Preached by Dr. Gene Scott on January 2, 1977
“Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be Thou dis-
mayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee . . .
to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart . . . .”
“The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
ONE YEAR AGO, on the first Sunday of the year, we preached from Joshua 3:4, “Ye have not passed this way heretofore.” Today, I would like you to turn there once again, on this first Sunday of the New Year. I speak to you out of my heart as your Pastor concerning the year ahead and the year we just left. Looking forward to the next year, we will mix together some of the promises of God with greater understanding, having seen God’s care this past year.
In Deuteronomy 8, God’s people were facing tests. Moses told them that God was proving them. God made them to hunger, that they might learn “that man does not live by bread alone.” God led them into wilderness testings that they might discover not only what He was like, but also what they were like. They discovered God’s adequacy, God’s dependability, God’s strength and God’s provision. They and God discovered what they were like, for it takes the pressure cooker to bring out our nature. You never find out how much fear you have until you get into a scary situation. You never find out the measure of your faith until you get beyond the substitutes for faith. You never learn God’s adequacy until you run out of your own supply. After having led this people for many years and anticipating their going into the Promised Land, Moses told them that when they get there, “Thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee.”
A year ago this congregation did not have the proven results that we have this year of God’s adequacy, God’s supply, God’s strength and God’s continuing guidance. How many of you can honestly say that, at some time during this past year, you thought you wouldn’t make it? Yet you are still here; you made it. Now, when the enemy comes in like a flood during this coming year, though we have not passed this way heretofore, will you “remember all the way which the LORD thy God did lead thee?” That is the first thing anyone should do when they face something new.
God’s promises are to each of us individually: “All the promises of God in him,” that is in Christ, “are yea, and in him Amen.” (2nd Corinthians 1:20) We are reminded of the Song of Asher: “Thy shoes shall be iron and brass.” In figurative language, the shoes that God gives you will be tough enough for the trip. It is a tough trip, but we have tough shoes. You can’t make it in house shoes; but He hasn’t provided house shoes, He has provided shoes of iron and brass. (Deuteronomy 33:25)
“As thy day, so shall thy strength be . . . The eternal God is thy refuge.” You have to draw pictures to actually get the concept of the Hebrew word for eternal. Literally, the word means forefront, or vanguard, that is “the one who is at the front” and “the one who got there first.” Moses is saying, “The God of the front is your refuge.” What you encounter may surprise you, but it does not surprise Him. Grab hold of your mind as we explore this. Einstein exploded all the earlier theories of space and time. Time is a relative thing. All things consist in God. To our limited mind, the future is scary because it is yet to come.
The Hebrew phrase, “the God of the front,” can be pictured by visualizing a parade. Imagine you are watching a parade go by. To the man standing there watching the parade, that which is yet to come is not at the front, but it’s at the rear. And everything else that is at the front of the parade has already gone by. Yet to come are those who are following in the path of the vanguard. What is coming may surprise you, but not the parade leader; he knows what is coming.
You have to throw your whole concept of time around and realize that what is yet future to you and yet to come in the parade is behind to God, because He is out front and has already seen it before it happens. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. (Revelation 1:11) Don’t fear! The God of the front is our refuge. Literally, the word refuge means “high place.” We are going up and He is high enough to see it. Short and simple: you have not yet passed this way heretofore, but He is ahead of you.
What is the attitude for the present? Four times, God says to these people:
“Be strong and of a good courage.” (Joshua 1:6)
“Only be thou strong and very courageous.” (Joshua 1:7)
“Be strong and of a good courage.” (Joshua 1:9)
“Only be strong and of a good courage.” (Joshua 1:18)
Our part is to keep hanging in there on His promises, and not to lose heart no matter what we see. Isn’t that a definition of faith?
What kind of God do we serve? Turn to Psalm 46. “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Now, if the God of Jacob is our refuge, and the God of the front is our refuge, then the God of the front is the God of Jacob. The One who got there first is the God of Jacob.
“LORD of hosts” means He is Lord of animate and inanimate objects. He can make the stars, the wind and the earthquakes serve His purpose. He is the God of supernatural beings, the heavenly hosts: both those who serve Him and those who do not. He can command the demons and His angels are at His disposal. He marshals the hosts of human beings. He controls everything about the Earth, on the Earth, and below the Earth; it is all His and all under His reign. This “LORD of Hosts” is with us. Who is He with? We Jacobs! And there isn’t one of us who hasn’t got a little bit of that Jacob nature in us. If I were to pause on “the Lord of hosts,” the devil, who forever tries to deprive us of God’s benefits, would whisper in our ears and say, “Oh, He is the Lord of hosts, high and lifted up, too high and lifted up to be involved in the everyday problems and uncertainties of our year to come.” Praise be to God, it does not say, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Israel is our refuge.”
Jacob eventually became Israel, but he didn’t start out that way. Jacob’s name means “heel grabber,” or “heel catcher.” When he came out of his mother’s womb, his first act was to grab the heel of his brother Esau. Even after, Jacob was a conniving, self-serving, cheating, lying, “get it all for me in my own strength” man. (Genesis 25:26)
There is a measure of that nature in every one of us. We “look out for number one.” How wonderful it is if we can wear a mask that enables us to look out for ourselves under the guise of not doing it. But way down deep, we know that Jacob nature is in us. One lonely night, Jacob wrestled until dawn and was crippled until he could only hang on and say, “Except thou bless me I will not let you go!” The Wrestler from Heaven said, “What’s your name?” Jacob had to finally face up to himself. He had to pull the mask off, and he said, “Jacob.” (Genesis 32:24-30) It was a full confession: I am a heel-grabber.
After Jacob’s confession, the Lord said, “Henceforth thou shalt be known as Israel.” The root meaning of Israel is “God-governed.” Instead of self-seeking, he became God-governed, which can be interpolated as “prince who has power with God” because he had finally submitted to God. Jacob had to walk with a limp for the rest of his life, to remind him of his past nature, so that he might learn not to lean on it as much again. He limped off into the morning sun, and into the glorious light of a resurrection-changed-life morning. Henceforth, he would be known as Israel. (Genesis 32:28-31)
The psalm does not say, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Israel is our refuge.” It says, “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” The Lord of hosts is indeed still the God of “heel catchers.” Even after we have been broken by God, we will probably still reach out to grab for ourselves a few times this year; we will still feel that urge to put self first.
Let’s revisit the story of Jacob and see the path that led up that night when the Lord changed Jacob’s name to Israel. Jacob was a lying, cheating, conniving mama’s boy. He even cheated his blind father out of the birthright blessing by pretending to be Esau, his brother. His father had sent Esau to go get some venison and bring back some stew, that he might receive the blessing. His mother overheard and conspired with Jacob. He covered his arms with the skins of animals so he would feel hairy like Esau. His father, thinking Jacob was Esau, gave Jacob the blessing.
When Esau came home, he was ready to scalp Jacob. So Jacob had to flee for his life. He came to those two mountains, which would subsequently be known as Gerizim and Ebal, the Mount of Cursing and the Mount of Blessing. He came to the place where Abraham first saw the Promised Land.
Jacob was by himself, lonely, and he used a stone for a pillow. He had a vision. (Genesis 28:11-22) Jacob saw hosts from heaven coming down a ladder and going back up again. This tells you his spiritual state: he woke up in the morning and, instead of shouting, “Glory to God what a blessed place this is,” he said, “How dreadful!” He thought he was alone, but God was there, even in that place. God was making a covenant with Jacob, a covenant with conditions attached. Jacob called this place Bethel, which means “house of God.” (Genesis 28:19) The Lord of hosts was still watching over this rascal.
We are not condoning sin. You can’t condone sin and watch Jesus die on Calvary for our sins. But let it be proclaimed, God, though He hates sin, loves the sinner. There is just an awful lot of sin hiding behind self-righteous masks. Glory to God, though each one of us has a root of Jacob, God still sees something in us that He values.
Jacob fled to his uncle Laban, where he worked seven years for Rachel, the wife that he wanted. When the wedding night finally arrived, Jacob got the wrong woman, he got Rachel’s sister. (Genesis 29:13-25) Then, years later, when Jacob left with more possessions than Laban, Laban says, “You cheated me.” (Genesis 31:25-30)
Jacob is finally coming home. “Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. And when Jacob saw them, he said, This is God’s host: and he called the name of that place Mahanaim,” which literally means “two hosts” or “two camps.” (Genesis 31:1-2) It doesn’t really clarify how he saw those angels, but the unseen heavenly hosts were there at the point of need, they were on time, and they came with the equipment necessary to meet the problem.
When David was running from Absalom looking for a place that he might hide, he also went to Mahanaim. (2nd Samuel 17:24, 1st Kings 2:7-8) I don’t think it’s an accident that he went to this place named by Jacob, that he might somehow remind himself with its symbolism that there is another host that stands beside God’s people, even in their weakness. The saints are those who know they are sinners saved by grace, who have given themselves to God for His care. The Lord of hosts was with Jacob. Jacob had not yet met God face to face; he had not yet been changed. But Mahanaim reminds us that the unseen heavenly hosts are there in our time of need.
On this New Year, I cannot declare it loudly enough that the Lord of hosts is available to the “Jacobs” who will give their lives to Him, with all of their problems. The way some people preach Christianity, they would have said to those disciples who came to Jesus, “Peter, I need a rock. When you become stable and get rid of the unpredictability in your nature, I will then send you.” But my Bible says that, “It came to pass in those days, that Jesus went out to a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom he also named apostles.” (Luke 6:12-13) Apostle means “one sent.” He picked the ones He would send, even though they all had their problems. Peter’s instability was demonstrated again and again. We would have said, “Get yourself straightened out; then you can become an apostle.” We would have said to Matthew, “You cheating tax collector, make right everything you’ve ever done; then come and we will see if you qualify.” To Thomas we would have said, “It’s a walk of faith; your questions are okay, but until you have all the answers and settle it, there is no place for you in this battalion.” To Simon, “You’re too high-tempered and too much of a fighter. We need cheek-turners and submissive peacemakers, and you’re a zealot looking for a fight. Go away.”
All of the disciples were Jacobs, just like we are. Jesus took them as they were and went to work on them: “The God of Jacob is our refuge.” You can run to Him with your “Jacob-ness.” The story is not complete without the conclusion of Jacob coming to the place where he did meet God. This same Jacob, whom the heavenly hosts of God continued to deal with, eventually faced himself, eventually had to wrestle it out, and eventually had to come to that place where he would say, “I’m a Jacob,” and could be changed and limp off into the sunlight of the new day. But that is for you and God to work out. As we approach this year, my message short and simple is, “The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.”
Now, let’s add the promises of Psalm 84 into this New Year’s mix. Go to verse 8, “O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer, give ear, O God of Jacob.” That is my prayer as we go the way we have not passed heretofore. Out of our weakness, out of our faults, this Word is not to your wife, your husband, your children, your parents, your family or your friends. This Word is to you. Will you remember that He is the God of Jacob and to you He will give His ear?
What are the results? “The LORD God is a sun and shield.” God does not use these analogies by accident. This promise is available to you today. I don’t know what you need today. “The LORD God is a sun” means that He is the source of warmth, energy, strength and light. That is what He will be to you. He is your everything! Take the sun out of the sky, and what would happen to this globe? That is the condition of the man without the Lord of hosts and the God of Jacob as his supply. But if today, in your very Jacob-ness, whatever your needs, if you would make Him the Sun, He will be your light, your warmth, your strength and your energy.
But there is another side to it: the sun is in control. Many scientists point out what would happen to this universe if its physical perfection were to deviate by the smallest amount. The sun determines the orbit of everything in this solar system. Jacob finally quit wrestling and he had to just hang on. He finally got himself in orbit. He quit trying to fly by himself. The only thing he would grab on to now and hang on to tight was to the Lord Himself.
There is no concept I can give you for the coming year more important than this: get up every morning and make Him the Sun of your life. Morning prayers are not like penance. God is not going to do handsprings in Heaven because you wave at Him for five minutes. The reason for morning prayers is that you make an appointment and check in with the Boss! You let the Sun know you’re going to be in orbit another day. As you start that day, you articulate it.
“The LORD God is a shield.” He won’t let anything happen to you this year that you are not up to with His help. Whatever happens, know it is under His control because He is a Shield. He knows how much you can take, and He will not tempt you beyond what you can bear. (1st Corinthians 10:13)
“The LORD will give grace,” that’s unmerited favor. As the days come and the “accuser of the brethren” says you don’t deserve God’s grace when you are desperately at the end of your tethers, quote this verse to him: “The God Jacob will give unmerited favor.” You don’t have to deserve it; He gives it for Christ’s sake. “The LORD will give . . . glory.” What is glory? The only glory that God gets excited about is the out-raying of His glory; that is what Jesus is. (Hebrews 1:3) Many people say, “God won’t share His glory.” Yes, He will. What he will not share is the dispensing of it.
This coming year, as the Sun keeps you in orbit, as His shield determines which things may touch you, you can count on Him to give you unmerited favor,. But He will also bring forth His glory in you. Next year at this time, people will see a little more of Jesus in you, if you will believe Him. “No good thing will he withhold.” Notice the word thing is in italics. It was added by the translators. God hasn’t promised a “good thing.” The Scripture says, originally, “No good will He withhold from them that walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man,” including all we Jacobs, “that trusteth in thee.”
“We have not gone this way heretofore,” but the “God of the front” is there, and He will look after you and me. Praise His name!
From The Pulpit, Volume 3
Reprinted with permission from Pastor Melissa Scott
Prayer Requests for January, 2015
For Kris Golina in Oceanside, California. She suffers from severe seizures.
For Martha Burries (Illinois) who has cancer.
For Willie Grady (Pinckneyville, IL), that he gets an evidentiary hearing granted in his case.
For Robin Harris’ dad (Oklahoma City) who has glaucoma and liver problems.
For Mary (Oklahoma City), who has lost muscle movement in her legs and right shoulder. She is doing better since last report.
For Isaac Douglas (Illinois), that he gets approved for work release soon.
For Robert Casto (Cushing, OK) and His family, for health.
For Dennis Martin (Lexington, OK) who has had several heart surgeries.
For Willie Scott (Grady, Arkansas), that he will be granted clemency from the parole board.
For Ponnell Buchanan (Joliet, Illinois) who seeks favor from God on his case.
For Michael Small’s Mom, Suzanne (Illinois).
For Anthony Grayson (Elmira, New York), that he finds legal assistance.
For Mike Long (Larned, Kansas), for health.
For Sister Ann & the Carmelite nuns in Little Rock.
For Freddie Lee Lott (Chicago, Illinois), to stay “cancer free.”
For Robert Heffernan (Grady, Arkansas), who has been ill with a kidney and bladder infection.
For Pastor Scott’s health; & her ministry in Los Angeles.
For Margaret, for healing of glaucoma.
For all of us at Wingspread.
“Faith means implicit confidence in Jesus, and that requires not intellect only but a moral giving over of myself to Him. . . It is this point of moral surrender that nearly every man ‘shies off.’ We sentimentally believe, and believe, and believe, and nothing happens. We pray ‘Lord, increase our faith,’ and we try to pump up the faith, but it does not come. What is wrong? The moral surrender has not taken place. Will I surrender from the real center of my life, and deliberately and willfully stake my confidence on what Jesus Christ tells me?
- Oswald Chambers
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