Posts Tagged ‘Jacob’


As we look at all we have “Because of the Cross”, we need to remember three Principles of the Cross:

1. The Cross is the Wisdom & Power of God.

  • The Cross reveals the Heart of God, His delight in mercy, justice and righteousness.
  • At the Cross we partake of the unfailing love of God, the justice of being made right with God, and the Righteousness that is in Christ whereby we have victory over sin, over Satan and over death.

2. The Cross is opposed to the wisdom and power of man.

  • The cross requires humility. The cross strips man of all rights and powers. The Cross reveals the foolishness of man’s attempts at standing and self-righteousness.
  • Man says to love yourself first, seek for yourself first. Instead of submitting to God’s love, We are our own person, we are OK as we are, we can do as we please as long as we don’t hurt anyone. Instead of submitting to God’s Justice, Man emphasizes your own accomplishments, your own standing, your own right to live as you see fit. Instead of depending upon God for our righteousness, Man emphasizes works, riches, possessions as justification for the way he lives.

3. The Cross represents the Perfect Blood Sacrifice required by God

  • God declared that life is in the blood. The only way for sinful man to enjoy life with Holy God is through a blood sacrifice for our sins. The Cross is that perfect blood sacrifice.

We have seen the Principle of the Cross with Adam and Eve, and how Cain quickly established Man’s wisdom in opposition to the Cross. That Opposition grew until we read:

 Genesis 6:5 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

So God called Noah to build an ark. God saved His creation by a worldwide flood, and the earth was transformed, and Noah and his family went forth to re-populate the earth. This new world was established with the Principle of the Cross, for Noah took of the clean animals and sacrificed them to God.

Kingdom of Man Rears its Sinful Head (NIMROD)

In the Dispensation of Noah it did not take long for the wisdom and power of man to rear its ugly head in opposition to the Cross. Mighty men came along, led by Nimrod, the mighty hunter of men, and directly opposed God. They built a Tower that was reaching to the heavens, so they could worship themselves and insure a place of refuge should God ever decide to flood the earth again.

God confounded the wisdom and power of man, and the languages of the earth were born, and the kingdom of man became fragmented.

In the face of God’s wisdom and power, man corrupted the Principle of the Cross, and began to sacrifice to gods of their own making. They worshipped ‘idols’ and engaged in religious worship in opposition to the Creator God Jehovah. They offered sacrifices as He demanded, but with hearts devoted to the kingdom of man. They created god’s of their own design, god’s whom they could worship as they chose. The altar of sacrifice had been corrupted by man to honor the god’s of their making, instead of the Making God!

It was among these idol worshippers in the “Ur of the Chaldees” that Jewish tradition has a young man named Abram working in his father’s idol merchant shop. This young man was about to receive a special call for Creator God. This is the beginning of the Patriarch Dispensation.

The Calling of Abram

Genesis 12:1-9 Now the LORD said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran (best meaning ‘to tarry’). And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan. When they came to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him. From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar (mizbeah) to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD. And Abram journeyed on, still going toward the Negeb.

We know Ur of the Chaldees was a ‘hotbed’ of idolatry for two reasons:

1. Abraham’s father, Terah according to Joshua 24:2, worshiped idols. Jewish tradition refers to Terah as an idol maker. Ur was an idolatrous city worshiping many different Gods such as the god of fire, moon, sun and stars. Sin was the name of the chief idol deity of Ur. Ningal, was the wife of the moon-god, Sin, and was worshiped as a mother God in many other cities. Ur was a evil and sinful city as can be seen in the worship practices of the moon-goddess, Ningal.[1]

Joshua 24:2 And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago, your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and they served other gods.

2. Ur ‏אור‎, which means flame or fire of the Chaldeans, from the worship practiced there. Scholars say the people of this area were worshippers of fire, and there is evidence of fire sacrifices to various gods.[2]

Abram rejected the many god’s of his father’s, and followed the call of the one and only True God. Abram’s journey to Canaan was marked by humility resulting in the altar of sacrifice. At the Oak of Moreh God appeared to Abram and told Him, “To your offspring I will give this land.”

So which is it: Plains, encampments, oaks or terebinths? Different translations have served to obscure the great truth of this passage.

Plains and encampments, I think, can be dismissed immediately. They do not fit other passages using this expression. They cannot possibly be the correct translation of elonei mamre. That leaves oaks and terebinths. I’ll take oaks.

Here’s why. In the first place, while “oaks” is the oldest translation we have of elonei, “terebinths” is the most recent. The Septuagint rendition may represent a genuine tradition passed down from the time the book of Genesis was composed. Moreover, terebinths, whose small leaves indeed smell a bit like turpentine when crushed, may have an impressive-sounding name, but they are not very impressive in appearance. The terebinth is an evergreen shrub that rarely grows to more than 7 or 8 feet and is found all over Israel. The common Palestinian oak, on the other hand, develops into a tall, stately tree. A whole forest or grove of such trees, now seen in only a few places but less rare in Abraham’s time, is an impressive sight indeed. Certainly these could be a landmark worthy of mention in God’s Word.

Would the Bible have bothered to point out that Abraham was sitting by some perfectly ordinary shrubs? In my thinking, the mighty Oak wins this match against the insignificant terebinth.[3].

Evidently there was a significant tree in a grove of trees at Moreh near Shechem. The Hebrew moreh is derived from the verb yarah, “to teach,” “to direct,” and indicates one who directs, or gives oracular answers.[4]  Picture a place known for receiving direction or oracles from God.

Now it was here that God first appeared to Abram, and confirmed to Abram that this was the land that God was giving him. No doubt Abram had seen the Canaanites, and had seen their vileness and fierceness. Perhaps he doubts were running rampant in his mind, doubts about the voice he had heard calling him. In the midst of those doubts, Abram saw God by that majestic tree. There God renewed His promise to Abram. As soon as God went away, Abram built an altar (place of sacrifice) unto God.

Can you picture Abram, a former idol worshipper, seeing Jehovah God? This was no wood carving, no stone object. Abram saw the Living Creator God. In the presence of God there are no doubts, there is only hope, there is only His love. Abram was so in awe of God that his first reaction was to build an altar and offer a sacrifice to God. Sinful man had met Holy God at the tree. At the tree Abram offered himself to God.

Does that sound like anything familiar to you?

It is before this significant tree that an altar is made, sacrifice performed, and Abram’s life, family and possessions are committed to God’s Promise. Here we see the principle of the Cross in establishing Abram’s possession of the Promised Land.

This appearance of God was significant, for just as God walked with Adam in the cool of the evening, so now God appeared to Abram in the coolness of the shade of the Oak Tree of Moreh. When ever God begins something new, His presence is all over it!

The Oak Tree of Moreh was near Shechem

There are 3 references to the Oak tree(s) of Moreh at Shechem in the Bible. Plus there is one more subtle reference worth noting.

1. Genesis 12:6-7

“Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite was then in the land. The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.”

God called Abram out of the kingdom of the wisdom and power of man. He called Abram out of the land of idols and manmade gods. He called him to a new land, to form a new nation that followed Jehovah, their Creator God. He called Abram to follow God’s wisdom and power, and submit to the principle of the Cross. When Abram saw God, he submitted and sacrificed.

You are familiar with his life. Along this journey Abram made mistakes. He lied, he resorted to following the wisdom and power of man in having a baby boy Ishmael. Still, God blessed him, for God had set His Name upon Abram. Instead of being Abram, his name became Abraham, father of a great nation.

Finally, God gave him that promised son, Isaac. As we will see in later writings, the Principal of the Cross was upon Isaac, and upon Jacob. But for today, we are camping under the Oak of Moreh, near Shechem.

Abraham’s grandson had returned to the idol loving land of his great-grandfather. There he met his wife(s) and labored for his uncle, Laban. Jacob was a man who fit in well with the kingdom of Man. He was crafty, deceitful, proud and boasting. God still blessed him, because God had promised Abraham. God issued a call to Jacob to return to the Promised land, and face his estranged brother Esau. God was there when the brothers met. Jacob and his family were spared the wrath of Esau. And Jacob continued on, making a stop in Shechem.

Genesis 33:18-20 Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city. He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money. Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel. (Meaning “El, the God of Israel”)

Even though Jacob offered sacrifices to God, the God of Israel, he was still living in the kingdom of man. He was still living by his own wiles. His heart was divided. (Notice he did not say “My God!”) Jacob had to learn a costly lesson before he could go on to the House of God (Bethel). Chapter 34 sees the chastening hand of God upon his Jacob and his family. At Shechem, his daughter Dinah was raped by the prince of the land (Shechem). What follows is deceit upon deceit, as Jacob’s sons plot to avenge their daughter, and the leaders of of Shechem plot to take Jacob’s livestock and possession. In a clever plot indicative of the treachery of their father, the sons of Jacob murder the men of Shechem, plunder their riches and livestock, take the women and children, and bring dishonor upon the house of Jacob.

Genesis 34:30-31 Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me odious among the inhabitants of the land, among the Canaanites and the Perizzites; and my men being few in number, they will gather together against me and attack me and I will be destroyed, I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister as a harlot?”

In Genesis 35 we see that Jacob makes a decision to wholly follow God. Once again, the Oak Tree at Moreh plays a significant role.

2. Genesis 35:4

Then God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and live there, and make an altar there to God, who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods which are among you, and purify yourselves and change your garments; and let us arise and go up to Bethel, and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.

God spells out the problem He had with Jacob. Sure, Jacob professes belief in God, even honoring Him with an altar and sacrifices. But Jacob’s heart was divided. He loved the Kingdom of Man, with its idols and riches. He was a “double-minded” man. His life in the land of idolatry had tainted his already flawed soul. Jacob and his sons were even dressing like the idol loving people of the land, thus the reference to the “rings in their ears” and their garments.

Bethel was the “House of God” Bethel was the place of God that Abram pitched his tent, built an altar of sacrifice to God, and where he called upon the Name of the Lord! There is salvation in the House of God!

Genesis 12:8 Then he proceeded from there to the mountain on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD.

God appeared to Abram, and he sacrificed to God. He continued on to Bethel, in the heart of Canaan, and pitched his tent, and called upon the Name of the Lord. You can almost see the progression of his heart. He answers the call of God, yet decides to tarry a while in Haran. After the death of his father, he decides to move to Canaan, and stops at Shechem. There he sees his Creator God. He submits and sacrifices. But you get the feeling he is not all in yet. But he travels further into Canaan, and decides to pitch his tent on a hillside at Bethel, the House of God. Abram has made a decision. He is all in. There is no turning back. His tent is pitched, and He cries out to God!

We see the Principle of the Cross at work in his life, and we will see why he did what he did with Isaac next week.

As with Abram, God called Jacob to come to a place of decision. What will Jacob do? Will he come to God with everything, depend upon God for everything? Is he ready to forsake the crafty kingdom of Man and give himself 100% to Jehovah God? There is no use going to Bethel if your heart is divided. God is a jealous God. He wants all of us. Jacob can’t deceive God like he did his father, like he did Laban. God could see Jacob’s heart, that it was divided.

He can offer as many sacrifices to God as he wants, but unless his heart is given 100% to God, it does no good. This is what God means when He says it is better to obey than to sacrifice.

Here at Shechem, in spite of the pain of his heart over Dinah and his sons, Jacob makes a decision to follow God fully. He and his household obeyed God and put all of the idols and their precious possessions at the foot of the Oak tree.

This is what we do at the foot of the Cross!

Fast forward a few hundred years. Jacob died in Egypt, and the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob escaped the slavery of Pharaoh. It had been 400 years since they had been in the promised land. God used a meek man to lead his people from Egypt. Now in Deut. 11 Moses is addressing the people.

3. Deuteronomy 11:29-30.

“It shall come about, when the LORD your God brings you into the land where you are entering to possess it, that you shall place the blessing on Mount Gerizim and the curse on Mount Ebal. “Are they not across the Jordan, west of the way toward the sunset, in the land of the Canaanites who live in the Arabah, opposite Gilgal, beside the oaks of Moreh?

Moses has shared the Law of God with his people. He has detailed all the blessings God promises to those who wholly follow the Lord. He instructs them to go to the Oaks of Moreh, and stand upon the two mountains there, Ebal and Gerizim. There they are to dedicate themselves to following God and His Word completely, and they are to acknowledge the blessings and cursing associated with that commitment.

The account of that event is given in chapters 27 and 28 of Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 27:4-8 And when you have crossed over the Jordan, you shall set up these stones, concerning which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you shall plaster them with plaster. And there you shall build an altar to the LORD your God, an altar of stones. You shall wield no iron tool on them; you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, and you shall sacrifice peace offerings and shall eat there, and you shall rejoice before the LORD your God. And you shall write on the stones all the words of this law very plainly.”

One by one the Levites read the Blessings and Curses of the Law

Can you hear them:  ‘Cursed be anyone who does not confirm the words of this law by doing them.’ (Deuteronomy 27:26)

And all the people shout, ‘Amen!’

The vibrating, thundering chorus of two million of voices shouting ‘Amen’ in unison to the terms of the covenant, from hill to hill, echoed powerfully in the streets of Shechem below. The Oaks of Moreh were shaking in response. They were witnesses to this momentous occasion.

The Jordan river signifies death to the wisdom and power of man. When Israel passed over the Jordant, they were symbolically announcing that they were dying to life in the wisdom and power of the flesh, and were now living in the wisdom and power of God and His Word. They were embracing the Principle of the Cross. This was so important, that at the end of Joshua’s life, he had the people return to this spot and reaffirm their commitment to following God’s Word.

Covenant ratified one more time…

At the end of his life, Joshua called for Israel to assemble again — at Shechem. The solemnity of the occasion cannot be expressed better than by its simple yet inspired biblical description:

Joshua 24:1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And they presented themselves before God.

Joshua recounted God’s faithfulness from the time of Abram’s calling until He gave them the Promised Land. He solemnly impressed upon them the importance of keeping faithfulness with God and his covenant. Listen as Joshua brings the point home:

Joshua 24:14-15 “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

The people responded that YES! They would serve the Lord! Joshua tried to tell them they were not able to serve the Lord:

Joshua 24:19-21 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.” But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”

So Joshua told them: “Now then, throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23)

So Joshua took a large stone and placed it under the Oak by the sanctuary of the Lord (in Shechem). That stone represented their decision to yield their hearts totally to God! This is what Abram had done! This is what Jacob had done! This is the Principle of the Cross!

Joshua 24:24-27 The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

That stone was not the only witness. The Principle of the Cross was there at Shechem in the form of the Oak tree of Moreh. Eight hundred years had elapsed since Abram first built an altar under the Shechem oak tree. The original oak tree had probably given way to an offspring. But the mention of the ‘sanctuary of the Lord’ confirms this Oak tree was probably near the altars built by Abram and Jacob, and was now taken to be the official substitute.

I can see Joshua pointing to the altars and the tree as he recounts their stories to his people. I can hear him tell them that God appeared to Abram at this very spot. I can see him pointing to the ground and saying, “somewhere down there are the pagan gods your father Jacob buried; do the same, bury your false gods, and serve the one true God only.”  On that day, under Abram’s tree of promise, Israel ratified her covenant with God, the covenant she had made at Sinai nearly one hundred years earlier.

Treason at the Cross

Everyone remembers the story of Gideon and the way God used him in a miraculous deliverance of Israel from the Midianites. After that victory, the men of Israel wanted to make Gideon King.

Judges 8:22-23  Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the LORD will rule over you.”

Now Gideon (Jerubbaal) had seventy sons, for he had many wives. One son was Abimelech, born of a concubine who lived in Shechem. After Gideon died, Abimelech schemed to become King over the land. He got the leaders of Shechem on his side, got them to pay him money with which he hired thugs. Then he murdered 70 sons of Gideon with one stone. One son, Jotham, got away.

Immediately, “all the leaders of Shechem came together, and all Beth-millo, and they went and made Abimelech king, by the oak of the pillar at Shechem.” (Judges 9:6)

At the very spot where, under the very tree where, next to the very pillar where, three hundred years earlier, all Israel had sworn faithfulness to God and His covenant, where one thousand years earlier God first made the covenantal promises to Abram, where Jacob later buried the vestiges of his false gods, the populace of Shechem declared that a mere, evil man, was now their king [6].

Rebellious men refused to humble themselves to the Cross, and so rejected God in favor of man’s wisdom and power. Shechem erected the Kingdom of Man in opposition to the Kingdom of God.

The outcome was utter disaster, perhaps even greater than that which had occurred in the same city hundreds of years earlier when Simeon and Levi slaughtered the entire male population.

Read the entire account for yourself in Judges 9:1-20. In short, the honeymoon between Abimelech and the Shechemites was short-lived. God set animosity between them, resulting in Abimelech’s massacre of the entire population. One thousand people perished in one incident when Abimelech set fire to the temple of Baal in which they were cringing in fear. That one thousand people could fit inside testifies to its considerable size.

Why did this disaster occur? Listen carefully to what Jotham, Abimelech’s lone surviving brother, had to say to the citizens of Shechem days before the massacre:

Jotham told a parable, about the trees wanting someone to reign over them as a King. The tried the Olive Tree, the Fig Tree, a Vine, and each one refused. Finally they went to a lowly bramble bush, and he accepted.

Jotham warned the people:

Judges 9:16-20 “Now if you have acted faithfully and honestly in making Abimelech king, if you have done well by Jerubbaal (Gideon) and his family, and if you have rewarded him appropriately for what he did— for my father fought for you, risked his life, and delivered you from the hand of Midian, and now you have attacked my father’s house today, killed his 70 sons on top of a large stone, and made Abimelech, the son of his slave, king over the lords of Shechem ‘because he is your brother’— if then you have acted faithfully and honestly with Jerubbaal and his house this day, rejoice in Abimelech and may he also rejoice in you. But if not, may fire come from Abimelech and consume the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo, and may fire come from the lords of Shechem and Beth-millo and consume Abimelech.”


Twice in one short message Jotham tells the people to judge themselves, whether or not they have acted faithfully and honestly. Understand, the Cross is a divider of men. It divids the children of God from the children of the world. It divides Spirit-filled believers from fleshly pretenders, or worldly Christians. There is Blessing at the foot of the Cross. There is Cursing at the Foot of the Cross. You can bear the curse yourself, or you can realize that Jesus became cursed for you upon that Cross. Yield your heart to the Cross, and enjoy the Blessings of Jesus Christ!

We have a tree that rules over us. It is the Cross of Jesus Christ. We do not worship the Tree, for it is but a principle. We worship the one who was crucified upon that tree. He is our King, He is our Lord. The principle of the Cross must be applied to our lives if He is to reign!


[1] Halley’s Bible Handbook, Henry H. Halley, Zondervan Pub. House, Grand Rapids, page 95.

[2] Adam Clarke, A Commentary and Critical Notes, (New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1826), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: “Genesis 11”.

[3]“Oaks or Terebinths?” Philologos, http://forward.com/articles/11956/oaks-or-terebinths-/

[5] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1-17, 1990, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, p. 389.

Advertisements

Jacob had left Beersheba and was on his way to meet Esau. He had sent his family on ahead, so that perhaps Esau would soften and his heart and not kill him as he had threatened years ago. Tired, he picked out a nice rock to lay his head on and get some sleep. He had a dream about a ladder that stretched from earth all the way to heaven. And on this ladder, angels were descending and ascending. At the top of the ladder was the Lord God. In his dream, he heard the voice of God:

“I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”

Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said,

“Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” (Have you ever gone through some trial and thought, Surely God was in this place and I did not know it?)

And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So early in the morning

Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” Genesis 28:10-22

STEADFAST LOVE

As we peer closely at the Real Jesus, the Jesus of Revelations One, we see another aspect of Divine Love expressed in His appearance.

John saw his golden sash (Agape love that sacrifices all), his white hair (enduring love that lasts through the tests of life), his eyes of fire (discerning love that sets boundaries), his feet of bronze (uncompromising love that desires the strength of His righteousness), and his voice of many waters (distinguishing love).

Now we see his right hand, and in his right hand are seven stars. The stars are the messengers to the churches, which could be angels but more likely represent the Pastors, or those responsible for God’s messages to the churches.

Specifically, the seven stars in His right hand means that Christ holds the power of the churches in His hand. The church age is His age; it is when He is at work among the nations. His kingdom is at work through the church.

His right hand is the hand of power, and the church is to know His power!

  • Ex 15:6 your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, you right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy
  • Ps 17:7 Wondrously show your steadfast love, O Savior of those who seek refuge from their adversaries at your right hand.
  • Ps 48:10 Your right hand is filled with righteousness.
  • Ps 63:8 My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.
  • Ps 139:10 your right hand shall hold me.
  • Isa 41:13 For I the Lord your God hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you”.

The Question we must ask ourselves as we examine our Love for the Lord,

  • Do we hold His Right Hand?
  • Do we hold it with steadfast love?
  • Or do we reach for him only when we are in trouble?

Ps 16:8 “I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken”. To have steadfast love is to have a love for Christ that is fixed in intensity and direction; it is steady, unwavering, marked by determination.

The right hand represents strength, it represents steadfastness. When you hold His hand, you will never be shaken.

Jesus commends the steadfast love of the Philadelphians in verse 10: “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance”

Patient endurance is hupomoné; to persevere, remain under. A bearing up under, patience, endurance as to things or circumstances. It refers to that quality of character which does not allow one to surrender to circumstances or succumb under trial[1].

Christ is writing to a church that has a steadfast love that is determined and fixed upon Him, and because of that steadfast love, they are enduring; they have not let go, they have not turned aside, they continue to lift up His name with everything they have, even if Jesus says it is little.

First love is steadfast love, and Jesus Christ demonstrated that:

  • John 13: 1 …”he loved them to the end”
  • Jeremiah 31:3 … “I have loved you with an everlasting love”

Divine Love is triumphant love, love that is steadfast and sure, love that holds on no matter what it encounters or suffers through.

God calls to us in Isaiah 55:

Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Isaiah 55:3

Jesus is before the Church of Philadelphia, and in his hand is no rebuke, no call for repentance, only the reminder of His promises for them.

This church was not a big church. It would be considered a rural church in a small farming town on the edge of a fertile valley. There is still a farming town there today. Although just a church in the country, and not a big city church with prestige, the church in Philadelphia was special to Jesus. Therefore, He reminds them of His Promises.

Steadfast Love is always based upon promise

Marriage is always begun with a promise. Marriage is to be a display of God’s steadfast love, yet we all know the tragedy of marriages in America. Steadfast love has been re-defined to mean 5 years, 10 years, or until I find someone better. Well, with God, Steadfast Love is to be for a Lifetime!

Marriage to me is like the word to Philadelphia – He that overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of My God.

My Mom and Dad - Jim and Clare Tompkins

I am proud of my Mom and Dad for the example of being a pillar of steadfast love. They were far from perfect, and their marriage was very strained at times, but underneath it all was a steadfast love that withstood the trials and tests of time. I am so proud that we have in our church such pillars of steadfast love. I hope and pray that each of you will see the need to be pillars in this society of ours, to hold forth an example to your children of steadfast love. America is only as strong as our commitments to our families and our spouses.

The Promise to Philadelphia, and the Promise to you and me

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. Revelation 3:12

Yet, we read in Revelation 21:  “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof” (Rev. 21:22).

There is no temple, God is the temple. Therefore, the Pillars will be in God Himself. You will always dwell in the heavenly Jerusalem. No more will you go out. You will be one who counts with God!

All who are of the character of Philadelphia, marked by steadfast love, become strength in the place of God’s dwelling and in His interest. To be of great importance to God, in the presence of God, important in the Church, which is the New Jerusalem – love is the thing that must characterize us.

It is not money, title, office, pedigree, or social standing. These things may give importance in this world, but in God’s Kingdom, it is love. It is steadfast love when you are weak, steadfast love when you are persecuted, steadfast love when you are barely able to hold on.

DO YOU WANT TO COUNT FOR SOMETHING BEFORE CHRIST?

The way to be something for God is not based on how much you know, how much you have studied, or even how many verses you have memorized.

Understand this about what God Values: He says in James 5: 11 – Behold, we call them blessed which endured. God will often take us through something that is designed to bring us to a feeling of nothingness. He wants us to love Him not because of what we have, but simply because of who He is.

You do not want to be loved because of what you are able to do. You want to be loved for your own sake.

When it is like that, and we get away from all our ambitions, all our craving for recognition and reputation, and we love the Lord for His own sake, we have attained a place of tremendous importance – pillars of strength in the things of God, in the temple of God, in the presence of God. Love is the key to all spiritual significance.

What matters to God is not the number of our trials, but that we reach God’s goal through them. That Goal is steadfast Love for God no matter what we have or do not have. It is pure love for Jehovah God.

So with the background of Christ wanting us to see that Divine Love is Steadfast Love, let’s look at this letter.

The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens. Revelation 3:7

True and Holy

The one who has the sure right hand wants us to see Him as the true one, the holy one. This true refers to the fact that He is the real Jesus, the real God, he is no man made idol, no figment of man’s imagination.

The real Jesus is Holy, He is sacred, He is set apart, and He is God! So when you pray to Jesus, when you talk about Jesus, remember the real Jesus is no Christmas ornament, He is Holy, He is righteous, and His Holiness is essential to love Him with steadfast love.

Key of David

The real Jesus holds the key of David. He has the authority of the throne of David, which is the throne of God! The promises of God to David are held in the key of David. Jesus Christ is coming soon, and He will be holding the key of David. He will have authority to sit on the throne of David and rule the world.

This is a reference to an incident recorded in the 22nd chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah. In the days of Hezekiah the king there was a courtier (we would call him a chief-of-staff, for he was in charge of the palace) whose name was Shebna. He had been caught in a personal scam run for his own benefit, and as a result God says a very unusual, very descriptive thing about him: “I will take him and whirl him around and around (like a discus thrower), and hurl him into a far country,” {cf, Isa 22:18}. It was a prediction that he would be sent into Babylon. He would be replaced by a godly man named Eliakim, of whom God said,

“I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David. What he opens, no one can shut, and what he shuts, no one can open.” {Isa 22:17 NIV}

Our Lord refers back to that passage in Isaiah and applies it to himself: “I am the one who shuts and no one can open, and opens and no one can shut”. His will cannot be opposed. He governs the events of history on earth. He will open some doors; he will close other doors… Jesus has the authority to open and to close. That which He opens, no one shuts, that which He closes, and no one opens.

We have the privilege to partner with Christ here on earth through our prayers.

Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” Matthew 18:18-20

These verses come on the heal of the teaching on church discipline. They form the foundation for church discipline. That foundation is that when we are united in prayer and are agreed on God’s will, what we pray to be bound will be bound, and what we pray to be loosed will be loosed.

The key is coming together, being led of the Holy Spirit to pray in unity about something. In the case of church discipline, the church comes together to deal with someone who is unrepentant. If the church is led to close the door of the church to that person, then he is bound in heaven. The doors of God’s care and fellowship are shut.

The church has great authority here on earth, and in truth, God partners with His people in effecting His will. However, we fail to partner with God because our eyes and hearts are not open to see the injustice in the world, or we do not desire God’s will.

Our love for God must be steadfast, it must be resolute, always desiring His will here on earth. We must never retreat into thinking there is nothing we can do, that it is hopeless. We have the power to shake the Key of David through our prayers!

The Open Door

I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. Revelation 3:8

Jesus knows their works, but He does not detail them as the other letters did. However, they are good, because Jesus sets before them an open door, which no one can shut. I believe this door is complete access to Jesus, it is complete access to His power and glory and love! No one can shut it; no one can take it away.

The Door is Always Open

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? …. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:35-39

The church of Philadelphia has a special door to Christ, one that no one can shut. I believe we all have a special door to Christ. I believe He lives in each of us. The problem is that we shut the door of our heart to Him. We are the ones who are not steadfast in our love and devotion to Him. We are the ones who let go of His right hand, and go our own way.

The church at Philadelphia had a door that was always open because they have kept His Word and not denied His name.

O they were weak in numbers, weak in power, but their love was resolute. They were steadfast in their devotion to His Word and to His Name! To such the Door to Jesus is always open!

Little Power

However, I want you to note something: Jesus said they had little power. These Christians were clearly no Elijah, able to pray fire from heaven. They were no Paul, able to be bitten by a poisonous snake and simply shake it off and go on preaching. They were no Moses, facing off against a mighty ruler and bringing him to his knees.

No these folk were like you and me, struggling to make a life in a small town, where money and opportunities were slim. Yet they did have a little power, they did have an open door, they did have a steadfast love for the Word and for the Name of Jesus. They wore His name proudly in their forehead. They obeyed His Word no matter the cost or sacrifice.

God is the God of LITTLE THINGS

We think we cannot do anything for Jesus because we do not know too much, or we think we have no ‘spiritual power’, but the truth is that Little is Much when God is In IT!

LITTLE THINGS WHICH ARE GREAT IN GOD’S SIGHT.

  • Two or Three Gathered in His Name, Matt. 18:20.
  • Only a Cup of Cold Water, Matt. 10:42.
  • In addition, a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Mark 12:43
  • Little Children, Matt. 18:1-5 (“little” used 7xs in 18:1-14).
  • A Little Money with…
    • Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it. Proverbs 15:16
    • Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it. Proverbs 15:17
    • Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. Proverbs 16:8
  • A poor, little widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. Mark 12:43

Little is Much when God is in it!

Does the place you’re called to labor
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Are you laid aside from service,
Body worn from toil and care?
You can still be in the battle,
In the sacred place of prayer.
Little is much when God is in it!
Labor not for wealth or fame.
There’s a crown and you can win it,
If you go in Jesus’ Name.

Those that speak against you will learn

Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—behold, I will make them come and bow down before your feet and they will learn that I have loved you. Revelation 3:9

Obviously, there were Jews who were making fun of this little church. They were saying that God loved them, that these Christians were noting to God.

The Church that loves with Steadfast Love can always count on opposition!

The Philadelphia letter reminds that any true church at any time, and especially during the last days, meets Satanic opposition…through imitation, religious ritualism, and hypocrisy—opposition strengthened by mixture of worldliness and religiousness.

Jesus says, remember, the door is always open to me. I will make those “Jews” come and bow before you. They will learn it is you I have loved, and not them.

We should not make fun of small things. We should not think less of one church just because they are small in number. What counts is the Love of Christ. I would rather pastor a church of 20 and know we are beloved of Christ than to pastor a church of a thousand who walked in their own way.

Because you Have endured with steadfast love

Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth. I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown. Revelation 3:10-11

Remember the Door is always open

There is a trial coming on the world, a great day of tribulation.

Joel 2:1 Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the Lord is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness!

But Jesus promises these weak but steadfast Christians that they will escape, they will go through that open door and not face the tribulation that the world will endure.

Because of their faithfulness, the Christians in Philadelphia are promised that they will be kept from the hour of trial which will come upon the earth as a divine judgment.

But the promise to the church is specifically that it is to be delivered from the hour of trial. Actually, the word is not “from”, but “out of” — to be delivered out of — not just the trial but out of the very time of the trial! This is one of the clearest promises in the Bible of the catching away of the church before the great tribulation begins.

The time of trial and trouble described in Revelation 6 to 19. This time of tribulation will overtake the entire world, as God inflicts His wrath upon unbelieving Gentiles as well as upon Christ-rejecting Jews. The Philadelphian church is therefore promised deliverance from the time of trouble, which will overtake the world but will not overtake them.

He is coming soon

Hold fast what you have. Even though your strength is weak, even though the trials have sapped your strength, keep holding on!

Your crown is at stake, the crown of steadfast love!

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Reward

The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:12-13

“A pillar in the temple of my God.”

We read, “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God the Almighty, and the Lamb are the temple thereof” (Rev. 21:22).

It indicates a fixed and unchangeable state. He shall go no more out. They have now overcome. They are partakers with their Lord in all his glory. They abide in his presence. They rejoice in his kingdom, and their joy no man takes from them. Oh how unspeakably happy is this prospect!

A pillar is a symbol of triumph.

And what a triumph has the Savior accomplished for me! He spoiled principalities and powers for me, in his death on the cross, triumphing openly over them there. Every saint a separate illustration of his power. All the saints a combined demonstration of his all-conquering grace.

A pillar is an instrument of commemoration.

Living monuments of his works of grace. What testimonies do they give! What evidences do they remain forever! In the history of each of them, what wonderful chapters have been written, and are to be read hereafter! They are thus pillars of record. Upon them are inscribed such histories of grace and power as the universe has never seen but in them.

A pillar is a place of Sacrifice

Jacob sacrificed atop the pillar he made. There he pledged Jacob’s pledge.

A pillar is an instrument of support.

There is an end of all schisms in the body–of all separations of feeling or affection. Each saint is a cordial supporter of this happy union among the people of God. They unite in one song of praise. They engage in one heavenly worship. They surround one throne and one Lord in one common affection and obedience. The many tongues of earth are all forgotten in the one song of heaven. Each saint is a supporter of Divine authority.

New Name

A pillar sometimes has an inscription or an identifying mark chiseled into it by the stonemason. Jesus promises to write upon the pillar (the faithful Christian) the name of God, the name of the New Jerusalem, and Christ’s new name.

A change of names would be meaningful to the Philadelphians because that city changed its name twice in its history. It called itself Neocaesarea when Tiberius helped it; and later on, in honor of Vespasian, one of the Flavian emperors, it changed its name to Flavia. (It later resumed the name Philadelphia.) Thus these people understood what it meant to have a different name.

In addition to this promise Christ gives them a threefold assurance that they will be identified with God, because

They will have the name of God, “the name of my God”.

This is a promise that believers will be made godlike. “Godliness” is a shortened form of the word “godlikeness”. The purpose of the Spirit in our lives is to make us godly or godlike.

They will have the name of the city of God, the new Jerusalem.

And, “I will write [on him] the name of the city of my God.” The last two chapters of Revelation give a vivid description of this wonderful city, the New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven “as a bride adorned for her husband” — a beautiful bride meeting her husband. That again is a picture of loving intimacy; someone captured by the beauty and goodness of another and longing to be with him or her. That is the second promise given to those who hold on, who stand fast in the midst of a decaying world. They will know the intimacy of a husband’s love for his beautiful bride.

They will have a new name belonging to Christ.

“I will also write on him my new name.” What is that? Since a name symbolizes one’s character this is a reference to the fact that when our Lord’s work of redemption is finished he will have a new name. Everyone wants to know what that new name is, but in Revelation 19:12 we are told that when Jesus appears he will have that new name written upon him, but it is a name that no man knows.

The Choice is yours:

You can be a pillow Christian, choosing the comfort to your pillow when it comes to seeking after Christ, or you can be a Pillar Christian, steadfast in your love for Jesus, proudly bearing His name regardless of Satan’s attacks, or trials, or testing’s. You may not be strong in your own ability, but you are strong in Christ. Your faith allows you to see Him at work, and allows Him to make you a Pillar in the Temple of God.

A Pillar Christian always holds the strong right hand of Jesus Christ. He holds eternity, He holds the churches, He holds the Holy Spirit, yet He can hold your hand. When you hold the hand of Jesus, you hold on to all that power, you are holding on to eternity!


[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary – New Testament, (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 1993), WORDsearch CROSS e-book.