Let’s Enter Canaan – Jacob’s Return
Missionary Joanna Pae’s sermon from Shiloh's Lord’s Day Service on June 9, 2019
Canaan, the spiritual kingdom of God
Canaan is a very important place for us because it represents the Kingdom of Heaven. The four generations who possessed the land of Canaan pose very great significance in our journey of faith toward the spiritual Canaan. Today, we want to look at one person of the four generations of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph and that is Jacob.
The “smoking oven” and the “flaming torch”
Canaan, this great land that flows with milk and honey was promised to the father of faith, Abraham. And that promise and covenant is called the “Covenant of the Torch.” There are two things we must remember in the Covenant of the Torch. First, there was the “torch” and secondly, the “smoking oven” or the “furnace” (Gen 15:17). This furnace is called Egypt; the “iron furnace.” It is a fire that is so hot that it melts even iron to purify and to remove all the impurities (Deut 4:20). Therefore, anyone who is the heir, the recipients of the covenant of the torch will face two things. First, they will face the “iron furnace,” which is trials, sufferings and distress. This is a mechanism of God’s love to purify us. Secondly, there is a “torch,” a “flaming torch” that is never quenched and represents God’s zeal. So, as the heir of the covenant of the torch, we will be placed in the iron furnace of suffering. But in this process, God will never leave us alone and will always encamp around us with His presence. This happens exactly in the life of our forefather of faith, Jacob as well.
Jacob’s life journey
Jacob yearned to become the heir of the covenant of the torch so much that he lived up to his name, which means “supplanter” which is sitting in somebody else’s place. Additionally, his name means a “layer of snares” who sets traps for people to get what he wants. Jacob in Beersheba seizes the birthright from his older brother Esau, which was very unfair for him to do. Jacob goes after the birthright because he knows that the covenant of the torch and the blessings that were given to his grandfather Abraham will be his. From the moment Jacob receives the birthright from his brother Esau, he becomes a refuge, for Esau sought to kill him (Gen 27:41-45). From Beersheba, Jacob flees to Bethel, and then to a place called Paddan-aram, better known as “Haran” where he meets a greater deceiver then himself and that is his uncle Laban. From this point on, twenty years of tribulations began for Jacob from the age of 76 until the age of 96 as a slave under Laban. Laban trapped Jacob with lies; however, God saw the affliction and toil of Jacob’s hands and rendered judgment (Gen 31:42). Jacob was able to endure the twenty years of affliction by Laban because he held on to God’s Word that was spoken to him twenty years ago at Bethel saying, “I will never leave you” (Gen 28:15). This is why Jacob was able to confess in spite of his ill-treatment from his uncle Laban: “The God of my father has been with me” (Gen 31:5). Jacob also confessed, “For God did not allow Laban to touch me” (Gen 31:7). God sees all things and observed every moment Laban mistreated Jacob (Gen 31:12; Psa 139:1-5). As a result, God took everything from Laban and gave it back to Jacob (Gen 31:9, 42). This teaches us that true wealth is predestined by God and given to the saints. God blesses the righteous and those who are gracious to the poor (Prov 13:22; 28:8). For the sinner, God gives a task of making lots of money to ultimately give it to those who are good in God’s sight (Eccl 2:26). Therefore, evil people may come to set traps in your life, but God will truly protect His righteous ones so that no evil can lay hands on them (1 John 5:18).
Saints and a time of distress
The time of great humiliation, distress, and deceit is like a “smoking oven” that purifies us. Jacob was being disciplined by a deceiver who was greater than himself, yielding him as pure gold who is now worthy to go to Canaan (Psa 119:67, 71; Job 23:10). Hardships will surely come for our sake which is a short cut in preparing us just like Jacob to become the true possessors of the land of Canaan. After being fully disciplined, God commands Jacob to “return” and go back to Canaan (Gen 31:3). While Laban was away, Jacob fled to a place called Galeed, a ten-day journey. However, Laban finds out and catches up to Jacob in seven days which shows how furious Laban chased after Jacob and his family to harm them. Laban’s chase represents spiritual obstacles which are the pleasures and temptations of this world. However, we the saints must never let the world abuse us as slaves or make us sin but break forth and go into the land of Canaan.
God intervenes on our behalf
Laban wanted to harm Jacob, but God intervened and warned him not to speak good or bad to Jacob (Gen 31:24). The great deceiver Laban then makes a peace treaty with Jacob and confessed, “Let your God watch between you and me from now on." Here, the enemy was instantly transformed into a confessor of faith (Gen 31:49). Laban departed back to his home and Jacob proceeds to Jabbok River where he wrestles with God and receives the name Israel (Gen 32:27-28). Secondly, God intervened on behalf of Jacob by sending angels to welcome him back home like a triumphant valiant warrior (Gen 32:1-2). Jacob referred to this place as “God’s camp.” This teaches us that God encamps around those who fear Him and never leaves us alone (Psa 34:7; John 14:18; Matt 28:20). Therefore, Canaan must be in our minds at all times as our final destination, for God will powerfully intervene in our lives to turn enemies into peacemakers and protect us with His angels, His messengers, and His help around us so that we can finally make it into Canaan.
Conclusion: So finally, Jacob goes back and the very first place he enters is Shechem where he confesses and calls upon the name of God. Previously, Jacob called upon God as the “God of Abraham” or “The God of my father.” but now after all the years of tribulation, he comes to Shechem and confesses "El-Elohe-Israel," which means God of Israel which is the name he earned; now his own personal God (Gen 33:18-20). Jacob’s journey is our journey. Until we call upon Him and confess, “Father, you are my real God,” this is the course that we will take. So do not give up on your way and let us march towards our true home, the heavenly city. Amen.