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Revive Us Again pt 3 - Get Rid Of Idols

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Revive Us Again (pt 3)

Get Rid Of Idols

Genesis 35:1-15

                What started as a special presentation by the Pearl River Central High School's Fellowship of Christian Athletes turned into a full-fledged revival that has transformed the Carriere, Mississippi, school and left school administrators astounded.  "It was the most incredible thing I've seen in all my years as an educator," said Pearl River principal Lolita Lee. "The meeting couldn't be stopped. You could tell something spiritual was happening in the lives of those students."

The revival started during a special program sponsored by the school's FCA and attended by nearly 90 percent of the school's 670 students. The program was originally scheduled for one hour, but when the bell rang, Lee said there were more than 100 students standing in line to pray and make spiritual decisions.  So Lee did something that she said probably doesn't happen in normal public school settings—she let the service continue. And continue it did, for more than four hours. Through three class periods and lunch, students wept, prayed, sang, and made amends with one another.  "It was heart-stopping," said Lee, a member of the local Baptist church. "When I realized how many students needed to pray, I went ahead and let the program continue."  Following a hastily arranged telephone call to the school superintendent, Lee went back to the gymnasium where the revival was taking place. "Who was I to say to these students, 'Hey, you aren't important. Go back to class'?"  And nearly one month later, Lee said the results of the revival are manifested in the hallways of Pearl River Central High. "I've had teachers and staff tell me how much better the students are," she said. "This has been a wonderful thing for our kids." (Adapted from Todd Stames "Revival at Public School Stirs 100 Students to Conversion," Christianity Today, (5-9-00))

                Revival can and will change lives!  But there are keys to spiritual revival that we need to know about in order for revival to come and those are what we are going to be looking at over the next few weeks.  The first of those keys tells us that we need to rid ourselves of something and most would say, “I’ve already done that, so let’s press on.”  But I want you to really think about what it is we have to get rid of.  We need to “get rid of our idols.”  We are going to be looking at revival this morning in which that was a requirement, to get rid of your idols.  But here is some background information before we get to our passage and why it’s so important.

                One of the things I like about the Old Testament is that over and over again God uses people just like us, maybe we’re not kings and leaders of great nations but the things they do remind me a lot of us.  The background?  Well, it seems that Jacob had a daughter named Dinah by his wife Leah.  They had just moved back to the land of Canaan when Shechem, the son of Hamor, the ruler of that area, saw Dinah, took her, and raped her – you can find all this in Genesis 33 & 34.  This tragedy set off a string of events that would permanently alter the lives of all who were touched by them.  But guess what?  God was still in control, allowing His will to be worked out in spite of all the violence and evil involved.

                Hamor came to Jacob to negotiate a marriage for his son, only to learn there was trouble.  Dinah’s brothers were outraged at what had happened to their sister.  Hamor offered favorable terms, involving the reciprocal offer to intermarriage between their families, but he had no idea of the impossibilities for Jacob’s people were not to be unequally yoked to unbelievers.  Their lives seemed so much alike. 

But Jacob had promised God some thirty years earlier, when he was fleeing the wrath of his deceived brother, Esau, that if God would be with him, watch over him, and return him safely to Canaan, they Yahweh would be his God, and he would serve him.  This is what’s referred to as a “foxhole” experience, and like so many of them, after the tragedy is taken care of, the vow is forgotten.  That’s what had happened to Jacob, he had forgotten his vow to God.  But if you were to look at chapter 28 of Genesis you would find that God had returned Jacob safely to his land and had blessed him and had caused his life to overflow with the bounty of God’s goodness.  And yet Jacob was ungrateful.  He had nothing when he cried out to God for help.  And now it was thirty years later and he had forgotten the vow he made to God.  Maybe Jacob considered himself to be a self-made man; after all, had it not been by his own hard work, wits, and sheer willpower and drive that he had become what he was?  Doesn’t this attitude sound similar to the attitude of the average middle class or newly rich American today?

Jacob’s sons made matters worse by taking things into their own hands when they reaped vengeance on the heads of Hamor’s clan.  They told Hamor that the only way their women could be allowed to marry them was if they were circumcised.  On the third day after this operation, while they were still in pain, every male in the Canaanite city, including Hamor and his son Shechem, was murdered by two of Jacob’s sons.  None of this had been approved by God.

It was only after it was all over that Jacob started to realize what had happened.  He rebuked his two sons saying “You have made me a stench to . . .the people living in this land.  We are few in number, and if they join forces against me and attack me, I and my household will be destroyed” (Gen. 34:30).

It took a situation like this to push Jacob down to his knees so that he would finally take the action he should have taken long before.  You see, in this story of revival there are three things that need to be remembered, first – Only cleansed men and women can meet God.  Let’s look at Genesis 35:1-4:

God spoke to Jacob: “Go back to Bethel. Stay there and build an altar to the God who revealed himself to you when you were running for your life from your brother Esau.” Jacob told his family and all those who lived with him, “Throw out all the alien gods which you have, take a good bath and put on clean clothes, we’re going to Bethel. I’m going to build an altar there to the God who answered me when I was in trouble and has stuck with me everywhere I’ve gone since.” They turned over to Jacob all the alien gods they’d been holding on to, along with their lucky-charm earrings. Jacob buried them under the oak tree in Shechem. (Ge 35:1-4)

What God had just asked Jacob to do was to move his family about 30 miles south of Shechem to Bethel.  The very spot where Jacob had sought God in a moment of deep despair some thirty years before.  It was here that Jacob had experienced the heavenly vision of a ladder, and here he had made his vow.  God had ordered him back to where it all began, but it took a crisis for Jacob to be ready to listen to God.

Something I want you to realize here.  God did not tell Jacob to “build and altar to me as you promised and have not done even though 30 years have passed.

There is little doubt that the source of decay in Jacob’s family could be traced back to the presence of foreign gods in their midst.  It can be so easy to let the little one stay because they are so small and don’t really mean anything but they are idols and there is no way revival can come until these idols are taken away.  Get this, Walter Kaiser says: Nothing can have first place along with the Lord: not my job, my hoppy, my goals, my organizations, my leisure time, my recreation, my marriage, my family, or even – wait for it – not even my church!  If such are placed first or even share first place with my commitment to the Lord, then I have slipped into idolatry!

It makes no difference if Jacob himself practiced idol worship, he allowed it to happen and as soon as God connected with Jacob he realized that things had to change.  Did you realize, God did not tell Jacob to have his family get rid of their idols, Jacob took that upon himself? 

Then they set out. A paralyzing fear descended on all the surrounding villages so that they were unable to pursue the sons of Jacob. Jacob and his company arrived at Luz, that is, Bethel, in the land of Canaan. He built an altar there and named it El-Bethel (God-of-Bethel) because that’s where God revealed himself to him when he was running from his brother. And that’s when Rebekah’s nurse, Deborah, died. She was buried just below Bethel under the oak tree. It was named Allon-Bacuth (Weeping-Oak). (Ge 35:5-8)

God revealed himself once again to Jacob, after he had come back from Paddan Aram and blessed him: “Your name is Jacob (Heel); but that’s your name no longer. From now on your name is Israel (God-Wrestler).” God continued, I am The Strong God. Have children! Flourish! A nation—a whole company of nations!— will come from you. Kings will come from your loins; the land I gave Abraham and Isaac I now give to you, and pass it on to your descendants. And then God was gone, ascended from the place where he had spoken with him. Jacob set up a stone pillar on the spot where God had spoken with him. He poured a drink offering on it and anointed it with oil. Jacob dedicated the place where God had spoken with him, Bethel (God’s-House). (Ge 35:9-15)

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