Sunday, 6th December 10.30 am Order of Service

WELCOME

HYMN It is a thing most wonderful

1 It is a thing most wonderful,

Almost too wonderful to be,

That God’s own Son should come from heaven,

And die to save a child like me.

2 And yet I know that it is true;

He chose a poor and humble lot,

And wept and toiled and mourned and died,

For love of those who loved him not.

I cannot tell how He would love

A child so weak and full of sin

His love must be most wonderful

If He could die, my love to win.

3 I sometimes think about the cross,

And shut my eyes, and try to see

The cruel nails and crown of thorns,

And Jesus crucified for me.

4 But even could I see him die,

I could but see a little part

Of that great love which, like a fire,

Is always burning in his heart.

It is most wonderful to know

His love for me so free and sure;

But it’s more wonderful to see

My love for him so faint and poor.

I cannot tell how he could love

A child so weak and full of sin;

His love must be most wonderful,

If he could die my love to win.

5 And yet I want to love You, Lord;

O light the flame within my heart,

And I will love You more and more,

Until I see ou as You are.

William Walsham How (1823-1897)

PRAYER

READING – Genesis 35

Then God said to Jacob, “Go up to Bethel and settle there, and build an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you were fleeing from your brother Esau.”

2 So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Get rid of the foreign gods you have with you, and purify yourselves and change your clothes. 3 Then come, let us go up to Bethel, where I will build an altar to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave Jacob all the foreign gods they had and the rings in their ears, and Jacob buried them under the oak at Shechem. 5 Then they set out, and the terror of God fell on the towns all around them so that no one pursued them.

6 Jacob and all the people with him came to Luz (that is, Bethel) in the land of Canaan. 7 There he built an altar, and he called the place El Bethel, because it was there that God revealed himself to him when he was fleeing from his brother.

8 Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse, died and was buried under the oak outside Bethel. So it was named Allon Bakuth.

9 After Jacob returned from Paddan Aram, God appeared to him again and blessed him. 10 God said to him, “Your name is Jacob, but you will no longer be called Jacob; your name will be Israel.” So he named him Israel.

11 And God said to him, “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants. 12 The land I gave to Abraham and Isaac I also give to you, and I will give this land to your descendants after you.” 13 Then God went up from him at the place where he had talked with him.

14 Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. 15 Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel.

The Deaths of Rachel and Isaac

16 Then they moved on from Bethel. While they were still some distance from Ephrath, Rachel began to give birth and had great difficulty. 17 And as she was having great difficulty in childbirth, the midwife said to her, “Don’t despair, for you have another son.” 18 As she breathed her last—for she was dying—she named her son Ben-Oni. But his father named him Benjamin.

19 So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is, Bethlehem). 20 Over her tomb Jacob set up a pillar, and to this day that pillar marks Rachel’s tomb.

21 Israel moved on again and pitched his tent beyond Migdal Eder. 22 While Israel was living in that region, Reuben went in and slept with his father’s concubine Bilhah, and Israel heard of it.

Jacob had twelve sons:

23 The sons of Leah:

Reuben the firstborn of Jacob,

Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

24 The sons of Rachel:

Joseph and Benjamin.

25 The sons of Rachel’s servant Bilhah:

Dan and Naphtali.

26 The sons of Leah’s servant Zilpah:

Gad and Asher.

These were the sons of Jacob, who were born to him in Paddan Aram.

27 Jacob came home to his father Isaac in Mamre, near Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), where Abraham and Isaac had stayed. 28 Isaac lived a hundred and eighty years. 29 Then he breathed his last and died and was gathered to his people, old and full of years. And his sons Esau and Jacob buried him.

SERMON – The Prodigal Returns

Jacob Returns to Bethel (35:1-15)

1-5 Even though there could be trouble for Jacob in Bethel, he goes there and discovers God’s protecting hand on him It is significant that Jacob called God the one “who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”

It is likely that Jacob’s household had picked up religious objects while living in Shechem. Now Jacob and his family were leaving such things behind and purifying themselves in preparation for their journey to Bethel.

6-15 The arrival at Bethel marked the end of Jacob’s journey and the final demonstration of the faithfulness of God. He had been with Jacob throughout his journey, and now Jacob had returned to Bethel in safety and built an altar. In response the Lord appeared again to Jacob and “blessed him.” For a second time Jacob’s name was changed to “Israel” (cf. 32:28). God is contrasting it with the name “Jacob,” a name frequently associated throughout these narratives with Jacob’s deceptions.

The importance of God’s words to Jacob in vv. 11-12 cannot be overemphasized. First, God’s words recall clearly the earliest blessing of Creation (1:28) and hence show God to be still “at work” in bringing about the blessing to all humanity through Jacob. Second, for the first time since 17:16, the mention is made of royalty in the promised line. Third, the promise of the land, first given to Abraham and then to Isaac, was renewed here with Jacob.

This section represents a major turning point and focus. Two lines that have thus far run parallel are about to converge.

Jacob has two wives, each representing a possible line through which the promise will be carried on. Leah and Rachel each has a son (Judah and Joseph) who can rightfully contend for the blessing. As the Jacob narratives have already anticipated, in the end it was Judah, the son of Leah, not Joseph, the son of Rachel, who gained the blessing (49:8-12).

Benjamin’s Birth and Rachel’s Death (35:16-20)

16-20 Rachel, Joseph’s mother and Jacob’s favourite wife, died giving birth to her second son, Benjamin, meaning “son of my wealth or good fortune.”

The site of Rachel’s burial, Ephrath, was clearly identified with the city of Bethlehem, an important place in biblical history. This passage continued to play an important role in later biblical texts (cf. Jer 31:15; Mic 5:2; Mt 2:18).

The Sons of Jacob (35:21-26)

21-26 Because of their horrendous conduct, the three oldest sons of Jacob fell from favour. As the list that follows shows, the next brother in line was Judah, the son of Leah. With the older sons out of the way, the stage is set for the development of the lines of Judah and Joseph, which continues throughout much of the rest of the OT. The Genesis narratives that follow are devoted primarily to Joseph, but that is no indication of the final outcome. The last word regarding the future of these two lines is still to be revealed.

The Death of Isaac (35:27-29)

27-29 The end of Jacob’s story is marked by the death of his father, Isaac. This notice is not simply to record Isaac’s death but to show the complete fulfillment of God’s promise to Jacob (28:21).

Now, there are, once again, a few possible ways of profitably understanding this chapter.

Jacob reminds us that God is the One: “who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.”

This is an important lesson for us to learn. God is with us each and every day – and wherever we go. You may be familiar with these verses from Psalm 139:

7 Where can I go from your Spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence?

8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there;

if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn,

if I settle on the far side of the sea,

10 even there your hand will guide me,

your right hand will hold me fast.

Sometimes it is only in retrospect that we can see that God has been with us at ALL times of our lives – even when we were in distress – perhaps ESPECIALLY when we were in distress.

We might also learn something here about the importance of puting away all other gods as we seek to set out on our adventure with God. It may not be little statues that we discard – but there will be those things which have become like gods for us – they have become overly important in our lives – and they simply MUST GO – so that we can serve God without hindrances.

And what will we say about God’s faithfulness in all this?

And I believe that it is this last thing that actually points us to the most fruiful line of understanding.

In all the promises God makes to the world at large and to His people in particular, the most important one – and the one to which the whole Bible points – every chapter and every page – is the promise of the coming of Jesus.

God’s ancient people waited many centuries before God sent His Son, born of a virgin. But some faithful souls were still eagerly awaiting the fulfilment of that promise and were thrilled to see The Day arrive.

And we, too, can and must have the trust and confidence that God will keep His promise – namely the Coming of Jesus – this Second Coming will not be to bring SALVATION, but rather to bring JUDGMENT. Of course, for the believer, the judgment for us has already taken place. Judgment was passed and the sentence carried out on our behalf by God’s Son, Jesus – on the hill of Calvary and what followed.

Here we have the Gospel in the heart of this Old Testament story of Jacob returning to Bethel. The seeds of the Saviour of the world are actually in his first wife Leah – and her 4th son Judah. The scene is set. The lovely Rachel is buried in Bethlehem – and that is where we will be looking, shortly, for the birth of the Saviour of the world.

PRAYER

Hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus

Oh soul are you weary and troubled?

No light in the darkness you see?

There’s light for a look at the Savior

And life more abundant and free

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Through death into life everlasting

He passed and we follow Him there

O’er us sin no more hath dominion

For more than conquerors we are

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

His word shall not fail you, He promised

Believe Him and all will be well

Then go to a world that is dying

His perfect salvation to tell

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

Oh, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and grace

Benediction

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