Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Living Too Close to the World

We all meet people who seem to have one foot in the church and one foot in the world.  The unfortunate part, is that you can’t be like that and have the expectation of making it into the kingdom.  We can’t live for Jesus and our own flesh at the same time, not if we want to see transformation in our lives; and not if we want to remain in the will of God and make it to Heaven.  You cannot serve two masters.

Matthew 6:24 (NKJV)
6:24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

The word mammon translates as a desire for wealth, but it can also mean anything that serves the flesh.  You can’t serve God and any other thing.  We are called to separation from the world.

I want you to know that it’s dangerous to live too close to the world.  In this post, I want to explore this from an incident that happened in Jacob’s life, using this portion of scripture as a jumping off point.

Genesis 34:1-6 (NKJV)
34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. 2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her. 3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman. 4 So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, "Get me this young woman as a wife." 5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came. 6 Then Hamor the father of Shechem went out to Jacob to speak with him.

It’s Disobedience that Leads Us into this Situation

Here we find Jacob living near Shechem, which is the land of Canaan.  He is living among the pagans; he’s away from the people of God.  In our times, we would consider him to be living in, what Christians call the world.  In other words, he’s not serving God he’s serving himself.  In order to find out how he wound up in that place we need to look back into Jacob’s history.

This takes place after he has worked to pay the bride’s price for both of his wives.  He has earned the flocks that he has, but he has departed from the home of Laban.  The real problem is that he received direction from God but he has not gone to the place God told him.

Genesis 31:13 (NKJV)
31:13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.' "

God has told him to go back to the home of his father, Isaac.  God told him to go home and that was Jacob’s intention to go home. 

Genesis 31:17-18 (NKJV)
31:17 Then Jacob rose and set his sons and his wives on camels. 18 And he carried away all his livestock and all his possessions which he had gained, his acquired livestock which he had gained in Padan Aram, to go to his father Isaac in the land of Canaan.

He packed up all that he had received in Padan Aram and he left to go back to his father.  We all know the story:  He left Padan Aram in the dead of night.  He left while Laban was off shearing the sheep.  Laban got wind of it and followed him, overtaking him and confronting him; looking for idols that Rachel has stolen.  They end up making a covenant and everyone departs happy.  At this point Jacob is still in the will of God.

Genesis 32:1-2 (NKJV)
32:1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, "This is God's camp." And he called the name of that place Mahanaim.
So he is still in the will of God, he’s departed for Canaan with the intention of returning to Isaac’s house.  God reminds him of the covenant that he made with Jacob, because he is seeing the angels of God once again.  This s reference to the vision he had of the ladder and the angels ascending and descending. 

Genesis 28:12 (NKJV)
28:12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.

This is the place where Jacob vowed, “If God will be with me and keep me he will be my God.”  So God is reminding him of that promise by showing him the angels of God.  So what happened?

Did Jacob go immediately back to Isaac’s house?  No he didn’t.  He went to meet with Esau and he wrestled with God.  I wonder if that wrestling, was Jacob wrestling with the will of God for his life, because he meets Esau and all is forgiven, so he departs and look where he goes.

Genesis 33:17 (NKJV)
33:17 And Jacob journeyed to Succoth, built himself a house, and made booths for his livestock. Therefore the name of the place is called Succoth.
He didn’t go back to Isaac.  He went instead to Succoth and built a house.  This is a statement of permanence.  He didn’t pitch a tent; he wasn’t just passing through, he built a house. What happened to going home?  This is an act of disobedience.  He has departed from the will of God.

God calls us to his plan for our lives and many times we just don’t respond, because it doesn’t suit us or because we think we know better what is right for us.  That’s a dangerous step, because we invariably end up drifting away from God and stepping closer to the world.  That’s exactly what happens to Jacob.

Genesis 33:18-19 (NKJV)
33:18 Then Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Padan Aram; and he pitched his tent before the city. 19 And he bought the parcel of land, where he had pitched his tent, from the children of Hamor, Shechem's father, for one hundred pieces of money.

Now he’s hunkered down in Shechem, and he builds an altar and calls that altar Elelohe – Israel, which means the Mighty God of Israel.

Have you ever met one of those people who speak of the mighty God?  They speak of God in terms of his power and his grace yet they can’t live for him.  They call him the mighty God but they don’t acknowledge his power over themselves.

It’s like those who say religious things and do religious things but they live in sin thinking that God’s power and wrath can’t extend to them.  They continue in their sin and they call it serving God.

So instead of obeying God and returning to his people; to his family, he has settled in this city called Shechem in the land of Canaan..  This the land named after Noah’s grandson, Canaan, who was cursed in Genesis 9 because his father saw the nakedness of Noah and was disrespectful.  Some Commentators even say he was mocking.  They also say that the people of Canaan were given to dissipation and licentiousness.  Dissipation means that they drink alcohol to excess, and licentiousness is lewdness and fornication.  They’re drunks and fornicators.  They aren’t the same as the people of God.  They live differently; they live like the world lives.

Jacob has chosen to live close to the world.  He has returned to those who aren’t living for God and what would we call that today?  What do we call a Christian who has departed from the will of God and has returned to the world of sin?  We call them backsliders.  We’re supposed to be separated; set apart.  We’re citizens of a different place.

As an American living on foreign soil, I’ve recently discovered how much Americans stick out like a sore thumb.  People always guess that we’re Americans.  They always know because there’s something different about Americans.  It’s the same for us as Christians, if we’re living for Jesus, then they will always know us.  It’s when we become like them that the problems start.  That’s exactly what happens in our text.  Once they got too close to the world the problems started.

The Steps to Winding Up Outside the Will of God

Genesis 34:1 (NKJV)
34:1 Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land.

The first thing that happens is that we become curious.  We want to see how the sinners live.  We want to experience what they experience.

In Pennsylvania they have a group of people called the Amish.  These are devout Christians but they live in the same way that people lived prior to the invention of electricity.  They travel in horse drawn wagons, they have no phone; they have no lights.  But as Amish children come of age, increasingly, they are taking off for a time tom experience what twenty-first century teens are experiencing in the world.  They don’t necessarily want to leave the will of God, that’s not they’re intent but they’re curious.

That’s what’s happening with Dinah.  She’s going out to see the local women.  Isn’t that how we got caught up in sin.  The first time you smoked, why’d you do it?  What about alcohol?  What about drugs?  It was curiosity.  Then, she’s defiled by the king’s son:

Genesis 34:2 (NKJV)
34:2 And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her and lay with her, and violated her.

Genesis 34:5 (NKJV)
34:5 And Jacob heard that he had defiled Dinah his daughter. Now his sons were with his livestock in the field; so Jacob held his peace until they came.

He took her and lay with her.  He violated her.  He defiled her.  That word defiled means that he took her holiness from her.  He violated her sanctity, he made her like a filthy thing.  This is an act of violence.

What happens when we step into sin?  When we venture out of the will of God.  We lose our holiness.  Holiness means we are set aside for God’s use.  When we sin we are no longer separate.  We can no longer be used by God…we’re defiled.

When we do things like fornication or any kind of sin we’re no longer holy.  We’re defiled and filthy before God.  Finally, when we bind ourselves to sin there is a soul tie that takes place. 

Genesis 34:3 (NKJV)
34:3 His soul was strongly attracted to Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the young woman and spoke kindly to the young woman.

There is an attraction to the world.  The desire to be a part of the world becomes stronger and stronger and we are tied to it all.  The problem is that world sees it differently than we do.  Shechem sees what takes place in a different way than Jacob and his sons, just as we have a different way of seeing things than sinners. Let me give an example.

The world will tell you that you have to live with someone before marriage in order to know that you’re compatible.  Really, they want to try the merchandise before they decide to buy it.  Christians see this as an abomination.  A God-serving Christian will see this as fornication, which is sin.  The first time I kissed my wife was at the altar at the end of our wedding, almost eighteen years ago.  Guess what?  We’re compatible, but if we weren’t we probably would have adjusted.

Shechem fell in love with her through this experience.  Jacob called it defilement.  Simeon and Levi were enraged enough to murder all the men of that place. 

Hamor goes out to negotiate the bride price and Simeon and Levi plot how to destroy them.  All of this could have been avoided if only Jacob had listened to God, and responded obediently.  If only he had gone home to Isaac and Rebeckah.  What would have happened if he’d done that?  We’ll never know.  All we do know is that that was the plan of God.

Avoiding the Danger

What brought on all this trouble for Jacob?  Where was it that Jacob began to drift into worldliness and friendship with the world?  It was the moment he decided not to go to Isaac’s house as God had told him. 

God often sends us signals but we filter God’s call through our own desires and because of that we miss what God is doing in us.  That always leads to trouble.  Jacob would have avoided all of it if he had been obedient to what God had spoken to him to do.  We need to listen for the voice of God in our lives.

How do you pray?  Do you lay out for God what your needs and desires are?  Do you tell God you have to move here or do this thing or that thing?  Do you ever stop and listen for the voice of God speaking to you, or do you hear your own thoughts and tell yourself you’re hearing from God?

That’s the most dangerous thing you can do, because how many know that our minds play tricks on us.  Don’t believe me?  Then take a look at an optical illusion, sometime. 

We need to be sure that the voice we’re hearing is the voice of God.  That it’s his voice we’re listening for. 

The second thing is that we can’t flirt with the world.  We can’t settle for the world’s standards and call it living for Jesus.  We need to remain within His standards.  That is that the commandments are commands and not guidelines or suggestions.  These are standards that he has put in place to help us remain in His will.  Sin is always sin; right is right and wrong is wrong.  There is no relativity to sin.  When we live too close to the world, the world will get on us and taint us.  The world WILL change us and draw us away from the will of God.

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