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#412, WHAT WE OUGHT TO BE, GENESIS 35:16-29

The wonders of God’s grace are so manifold: by the imputed righteousness of Christ we are given to stand perfect before God. There is a difference between standing before the bar of His justice in a judicial proceeding and having a heart that is clean in His sight.

The Lord looks upon us in Christ. We read in 2CO 5:21, "For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." In the righteousness of Christ, we stand spotless. From a judicial position, we are the righteousness of God in Christ.

On the other side of this same principle, our tender, loving Father long bearing with the believer’s failures as He brings them through the furnace to purify them. It is one thing to stand clean in the sight of God from a standpoint of the law or become clean through the process of purification, to be brought into fellowship with God.

In PSA 108:3-4 we read, "I will praise thee, O LORD, among the people: and I will sing praises unto thee among the nations. For thy mercy is great above the heavens: and thy truth reacheth unto the clouds."

The psalmist is speaking of his praises to God for the mercy that He shows upon his failures.

Judicially the believer's sins are cast behind God's back into the sea of everlasting forgetfulness, as we see from what God said of Jacob in NUM 23:21: "He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them."

He said, "He hath not beheld iniquity;" he did not say that there was no perverseness in Israel. He said that He has not beheld it, He has overlooked it. He has cast it behind His back in that sea of everlasting forgetfulness, but that perverseness was there.

We see that perverseness after Balaam cast his stumbling block before them: they fell into adultery and idolatry with the women of Midian. There was perverseness in Israel, but the Lord said that He had not beheld it.

There is a distinction between what God sees when He sees us in Christ and what God works in the heart in the way of purification. God is teaching us, by the biography of Jacob, the process of purification. The history of Jacob teaches us that God, looking upon the believers in Christ, looks upon them with a pardon, but in the way of sanctification, bringing us through the furnaces, He purifies the perverseness and iniquity that is still in Israel. "He hath not beheld iniquity…neither hath he seen perverseness," because they were covered under the blood of the Lamb. There were all the sacrifices of lambs being made and it was the blood of the lamb that covered all of that sin; that is why the Lord did not see it. Yet in the working of sanctification, He has worked to remove that perverseness.

 In ISA 53:6 we read, "All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."

Every believer has perverseness and iniquity – the old man of sin that still dwells in the heart. That old man of sin is striving for the mastery of every believer’s heart. By nature, we have a desire to do the things that please the old man. But when God works grace there is the new man, and the old man strives against the new man.

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." That iniquity has been laid upon the Lord Jesus Christ. As Christ becomes formed in us, it is a process of purification that the Lord works in the heart of the believer in the way of sanctification to purge them from their old sins. Jacob was very perverse and he needed that process of purification.

Even though God's saints shall reap what they sow, yet it remains true, "He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities." (PSA 103:10) Even though we see that in Padan-Aram, Jacob still deceived and went through many trials to learn the bitterness of deceit. While he was at Succoth and his daughter became defiled, teaching him how the daughter of God, the daughter of His people had become defiled, helps us to understand what that is in the eyes of God. Yet we see the truth that "He hath not dealt with us after our sins." If He dealt with us according to our sins, He would cast us away. The Lord is merciful. He teaches us as children, leading us by the hand of His providence. He has not rewarded us according to our iniquity.

As we learn to see our iniquity laid upon our blessed Saviour, seeing it was our sins, which formed that crown of thorns, placing our blood upon His head, we begin to become less judgmental of our brother. The more we understand and know our own hearts, the more generous we become toward other people and have a love for them.

We read in ROM 2:3: "And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God?" God is going to judge us according to how we judge. If we judge our fellow man when we see him slip and fall, are we going to escape the judgment of God?

Verse 4 says, "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" Are we going to be judgmental of Jacob and our fellow mans shortcomings? Or is it an admonition to us to examine our own hearts, seeing wherein we fall short and wherein we must repent of the sins that so easily beset us?

When we get a glimpse of how frail we are, and how the world and all that is in it are but as dust and ashes in the sight of God, how should our walk be? When we learn to understand the plague of our own hearts and learn to see the temporal nature, the state of this life and of this world, how should our walk be? We read in 2PE 3:11-12: "Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness."

We ought to be sanctified and cleansed. Our hearts ought to cleave unto the Lord. Why do we cleave so firmly unto the things of this life when we see that the world will be dissolved and burned up as a scroll? Why do we cling so tightly to the things of this life when we see how transient this life is? We should be examining "…what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness."

This word "ought" condemns us. We would not say to one who was fulfilling his duty, "You ought to do such or such." This teaches us how short we come: what manner of persons we "ought" to be. How often we fail in our holy conversation and in our godliness. "…[W]hat manner of persons ought ye to be."

Think how longsuffering God is with our base ingratitude, our Christ dishonoring ways. In His love He washed us from our sins, and He loves us to the end notwithstanding our unloving ways. Analyze the love of God: He sees what we ought to be, but He also sees what we are.

These are the lessons we learn from the biography of Jacob, whom we view as a representative type of the workings of God’s grace in a believer. This is what we "ought" to be. We see what God commanded him and what he did. Does this make us judgmental of Jacob or does it help us see that this is a representative type of the working of God’s grace in our own heart and soul? We see what the Word of God commands us to do and what we ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness. But what are we?

How often we must marvel at God's longsuffering and matchless patience with one so obstinate and unworthy. As we go through the life of Jacob and see how obstinate he is and how unworthy he is of all of God’s blessings, then we see that this is a representation of what the believer is in the sight of God, as far as his or her own merit.

1PE 5:8-11 tells us to, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour [If we become judgmental of another person, be careful!]: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."

Satan, as our adversary, is going about to see who he can devour. There is nothing that he loves more than to get you and me in a state of presumption, where we stand aloft and look down on our fellow man. Satan loves that because he knows he has you on the slippery slope. He knows that if he can get you elevated high enough, you are going to slide and fall far below those whom you were looking down upon. It says that he goes out "as a roaring lion…seeking whom he may devour," and how can he devour better than to get you to lift yourself in exaltation above others.

1PE says, "To him be glory and dominion." Let Christ have dominion, rule, be judge, and sit on the throne of your heart instead of you ruling your fellow man.

The only way to account for His longsuffering with us is the fathomless and matchless grace of God. 2PE 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance."

We should never forbear to be merciful to a sinner, walking presumptuously as though we are better than they. We need to see that God has been longsuffering with us and has permitted us to go through all the trials and circumstances that have brought us to this hour to cause us to grow in grace.

He is "not willing that any should perish." That is why He has preserved the world to this moment. When you see the sin in the world, how people blaspheme God, and go on and live in open rebellion against God, then it makes your heart shudder! How is it that the Lord permits it and has not destroyed the world in fire? He is longsuffering.

When we learn more and more to see our own heart, we learn that we don’t have to look at the mote in their eye. We have to learn to see the beam of self-righteousness in our own eye, realizing that if we have sinned, we sinned with knowledge. Those who are sinning so openly may be sinning without knowledge. The sins of ours, between God and us, might be more grievous than theirs.

It is not only awesome to trace God’s dealings with Jacob through his wayward life, but it is also beautiful to follow his deliverances through Divine grace as Jacob matures in grace. The Lord sent Jacob to school in Padan-Aram. The Lord allowed it so that Jacob would learn the bitterness of deceit. The Lord allowed him to rest in Succoth for a short time because He was training Jacob to understand that he must obey the Lord: that in the house of God is the place of worship; that Bethel was where he was to go; that He is the God of Bethel. The Lord is allowing Jacob to mature.

We see in 2CO 4:16-17: "For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory."

The Lord is working on our purification, working in our hearts to teach us the sinfulness of sin: how abominable that sin is in His sight, and to cause us to loathe sin. He is giving us a new desire. He is purifying that old straw, wood, hay, and stubble and burning it in the furnace of affliction. All that Jacob was building at Succoth - that he was going to worship God in his own way - was nothing but hay, wood, and stubble, and it had to perish in the furnace. That is where the Lord purifies all of these things, bringing us to understand that we must serve Him according to His will, thereby, rebellion is broken.

We learn from the history of the Israelites in the wilderness that rebellion always rose up. When Dathan and Abiram were destroyed, the children of Israel immediately turned again and rebelled against Moses. The Lord kept them in the wilderness for forty years, which is to teach us that it took a lifetime to break the rebellion of their heart before they were able to enter that land of Canaan.

As Jacob came to maturity in grace he was stripped of all in the flesh wherein he had fastened his affections. These things are written for our learning. The Lord is going to remove our affections from the things of this life. This is what we learn from Jacob. We see that everything upon which Jacob set his affections had to be removed.

First Rachel, died and was buried, which removed the link that Jacob had with Padan-Aram.

Then Reuben, Jacob's first-born, (the beginning of his strength!) went in and defiled Bilhah, his father's concubine. The Lord puts His finger on anything on which we set are confidence or anything that we can look to with a degree of affection.

Who was Bilhah? GEN 35:21-22 says, "And Israel journeyed, and spread his tent beyond the tower of Edar. And it came to pass, when Israel dwelt in that land, that Reuben went and lay with Bilhah his father's concubine: and Israel heard it…"

It doesn’t say that Israel did anything about it. Jacob was far too permissive, doing nothing to reprove sin.

Let’s analyze who Bilhah was. She was Rachel's maid. Rachel died, but he still had her maid. When she was defiled, Jacob could no longer go in unto her. The Lord removed not only Rachel, but her maid. Reuben, the beginning of his strength, defiled her! The Lord took everything of the flesh and made it abominable in the sight of Jacob. This is the working of God as He takes everything of the flesh and removes it from our life. He removed his affections for Bilhah by allowing his own first-born son to defile her.

Bilhah was Rachel’s maid whom she had given to Jacob in her desperation to compete with Reuben's mother. There was always friction between Reuben’s mother, Leah, and Rachel. Now Reuben defiles Rachel’s maid, remember Rachel sent Jacob to spend the night with Leah to get Reuben’s mandrakes.

We read in GEN 30:1-3: "And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister; and said unto Jacob, Give me children, or else I die. And Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel: and he said, Am I in God's stead, who hath withheld from thee the fruit of the womb? And she said, Behold my maid Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her."

Rachel was going to use her maid, Bilhah, to give children to take away her reproach, because of the envy and bitterness that went on between her and Leah. So Reuben defiles Bilhah.

Verses 4-6 say, "And she gave him Bilhah her handmaid to wife: and Jacob went in unto her. And Bilhah conceived, and bare Jacob a son. And Rachel said, God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan."

Rachel looked at Bilhah as having produced a son to gratify her envy against her sister. Now the Lord weans Jacob of all his affections in the flesh.

Sometimes we do not know what to say. It seems as if the hand of the Lord is against us. It seems as if there is one stroke and it is barely over before we have another and another. Can you see the humbling process that God is bringing Jacob through? Jacob has returned unto Bethel. He has come unto Bethlehem, but that does not mean that the Lord was done pruning the branches that needed pruning. The affections of Jacob have to be removed from the things of this life and brought to where the Lord is his only affection.

Rachel had said to Jacob, "Give me children, or else I die," but we read that it was in childbirth that she died. It is remarkable how the Lord brings these things together.

GEN 35:17-18 says, "And it came to pass, when she was in hard labour, that the midwife said unto her, Fear not; thou shalt have this son also. And it came to pass, as her soul was in departing, (for she died) that she called his name Benoni: but his father called him Benjamin."

When Rachel had her first son she called him Joseph which means "adding," for she said in GEN 30:24, "And she called his name Joseph [with a prophetic impulse]; and said, The LORD shall add to me another son."

The Lord added to her another son, but in childbirth, she died. Jacob’s life was full of riddles. If you and I have a life full of riddles, the Lord may be weaning us from placing our affections on the things of this life.

The comforting words of the midwife, "Fear not; thou shalt have this son also," had no effect upon Rachel. She had the sentence of death in herself, but she called her son Benoni, "as her soul was in departing, (for she died)."

The name Benoni means "the son of my sorrows," but Jacob overruled his dying wife. In the biography of Jacob, his wives named every one of the children, and Jacob approved of the names they gave, but this one he overruled. The name he gave meant the exact opposite. Benjamin means "The son of my right hand."

This name "The son of my right hand," was a son of Jacob's most tender affection and delight. He would long stand as the remembrance of his mother. Jacob also had to give up that idol: he had to let Benjamin go. See what his brothers told Joseph.

GEN 44:19-20 tells us, "My lord asked his servants, saying, Have ye a father, or a brother? And we said unto my lord, We have a father, an old man, and a child of his old age, a little one; and his brother is dead, and he alone is left of his mother, and his father loveth him."

He still had that affection for Benjamin because he was the son of Rachel. He is the only one "left of his mother, and his father loveth him." The Lord brought him to where he had to be able to give that up also. His affections were still going to make some connection to Rachel so that he would have this by which he could remember his love for Rachel.

Jacob had much love for Rachel. We read in GEN 35:20: "And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." He not only gave her a very honorable burial, but he set up a monument whereby she should be remembered. She was remembered at the time the Scriptures were written. It says her grave was there "unto this day." It was not just a single stone: he set up a monument, a pillar.

The tribe of Benjamin seemingly inherited this very land as part of their inheritance because in the time of Jesus’ birth we read in MAT 2:18: "In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

That tells us that the children of Rachel were the tribe of Benjamin who inherited that portion of land. It was "Rachel, weeping for her children." GEN 35:19 says, "And Rachel died, and was buried in the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem." That was in Bethlehem where all those children were slain from two years old and under. "Rachel, weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not."

Every child that is born into this world is either a "Benoni," that is, "a child of our sorrow," or a "Benjamin," that is, "a child of our right hand; a child of our most tender affection and delight."

The mark of a Benoni, that is, "a son of sorrow," is found in PRO 10:1: "The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father [there is a Benjamin]: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother." Benjamin is a wise child. He is the gladness of his father, "but a foolish son in the heaviness of his mother," and she named him Benoni.

The first mark of a Benoni, or a foolish son which brings sorrow to their parents, is one who has an ill-tempered character, as Jacob points out on his dying bed.

GEN 49:5-7 says, "Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel."

We see the grief caused by a bad character, in a person or a child who is ill-tempered.

The second mark of such a Benoni, or a foolish son who brings sorrow to his parents, is one who lives in idleness and slothfulness. Can you think of anything that brings more grief to a parent?

I know a man who is forty years old and cannot do a day’s work. He still wants to rely on his parents. If they did not push him out, he would still be living at home. He is not willing to go out and make an honest living.

PRO 24:30-34 says, "I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was broken down. Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it, and received instruction. Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy want as an armed man."

Such a son brings much grief to his parents.

A landlord once asked his tenant how it was that he could ask to buy his farm (and expect to pay for it) when he was wondering how to keep it after it was paid for.

The reply was "The reason is plain: it lies in the difference between ‘go’ and ‘come.’"

The landlord could not understand, so the tenant explained, "You sit still and say ‘go,’ I get up and say ‘come.’ You lie in bed and enjoy your ease, while I get up in the morning and attend to my business." That is how he would be able to buy and pay for it while the man who received it as an inheritance, and had it paid for, was not able to keep it. It is all in the difference between "go" and "come," in other words, leadership.

Do you realize how important leadership is in a family - spiritual leadership as well as business leadership?

Such poverty and want is not only to be taken in a literal sense but also spiritually. Can you think of anything that will bring more grief to the heart of a parent than a child who is spiritually slothful: one who is negligent about going to church, of reading the Bible, and caring for the will of God? They are negligent and slothful spiritually.

We see this in PRO 6:6-8, "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest."

He is saying that we have a time in which to gather. If we squander our time and we are sluggards during this lifetime, then when our life is passed, we will find ourselves in spiritual poverty.

Verses 9-11 say, "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man."

Can you lie in bed until your temporal duties call you away, or do you arise in time for peaceful meditation with God? A wonderful time to meditate with God is in the morning hours. In the night seasons, when we find that we are unable to sleep, can we get up and spend our time meditating with our God? I have found many a time if I cannot sleep, I get up and find that the Lord has something to tell me, but I do not find it by lying in bed. I find it when I get up and take His Word and prayerfully meditate.

This is what we need to see in our children. This is what we find in a Benoni – one who is a spiritual sloth and does not take lessons from the things that we find in the Word.

Job says we can learn from the beasts of the earth, the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air. Do you see them sitting around slothfully, or are they busy and active? Have you ever sat and watched robins to see how active they are? They will build their little nests and gather worms and feed their young. They are active; they are not sluggards; they are not slothful.

JOB 12:6-10 says, "The tabernacles of robbers prosper, and they that provoke God are secure; into whose hand God bringeth abundantly. [Satan has so many things to allure our carnal minds, which rob us of our private time with the Lord. He is so active to take away our time and to steal our precious moments.] But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee. Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the LORD hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind."

All of this activity that we see among the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the ant ("Go to the ant, thou sluggard") teach us the value of time and that we need to redeem the time.

Think of the spiritual poverty that must have come upon Reuben after he had defiled his own father’s bed. What an empty place that would have left Reuben.

We read in GEN 49:3-4 that, upon his dying bed, Jacob said, "Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch."

Jacob reproved Reuben on his dying bed. Can you imagine the empty feeling, the guilt, that it left upon Reuben’s heart? "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel," in other words, you will never be successful no matter what you do because you have defiled your father’s bed.

The sin of Jacob in deceiving his father followed him to the time of his old age. When they came to tell him that Joseph was yet alive, he saw that his children deceived him with their brother’s coat the way he deceived his father with his brother’s coat. But Reuben's sin followed him for generations. There are different degrees of sin.

NUM 14:18 says, "The LORD is longsuffering, and of great mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation."

Jacob told Reuben on his dying bed, "Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel." That curse followed him for generations. That was the curse upon such a heinous crime, but the Lord allowed it to wean Jacob of everything of his affections in the flesh. But that did not clear Reuben. Reuben was still an instrument of sin and the Lord brought that upon him.

Faith is to believe two things. We read in HEB 11:6, "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is [that is the first thing], and that he is a rewarder [that is the second thing] of them that diligently seek him."

God is a rewarder and He rewards every man according to his doings. As Jacob was rewarded for his deceit and for his sin, so Reuben was rewarded for his sin. We have to look at sin and remember the reward. Remember the reward of iniquity and how the Father is so displeased with sin that He would rather that His own Son pay the penalty than to let one sin go unpunished. When we talk of faith, we know God is a rewarder of those that diligently seek Him. He will deliver us from iniquity and our sin so that we do not continue to live in sin if we diligently seek Him.

The Lord does not want us to be spiritual sluggards. The Lord wants us to be diligent in seeking Him with our whole heart. If we follow on to know the Lord, then we shall also come to the knowledge of the Lord and we shall be delivered from all our iniquity. This is the work of faith and obedience of faith: it is to diligently seek the Lord and He will reward us with redeeming love. He redeems us from all iniquity. Amen.


These on-lines sermons are a ministry of Gospel Chapel located in Conrad, Montana. We also have a daily devotion. For a list of sermons on cassette please visit our on-line tape catalog. See also, our sermon notes.

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