The consolation that all our hearts are searching for is only found in Jesus. In vain we seek to find satisfaction for the longings in our souls- for awe and worship, for lasting joy and peace, for meaning and dignity- in the world. Jesus alone fulfills the universal longings in our hearts. Consolation can only be found in Him, a perfect Savior, because all we want is found in Him.
Genesis chapter 38 is scandalous. The actions by both Judah and Tamar are shocking and horrifically sinful. Once again we are disappointed in the behavior of Abraham’s descendants and their reference for the covenant promises of God. We are reminded that in the Old Testament, there is only one hero, only one who is faithful and righteous and that is the Lord God. In spite of all the wickedness of his chosen people, God still faithfully establishes his plan of salvation.
Joseph’s brothers intended to kill the dreamer and thwart God’s plan. But unbeknownst to them, in their hatefulness and sin, they actively fulfill God’s plan. In Joseph’s life we see God’s sovereign hand and divine will fulfilled even through sinful human beings. Joseph’s suffering and eventual exaltation lead to the salvation of Israel and foreshadows the sufferings, exaltation and salvation of Jesus.
In our sermon text we see the outcomes and paths of two sons, Jacob and Esau. Esau, though richly blessed by God does not become the son of the covenant promise. Jacob, chosen by God, is the son and benefactor of the covenant promises and settles in the land promised to Abraham. Jacob’s son, Joseph is given dreams that foretell God raising him up as a type of savior for the nation of Israel. Israel will soon need saving and in this text we read God’s plan of salvation unfolding.
After Jacob’s disobedience and the devastating tragedy that befell his family, God once again calls Jacob home to Bethel. God is instructing Jacob to fulfill his vow and receive anew the covenant promises. Before Jacob can do that, he must repent. Jacob does repent and leads his family in true repentance, turning from other gods and disobedience and turning to the True and Living God and obeying the Lord. Likewise, our repentance must be more than sorrow and grief. True repentance is turning from sin to God. Our lives should be characterized by ongoing, continual repentance, having our hearts changed from the desire to sin to the desire to not sin and obey God.
Jacob’s failure to obey God and return to Bethel unnecessarily subjected his family to harm. Jacob’s family’s troubles are compounded when his sons violently avenge their sister’s kidnapping and rape. Their vengeance reveals what is in all our hearts, a propensity for unrighteous judgment and justice. When we are wronged, seldom do we want only justice, we also want revenge. And in so doing, we are tempted to elevate the sins of another as grave and severe, all the while overlooking or justifying our sinful response. Indeed the prophet Jeremiah was right when he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick”.
There are two very simple biblical truths about world missions: the nations must hear the gospel and Christ has charged us to take it to them. And while this task is fraught with temporal danger, God has promised to be with us, assuring us that his love and power go with us. We should not fear man, but rather fear the Lord only. For if we deny Him before men, He will deny us before the Father.
A story that began with Jacob’s flight now ends with his return home. And not just return but, Jacob is able to build a house for himself in the promise land and an altar to worship the Lord. This is possible because God answered Jacob’s prayer and turned Esau’s heart such that he was eager to be reconciled with his brother. In changing Esau’s heart, God fulfilled his promise to Jacob and brought him safely back to the land promised to his grandfather Abraham.
Having endured 20 years of mistreatment, God calls Jacob and his family back to the promise land and finally he is able to separate himself from his cheating, deceitful father-in-law, Laban. Against all odds, Jacob has prospered and persevered under Laban only because of God’s sustaining grace. And although Laban will make one last attempt to control Jacob’s destiny, God remains a defender and sustainer of Jacob and his family. Similarly today, God keeps, defends and perseveres those in Christ until the end.
The Christian life is not meant to be lived in isolation. Rather, the Christian life and persevering in our faith is a team effort. If you are a Christian, you have been brought into the family of God and it is precisely in that family that you are to exercise love, sacrifice, good works and bear one another’s burdens. Together we are called together to fulfill the law of Christ, namely, to love each other as ourselves. So fulfilling the law of Christ cannot be done alone. It must be done in the context and crucible of Christian community.