Yep, I had to preach on Sunday. I hate, HATE, getting up in front of people and talking. I prefer to be in the back…which I was. I also had to run slides this Sunday. The slides were incomplete for the most part (not my fault). So that was slightly embarrassing. Over all I think i did fairly OK. Not my favorite thing to do. I’m a digital media/technology guy. How did I get roped into pastoral ministry?
We are in Genesis, and I had the opportunity to preach on Jacob, specifically his dream. We tend to forget that a lot of the people that God used for his will in the bible were not perfect people. Some of them were rather horrible. Some were reluctant, and just felt useless. It is a wonderful reminder of how God will meet us where we are at in life, and that we can gain access to Him through his son Jesus.
If you would rather read instead of listen, here is the transcript:
This is a strange feeling, standing here before you today. If you told me a year ago that I would be working in youth ministry, i would have told you that you were crazy, albeit with a few choice words that should never come out of someone’s mouth.
The thing is, I was angry with God. Very angry.
I was in deep depression, felt betrayed by a friend,
just moved back to a state in which i have been trying to escape,
and on the edge of suicide.
I felt lost.
Working in ministry was the last thing i ever thought i was qualified to do. I’m quiet and
I am not especially spiritual. I talk to God a lot,
but in those days it involved a lot of yelling on my part. I have never been that great about reading my bible
. My voice sounds funny, i trip over my own words, and I am someone that seems to go unnoticed by most people. In short i felt like i was lesser or inadequate. Broken beyond repair.
It turns out that God has a tendency to use very broken, messy, unqualified people. The bible is full of such accounts.
I think we tend to gloss over these facts.
Jacob is one of these people. In the verses we just read, God reaffirmed the promise he made to Abraham in jacob’s dream. But if we back up even a chapter, we learn that Jacob is not that great of a guy.
Jacob had an older brother, Esau, who was their father’s favorite. Esau was a great hunter, the real outdoorsie type. Jacob wasn’t.
Esau had just come back from a hunt and the bible said he was dying of hunger.
When he gets home, there is a bowl of soup looking all nice and delicious. However, for him to eat, Jacob demands Esau give him is birthright.
That’s not even the worst of it.
Later jacob impersonates his brother to trick his father into blessing him instead of Esau. You can imagine that Esau isn’t too happy about this. After all, Jacob just stole his birthright and blessing. As far as sibling rivalries go, this is bad. Esau is plotting to kill Jacob, and jacob has to flee to his uncle in Haran. This is where our story picks up.
10 Jacob left Beersheba10 Jacob left Beersheba and set out for Harran. 11 When he reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep.
12 He had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 There above it[a] stood the Lord, and he said:
“I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14
Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south.
All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.”
18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel,[c] though the city used to be called Luz.
20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord[d] will be my God 22 and[e] this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”
This is the moment where everything changed. Up to this point, i doubt jacob gave much regard to God. It was just some deity his father worshipped. Why should he care?
Jacob was not an honest man. He was greedy, he was selfish, he stole what was rightfully his brothers,
all for his own selfish gains. He didn’t care about anyone else But here, he encounters God in a dream. Despite everything he has done, despite his selfishness, despite his greed, God upholds the promise to jacob that was made with Abraham.
I am the Lord, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. 14 Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and to the east, to the north and to the south. All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.[b] 15 I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Very, very rarely in the bible (if ever) does someone encounter the living God and walk away unaffected.
Jacob had been underhanded, greedy, and selfish before this. He went forth from this place a change man.
Where before he only took, He makes the promise that he will give a 10th of what he earns back to the Lord. This is a big change from stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing. So when he finally arrives at his uncle’s, Jacob is an honest hard working man.
However, his uncle tries pulling similar stunts on Jacob, as jacob did Esau. And yet, as far as we are aware, he never went back to his old ways. He worked hard. When he prospered, so did those around him. He did as he promised.
There is a saying in society that “people don’t change”. Sometimes this can be true. We as humans are flawed, imperfect, broken creatures, in a society that pursues completeness and “perfection”. And yet such a thing is impossible. We has humans have never seen true completeness or perfection. I have met more than one person who thought they were flawed beyond repair. There are several of us who do not think we are good enough to be loved by God. That we are not perfect enough, skilled, enough, spiritual enough, and so on.
Well, if God could use a man like Abraham, like jacob, like Paul, very flawed broken sinful individuals, then God can change anyone. We act as if our actions can stop God’s plans. His plans are not fragile like ours. What is stopping you from being used by god?
For me, it was my own self worth. Even now, i feel unqualified to stand before you. Yet, I submitted myself to God’s lead. No one said following Christ was going to be easy. There is more uncertainty as we step out into the unknown. Yet the only way to become whole, to become complete, to become something more is to submit ourselves to God.
There isn’t a single one of us in this room right now that isn’t broken, flawed, and imperfect. I will leave you with something to l think about. What is stopping you from encountering God, being transformed by Him, and submitting to Him? This is something to think about as we go into our time of communion.