress, and was with me in the way which I went.

Are you noticing the Word accurately? Who said anything about idols? Who said anything about clean clothes? God did not. All God said was, “Arise, and go to Bethel.” I wonder why Jacob said, “Let us get rid of these idols we have.” Jacob knew all along that he could never go to Bethel, which was the house of God, and take those idols with him. Perhaps one of the reasons he was ten years in getting back to Bethel after he left Padan-aram was the idols that he was talking about.

Do you remember that when Jacob left Padan-aram, Rachel took those idols with her? Father Laban came to find them, and Rachel sat on them. She put them in a little basket and sat on the basket and said, “Excuse me, Father, I cannot get up,” when he came into the room. She was sitting on the idols.

If Jacob had been true to God as the head of his household, he would have yanked Rachel up off that basket and said, “Laban, get these things out of here as fast as you can get them out, because I do not want God to curse me.” But he did not! He could not afford to displease his wife to please God. He did not have spiritual stamina enough, as many men do not have spiritual stamina enough in this day to take their places as the spiritual heads of the household. So he let her have them. They kept him from Bethel for ten years, and we have every reason to believe that because they held on to those idols, his family was ruined. That is the reason God did not have to say anything about idols. All He had to say was, “Jacob, if you do not get back to Bethel pretty soon, something worse is going to happen to you.” Jacob could say, “Let us get rid of the idols. Let us wash our clothes. We cannot go up there dirty.”

Hearing God's Command Today

I have had experiences through the years of my ministry of just preaching the Word of God and of having someone come to me and say, “Why is it you do not approve of so and so?” I am going to use this illustration, but with this word of caution: I do not believe in emphasizing things. Once you start to emphasize things, the person who is doing the thing that you talk about gets really uncomfortable, and the person who is not doing that but is doing something else a whole lot worse, gets real comfortable. I do not like to emphasize things. But I do want to use this illustration.

These people do not live in Abilene now. They have been gone a long time. These people were saved through the ministry of the radio and fellowshipped at the Bible Center. They moved in a higher stratum of society than most of us, and they were regular dance fiends, if that is the word for it. One day as I was standing at the door, this dear woman shook hands with me and said, “Why don't you believe in dancing?” I said, “Did I say I did not believe in it?” “No, you did not say it, but I am sure you do not.” I said, “Well, I do not, but what did I say?” “You did not have to say anything.” About three weeks later, she came by the door and said, “I know you think that dancing hurts my testimony, and I am not going to dance any more.” I called her by name and said, “Now, out of curiosity, I would like to know when I ever said that dancing would hurt your testimony.” “You did not say it, but I am miserable,” she said. And off she went!

Do you see what I am talking about? If you do not dance, but you cuss, don't you take any comfort in what I have said just because I did not talk about cussing. What I am trying to say to you is that when God speaks to your heart, He does not have to name the thing that is keeping you from victory. You know what it is, and you are ready to get rid of it.

Burying Idols

Jacob said, “Let us get rid of these idols, and let us get rid of them quickly.” He said “I.” And notice, he did not say, “I am going to try and to hope.” He said, “I am going back up there, and I am going to make an altar to God.” He evidently said it more forcefully than I am saying it, because in verse 4 of chapter 35, you will notice:

Genesis 35:

4And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in their hand, and all their earrings which were in their ears;…

He was not even talking about earrings. You do know why they gave him earrings? Because people in that day made idols out of earrings. That is why. So you see they not only gave him the idols, but they said, “Boy, we are going to give him everything that we might even be tempted to make an idol out of.” He evidently was forceful in what he said.

Notice what he did with them. You say, “Well, being a good Jew as he was, and being interestd in money, I suppose he took them down to the market place and sold them.” You know, that is what some people do when they decide they cannot do certain things because it hurts their testimony. They go and sell them to someone else and make a temptation for them. Well, not Jacob.

In verse 4 Jacob hid them. That is, he buried them. It does not mean that he hid them with the idea of going back and getting them.

Genesis 35:

4…and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.

Why an oak tree? Why not a cypress tree or something else? Because an oak tree in the Word of God is always a symbol related to death. I believe the Spirit of God suggested that he bury them under the oak tree that the people might be fully convinced that this was the end of their idolatry.

God's Protection

Notice verse 5:

Genesis 35:

5And they journeyed: and the terror of God was upon the cities that were round about them, and they did not pursue after the sons of Jacob.

You see, after the terrible things that his sons did to the men of Shechem, he was sure that everyone there would kill them. So what did God do? He made the cities scared of Jacob.

You know, you may be a puny little fellow, but if you are in God's will, God will make everyone scared to death of you if He needs to. You do not need to be afraid if you are in the center of God's will. Look at verse 6:

Genesis 35:

6So Jacob came to Luz, which is in the land of Canaan, that is, Bethel, [remember, Bethel means house of God ], he and all the people that were with him.
7And he built there an altar, and called the place Elbethel: because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.

Did you notice that he went back where God told him to go? And did you notice the kind of altar he built this time? He called it El-beth-el, which means God of the house of God . There is a big difference.

You see, God is not the God of your petty whims, and God is not the God of your petty desires, and God is not the God of your petty selfishness. God is the God of the house of God. God never lowers His standards. You have got to bring your standards up to meet the standard of God.

Death of Deborah

Look at verse 8:

Genesis 35:

8But Deborah Rebekah's nurse died, and she was buried beneath Bethel under an oak: and the name of it was called Allonbachuth.

Do you notice this verse's coming where it does? You see, Jacob was back at the house of God now. He was back in fellowship. Everything was going to be all right, was it not? No more trouble and no more problems. And the first thing that happened was that someone he loved very dearly died. Why did the Spirit of God put that in? To remind you and me that just because we are in fellowship with God is no sign that some bad thing or some sad thing is not going to happen to us. Things do happen even though we are in fellowship with God.

You say, “Well, if that is so, what is the point of being in fellowship?” The point of being in fellowship is that when the trouble comes, there is the strength and encouragement that it takes to bear the trouble. Notice these next few verses:

Genesis 35:

9And God appeared unto Jacob again, when he came out of Padanaram, and blessed him.
10And God said unto him, Thy name is Jacob: thy name shall not be called any more Jacob, but Israel shall be thy name: and he called his name Israel.

You see, back in chapter 32 God told him what could be, but God was unable to bring it to pass because Jacob was not walking in the Spirit. But here in this verse in chapter 35 He tells him what is. “You are walking in the Spirit now, Israel. You are doing what I commanded you to do. You are in the center of God's will.” Look at verse 16 and notice what happened as a result:

Genesis 35:

16And they journeyed from Bethel; and there was but a little way to come to Ephrath: and Rachel travailed, and she had hard labour.

Look at the word Ephrath . Do you know what it means? It means fruitfulness . Is it not significant that the Word of God says that it is only a little way from Bethel to Ephrath? It is only a little way from the restoration of fellowship to fruitfulness. For thirty years…think of it…Jacob lived an unfruitful life. For thirty years he lived a barren life. Then he got right with God and it was only a little while until his life was fruitful.

Death of Rachel

Then, another hard experience. What I want you to see is that just because you come back to God does not mean that you will not have some more problems. It does not mean you will not have some more trouble. But I repeat, it means that you will have strength to bear the trouble, because in verse 17:

Genesis 35:

17And it came to pass, when she [Rachel] was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also.
18And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin.

Evidence of Fellowship

You see, Jacob lost Rachel, the one whom he loved so very, very dearly. Right after he came back into fellowship with God this happened. Don't you know the Devil was saying, “Now, see, Jacob, what good did it do you to get right with God? What good did it do you? Your wife is dead.” “Ah, but, ” Jacob said, “if I had not been right with God and my wife had died, I could not have stood it. I got back to God just in time, because God orders things. My wife would have died whether I was in fellowship or out of fellowship, but now that I am in fellowship, I can stand it the better.”

Do you know how we know that? Because of what Jacob did about Ben-oni. When Rachel was dying and she realized she was giving birth to a son, she said to the midwife, “I want you to call him Ben-oni .” Do you know what that means? It means Son of my Sorrow, Son of my Heartbreak . But Jacob said, “No. Now that I know God, we cannot call him Son of my Sorrow . We must call him Benjamin, Son of my Strength, Son of my Courage . Literally it is Son of my Right Hand .

Return to Home

Will you look down at verse 27:

Genesis 35:

27And Jacob came unto Isaac his father unto Mamre, unto the city of Arbah, which is Hebron, where Abraham and Isaac sojourned.

That is the most significant verse. Thirty years ago he left his father. Thirty long years of being out of fellowship. But now, meeting God at the appointed place of meeting, Bethel, he was back at Hebron. Do you know what Hebron means? It means fellowship . He was back in fellowship…in fellowship with his father and in fellowship with God. Notice verse 29:

Genesis 35:

29And Isaac gave up the Ghost, and died, and was gathered unto his people, being old and full of days: and his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

Danger of Living Out of Fellowship

Will you remember that if Jacob had not waited so long to come back to Bethel, he would not have gotten back just in time for his father's funeral. He would have been there long before that. That is one of the sad things about people out of fellowship. Sometimes when they do get home, all they get home for is funerals.

That is why we emphasize the dangers of walking in the flesh instead of the Spirit. If we could profit by Jacob's heartbreak and spare ourselves, it would be worthwhile.


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