Into the Mouth of a Lion

Text: Genesis 46

Proposition: Faith reviewed is faith renewed and it prepares us to walk towards uncertain and dangerous places with an abiding trust in God.

Introduction: Today we’re going to look at the story of Jacob’s departure from Canaan, it’s a story about meeting God in the last place you’d ever expect. Jacob has just discovered that his son Joseph is still alive. He’s just seen wagons sent from Joseph that will carry him and the 66 people that are his family out from the dust bowl of a land swept by two years of drought. What lay ahead is reunion with Joseph, shelter in the lands of Egypt, supplies of food and a new start. So how is it that we can leave something that we know is drought ridden and have assurances that what lays ahead is much better and yet we still feel fear at taking that next step? Jacob has been living near Hebron and now moves his family down to the most southern border of Canaan, to a place called Beersheba. This Beersheba is as far as he can go and still not have left this place he called home. It is here that Jacob stops and prays, wondering if it was okay to leave, fearing what lay ahead. What does God know about fear and why do we feel fear? Turn with me to Genesis 46 as we see how Jacob is led past fear to faith.

I. Jacob’s Uncertainty Is Because of His Faith in God.

Beersheba is about 30 miles down hill from Hebron, {show map} they didn’t stop at Beersheba because it was the end of a long day. Jacob stopped there to worship at an altar that he’d likely heard about many times before. It was to Beersheba that Hagar fled when Sarah had her sent away and it was here that God spoke to her. It was at Beersheba that Abraham had made an agreement for a well with Abimilech, giving him seven lambs for the well, hence Beersheba, ‘the well of seven’. It was at Beersheba that Isaac had built an altar after having a vision in the night of God blessing him. Jacob knew of Abraham’s faith and Isaac’s faith and he knew God had also spoken to him as well, promising this land to both he and his descendents. Now here was Jacob at the southern most point of this land looking into mouth of Egypt, the most powerful nation in the world.

By faith Jacob believed that Abraham had once fled to Egypt because of famine.(Gen.12) and yet by faith Jacob believed that God had forbidden Isaac to go to Egypt when a second famine struck the land. (Gen 26)

By faith Jacob believed that God had made a covenant with Abraham regarding the promise of this land to his descendents saying to Abraham, “Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years…”. (Gen 15) For Jacob the struggle was to want to see Joseph his son again, to get his family to a place where they could be safe and yet he knew that this may be the fulfillment of what God had said to Abraham over a 100 years before. So Jacob prayed and God spoke to him saying, “I am God, the God of your father; do not fear to go down to Egypt for I will make of you a great nation there.” Uncertainty is what caused Jacob to pray, uncertainty creates fear and that fear is only gotten past by faith so you could say that God uses uncertainty to stir our faith. It’s the awareness that we are at a

critical point and only God can direct our steps through it. This was the right timing for Jacob to lead his people into Egypt, into the mouth of the lion. God’s timing, God’s purpose, God’s method, when we encounter these there will be those feelings of uncertainty, those times when you say, “Are you sure God?” That’s when you remember those verses of Scripture like “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa.55:9). Faith can prompt uncertainty in a good way but what about fear? What does God know about fear? He knows there are only two kinds of fear.

II. The Difference Between the Fear of the Lord and the Fear of Man.

Author Pam Dewey says the fear of the Lord has three aspects:

1.  A deep feeling of respect and reverence for God because of Who He is.

2.  A conscious acknowledgement of God’s power and authority over you.

3.  A conscious acknowledgement of your utter dependence on God.

In other words the fear of the Lord is good, it comes from knowing who He is and it draws us to a place of trusting Him more. Proverbs 1:7 says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, it is the starting place for the beginning of how to use wisdom in your life. Proverbs 19:23 says, “The fear of the LORD leads to life, so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.” Look at what God said to Jacob in Genesis 46:4, “I will go down with you to Egypt and I will surely bring you up again and Joseph will put his hand on your eyes.” Is God’s power and authority over Jacob? Is there a conscious acknowledgement of Jacob’s dependence on God? Would there be reverence and respect for God? The fear of the Lord is the antidote to the fear of man. The fear of man are those fears common to man, how will others treat us and what will happen in the future and when will I know the outcome. We probably know this kind of fear by the name ‘anxiety’ or ‘worry’ and we all experience it. The challenge is how to overcome it when it begins to dominate your life.

The short answer is to see the truth of who or what it is you fear. It begins by looking fear in the face and challenging it’s credentials. It’s why Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:5, “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ…”.  Take every thought captive to the obedience of Jesus Christ, that means that some of the thoughts you are thinking are slanderous accusations against you that Satan assaults you with. Some of what we are thinking are lies that we have come to believe are true, we never looked at their credentials.  Those thoughts need to challenged, need to be taken captive and examined with what is really true. Counter the lies that fuel fear with the truth of God’s word. Jeremiah 17:7,8 reminds us, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD and whose hope is the LORD for he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river and will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.”

Do you trust God? Is your hope Jesus Christ? Then sink your roots deep into the truth of Who He is. When the heat comes, and it will, ask yourself, ‘Does God know this fear, does He know the effect it has on me?’ Is God greater than the power of this fear? Does what God promises more than replace what the fear threatens to take away? Use the knowledge and wisdom that comes from the far of the Lord to be the sound mind that God has given you. That’s what 2 Timothy 1:7 declares, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind”

Jacob was afraid until the Lord reminded him that he was not alone, that the Lord would be with him all the way, even to the day of his death. He looked towards Egypt and it was like walking into the mouth of a lion and yet he was not afraid.

God does know what fear is, He knows the effect it has on us and He knows the way that fear is related to sin. We fear most when we deal with guilt and when we feel an inability to control our lives. It’s why forgiveness and trust are what Jesus invites us to receive and to give. By His blood shed for us on the cross our guilt from sin is forgiven. By His resurrection from the dead Jesus invites us to trust that our sin account has been paid in full by Him and now we trust Him with our very lives, each day.

Let me close with that well known verse from 1 John 4:17,18 :

“Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”

Words to live by when you’re looking into the mouth of a lion.

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