Sermon September 23, 2006 : It is all about God - not about you

Posted in Sermons
  • Presenter: Gregory Bishop
  • Date: September 23, 2006
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

Chapter 3, Genesis 3, we’re going to look at a couple of different texts in Genesis today and just as a way of prefix to share one of my favorite things about being in ministry, one of my favorite, favorite things that happens in this church is watching people change right before my eyes. Those of you, we have Esther who’s going to come in as a little infant and right before our eyes, she’s going to change and say, ‘gosh, she looks so different, every week she looks different’. And I love the way the Holy Spirit gets a hold of people and changes them and blesses them and heals them.

Now, how many of us know that that is not a process that happens overnight? How many of us know that it takes a long time? You know, we didn’t get messed up overnight, we didn’t become who we are overnight, and God doesn’t change us overnight. He takes us through a long process, but it’s a process that he’s is absolutely committed to getting you through. And I love watching that process. Sometimes it’s long, there’s a lot of curves, there’s a lot of detours and sometime I think, God, am I ever going to change? And God says, don’t worry, I am committed to your growth and I will see to it, that you become the man that I have created you to be.

Now, last week we saw that in the life in the light of a particular Old Testament character. What was his name? Help me with this. Who did we talk about last week? Tell me you, Gideon. Thank you, yes, yes, at least one remembered the name of the guy we talked about. That’s good, I’ll take that. We’ll start from there.

Gideon, Gideon the fearful, anxious, worry guy, under incredible oppression by his enemies, hiding out threshing wheat in a closet somewhere, covered in dust. An angel appears to him and says, ‘the Lord is with you, mighty warrior.’ And he looks behind him, like who’s this guy talking to me. I have no idea, he can’t be referring to me.’

And we watch Gideon, last week we talked about, go through a process of being an anxious man, a man who constantly needed signs in order to be convinced that God was really on his side. Remember? He just wasn’t quite sure that God was with him. And God took him and walked him gently, slowly but faithfully through a process till he became… I think you could safely say one of the very greatest warriors in the history of Israel and with a ragged tagged group of 300 man, blowing shofars they defeated an army of 135 thousand trained warriors.

God took him and changed him from a person with self doubts, who viewed himself as small and changed him into someone who had the bearing of a prince, a man who knew how to conquer the world, and felt that he could do it, because he knew for sure that God was with him.

And so that’s what we saw last week, how God can take us and how he can change us now. I’m going to take a phrase that came up in the worship today, where we were singing ‘God is all about you, it’s all about you’.

A couple of weeks ago pastor Sam referred to the opening phrase in the book ‘A purpose driven life’, by Rick Warren, excellent book if you get the chance to read it. Amen. I’m glad we have one little three-year old who’s read it. Praise the Lord. Purpose driven life, it starts with the words ‘it’s not about you’, it’s not about you. And that is such an important place to start as we think about this process of God helping us to become the people we are. Because most of us think that we need to do it, most of us think, I would say, all of us think, that this reconstruction project is something that we need to undertake, that we need to try to be good enough, we need to try to change, to be good Christian, we need to try to be better and how many people know that when you try hard, you usually end up going in circles.

And on Wednesday night service, this week, I asked people, how many had made New Year’s resolutions? Have you ever done that? Have you ever tried this? This year, I’m going to change. I’m going to go to the gym, I’m going to be really nice to my grandma, I don’t know whatever it is, you decide you’re going to do that you haven’t been doing well enough, you make a resolution and where does it usually end up by February? You know, the gyms are famous for this, in January they have a big spike in attendance, a lot of people come, and then come February, a little less, little less. By March they’re back to normal. And that’s about the process we usually go through. We start with a resolution, we say ‘I’m going to be better. I’m going to be different this year’, and then you’re a little better for a while, and then down, and down, and down till we’re the same that we were before. Because we think it is about us, we think ‘I’ll do it’.

Now, imagine for Gideon, thinking ‘mighty warrior’. How am I ever going to become….? He couldn’t do this on his own. It needed to be a process that God brought him through and this is a theme that is woven through all of scripture and it’s something we’re going to look at tonight, which is the theme that God delights in finding broken, hurt, ashamed, sinful people and finding them and calling them, and then addressing them and seeing them through the prophetic eyes, like he did with Gideon. He sees him as a mighty warrior and he finds these people and he heals and he molds and he remakes us. And I think it’s a hobby God has, I think he gets a kick out of it. I think he’s waiting, ‘watch what I’m going to do with this one. Just watch’, and he takes people and he does beautiful things inside of them. It’s all about God doing this and that’s the human drama.

If you look in the Bible it’s full of little sub blocks about people that God finds, people who were in some way broken, or they have their defects or their struggles, and their problems and it’s about how God meets them in their mess and in their situation and helps them through it. And I love seeing that because I can identify with it. The Bible is not a spiritual book that we can’t identify with, the Bible is an inspired book that is God breathing into my life, my existence, my reality and God isn’t shocked. He knows who we are, he knows our dust, but it’s all about him. We usually don’t get it.

The Bible is full of people who think that they need to be the ones to change themselves, that they need to be the ones to be different and they work at it and it’s sort of like trying to re do your house with paper maché and white wash and then it ends up looking like obviously it was not done by a pro.

I know my condo looks like that, it was not done by pros. It wasn’t done by me, if it was done by me it would look even worst, but it was not done by pros. We had some gentlemen from our church take a look at my condo before we moved in that it just had been rehab and some gentlemen who work in a physical plant here and they were Hermano Roberto, he was in tears, man, he said ‘there is no way my pastor and his new wife are going to move into a piece of junk like this.’ We did but he was virtually in tears because how could do such sloppy work, I learned some new Spanish words that day. I don’t know if there are Spanish speakers, chapuceado, chapuceado, no? It means, what does that mean? Slipshod, sloppy, sloppy work. When we try to remake ourselves usually it is very chapuceado, it is very, very sloppy work. And so it’s much easier, it’s much better when we let God do a full makeover.

Have you ever seen those TV shows where these people come in and they just take some junky old house and they make it…. Well, God likes to do that and he get more fun out of it than they do. And he does that with our lives. Praise the Lord.

But usually, and since the beginning of history people have been trying to do it themselves. So, we’re going to look at a couple of personalities. Today we’re going to start with Adam and Eve themselves.

So, chapter 3 of Genesis, and let me just pray for us briefly. Even though we’re half way in, I just want to pray before we read this text. We’re going to start in verse 7, just so you know where we are. Genesis 3:7

Father, in Jesus’ name I thank you for what you did for Gideon and I thank you for what you have done for other personalities in scripture that we’re going to look at. And I thank you for what you long to do for us and Lord we come to you often very tired because we have tried in our own strength and come up short every time. And so, Father, I pray for a revelation today of how it is you want us to see you and how it is that you see us. So, God I pray Holy Spirit speak through these words, speak through our thoughts together and through your scripture. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

Adam and Eve, we all know what happened with Adam and Eve, right? Things didn’t go well, they sinned. The whole fruit thing, you know, things were a mess. Ok? Now, we’re going to start with verse 7 and we’re going to look at what they did when they realized just what a mess they were. Have you ever had those moments?

It starts here where it says: “…The eyes of both of them were opened and they realized that they were naked”.

Have you ever had that happen when suddenly you realize, how did I get into this? How do I…. Usually it’s when you’re starting to grow as a Christian by the way, because you’re starting to grow and then you just realize how far you’ve got to go. Or maybe it’s when you’re on a real down swing in your life. How did I get here? Your eyes are open and you start to realize, I’m a guff, how we’re going to do this? ok.

So, let’s look at what they do, their eyes were opened, they realized they were naked, so what did they do?

“They sowed fig leaves together and they made coverings for themselves.”

They were embarrassed, they were ashamed, so their first step was, they tried to make…. I don’t know how they tried to do that with fig leaves, I’ve never even seen a fig leaf. I don’t know how it works for clothing, but I doubt it does a very good job.

Usually they show you the pictures of Adam and Eve in the garden and the fig leaves, and it looks very nice. I get the feeling it did not look very nice. They’re trying to cover themselves and you know, one of my early pastors as a new believer referred to a lot of our faith as what he called, fig leaf religion, fig leaf religion. You realize that you’ve come up short. You realize you’ve blown it. You realize that you have defects and areas of sin in your life, so you go about trying to cover yourself and making for yourself to kind of put up a mask to hide what is really underneath. Or perhaps you go about making rules to try to make yourself into a better person. It’s fig leaf religion. It’s the desire to try to fix the problem ourselves, and we all are tempted to do that. We all need to get through that.

So, let’s look at what happens then; verse 8 “…then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day …. -and, what did they do when they heard the Lord coming?- it says, “…. They hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden”.

That’s the next step we usually go through. We start off trying to fix things, we realize we didn’t do a very good job trying to fix things and then we figure, ok, it’s time to hide. It is time to hide. I love it.

My sister is a therapist in a hospital and one of her favorite situations , there was this one guy who she would treat, a young, fun goofy guy who was in a big, huge wheelchair and he hated therapy, he hated group. He said, I don’t want to go to group. And she was going to look for him and one day she saw his huge wheelchair camped in the hallway and he was sitting there, and he had a little piece of paper over his face, because he was hiding from her, right? I mean, it takes half the hallway, you know, and you could see him, he had his jeans and his stuff and he’s covering… he’s hiding and he’s doing a pathetic job at hiding. It was kind of… she actually kind of she got a kick out of it.

And we do that with the Lord. We find all kinds of different ways to hide from the Lord. Typically we do it, again, coming in the mask thing we talked about but we also hide in other ways, we get busy, we try to involve ourselves in things where we can forget about God and hope that maybe he forgets about us. And we hide from God in the bushes and I have a feeling God was not fooled. Ok, let’s look at what happens.

So, they’re hiding among the trees of the garden and verse 9: “…. But the Lord God called to the man and he said, ‘where are you?’ and he answered, ‘I heard you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid’.

He was busted, he finally spilled the beans that just say what’s going on: I hid from you, Lord.

And he said “… who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded not to eat from?”

Now, when you’re trapped, when you’re confronted with something that you did wrong, you’ve already tried to cover yourself, you’ve tried to hide and it didn’t work. What’s plan ‘C’? We tried plan ‘A’, plan ‘B’, what’s plan ‘c’ usually? We’re going to look, we’re going to look. Those of you who have kids have seen plan ‘C’, and those of you who were kids not too long ago, we remember doing plan ‘C’ and we still do. Look at what Adam does.

Verse 12 “…. The man said, ‘the woman that you put here with me, she gave some fruit from the tree and I ate it”

Did you get that? It’s the woman. It’s not just the woman, but it’s the woman that you put here with me. He’s doing two birds with one stone, there. We’re not just going to blame the woman, we’re going to blame God who even gave the woman in the first place.

So, if we can’t cover it, if we can’t hide, usually we start looking for excuses, and we start blame-shifting and things just get real messy. The woman ends up blaming the dog, you know, you just can’t…. you blame the devil make me do it, it’s the serpent and you, and why did you leave…. They’re stuck. They’re absolutely stuck.

They’ve tried everything to fix the situation and they’ve just made it worse. Have you ever had that happen? Where you tried to fix a situation, and the more you try to fix it the messier it gets, and the messier, and the messier. And soon you try something else and it gets even messier. I’m sure we have funny stories about that, we won’t go into them all. But that’s just the way it is, you know.

So, look at what God does. First of all he talks about the results and the consequences of their action. He’s not excusing them, this has happened. There are going to be consequences. There’s a curse on your life, on the world. Things are bad, there are consequences. But look at what happens, what God does for them in verse 20 and 21. ok

And this is how everything is dark, everything is cloudy, everything is hopeless. And inside there’s a beam of light bursting through and this is what it is. Verse 20 and 21:

“…Adam named his wife, Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.”

That’s the first step. God basically, in spite of the curses, he let them know, ‘but you’re not going to die today, there is still a tomorrow’, and Adam naming his wife, Eve, was a profession of faith saying there’s still life, there’s still a hope and that name in Hebrew is Java. And I just like the way it sounds Java, it just sounds like life, there’s still hope. Ok.

Now, look at what God does for them in verse 21: “…. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and he clothed them.”

The fig leaves just didn’t cut it. God said, ‘I’m going to fix this. You have tried to cover your own shame and it hasn’t worked. Are you done trying? Because now I’ll show that I can do it better than you ever could. And he covers them and he clothes them, and he covers their shame, so that they can feel accepted again by God.

Now, I notice and it’s important for us to point out that this covering is not a free thing. It’s the garment of an animal, ok. Something had to die so their shame could be covered. It was a costly thing. Blood had to be shed. Right there in the Garden of Eden the concept of blood being shed so that human shame can be covered is put in place.

But God is making a statement. He’s saying ‘In spite of the fact that you’ve messed everything up and you’ve tried to fix it and you can’t, I am faithful to cover your shame even if it costs blood.’ And we all know where that ends up in the New Testament, that God finds a way to cover our shame through the blood of a perfect sacrifice. God can do it better than we can. Now, that was something that Gideon learned and it’s something that all of us learn in different ways.

And that’s something I want to look at in the life of a very powerful character in the Book of Genesis, in chapter 29. I want you to jump ahead with me to 29. Because what we’re talking about is the concept of grace. You know, so often the word grace for us sounds like a kind of frosting word.

Grace is not a light thing, grace is a powerful thing. Grace means that God says, ‘I love you so much that I’m not going to leave you hiding in the bushes’. Grace says, I love you so much that I’m not going to let you stay there covered by fig leaves, I’m going to cover your shame even if it costs my life. Grace means I’m going to confront you with what happened, but I’m going to heal you and I’m going to fix you better than you could ever fix yourself. That’s what grace is all about.

And I want to look at another character in the Book of Genesis, chapter 29, named Lea and she had a sister named Rachel and she was one of Jacob’s wives. Ok. And I want to look at her, because I see her as somebody who went through a process of learning what grace is all about and it wasn’t an easy one.

Just backtracking a little bit, Jacob was a guy he was Isaac’s son. We have three patriarchs in the Old Testament: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Ok. Now, Jacob, there’re some words for him in Spanish: tramposo, sinvergüenza, kind of sneaky, cheaty, shifty. He was a hustler. He was a hustler, ok.

Now, he happened to be a hustler who loved the Lord and I’ve met a lot of those. We got a lot… I have a whole group full of… who can identify with Jacob, and say ‘that was me’. He was a hustler but he genuinely loved the Lord, but he had some character defects, ok? Now, usually the way God deals with hustlers is he brings someone into their life who knows how to hustle better than they do and he gives them a taste of their own medicine. Ok, now, how did that feel? I don’t know if anybody can relate to that. Te da alguien más malo, más tramposo que tu. Te voy a enseñar cómo es.

And so he gives them a good hustler. And his uncles Laban, this must have been something genetic, because he lived with his uncle Laban for a while and Laban was sneakier and more rotten that he was in a lot of ways. They love the Lord but they were sneaky. They were the sneaky and they had serious problems.

Now, Jacob is working for uncle Laban for a long time and finally they make an agreement about what the wages are going to be for all the work that he’s doing. And we’ll come back to the topic of grace so don’t worry, we’ll come back here.

Genesis 29 and we’re going to look at verse 14. Jacob has been working for him for a long time. “…. Then Laban said to Jacob, ‘you are my own flesh and blood and after Jacob had stayed with him for a whole month, Laban said to him, ‘just because you’re a relative of mine should you work for me for nothing. Tell me what your wages should be.

Now, Laban had two daughters, the name of the older daughter was Lea and the name of the younger was Rachel. Now, Lea had weak eyes, but Rachel was lovely in form and beautiful. And Jacob was in love with Rachel and said, ‘I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel’, and Laban said, ‘it’s better that I give her to you than to some other man. Stay here with me.’ So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him, because of his love for her. And then Jacob said to Laban ‘Give me my wife. My time is completed and I want to lie with her’ –the Old Testament is pretty straightforward folks. There’s none of this beating around the bush, it’s definitely PG13- so, Laban brought together all the people of the place and gave a great feast and when the evening came he took his daughter Lea and gave her to Jacob. And Jacob lay with her.”

But, wait a minute, wait a minute. Did he say Rachel? No, no, no. When evening came he took his daughter Lea, remember Jacob was working for Rachel and we got the old switcher …. thing going on. He puts Lea in the wedding tent.

“…..gave her to Jacob and Jacob lay with her. And Laban gave his servant girl Zilpha to his daughter as her maid servant. And when morning came, there was Lea, so Jacob said to Laban ‘what is this you’ve done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I. Why have you deceived me?’. And Laban replied ‘it is not our custom to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week and then we will give you the younger one also in return for another seven years of work”.

How would you like being a lady in that society? Oh, boy!

“….and Jacob did so. He finished the week with Lea and then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel to be his wife. And Laban gave his servant girl Bilhah to his daughter. Jacob lay with Rachel also and he loved Rachel more than Lea and he worked for Laban another 7 years.”

Ok. Now, this is … in Spanish there’s a word for this: telenovela. This is a soap opera, man. This is a full out messy convoluted, unpredictable…. You wouldn’t believe it. You read this and think, this couldn’t have really happened. But real life can get kind of telenovelaish, can’t it. It can become a real soap opera.

Ok, so here we’ve got this. He’s working 7 years, I know it’s bizarre for our culture, the idea he’s working to earn a wife, but that was the arrangement. So he worked 7 years, and he’s working for Rachel. Now, the Bible says he loved Rachel, that she was beautiful. Now, in those days they covered just about everything, right Middle eastern kind of, they’d cover everything except the eyes.

So, poor Lea, needed to go to an eye doctor. I don’t know what was up with that, maybe she was cross-eyed. Something about her eyes that people didn’t like. I don’t know, ok, but Rachel apparently she knew how to do her eyes up pretty good, ok. So, she was ….

So Jacob was working for Rachel and then the time comes for the wedding. They have the big feast y boom, Laban does the trick. He sneaks Lea in, she’s completely covered, she has no idea, it’s dark. Boom, next thing you know, he wakes up in the morning and there is Lea. There is Lea. And it even says that. “He woke up in the morning, there was Lea.” It says that: there was Lea.

How do you like to be Lea? How do you like…. How must Lea have felt? Think about it. Think about that look on your wedding morning and he wakes up and I just imagine the look of, you know, the look of horror in Jacob’s eyes when he sees his new…. Oh, yes, I’m sure that was her dream come true, her príncipe azul, her prince charming, there freaked out on the wedding morning, that he’s stuck with her.

Imagine how Lea felt. Now, I imagine, this is something that probably had a long timing coming. How many of us know that sometimes in families there are favorites and there are not so favorites, and sometimes we are made to feel less, sometimes. And sometimes we grow up feeling like, oh I feel like I’m the…. Like we said last week. You know, the guy who was from a family, he says, ‘I’m from a family of drug addicts and I’m the black sheep of my family’. You know, sometimes we feel like that. We feel like I feel so…. And the comparison thing probably all…

I don’t know, I’m just kind of making it out. I don’t know, but I can only imagine the dynamic, the human dynamic between Rachel and Lea growing up. The conversations over the dinner table. What are we going to do with this older daughter of ours? How are we ever going to unload her on any guy? oh, I’m sure she loved to hear that kind of thing.

Then you’ve got the conversation going on outside the tent door, right. You’ve got the conversation, there is this fight: Jacob is saying, ‘What is this you’ve done to me? I’ve served you for Rachel, didn’t I, why ….?’ Well, it’s in our custom… they’re going back and forth and I’m sure the voices were raised and imagine Lea in the tent there. How must Lea have felt? The Bible says that she was, in English it says “unloved”, in Spanish “menospreciada”, that’s a powerful word in Spanish. It means less value, under valued, esteemed to be not very worth while. Certainly not cherished as precious.

Now, what does she do? Again, remember God finds us in our brokenness, he finds us in our struggles, he found Adam and Eve after all their messes. And they were trying to fix things. Look at what Lea tries to do to deal with her pain and her struggles, and her emotional complexity.

It says in verse 31, we’re going to start there, ok. 31 through 35, we’re going to look at her process. Now the Bible says, “….When the Lord saw that Lea was not loved he opened her womb but Rachel was barren and Lea became pregnant and gave birth to a son and she named him Reuben for she said, ‘it is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now and she conceived again.”

But do you think he loved her now? She had Reuben, God see my misery. Now, Jacob’s going to love me. What do you think? You think that did it? Ok, let’s keep going.

“She conceived again and when she gave birth to a son, she said ‘Because the Lord has heard that I am not loved he gave me this one too’, so she named him Simeon….,”

Which in Hebrew sounds like the word forshama, to hear. God has heard my prayer, he’s heard my sadness, my crying. Now do you think that worked? Let’s see what happens. Verse 34

“….Again she conceived and when she gave birth to a son she said, ‘now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons’, so he was named Levi, which in Hebrew means attachment.

My husband’s finally going to be attached to me.

“…She conceived again and when she gave birth to a son she said ‘this time I will praise the Lord’, so she named him Judah and then she stopped having children.”

Now it makes sense that a woman in this culture where their self esteem was entirely wrapped up in their role as child bearer, ok, that was how you define a successful woman at that point. And nowadays too, it’s a deep, profound desire that everybody… you know, there’s a natural thing. But at that time it was an issue of prestige. So she figures, if I have a son, everything is going to be ok. He’s going to love me finally because has God has seen my sadness and my situation, that’s why Reuben, which is from the word foroobed to see in Hebrew. And so she thinks, now it’s going to work.

Now, I implied before, what do you think? That’s going to do the trick? Is she going to be able to earn her husband’s love? So, she tries again. So again God has heard my agony, she names him Simeon and still nothing. Finally the third one, Levi, finally he’ll be attached to me.

Now, these are profound human desires that all of us have, the desire to be heard, the desire to be seen, the desire for attachment. Who doesn’t feel these things? We all need these things.

And so she’s looking for a.. from this chump, excuse my dirty language, this chump, Jacob, this sneaky, sleazy, tramposo husband who was also a man of God, but that’s another story. And she’s hoping that he can fill her emotional needs. I said this before and I’ll repeat it because it’s a phrase that I love, it’s by a French philosopher who said that there’s a God-shaped vacuum in every human heart. There’s a piece in your heart that is God-shaped and only God can fill it and we try to fill it with other things.

Now, Lea is trying to fill it with, you know, now, finally Jacob’s is going to come around, he’s going to love me, and nothing works. She tries and tries and tries hoping and hoping and it’s not happening.

Now, how do you think God feels during all of this? Now, let’s put ourselves in God’s shoes. How’s God seeing this? Why did God give her these children, in the first place? Do you think it was so that Jacob would love her? I don’t think so. God is a father and every attempt that Lea made to seek meaning and happiness apart from God was like a slap in the face to the God who says, ‘but what about me’.

We come back to the phrase, ‘it’s not about you, it’s all about God’. God is saying, ‘I’m giving you these children because I want you to know that I love you. I don’t want you to be looking at…. I love you and she just keeps working and working for other people to respect her, love her, and she’s trying so hard and it just doesn’t work. Reuben I think of just the fact that she’s hoping God has seen me. Of course I’ve seen you. In Spanish there’s a beautiful phrase ‘que tu eres la niña de mi ojo’, ‘you’re the apple of my eye’. In Spanish literally it’s the little girl of my eye.

And just like God saw Gideon as a mighty warrior, God looked down and he didn’t see some rejected, worthless person. He said ‘tu eres la niña de mi ojo’, you’re the apple of my eye and I want you to know that I love you, and she’s not getting it. She’s just not getting it. So she tries again, Simeon. And God’s like I’ve heard your crying and I want you to know that I know how you feel. No one else knows how you feel, but I know how you feel. But no, she’s thinking, Jacob, everyone, dad, everyone else in the society, and she’s not looking at God.

The third one, Levi, and she’s wanting her husband to be attached to her. And he’s saying, look, I don’t know if this guy’s ever going to come around, but you know, there is someone who is attached to you, Lea, there is someone who will never leave you. There’s a verse that says ‘I will never leave, I will never forsake you’. There’s a beautiful verse in Isaiah that says, that Zion said the Lord is forsaken in me, the Lord has forgotten me. And God says, can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has born, though she may forget, I will not forget you. I have engraved you, behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hands and your walls are ever before me, I am with you and I won’t leave. But still, where is she looking? Where are her eyes? God is looking at her, but she’s looking: Jacob, Laban, Rachel, grrrrr you know, Rachel, grrrrr. She’s not looking at God and God is saying, ‘why don’t you…

But look how this story ends. And so often we go through the Lea cycle. We look for our meaning in a relationship. We look for happiness in a career. Like Adam and Eve we try to cover up all our baches, all our defects, all our failures. We try to cover them and we work and work, and work and we just dig the hole deeper. Until finally, there comes a moment, now for Gideon it came after God gave him that dream, remember we talked about last week: a dream. And finally Gideon was convinced God’s with me. And the Bible says that Gideon stopped and worshipped. And then he went on to blow that trumpet and conquer the enemies.

And I want you to look at what happens with Lea, finally. Verse 35: “…She conceived again and when she gave birth to a son she said –and I love these first two words- this time I will praise the Lord.” This time.

Now, I know there were other times when I tried to do different things but this time. Now, that’s a word of hope for us. It means that is doesn’t matter what you’ve done in the past, this time you can react differently. It doesn’t matter if in the past you tried to fix things in your own way, this time you can decide to praise the Lord. Finally she stopped looking at Jacob and at her situation, and at her kids, and at herself and she finally lifted her eyes to the one who was already watching her with eyes of love. This time I will praise the Lord.

You know, the name Judah, our church is named congregation Lion of Judah, now the title Lion of Judah is a title for Jesus. It’s a kingly title. Someday maybe we can do a study of that. But the name Judah has another meaning. The name Judah means praise, which is also part of our identity as a church, that worshiping the Lord and praising is part of establishing God’s kingdom on earth.

Now, she named him Judah because this time I’m going to stop trying so hard. This time I’m going to look up to God, I’m going to raise my hands and say this time I will praise the Lord. I can just feel her muscles relax. I can feel her start crying and realizing finally I’m home. Finally, she’s not going to work for it any more. When you look at God’s eyes, I don’t know if you’ve ever had this happen, when you look into someone’s eyes, when you can see a reflection sometimes. When you look at God’s eyes you will see yourself reflected there. The way he sees you, not the way other people see you, not the way you see yourself, not the way Satan, who accuses, tries to make you see yourself, but the way God sees you.

Now, for Gideon it was finally knowing, oh, I really am a mighty warrior. With God on my side I can do anything. And for Lea it was knowing God is on my side. He’s with me all this time he was watching, he never left me. There’s a psalm that says: ‘where can I go from your spirit, where can I flee from your presence. If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I make my bed in the depth you are there. if I rise on the wings of the dawn and if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me and your right hand will hold me fast.’

Where are you today. I think for all of us, we fall into the Lea pattern or the Gideon pattern of anxiety, and of fear and of self effort and God is saying ‘I’m here and I’m looking at you and I’m inviting you to lift your eyes to me and to say this time I’m just going to praise the Lord. I’m just going to receive his love for me.’

And I want you to invite you to do that tonight and there may be some of us, who, you may have been a Christian for a long time, but you’re feeling like ‘God, I’m trying on my own, I’ve taken my eyes off of you. Or maybe you’ve never been a Christian before and you want to come to know God in a personal way. As we do this last song I’m going to invite you if you want to come forward as a gesture of being in God’s presence tonight and of looking him in the eye. I’m just going to invite to do that informally and just be here and take a little time to just with a final worship song, I’ll ask us to do, to lift your eyes to God and to let him know that he is with you.


Sermon delivered by Gregory Bishop taped September 23, 2006 at Congregation Lion of Judah Listen | View (100K) | View (400K)

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