The Church is Forced to Flee to
Safe Haven from the World’s Hatred
Scripture: Genesis 27:30-46
Text: Genesis 27:43
Sermon by Rev. Al Korvemaker
Orthodox Christian Reformed Church of Surrey, British Columbia, 1998
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 17, No. 1
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
When we see Isaac blessing Jacob we see the Lord blessing His Church. We see God making sure, even though Isaac had conspired to give the covenant blessing of God to his covenant breaking son Esau, that it was given to His elect, Jacob. By blessing Jacob through Isaac, as He did, the Lord saw to it that through Jacob, that is, Israel, salvation from sin would come to the world in the person and work of Jesus Christ.
Isaac and Esau’s conspiracy was not the only conspiracy in this narrative, however. Rebekah and Jacob sinfully conspired against Isaac and Esau to make sure that Jacob received through deceit the blessing God would surely have given him through righteous means. We see Rebekah and Jacob taking matters into their own hands instead of trusting the word of the Lord that “the older shall serve the younger.” Their sinful conspiracy brought trouble on their own heads. Because Jacob had taken the blessing away from Esau, Esau’s unregenerate heart boiled with vengeful anger. And he, like Cain, planned to kill his brother. Therefore (theme:) “The Church is forced to flee to safe haven from the world’s hatred.” We look at two things related to this theme: first the cause of Jacob’s or the Church’s flight, and then the place of flight.
The cause of Jacob’s flight is pointed to in the first two words of verse 43: “Now therefore, my son, obey my voice: arise, flee...” In other words, the cause of Jacob’s flight to Haran is found in the previous verses, in what has already been recorded. And when we look back from verse 43 to verses 42 and 41 we see that the most immediate cause of Jacob’s flight, is Esau’s vengeful, murderous hatred. We read there that Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and “Esau said in his heart...'I will kill my brother Jacob.’” Jacob had to flee his home because of Esau’s hatred.
In the relationship between Esau and Jacob, in its entirety, as also here, we see the essence of the relationship between all the unregenerate and the church, don’t we? The antagonism that existed between these two brothers, Jacob the believer and Esau an unbeliever, is reflective and characteristic of the constant antagonism between the church and the world. The mere obvious presence of Christians in a predominantly non-Christian neighborhood is a testimony to the unbelievers’ consciences that they too should be worshipping the true God whom they all know exists. Though there may be no outward and obvious hostility on the part of the non-Christians toward the Christians, you get the sense that there is a line of acceptable behavior. That line is this: that Christians are to keep their religion to themselves. And if they cross that line, if they start to “talk religion” to their neighbors, then the latent hostilities may no longer be so latent. There might be very obvious hostility displayed toward them for Christ’s sake. Unfortunately, many of us would have to confess, that for the sake of peace, we are too ready “to keep our religion to ourselves” and not cross the line. But the fact is that that hostility is there just like that latent hostility in the relationship between Esau and Jacob. It is the work of Satan, our great enemy who wants to keep us quiet about the Savior of the world by whatever means possible.
Jacob crossed a line in his relationship with Esau. He did not do so by showing Esau a good example or by speaking a good word to him about his need for the Lord. Instead, he crossed the line by sinning against the Lord, by taking the covenant blessing by deceit. He crossed the line by taking from Esau by deceit what Esau thought was rightfully his. He took the blessing for which Esau longed, as did every reasonable eldest son. This brought Esau hatred to the surface. He burned with anger and decided to kill Jacob.
We could rephrase this to bring to light more clearly a second cause of Jacob’s flight. The first was Esau’s ungodly and unregenerate heart. The second is Jacob’s own sin. Because Jacob sinfully did what his mother sinfully told him to do, he had to flee. The Lord brought Jacob’s sin, as it were, on his own head. Jacob reaped the bitter fruit of his own sinful actions.
That sometimes happen to us too, doesn’t it. I can imagine that a young girl might accidentally break something that belongs to her parents. Then when her parents ask who broke it, she denies having done it. And Mom and Dad do not press the issue. But then, her older brother, knowing that she lied to her parents, exploits the situation. He says to her that if she does not do all kinds of favors for him, he will tell Mom and Dad that she broke that item thus revealing her guilt of both the damage done and the lie to cover it up. She thinks that if he told on her, she would be in real trouble. So she does everything her brother tells her to, and he tells her to do a lot. Her sin has come down on her own head.
Or imagine a thief who robs a bank. He gets away with a million dollars and flees to some exotic location in South America. There he lives in luxury for a while until one day, someone robs him of all his money and he is left homeless. He cannot report the theft of his money because it really was not his at all. If he did report it, he would be found out to be a thief himself. So, he is stuck down there with no money and has to live in poverty for the rest of his life. His sin has come down on his own head. He has reaped ill fruit because of the wrong he has done.
The same happens here to Jacob. Because, by ungodly means, he took his father’s blessing instead of waiting of the Lord to bless him, he had to flee.
How sad it when the church bears the bad fruit of her own deeds. How many times do not Christians and the Church - generally speaking - bring the scorn and hatred and ridicule of the world on her own head. 1) Christians sometimes speak to unbelievers about the Lord in ways that show that they are careless, that what they say is not at all well thought out, or that they are insensitive to the situations and struggles of those to whom they speak. As a result, people are turned off, and Christians are thought of as people who do not care about others. 2) At other times, Christians may be tempted to live in society as though no one knows that they are believers. So they live in such a way as to deny their faith. They think they can say and do things in the presence of unbelievers that they would never want other members of their congregation to see them doing or saying. But then, someone among whom they live and act as though they are not Christians finds out that they are members of such and such a church. As a result their name and the name of Christ gets dragged through the mud. But it is trouble they have brought on themselves because of their sin. 3) We do not even have to mention the examples of ministers who commit adultery, of Christians who are imprisoned for embezzlement, of young people who sleep together out of wedlock and so forth. But these too are examples of how believers, the Church, together like Jacob, bring the bitter fruits of their own sin on their own heads.
We may be thankful that the LORD, nonetheless, uses these troublesome times for our own benefit. The Lord, third cause of the church’s flight, lets us, like Jacob, experience the bitter fruits of our own sin to teach us not to sin, to inform our discernment, to sharpen our moral edge. The Lord permits bitter things to come upon us in life, even through our own sin, to chasten us, to push us into grow up into more mature children of God. When a young girl breaks something and is forced to be her brother’s servant, she hopefully discovers that Mom & Dad are usually more forgiving than brothers are. She will tell the truth next time. Hopeful the thief in South America would see that he is better off being satisfied to work for a living than stealing in order to live on easy street and then suddenly end up on skid row. So too, Christians who speak uncaringly would hopefully learn to be wise when they see people being turned off by them. Hopefully Christians who live like unbelievers see what damage they do themselves and the Church and wise up to live what they confess. We all must be aware of the bitter fruit we and others reap because of our sin and mind our ways. Then we will be even more graciously blessed by the Lord in this life than we presently are. Even Esau’s murderous anger was intended by God to teach his servant Jacob not to take things into his own hands and play God, not to use deception to gain the blessings of God, but to simply trust the word of the Lord. God does not bless sinful deception or any other sin for that matter. Instead, He forbids it.
And we read also of the place of his flight. He was advised by his mother to flee to, in her words, “my brother Laban in Haran.”
We read in Genesis 11:32 that Terah, Abraham’s father died in Haran while Abraham still lived there. But then after his death God came to Abraham and said “Get out of your country, from your kindred and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.” Laban, who lived in Haran, was a grandson of Nahor, one of Abraham’s two brothers. Terah begot Abraham and Nahor. Abraham begot Isaac who begot Jacob. And Nahor begot Bethuel who begot Laban and Rebekah. Rebekah sent Jacob back to Laban, back to the house of Terah whom God had called out of Ur of the Caldeans.
This is where Jacob was sent geographically and genealogically speaking. But spiritually speaking, Rebekah sent Jacob to those who knew the Lord. In other words, Jacob, Israel, the “Church” shall be say, was to flee to safe haven within the Church. There is no doubt that these people knew the Lord. This whole family had to have been well aware, only three generations from Terah, that the true God of heaven and earth had spoken to their forefather Terah and told him to take all that he had and leave Ur. They undoubtedly knew that it was a result of God’s word that they were transplants in Haran. Besides, we read in Genesis 24 that when Abraham’s faithful servant went back to this family to find a wife for Isaac, he was welcomed in the name of the Lord. After seeing the jewelry that the servant had given Rebekah, Laban ran out to the well to bring this servant of Abraham’s home. He said to him, “Come in, O blessed of the LORD. Why do you stand outside? For I have prepared a house, and a place for the camels...” (Gen.24:31). While there the servant told this household of how the LORD had brought him there, of how the LORD had answered his prayer by having Rebekah give both him and his camels water just as he had prayed she would. And when it came time of Rebekah to leave with the servant, she was permitted to go because it was so obvious to this household that this was the LORD’s will. Both Bethuel Laban’s father and Laban himself said, as we read in verses 50-51: “This thing is from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken.”
Can there be any question, that not withstanding all their sins and shortcomings, this family knew the LORD? And so with a certain wisdom as well as deceit, Rebekah advised that Jacob go there to this God-fearing family. To flee the world’s persecution he went to the safe haven of fellow believers, to the rest of the Church - in essence.
Is that not where we go as well? In the world we find that we have little in common with unbelievers. We live on the same street or go to the same place of work and shop at the same stores. We can talk about the Canucks or the weather or about things at work. But you cannot have fellowship with them on a spiritual level. For as Paul says in Romans 8, those who are of the flesh do not understand the things of the Spirit. And as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness?”
Besides this, if you are obviously a Christian where you live and work then you know what it is to be persecuted for the sake of Christ. For Christ says that all that follow Him will be persecuted. What a welcome relief it is when studying or working with and living among unbelievers, we can also come back to our own families and to the family of God where those who fear the Lord are welcomed, and encouraged and supported. There we find shelter from the storm.
It is interesting, though it is not, that even among his own people Jacob was cheated, misused and dealt with unfairly? Interesting is it not also, that though we can and should and to retreat to the assembly of God’s people for encouragement and support, that even there sin exists, even there many shortcomings are to be found?
Ultimately, then, Jacob could not retreat to the Church as his final hope, but the providence and provision of God. He had to break away from all other supporters and protectors and make the long trip and live as a sojourner in a foreign land. He had to learn to let go and let God. He had to learn to put aside his self-willed tendencies and trust the Lord to provide Him refuge from the storm.
And so do we. We cannot look to the Church as our final source of security and acceptance. We cannot retreat only to other people. We must turn to God who is our refuge, to our Lord Jesus Christ. It is ultimately in prayer and in Scripture and in day in and day out fellowship with our risen Savior that we find refuge. There we can bring our problems and sorrows. To Him we can open our hearts completely, never fearing that our confidence will be betrayed. In Christ we find unconditional acceptance. In Christ we find free and full forgiveness. In Christ we find a source of life offered to those whose lives seem at times to be threatened or hopeless. In Christ we find strength and encouragement and life, life that lasts not only to the end of our days on this earth but for all eternity. It is to Christ that we must flee and only to Christ that we can flee to safe haven from the world’s hatred. Let us go to Him. Let us rest in Him. Let us rejoice in Him. Amen.