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#394 THE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE FLESH, GEN 29:31-30:13
The biography of Jacob, who was also called Israel, teaches God's wonders of grace in His dealings with His chosen people. When the Lord works grace in the soul, we find there becomes a struggle. This chapter deals with the struggle, the turmoil, the striving against the flesh and hatred.
When God met with Jacob at Bethel, as he was fleeing from the consequences of his sin, God told him in GEN 28:15, "And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of." The Lord had a plan, and the Lord did not allow anything that Jacob was doing in his foolishness to alter or frustrate His plan. Even though Jacob was fleeing from Beersheba, the place of rest, and was going to Haran, the place of strife and contention, hatred, jealousy, and bitterness, God would still be with him and accomplish His purpose. God would yet lead him and keep him.
When God said, "...until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of," His reference was to GEN 28:14: "And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed." This is a prophecy of the Messiah, who was in thy seed, [the seed of Abraham] "and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed."
The spreading abroad "...to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south," i. e., the four corners of the earth, becomes of very great significance when we learn to understand the Scriptural teaching of the New Jerusalem. The book of Revelations talks about the New Jerusalem and the bride of Christ. It speaks of the bride of Christ coming from the east, the west, the north, and the south. We read in REV 21:9-13, "And there came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb's wife. [This is speaking of the entire elect family of God.] And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God, Having the glory of God: and her light was like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal; And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel: On the east three gates; on the north three gates; on the south three gates; and on the west three gates." These names given to the children of Israel were not coincidental; they were inspired by the Lord because they are the names of the twelve gates of heaven, and they are to the east, west, north, and south. The gates of heaven are open to the four corners of the earth.
What is being taught by these twelve names is most significant. The twelve names given to the twelve tribes of Israel are the names written upon the gates of heaven. Each name has a very great significance. In the twelve tribes of Jacob, there are twelve very distinct individuals. Judah and Joseph were totally distinct and different. Joseph was a God-fearing man who loved the Lord. Joseph went through much persecution to bring him to his place in life. But follow the history of Judah. Judah was a reprobate, a wicked man, but theres also a gate of heaven named for Judah. This teaches us that the Lord leads one individual from one walk of life and another individual from a different walk of life. The Lord brings them from all corners of the earth, and not for any worthiness within them. The Lord has opened a way to heaven and a way into heaven for each one of the twelve tribes of Israel.
The wonders of God's grace are beyond our limited understandings. God allowed Jacob to return to Haran. This is the mystery of Gods salvation. God allowed Jacob to go from Beersheba and return to Haran, the place of jealousy, hatred, bitterness, and burning anger to learn the sinfulness of his sin. We see in GEN 30:1, "And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children, Rachel envied her sister." We see the envy, the struggle, and the bitterness. If we take every verse between verses 1 and 24 of Genesis 30, we see that as the children were being born, it was a matter of struggle, strife, and bitterness between Rachel and Leah. Leah said that her husband hated her. These difficult circumstances led to the naming of the children of Israel. What a wonder that these circumstances were the instruments in Gods hands to place the names upon the gates of heaven. This is infinite wisdom on the part of God. God not only rules, but He overrules all these things to bring about His eternal decrees.
These trying circumstances brought about the reasoning with which each of the various mothers selected the names for Jacob's children. The struggle against the powers of jealousy, hatred, and bitterness, this strife became the human reasoning, which the Lord used to inspire the naming of each one of those children.
In GEN 29:31-32, we read, "And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. [The Lord originally gave Jacob two wives, and they were both barren, but when the Lord saw the hatred for Leah, He opened her womb. Rachel remained barren.] And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me." Leah was reasoning about the hatred of her husband and how the Lord had given her a type of vengeance against her sister. She believed that now her husband would love her. That was her reason for selecting the name of the first gate in heaven. Thats awesome.
As God was dealing with Jacob for his sin, God was also overruling all these circumstances to bring about His eternal purposes. God was using these very circumstances to inspire the mothers of the children of Israel to name the very gates of heaven. REV 21:12 tells us, "And had a wall great and high, and had twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel." This teaches us that the work of grace in the heart brings about the struggles against hatred, pride, envy, and all those things that are so natural to our human nature. Each one of the gates of heaven is named under those circumstances.
To understand the teachings of Genesis is to see the absolute sovereignty of God. In ROM 11:33-36, we read, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! [The Lord is not the author of sin, but the Lord permits sin and directs it to a certain end. He allowed Jacob to sin against his brother and do these things, but He was going to overrule all his foolishness to bring about His very purpose in His electing love. He used it to bring about the very names of the tribes of His chosen nation, which was scattered to the four corners of the earth.] For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever."
Sometimes we have such strife in this world, such struggles, or riddles that we cannot understand. We dont realize that God says that, "For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things." In His infinite wisdom, God overrules all these trials and all these struggles to bring about His very purpose in our salvation. God might be bringing about purification in our own hearts by allowing others to strive with us. We must take our eyes off the instrument that the Lord is using and see the Lords hand in these things.
In the unsearchable wisdom and knowledge of God, we see that the names given the twelve tribes of Israel and recorded in Genesis 29 and 30 are most significant. These names, which were given to the twelve sons of Jacob, are most significant when we see them as the names of the twelve gates in the four walls of the heavenly Jerusalem. There are four walls in the holy Jerusalem, and there are three gates in each wall. Each one of these gates on the east, west, north, and the south, illustrate how the way to Christ is open to the whole world. This teaches us that the individual circumstances of each person are used by the Lord. People in Russia have different circumstances than you and I have here. People in the south and in the north, the west, and the east are under different trying circumstances. Each one has his own trials and his own sin with which the Lord deals. The Lord did not deal with Joseph for the same sin with which He dealt with Judah because Joseph had not committed that same sin. We must understand that the Lord has a gate open for each individual, and He has individual circumstances for the very purpose of bringing in each one.
Can you and I pass judgement on individuals? The Lord Jesus Christ is seen in the four gospels by four apostles from four different viewpoints. If four people are looking at the same mountain, one from each direction, east, west, north, and south, each one would be seeing the same mountain, but they wouldnt all give the same description because each one is looking at a different angle of the mountain. One of the apostles saw the Lord Jesus as the King of Peace. One saw Him as the Son of Man. One viewed Him as a Servant of the Father, and the other one saw Him as the Son of God.
I cannot pronounce judgement on my brother who has not seen Christ in the same light that I have seen Him. The Lord may have revealed Himself to that man from a completely different direction than He did to me. We must be so careful. This is teaching us that not only is heaven open to all, but that we must not become judgmental. Just because someone comes from a different direction or sees his sin in a different light or sees Christ in a different light doesnt mean that we pass judgement on him and say that we have the truth. The apostle John had the truth. He saw the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God. That was truth, and it didnt contradict what Luke said when he saw Jesus as the Son of Man. The gospel of Luke begins with the human nature of Jesus. Luke saw Him as the Son of Man, born of Mary. The apostle John begins in JOH 1:1 by saying Jesus "was the Word, and the Word was with God, and Word was God." John saw Jesus as the Son of God. Both authors were telling the truth, but each one saw Christ in a totally different dimension. This teaches us the principle that from all four quarters of the earth, people will be coming in, and each through a gate that is named in that direction.
In REV 21:21-24, we read, "And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: every several gate was of one pearl: and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass. And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof. And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it." They come from the four corners of the earth into the city.
The purpose for the gate is to be open wide enough to allow the greatest sinner to enter, but too narrow to allow the slightest sin to enter. Take notice in REV 21:12 that there were "at the gates twelve angels." There are guardian angels at each gate. They are not allowing the slightest sin to enter. Sinners, yes. The greatest of sinners are allowed entrance. Sin, no. Not the slightest sin may enter. As these gates were named, every different type of evil was used in bringing about each name, and there is a guardian angel to see that jealousy does not enter the gates of heaven. The sinner that was jealous may enter, but jealousy? No. Hatred? No. The sins of Haran may not enter the gates of heaven, so each of these gates had a guardian angel.
We read in REV 21:25-27, "And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there. And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it. And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life." The gate is to screen out sin. It is to see that the sinner enters but not the sin.
Even though each name was chosen to describe a different set of circumstances, they all had one thing in common. They were there to keep out sin. Every different set of circumstances and every different trial resulted from a given sin, but the sin could not enter. There was a guardian angel at each gate to keep out the sin that prompted the name.
Our Saviour taught the golden rule in MAT 7:12: "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets." Thats the golden rule. Thats the gospel message, the law of the gospel. Then in the very next verse, He taught how the gate was to keep sin out. MAT 7:13 reads, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat." These gates are narrow and difficult to enter.
The word strait comes from the Greek word stenos which means, "narrow from obstacles standing close about, difficult to stand." The law of the gospel is, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," and in the very next verse, the Lord Jesus says, "But strait is the gate." It is going to be difficult to stand. Its narrow. There are many obstacles. What is the greatest obstacle to this strait gate? It is our own corrupt nature. We need the work of regeneration and the work of conversion. Those gates are narrow. Otherwise, the whole wall would be open. It is very difficult to enter. We are not able to stand in our own strength. We need Christ to work a new nature within us. We need the work of regeneration before we will ever be able to stand. In our own strength, you and I are not able to do unto our neighbor as we would that he do to us. We need special grace to enable us.
Yet, notwithstanding the straitness of the gate, and the narrowness of the way, our Saviour calls to each of us as we see in LUK 13:24: "Strive to enter in [You and I are not going to stand in our own strength, and we are not going to enter the strait gate by our own strength, but Jesus says, Strive to enter in. We must strive with all our might. We must plead before the throne of grace for the grace to stand and to enter in. Strait means difficult to stand.] at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able." Just the desire to enter in is not sufficient. It is a struggle, a striving. It is a work of grace.
On the other side of this principle, there is not one who will ever need despair that he has become too great a sinner to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. Each wall has three gates, which becomes very significant when we consider their names.
The name of Jacob's firstborn was Reuben, which means, in the original, "SEE, a son!"
GEN 29:32 states, "And Leah conceived, and bare a son, and she called his name Reuben: for she said, Surely the LORD hath looked upon my affliction; now therefore my husband will love me."
The message of the gospel is to "SEE" or behold, take notice of, dont overlook. It reveals an open gate in the walls of the heavenly Jerusalem. It is by beholding that we see this gate brought open before our eyes. We read in REV 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." See the blessed gospel message connected with the word, Behold. The name of the first gate of the New Jerusalem is "Behold." It calls attention to repentance. If we look at the context in which REV 3:20 is written, we notice that it says to repent. The previous verse, REV 3:19, reads, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent," followed by "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock." Where does the gospel begin? It begins with the call to repent.
The name of Jacobs second son was Simeon, whose name means "hearing." GEN 29:33 states, "And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Because the Lord hath heard that I was hated, he hath therefore given me this son also: and she called his name Simeon." The turning in repentance is the first call of the gospel. Thats the name of the first gate. The first step toward entering the strait and the narrow gate is to SEE our sinfulness, to SEE the gospel of salvation, to turn and repent of our sins. Whats the second step? HEARING opens another gate in the wall of that heavenly Jerusalem through faith. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," ROM 10:17. HEARING the gospel message is second. "Faith cometh by hearing." HEARING opens the gate of that heavenly Jerusalem as we see in ISA 55:3: "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." Each one of these gates is an entrance into the New Jerusalem.
SEEING is repentance. People may disqualify that, saying you must experience a complete checklist of items to receive grace. SEEING, which is repenting of sin, is a gate that enters. If a person has repented, there is an open gate. We may not be fathers in grace, but the gate is open. HEARING is faith. "Faith cometh by hearing," and HEARING opens a gate. "Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David." HEARING opens a different gate.
The name of Jacob's third son was Levi, whose name means, "Joined." In GEN 29:34, we read, "And she conceived again, and bare a son; and said, Now this time will my husband be joined unto me, because I have born him three sons: therefore was his name called Levi."
The gate of Levi stands wide open to the whole world. Christ's gospel invitation to become JOINED in that blessed marriage union is extended unto the four corners of the earth. That is another gate, another call of the blessed gospel which is proclaimed to the east, the west, the north and the south. That gospel message is coming to the whole world.
We read in REV 22:15-17, "For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie. I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. [Jesus is telling us that these kinds of sins are on the outside. There is no room for them to come through the gate. You cannot live in these sins and enter.] I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star. And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. [Note that we are to be JOINED in this heavenly bond, this union. We are JOINED together in the blessed marriage union between Christ and His church. We are bound together as husband and wife.] And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
This blessed invitation to be JOINED in that blessed marriage union with the Lord Jesus Christ is extended to the four corners of the earth. That is another gate that stands open. What man, woman, or child, on the day of judgement, will ever come before the judgement seat and say, "But salvation wasnt for me. The atonement was limited and it did not include me." Jesus says, "And whosoever will, let him (come and) take the water of life freely." The invitation is extended to "whosoever will." By nature, we are not willing to come. It does not say, "Whosoever can, let him come." No room is left for rebellion. Jesus says, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely." The limiting factor is "Whosoever will." So, who will? It will be those whom God makes willing, because, by nature, there is no one willing. By nature, our will has become so corrupt. If we find in our breast that longing desire for God, if the Spirit has worked His divine influence upon our hearts and made us willing, then let us "take the water of life freely."
The name of Jacob's fourth son was Judah, whose name means, "Praise." We see in GEN 29:35, "And she conceived again, and bare a son: and she said, Now will I praise the LORD: therefore she called his name Judah; and left bearing." Each one of these names were given in a situation of struggle. Each name signified a struggle. There is no entering the gates of heaven unless we, as Jesus said, "Strive to enter in." There is spiritual strife to enter in. The gate of Judah also, "...shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there," REV 21:25.
The gate of Judah is entering with PRAISE. We read in PSA 100:2-5, "Serve the LORD with gladness: come before his presence with singing. [There is a gate open into heaven where it is not taught that depression is godliness.] Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the LORD is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations." There is a gate through which we enter "into his courts with praise." The name of Judah is the name of one of the gates of heaven. There is an entrance into heaven with PRAISE, gratitude, and thanksgiving. Why was Leah giving praise, gratitude, and thanksgiving? She felt she had found a victory in her struggle over the power of jealousy, hatred, and sin. Because there was deliverance, Leah "called his name Judah," and she praised the Lord.
The name of Jacob's fifth son was Dan, whose name means, "Judgment." Its very remarkable to see that through the circumstances, under which the women were struggling, God inspired their hearts to give the names that God had decreed for the gates of heaven. We read in GEN 30:4, "And [Rachel gave Jacob] 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." The name of Dan means "judgment."
The gate of Dan "...shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there," REV 21:25. MAT 12:20-21 states, "A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory. And in his name shall the Gentiles trust." There is a gate open where JUDGMENT is the name of the gate. Christ says He will "send forth judgment unto victory." Christ passes JUDGMENT upon the prince of this world. Satan has been judged, removed, and sentenced. JUDGMENT has been passed upon him, and he may no longer sit on the throne of our hearts. That is passing "judgment unto victory." This JUDGMENT is our Saviour's passing JUDGMENT upon the prince of this world for the victory of the saints over the power of sin and Satan. We read this in JOH 12:31-33: "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. [See the judgment unto victory. The world is judged and the prince of this world cast out.] And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." When the JUDGMENT of this world has come and the prince of this world has been cast out and can no longer sit upon the throne of our hearts, and our eyes are no longer lifted to him to worship him.
The prince of this world came in the form of a serpent. A serpent has the power of fascination. When he fixes his eyes on the eyes of his victim, the victim becomes powerless to move and can be swallowed alive. We see that this power is broken and that the Lord has passed judgment on the prince of this world. The Lord said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me."
Now, that power of fascination that Satan has is broken, and we have our eyes lifted up to the Lord Jesus Christ, who said, "And, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said, signifying what death he should die." What death did Jesus die? He died a death on the cross. But what death did He die? ROM 6:10 tells us, "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." He died unto sin once that you and I might die unto sin, that you and I might become dead to sin and live unto God. ROM 6:11 continues, "Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." Theres the judgment that was passed upon the prince of this world. He is no longer king of our hearts. We become "dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord." In other words, it us through the victory that Jesus gained over Satan and sin. Thats what we see in Dan whose name means "judgment."
The name of Jacob's sixth son was Naphtali, whose name means, "wrestling." GEN 30:7-8 reads, "And Bilhah Rachel's maid conceived again, and bare Jacob a second son. And Rachel said, With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, [This power of hatred and jealousy become such a WRESTLING match.] and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali." The gate of Naphtali, the struggle and WRESTLING against the powers of sin, is not a stranger to the spiritual family of Jacob. GAL 5:17 reads, "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would." We see the spiritual warfare, and the families of Jacob are no strangers to this.
We cannot enter these blessed gates in the walls of that heavenly Jerusalem in our own strength. This gate of Naphtali is also one of the twelve gates that enter the New Jerusalem. It is with many struggles and WRESTLING and exercise in spiritual warfare that we enter through that gate, and it is not in our own strength. See this in EPH 6:12-15: "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." There is constant WRESTLING against the powers of the prince of this world, but God has passed judgment upon him. He has been condemned and removed from sitting on the throne of our heart as long as our eyes are lifted up to Jesus. Our Lord Jesus Christ, that brazen serpent, also has that drawing power if our eyes are fixed on Him. We WRESTLE but not in our own strength.
EPH 6:13 continues, "Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." We struggle and WRESTLE against the powers of Satan and against all of the principalities. Principalities deal with who is going to be the ruler, who is going to sit upon the throne. Will Satan or that ugly monster Self be on the throne, or will Christ be on the throne? We struggle with these principalities and with powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. Therefore, "take unto you the whole armour of God." We must take unto ourselves "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God," EPH 6:17. We must take unto ourselves the gospel of peace to fight off the fiery darts of Satan. Naphtali is one of the gates that is open for the children of Israel.
The names of Gad and Asher point to "victory and joy in spiritual fellowship." Those names point to the victories that are gained over the things of this life, the victories that we gain over the principalities and the prince of this world. We read in GEN 30:9-13, "When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid, and gave her Jacob to wife. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a son. And Leah said, A troop cometh: [which points to victory over sin] and she called his name Gad. And Zilpah Leah's maid bare Jacob a second son. And Leah said, Happy am I, [which announces Christian fellowship] for the daughters will call me blessed: and she called his name Asher."
It is so remarkable to see that each one of these gates individually opens the way into the New Jerusalem. It is as we see in the Beatitudes. If you and I are going through the work of the Spirit and the work of grace and if we are truly identified among those of whom it is said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven," MAT 5:3, we have the kingdom of heaven assured to us. Yet, as we look at the next beatitude, we see that, "Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted," verse 4, is another stage of grace. For those who mourn over their sin, even though they may never have experienced the other beatitudes, this one or any one is sufficient to establish that grace is in the soul. We see that each of the beatitudes identify another mark in the Christian walk. In a similar way, we see that each different meaning of the names of the children of Israel helps identify another aspect of Christian life. Many of Gods children can identify with more than one name.
Each individual gate is an entrance into the New Jerusalem because the Lord alone in His grace is the author of our salvation. It isnt my place to tell you what your requirements are for entrance. The Lord is sovereign. In His grace, He leads each one in His own way. If you read the history and note the lifestyle of each one of the children of Israel, you will see the road the Lord used to bring one from the east, another from the west, and the north, and the south, but they all came to one place. They came to the strait gate with a guardian angel who allowed the sinner entrance but not the sin. Amen.
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