Monday, January 22, 2007

There is Something About That Name: A Sermon

Read Gen 28: 10-22.
We are aware that Jesus instructed us to pray in His name; whatever we ask for in His name will be granted. But is the power of His name contained solely in the word "JESUS"? The Seven Sons of Sceva seemed to think so. Attempting to cast out a demon, they demanded that the demon leave the person in the name of Jesus whom Paul preaches. The response was not as expected: Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you? the demon replied. These seven sons barely escaped with their lives from that encounter. They thought that the word "Jesus" was enough. But it wasn't then, and it is not so now.
If I mention the names of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King, you will generally have a positive reaction. These were men whose deeds revealed what kind of men they were; their names alone stand for their qualities of greatness. If I mention Adolf Hitler and Osama Bin Laden, you will probably have a negative reaction. Their actions revealed what kind of men they were (or are). Their names alone stand for their particular kind of evil. When one says that a man's word is his bond, that means that through habitual honesty, one's name is evidence of an honest nature. When we pray in the name of Jesus, we are not just relying on the power of the word "Jesus", we are praying in His nature. We inherited His nature when the Holy Spirit set up residence in our hearts at salvation. And if we pray in His spirit rather than in in the spirit of our carnel man, than we are truly praying in Jesus's name.

Jacob had much to learn about God's nature. Jacob knew about God, but did not know Him as he should have. Yes, he did not have the advantage of knowing Jesus as the human manifestation of the Father. But Jacob knew enough of God to have placed his full trust in God when he first fled his home. However, instead, he chose to act on his own devices, and made a mess of much of his life. Just what did Jacob's knowledge of God consist of? I will deal with that as we look at Gen 28:12-22.

v12- Jacob has fled his home to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau. That night Jacob sees a vision of a ladder set up on earth reaching to heaven with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. There is much we can delve into to fully understand the meaning of the vision. But for now, we can just consider one aspect. The ladder and the movement of the angels upon it signified that God was near. He is not just confined to some far-away place beyond our being in His prescence. But He is near, and because He is, we can trust that we are under his protection at all times.

v13- God proclaims that he is the God of Abraham and Isaac. This would not just be a history of log-ago times to Jacob. God is saying here that he has a history of dealing with Jacob's family that was not ancient history. Abraham was nearly one hundred years old when he had Isaac. Isaac was sixty when he had Jacob and Esau. Abraham died at the age of one hundred seventy-five. This means that Abraham was alive the first fifteen years of Jacob's life. They knew each other. Abraham must have told him how God had dealt with him; Jacob heard eyewitness testimony to the power and character of God. This should have built his trust in the God who is all powerful and the fulfiller of all promises. God gives Jacob seven promises:

1. God will give Jacob and his decendants the land on which Jacob was resting.

v.14- 2. Jacob's family will be without number. 3. His family will spread over all the earth. 4. All the families of the earth will be blessed through Jacob's family.

v.15- 5. God is with Jacob. 6. God will bring Jacob back to this land. 7. God will not leave Jacob as long as any promise is unfulfilled.

On the basis of God's history with Jacob's family, Jacob could put his trust fully in these seven promises God gave him.

v16-17- Unfortunately, Jacob did not fully know God as he could have. He thought that God's presence was limited to this locality. Earlier, he and his mother thought they had to scheme to obtain the promises God had made concerning Jacob.

v.18-19- Jacob did know enough that when he encountered the living God, he was to worship him. He did this by setting up the memorial stone.

v.20-21 - But then Jacob made a conditional vow: "If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father's house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. "

God had already promised to be with him and provide for him. But he put God to the test while he lived by his own understanding, causing himself unnecessary grief. He knew of God's past provision for his family so that he could trust God and his promises. But he refused to act on his knowledge.

We who are saved by Jesus have a history with Him. He has saved us and cleanses us from sin. This history shows us His nature, that He will fulfill all the promises he has made to us. His name alone reminds us of these things. When we pray in His name,we know that we have what we ask, because He promised us it would be so. Not just because of the word "Jesus." But we pray in His nature; the Holy Spirit guides our prayers. And we have the assurrance that we will be heard, and that our petitions will be granted.

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