One In Christ
28 Dec 2013 Service – Tan Ye Peng
God’s salvation work has continued throughout time, since the beginning of time.
You are living in this story, and the author himself is God. He brings us through every year, every week, every day, unfolding your story.
As we close this chapter in 2013, we will start a new chapter in 2014.
Jacob’s Blessing (Gen 49)
1 And Jacob called his sons and said, “Gather together, that I may tell you what shall befall you in the last days:
2 “Gather together and hear, you sons of Jacob,
And listen to Israel your father.
28 All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father spoke to them. And he blessed them; he blessed each one according to his own blessing.
The word blessing is used three times in the space of a verse, and the point is that these statements of Jacob, this prophecy, is in a sense a blessing. It is a statement of how God is going to work through the twelve sons.
But some verses don’t make sense. Looking at verse 27:
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he shall devour the prey,
And at night he shall divide the spoil.”
How is this a blessing? Calling his son a ravenous wolf.
Don’t just look at the individual. The key to understanding this, is not looking at the son alone, but looking at it collectively as a whole body.
Going back a few verses to the start….
Reuben, the first son
3 “Reuben, you are my firstborn,
My might and the beginning of my strength,
The excellency of dignity and the excellency of power.
4 Unstable as water, you shall not excel,
Because you went up to your father’s bed;
Then you defiled it—
He went up to my couch.
Reuben, the firstborn of the twelves sons, was to Jacob his “might, the first sign of my strength” (v3), indicating that to him were all the rights and prerogatives of a firstborn son. At first, he excelled in honor and power, as is fitting the firstborn son, but Jacob declares that Reuben “will no longer excel” (v4) due to his sin of incest with Bilhah, his father’s concubine wife.
He forfeited the prerogatives of the birthright and his dying father demoted him, although he did not disown or disinherit him. He would still have all the privileges of a son, but not of the firstborn.
Simeon and Levi
5 “Simeon and Levi are brothers;
Instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place.
6 Let not my soul enter their council;
Let not my honor be united to their assembly;
For in their anger they slew a man,
And in their self-will they hamstrung an ox.
7 Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce;
And their wrath, for it is cruel!
I will divide them in Jacob
And scatter them in Israel.
Both brothers did a brutal deceptive act to avenge Dilah in unwise and sinful ways, and massacred the Shechemites. They felt justified because the men of Shechem treated their sister as a prostitute (Genesis 34:31), but they prostituted the sign of God’s covenant for their own murderous purpose.
On account of their sin, the brothers will be scattered in the Promised Land without permanent inheritance rights (v7).
The tribe of Simeon was eventually absorped by the tribe of Judah, but Levi fares better. Moses, a son of Levi (Exo 2:1-10) later mediates the old covenant, and moreover God chose the Levites to be His priests (Num 3:5-13).
Though cursed and scattered, Levi was later exalted not of his own merits but because of the Lord’s mercy. God’s incredible goodness shone forth, when that which was the punishment of Levi became changed into the reward of the priesthood. Possibly because Levi was not afraid of bloodshed (as seen in the massacre), so was suitable to kill animals for sacrifices.
God can turn your weaknesses into strengths!
Our God is one who is delighted to extend His grace, and we should not be shocked when the most wicked sinners embrace His mercy. Similarly, the church should reach out to those who seem to be the farthest from the kingdom and not outcast them.
8 “Judah, you are he whom your brothers shall praise;
Your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies;
Your father’s children shall bow down before you.
9 Judah is a lion’s whelp;
From the prey, my son, you have gone up.
He bows down, he lies down as a lion;
And as a lion, who shall rouse him?
10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
Judah was comparable to a young lion for his strength, courage and vitality, and contained those of national prominence and kingship, including David and Solomon.
The scepter not departing from Judah – Authority shall not part from Judah. Everyone wants to be like him. These are the powerful, influential people. But if everyone was like them, then who would do the other ‘lowly’ work?
If the whole company is made up of Oxford graduates, then who would do the photocopying, or the cleaning, etc.
We can see people of different strengths coming together within the 12 tribes and becoming a blessing.
“Zebulun shall dwell by the haven of the sea;
He shall become a haven for ships,
And his border shall adjoin Sidon.
He already has a role — he will be a haven for the ships.
In other words, all the trading via ships goes through him, he is the in-charge.
In church we have many ministry workers off stage holding important roles, and are helping the church to function. Eg, Ushers
14 “Issachar is a strong donkey,
Lying down between two burdens;
15 He saw that rest was good,
And that the land was pleasant;
He bowed his shoulder to bear a burden,
And became a band of slaves.
He saw the land was pleasant, the ministry was good, and he volunteered to become a Slave.
In church we know what we are doing is good, our ministry and its contributions to society, so we volunteer to serve freely. Volunteered to be servants
Eg JAMs (mentally slow), Children’s church, Dialect, hearing impaired, etc
“Dan shall judge his people
As one of the tribes of Israel.
17 Dan shall be a serpent by the way,
A viper by the path,
That bites the horse’s heels
So that its rider shall fall backward.
These are the prayer warriors. Doing the spiritual warfare.
19 “Gad, a troop shall tramp upon him,
But he shall triumph at last.
They are like a roly poly.. They keep getting up, keep bouncing up. They go through difficult times but always get back up on their feet. The resilient people of the church!
20 “Bread from Asher shall be rich,
And he shall yield royal dainties.
There’s always this someone in your circle of friends who knows the best food around, and uses his gift to make beautiful food.
Eg, Hospitality ministry.
“Naphtali is a deer let loose;
He uses beautiful words.
Those who use beautiful words. You get encouraged by the words being spoken.
They are the leaders, cgls, mentors, pastors etc
Also the Creative ministries.. Music, Bookstore, Visual comms, sound, light etc
They all work together to package everything up to make it beautiful.
“Joseph is a fruitful bough,
A fruitful bough by a well;
His branches run over the wall.
23 The archers have bitterly grieved him,
Shot at him and hated him.
24 But his bow remained in strength,
And the arms of his hands were made strong
By the hands of the Mighty God of Jacob
(From there is the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel),
You are blessed so that you can be a blessing to someone else. Bless others in need!
27 “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf;
In the morning he shall devour the prey,
And at night he shall divide the spoil.”
The Benjamites were fierce and militant warriors, and one of the toughest fighting tribes.
The tribe of Benjamin was almost wiped out by other tribes after the Battle of Gibeah, but spared and taken in, and allowed to continue their tribe. Eventually they joined the Tribe of Judah.
That you can be imperfect, but you are in a place that people can accept you.
God, in accomplishing His divine purpose for individuals, groups, or mankind as a whole, can, does, and will use all manner of men and women, with different dispositions and temperaments, some good, some not so good. In fact, Romans 8:28 does not say, “And we know that God causes all good things to work together for good,” but it says, “God causes all things to work together for good,” including things that happen to you and I that we don’t like, things that stem from our enemies or Satan himself, and things that we wouldn’t wish on anyone else.
The church put together, have the weapons and power to fight the Kingdom of darkness.
The blessing is that you are in the church, where God dwells! God has not chosen to dwell on a palace, but in his body, the church.
Unity and Diversity in One Body (1 Cor 12)
12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free—and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many.
15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. 19 And if they were all one member, where would the body be?
20 But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. 23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, 24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, 25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and members individually. 28 And God has appointed these in the church: first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, varieties of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.
The weaker ones are indispensable (v22).. If you only have the strong, you will never learn grace, meekness, kindness, mercy. You can be a leader but you won’t be like Jesus Christ!
The weaker ones are necessary. Like Reuben… So that they too can become an overcomer in Christ.
To him who is already honourable does not need more honor (v23).
Let there be no spiritual gap, or love gap.
Let the spiritual not get more spiritual and the less spiritual get ignored.
Let the loved not get even more love, but the unloved get ignored.
Will you be accepting of the weaknesses of others? Just like how God accepts us and dwells with us.