Doctrine of Separation; Genesis 27:41 - 28:22
Deuteronomy 31:6, 8, "Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD your God, he it is that doth go with you; he will not fail you, nor forsake you. . . And the LORD, he it is that goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you, neither forsake you: fear not, neither be dismayed."
We see this doctrinal principle exemplified in this episode with Jacob. Jacob has to leave the land, the geographical place that God has said is the promise to Abraham, the focal point of these Old Testament promises, And yet, as he leaves the land God is going to go before him, God won't leave him, he won't forsake him, and he is going to leave as a man with no possessions. He is impoverished and has nothing but the clothes on his back, and he is leaving in disgrace, motivated by fear, afraid of what his brother is going to do, and it is such a real fear that when he comes back into the land he has accumulated an enormous amount of wealth and he send everyone in front of him because he doesn't know what Esau is going to do to him. God is going bless Jacob while he is out of the land and it is all a part of the Abrahamic covenant, because of his position in Abraham, not because of anything he is doing, because Jacob for most of the time he is out of the land is no different from us when we are in spiritual infancy and spiritual adolescence. Part of the time we are going to see Jacob as a man who has some spiritual sensitivity, some positive volition, some concern about the things of God and God's plan for his life. Then the very next day he turns around and it is like he never heard a thing, never learned a thing, doesn't have a clue, doesn't want what God wants, and is back to his old sin nature trends—manipulation, conniving, trying to get what he wants.
What we see at the beginning of this is that Jacob leaves the land of blessing, and we have to ask why, other than the immediate fact that his brother is out to kill him. But in a broader sense there is the work of God in that situation. So that a lot of times, even though we are out of fellowship, even though we are in carnality, even though the immediate reason for certain things happening in our life are not necessarily good, we see that God is working behind the scenes, working out that which is ultimately good. It is an application of Romans 8:28. So we see that in the background God is working to bring about the accomplishment of the promises He has made in the Abrahamic covenant. And what underlies this move out of the land is related to the principle in Scripture of separation—the doctrine of separation.
Sometimes this doctrine gets really distorted, especially if you have a trend toward self-righteousness and legalism, and you can really have a field day with the doctrine of separation. Next thing, out goes the television, out goes all the music, you get rid of all your friends and just stay at home all the time. That is taking it too far. On the other hand, if you have a trend in your sin nature towards licentiousness and antinomianism you haven't paid enough attention to the doctrine of separation. There is a balance in the doctrine of separation and you have to be careful not to let your sin nature trends dictate how you apply this particular doctrine. Separation is a sub-category of the doctrine of sanctification. Sanctification relates to being set apart to the service of God. It is not the idea of moral purity as much as it is the idea of being set apart to the service of God. So if you are set apart to the service of God that automatically implies that you must separate yourself from things in life that distract you or interfere with serving God. When you start making God and the knowledge of doctrine the number one priority in your life that automatically means that you have to make choices. You have to stop doing some things that you enjoy doing, not all of which are necessarily wrong or sinful. Some of these things are neutral, they are fun, but in your life, perhaps, they are distractions. It can be golf, political involvement, or anything at all, even kids—you become so involved with them and their activities that doctrine just gradually goes by the way side. It is not that there is anything wrong with these things, it comes down to the fact that if we are going to make the Word of God the priority in our individual lives and our family lives, then that means we have to say no to some things. The core issue that we discover in separation is really that of values and priorities, what is really important in life.
Psalm 37:4, 5 tells us: "Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass." Our priority is to delight ourselves in the Lord. That is our priority; that is where our life focuses. We need to learn how to make the Lord that priority. That is what Jacob is having to learn. When we see him come to Bethel here and have this vision of what is called Jacob's ladder—it is not really a ladder, it is a stairway—we see Jacob get caught up with the idea that God really has a plan for him. That begins to change things, it begins to have an impact on him. One of the problems that we have is that this wears off, and things that really hit us as significant at one time in our life seem to lose their freshness, their reality, until some time later we are studying the Word and the Holy Spirit whacks us with something else to bring us back to reality. That is the process of growth and Jacob is going through that same process. But he has to learn that his ultimate purpose in life is serving God, and God has a plan for his life. Our ultimate mission on this earth is to align our thinking and our lives and our decision-making to God's plan and His purposes and priorities, and not our plans, purposes and priorities.
So the core issue is that of priorities. The value has to be on that which is going to promote our relationship with God and spiritual growth, and that means that we have to learn to be separated from the cosmic system around us. It is not just a matter of dealing with the things that are somewhat neutral that distract us because we enjoy doing them, but also the influences around us. Whether that is family, friends, entertainment, books that we like to read, that can expose us over and over again to influences that are not biblical. And that is what we see going on in Abraham's family. Abraham recognized this and that is why he knew that when it came time for Isaac to get married Isaac could not marry a girl that came out of the Canaanite culture around him because she was completely immersed in paganism, her values were pagan values, the values that she would inculcate in the children would be pagan values, that when there came to be decisions in the home she would influence Isaac from her frame of reference of paganism. So Abraham knew that he had to go back to Haran, to Padan-aram, to get a relative who had at least a general orientation toward God that would serve as Isaac's wife.
In contrast to that we saw that Ishmael married an Egyptian girls in Genesis 21:21 and their whole family drifted further and further away from the Lord into just rank paganism. Esau displeased his parents in Genesis 26:34. He marries two Hittite girls and it grieves his parents because they recognized that this was going to take him away from the Lord. And even though they had their failures, just like we all do, they knew that real life takes place in relationship to God, knowing doctrine and applying doctrine. Abraham had insisted that Isaac marry a girl from back in Padan-aram so he sent a servant back. He didn't send Isaac back. He sent a servant back to find a wife for Isaac. Isaac he kept in the land that God promised, the land which would be the place of blessing. In a similar way Isaac and Rebekah have to keep Jacob from marrying a girl from among the Canaanite population. Esau has already fallen prey so they have to do something. So there is not only a negative motivation here, to get Jacob out of the land because his brother wants to kill him, but there is a positive facet in this in that they want him to get away from the local Canaanite girls and get him back to Padan-aram to marry a girl from back home who at least has values that are oriented to the God of Abraham. Isaac and Rebekah are going to use this as an opportunity to get Jacob away from the threat of marrying an unbeliever or a pagan girl.
We have an important New Testament application for this, and that still falls under the category of separation. This is still a strong mandate in the New Testament, to avoid being involved with unbelievers. 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, "Be not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? and what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? and what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you."
Genesis 28:1, "And Isaac called Jacob, and blessed him, and charged him, and said unto him, You shall not take a wife of the daughters of Canaan." Now he calls Jacob. He recognizes that God does have a plan for Jacob, that Jacob is the chosen one through whom the blessing will pass and that God is going to be working in the life of Jacob. Whether this charge is Isaac's conviction or whether he has been swayed this way by his wife Rebekah we are not sure. She recognized the principle and after Esau has married the two Canaanite women she says to Isaac in Genesis 27:46, "I am weary of my life because of the daughters of Heth [Hittites]: if Jacob take a wife of the daughters of Heth, such as these which are of the daughters of the land, what good shall my life do me?"
Genesis 28:2, "Arise, go to Padan-aram, to the house of Bethuel your mother's father; and take a wife from there of the daughters of Laban your mother's brother." So the focus is not on Abraham's ancestry but on the ancestry of Rebekah.
Then we have a reiteration of the blessing. Genesis 28:3, "And God Almighty bless you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, that you may be a multitude of people." Here he uses the term El Shaddai, first mentioned in Genesis 17:1, "And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be perfect." This is the episode where God confirms again the Abrahamic covenant and when he promises that there will be a son who would come through Sarah, that Abram was going to be renamed Abraham and Sarai was going to be renamed Sarah. It is also the time when the sign of the covenant, circumcision, is given. So Isaac is clearly phrasing his blessing within the whole structure of the Abrahamic covenant. The mandate to be fruitful and multiply is directly related to man's ultimate goal to exercise dominion over God's creation. Now he is focusing that within this racial group, these new people who come from Abraham. So here we have blessing, seed, seed, and blessing. What is the focal point there? The middle two stanzas, he is focusing on the importance of the seed. And then in the latter part of verse 4: "…that you may inherit the land." So we have land, seed and blessing again.