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Promise Before Heartache

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A Man of Constant Sorrows

Remember the movie, O Brother, Where Art Thou?
I remember being down in Mexico, and a good friend of ours, Rick Ashby, would play the soundtrack to the movie over and over again.
There was a song in the movie, A Man of Constant Sorrows.
It was one of those songs that sounded happier than it really was.
It’s got this nice beat.
It’s got some fun harmonies.
But then there’s the words.
“For I'm bound to ride that northern railroad, Perhaps I'll die upon this train
You can bury me in some deep valley, For many years where I may lay Then you may learn to love another, While I am sleeping in my grave”
I don’t remember it being such a sad song.
As I look at the words, here is a man who is leaving everything behind.
He’s saying goodbye one last time.
He’s saying, let me die.
Forget about me.
Bury me somewhere where I’ll be forgotten.
Move on and love someone else.
The title of the song accurately describes the words of the song, I am a man of constant sorrow.
Today we turn a page in Jacob’s life.
We will be in
Let’s go ahead and read it now.
But I am going to start at verse 16, then come back to verse 9.
Read genesis 35:16-29.
Jacob’s is a man of constant sorrow.
His name means Trickster.
When you think of that you think of a clown.
But he’s not a happy clown.
He’s more like a sad clown.
His life was filled with tragedy and frustration.
When he was younger he received more than he should have.
It was through his cunning and his ability to lie.
But then, for most of his life, it was a life of disappointment.
He was tricked into marrying a woman he didn’t love.
He was in bondage to his father-in-law, fleeing for freedom.
His children brought violence upon the family.
And yet, God was not through bringing disappointment into his life.
There was still more coming his way.

We see 3 Heartbreaking moments in this portion of the chapter.

And yet, Jacob never despaired.
He never raged.
He never contemplated suicide.
He persevered.
He endured.
The first heart breaking tragedy was the death of Rachel.
Rachel was his beloved wife.
He had 2 wives, but she was his favorite.
She’s the one he loved.
She’s the one he worked 14 years to marry.
She was the love of his life.
She had become pregnant with a second son.
The first son was Joseph.
She began giving birth to her second son in what is now Bethlehem.
The second’s son’s birth wasn’t as easy as the first.
There were complications, and she died giving birth to her second son.
She died giving birth to her second son.
Before she died, just after the son was born, she named him Ben-oni.
Which means Son of My Lament, or Son of My Sorrow.
In the town, where the Beloved Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, would eventually be born, Jacob’s beloved wife, Rachel, died.
But he did not despair.
He built a tomb.
Buried her.
And moved on.
The second heart breaking tragedy was fulfilled by his own son Reuben.
In verse 22 it described Reuben’s unspeakable sin.
He had an affair with Bilhah, one of his father’s concubines.
This wasn’t just any concubine though.
She was the mother of Dan and Nephtali.
These his brothers.
These were 2 of the tribes of Israel.
And they would end up becoming 2 of the 12 tribes of Israel.
Bilhah was basically Reuben’s step mom.
This is incest.
says that this kind of sin, incest, being with your step mom, isn’t even tolerated among the pagans.
This is disgusting.
How could Jacob’s own son do this to him?
Imagine the disappointment and the anger that Jacob had?
Again, Jacob did not lose it.
There were no crimes of passion.
No violence.
Then at the end of the chapter, we learn about the third heart breaking tragedy, the death of Isaac.
Jacob had been on a journey to return to his homeland.
He had been on a long journey to return to his father.
He desired for his father to meet his children.
He desired for his father to meet his children.
Children of promise.
When he arrived to his father, Isaac was 180 years old.
Verse 29 is fairly simple.
Isaac breathed his last.
He Died.
He Was gathered to his people, old and full of days.
He died and was buried like his ancestors before him.
Those of you who have suffered through the loss of a parent know how deep this hurts.
Jacob didn’t use this as an opportunity to lord it over his brother.
He doesn’t scream into the night.
He didn’t go into a drunken rage.
He and his brother, reunited and buried his father.
Jacob was a man of constant sorrow, yet he never was hopeless.
He had a rough journey.
His lovely wife, who’s name means ewe, died
His son, committed incest, mocking Jacob.
Then his father died.
How could this be?
How could he maintain such resolve in such dire situations?

Earlier in the chapter, God prepared Jacob for what was coming.

God cares about us.
God is well aware of what happens to us on earth.
He isn’t in heaven, laughing at us.
He’s not like the Greek gods that loved to torment people, the way a young boy torments ants on an anthill.
God cares about us.
Just prior to these 3 heartbreaking moments, God appeared to Jacob.
And in this encounter, God prepared Jacob for the 3 heart breaking events we’ve already read.
Follow along in verses 9-14 and see how God prepared Jacob.
Follow along in verses 9-15.
Read Genesis 35:9-15.

In this final appearance from God to Jacob, Jacob learned 3 Lessons to prepare him for the coming events.

God owns you.
God is Almighty
God has a plan

First, God owns you.

God comes to Jacob and says, “Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.” So he called his name Israel.”
This is like when a child is born.
Who names the kid?
The parents do.
You don’t call up the government and request the government to name your son.
You name your kid.
And you hopefully come up with a name that is significant.
You name him after your grandfather who taught you how to fish.
You name her after your mother, who influenced you so much.
You pick a name from the Bible, of a person that stood strong for the Lord.
Hopefully, you avoid names like Nimrod or Dorcus.
That’s just being mean.
You name your child.
No one else does.
Because he is your son.
She is your daughter.
My parents were never fans of nicknames.
You ever adopted a dog from the pound, or were you given an adult dog.
Many times the new owners will rename the dog.
They were proud of the names they picked.
And they didn’t want someone else claiming that authority over their child.
God says to Jacob, “no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.”
God is claiming authority over Jacob.
And when we speak of his sons, we call them the 12 tribes of … Israel.
We don’t call them the 12 tribes of Jacob.
They are the 12 tribes of Israel, that’s his new name.
Jacob is going to march forward, and go through 3 heartbreaking events.
But he can boldly march forward because he knows he belongs to God.
Why don’t we have that same kind of confidence?
Because the sad truth is we don’t think we belong to God.
We run around on earth like toddlers.
Toddlers are the epitome of thinking no one owns them.
How do you get a toddler to do what you want them to do?
You tell them the opposite of what you want them to do.
Toddlers hold you hostage in their rebellion.
They have the remote control to the TV in their hand, and they hold it over the toilet laughing like a crazy person.
And now here you find yourself in negotiations with a person in a diaper.
“Ok, we both know you don’t want to do this.”
How do you get the remote control out of the kids hands, and not dropped in the toilet?
You know that you can’t say, “Give me that remote control.”
Because if you say that, kerplunk, it’s in the water.
How do you negotiate with a toddler?
“Whatever you do, don’t close the lid to the toilet.”
“Whatever you do, don’t put that on the ground.”
You have to make it seem like you would like them to put the remote control in the toilet, and you’d hate for them to keep it dry and give it back to you.
“Don’t put that on the ground.”
And the kid puts the remote back on the ground.
And he’s laughing hysterically, because he thinks he disobeyed you and got to keep his own autonomy.
The way to control a toddler is to say the opposite of what you want.
We run around like toddlers.
We hate the idea of God owning us.
We talked about this at Bible study the other night.
If you weren’t there, you really are missing out.
We are a reformed church.
We hold to the sovereignty of God.
We believe in predestination.
We believe that God elects.
We believe that God owns us.
But we didn’t start off this way.
It was a hard road to get to this point.
And what was the hardest part of it all?
It wasn’t a lack of Scripture.
I remember one time a member of the church coming to me after I read from .
He was upset that I had read from that passage.
He came to me and said, “We don’t read those kind of verses here.”
We don’t read those kinds of verses here.
I wish that person could replay what he had said.
So it wasn’t that we didn’t know the Bible.
We didn’t want to believe the Bible.
The hardest part was we didn’t want to believe it.
We wanted to hold onto our own autonomy.
“Put the remote down.”
And like the toddler, “God you can’t tell me what to do.”
It’s funny because in , one of the strongest passages in the Bible on the sovereignty of God, Paul lays out a sample argument against people with God, when they say , “God can’t tell me what to do.”
says, “But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?”
If you are the clay, you are at the mercy of the potter.
Clay doesn’t get to say, “Put me down.”
The Bible tells us something different about ourselves, then what we initially believe.
says, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
There it very clearly says that we are His possession.
He owns us.
What does it mean to be His possession?
Well … it means we are His.
You belong to Him because:
He is your creator.
But it goes even further, He owns you because He purchased you.
And on top of that, He purchased you.
says, “for you were bought with a price ...”
And that price was precious life of Jesus.
We are His servants.
We are His slaves.
God is at liberty to do with us whatever He pleases.
- “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.”
When we understand that, we can march forward into whatever is coming.
He can do with us whatever He wants.
Job’s attitude in , describes this understanding well.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
He owns you.
God names Jacob.
God owns Jacob.
God owns all that there is.
Then God causes Rachel to die during childbirth.
God can do that, because we are His.
In God says, “Son of man, behold, I am about to take the delight of your eyes away from you at a stroke; …”
God’s going to cause Ezekiel’s wife to die.
Because we are His.
It sounds cold.
It sounds calloused to say this.
And that shows just how far off we are.
Because like toddlers, we think we are autonomous.
There needs to be a fundamental shift in our thinking.
It’s not my life.
It’s his life.
And He can do with it whatever He wants.
And for us who are in Christ, this is not fatalistic thinking.
Because if we live, our life is His.
To live is Christ.
I am content to be whatever and where He wants me to be.
You want me to clean toilets … done.
You want me to wipe tables … I’ll do it.
And to die … is gain.
I live a life of menial labor.
Because to die is to be with Christ.
I’ll live an under-appreciated life.
God knows my name.
I am His.
And to die means I’ll be with Him in eternity and that is better.
The first lesson is He owns us.

The Second Lesson is God is Almighty.

Look at the first half of verse 11, “And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty ...”
El Shaddai.
God not only owns you, but God is God.
I own my house.
I can do minor things in the house.
Put in new lighting fixtures.
Probably the most fun I had was taking down the bathroom mirror from the master bedroom.
It was glued to the wall.
I tried to take it off nice and neat.
That didn’t happen.
By the end of the job, there was glass everywhere.
I can do small tasks.
But I’m not very handy.
Something big breaks, I’m calling someone to fix it.
I own the house, but my ability is limited.
I am not God Almighty.
God on the other hand is completely different.
He owns the house.
And He works on the house.
And it’s all under His control, all of it.
, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”
I own my house.
But I don’t do all that I please.
I’m limited.
God on the other hand.
He owns the house.
And the house next door.
And the house on the other side.
And the house across the street.
And the sun that shines down on it.
And the sky above.
It’s all under His control.
And it does whatever He pleases.
For Jacob, rough times are coming.
His wife will die.
His son will turn on him.
His father will die.
And yet, God is Almighty.
Though things may seem crazy, God’s still in control.
And if He’s God almighty, than that means He has authority
We are very limited in what we know and what we see.
Think about the history of Israel and some harrowing moments.
Israel spends 400 years in slavery.
It’s be easy to think that God had abandoned them.
They spend 40 years wandering in the desert, basically homeless.
It’d be easy to think that it was a mistake to leave Egypt.
Judah was taken into captivity and spent 70 years in exile.
It’d be easy to think that God was powerless to act.
Why would these things happen?
Fast forward to the young church.
Jesus has resurrected and claimed to have all authority.
Yet, there is Roman persecution that is causing the Christians to scatter and flee from Jerusalem.
In these tense moments, it’s easy to think that perhaps God isn’t Almighty.
Which is why we need to have these things understood before hard times come.
God told Jacob that He is God Almighty before his wife died, his son betrayed him, and his dad died.
We need to have this understanding, that God is Almighty before the hard times come.
In , Peter said, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”
Don’t be surprised.
You ever watch a scary movie.
What makes a scary movie scary?
It’s being surprised.
It’s that loud shriek and something popping onto the screen.
Makes you throw your popcorn everywhere.
You know what makes it less scary … knowing what’s coming.
And once you learn what’s coming, it’s not longer so scary.
You can see the pattern of the movie.
You see the angles that they give you.
Somethings around the corner, and it’s gonna flash onto the screen.
You hear the music.
It gets quiet.
It’s all preparing you for what’s coming.
And once you figure out the pattern … it’s not scary.
You aren’t surprised by what comes.
Once we get it into our mind that God is sovereign, that God is Almighty then we can’t be surprised.
Instead we can rest knowing that God is sovereign.
He is Master of the House and everything else.
Our God is in the heavens and He does all that He pleases.

The third lesson that Jacob learned was that God has a plan.

The rest of verse 11 on into verse 12 says, “… I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.”
God tells Jacob to be fruitful and to multiply.
He says that a nation and a company of nations will come from him.
Kings will come from him.
And also a reminder that his offspring will occupy the land.
These are great promises.
First, a nation does come from Jacob.
In 400 years time, there are so many of his descendants, that they make the nation of Egypt scared.
And they only get bigger.
And through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit, the Gentiles are later on, grafted into this mighty nation as well.
Then there’s the subject of kings coming from him.
At this point, they are a handful of nomads in the desert.
That mean’s there’ll be a nation.
A nation with a dynasty.
All the kings of Israel came from Jacob’s family tree.
And most notable would be Jesus Christ Himself.
Coming from Jacob would be:
The King of kings.
The Lord of lords.
But these promises will take some time to develop.
They don’t happen instantly.
Jacob’s family multiplies.
For the kings to come … Israel has to rebel against God in I Samuel.
But even the land.
That was always a work in progress.
And Jacob would see none of it.
Now why is this helpful?
God is giving him a little glimpse into the future with these promises.
Your wife will die.
Your children will be devils.
Your dad will die.
1 - 2 - 3.
Just like that.
But don’t worry.
God’s not abandoning you.
He has a promise secured for you.
The promises of God are bigger than Jacob’s own life.
Yea, things will be bad, but God has sworn to keep Jacob.
And for us this is important, God has a plan.
We see things through our eyes.
We are all that we know.
You are all that you know.
Your thoughts are all that you know.
You can’t hear my thoughts.
I can’t hear yours.
Add this all up and we become very self-focused and self-centered.
Even the humblest of people can think that the world revolves around him or her.
This means that we must think of life outside of our immediate life, and think more about the purposes of God and what He desires.
We must remember that the promises of God may not be fulfilled in our lifetime.
And we have to be okay with that.
“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places.”
The prophet Habakkuk said those words at the end of his short book.
In a time of trouble within the land.
When all seemed lost.
He came to the conclusion that:
Even if everything failed.
He lost it all.
There was no produce on the trees.
And no flocks to feed on.
He would rejoice in the Lord.
“I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”
Salvation is the greater promise.
Life eternal is greater than our immediate happiness.
Jacob was going to see everything taken from him, yet he had to trust in the eternal promises of God.
We must do the same thing.
, Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
Our earthly treasures, plans and hopes will fade.
We have to hope in something greater.
Remember there is a resurrection.
How did Job cope with his awful suffering?
, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!”
My heart faints within me!
Do you look forward to the resurrection?
I’m a shallow guy.
I get a new car, and I like it.
His body will be destroyed.
Till it gets dirty, or a scratch.
Then it’s, “I want a new car.”
He will see God.
I get a new phone, and I like it.
Till it gets scratched.
Then it’s, “I want a new one.”
I’ve recently had a bunch of tests done on my body, and I’m learning that I have some things wrong.
I liked my body, till it started getting old.
Now it’s, “I want a new body.”
And the promise is, there is a new body.
And it’ll be fit for eternity.
God has a plan.
God has a promise.
And we need to hear that now.
You need to remember that now.
As we march forward in life, we find ourselves in Jacob’s shoes.
Death will be around us.
People will die.
Loved ones will leave us.
People will die.
Our bodies will fail.
We need to remember that there is a king.
That there is life.
That there is eternal life.
And let’s be serious, this needs to be our focus.
We occupy our time with things that won’t last.
, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
We spend too much time thinking about:
How much money we will make.
What do we want to buy.
And the direction of this nation.
And not nearly enough time thinking of:
The God who provides.
Who gives us all we need.
And He who is allowing life to continue on this planet so that more will be saved, and to His glory.
And let the reality of the resurrection penetrate your soul.

These 3 lessons need to shape our direction and course our lives.

Your life is not your own.
It belongs to God.
You’ve been purchased.
The one directing the traffic is God Almighty.
You can trust Him.
And things are progressing towards a wonderful future.
There are promises.
There is a resurrection.
And now let these things shape you.
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