Service that makes Sense

Wednesday: God’s Work in the Past

Romans 12:1 In this week’s study, we look at the kind of service we are to offer and see why such service is reasonable.
God’s Work in the Past

The first thing Jacob did was send some servants ahead to see if they could find Esau and perhaps get a feeling for what he was planning to do. They had not gone very far, when they ran into Esau who was actually coming to meet Jacob. Unfortunately, he had four hundred men with him. This was a huge army from Jacob’s point of view, and he could only assume the worst, namely, that Esau was coming to kill him. He thought quickly, then decided to appease his brother with gifts. First he sent him a present of two hundred female goats. He sent a servant along to drive the herd, and he gave the servant these instructions. He said, “When my brother Esau meets you and asks, ‘To whom do you belong, and where are you going, and who owns all these animals in front of you?’ then you are to say, ‘They belong to your servant Jacob. They are a gift to my lord Esau, and he is coming behind us’” (Gen. 32:17-18). After this he sent another group of twenty male goats, and he gave the servant in charge of this flock the same message. 

It must have been an amusing picture—all Jacob’s possessions stretched out across the desert going toward Esau. 

But there was more. After he had sent the animals Jacob sent his least favored wife Leah with her children ahead of him across the Jabbok, followed by his favored wife Rachel with her children. And then there at last, all alone and trembling, was Jacob. 

I suppose that if he had known the chorus, he might have been singing “I surrender all.” All the goats, that is. All the sheep. All the camels. All the cows. All the bulls. All the donkeys. He had given up everything, but he had still not given himself. And that is what some of us do. We tell God that we will give Him some time. We volunteer to help with something around the church. We give Him our money. But we do not give ourselves. 

That night the angel came and wrestled with Jacob to bring him to the point of personal submission, after which this scheming stiff-necked man was never the same again. When is the angel going to come and wrestle with you? Does he need to? Let’s not wait for the angel to wrestle with us. Let’s deal with this matter of sacrificial service to God now. Why is such demanding service so reasonable? 

It is reasonable because of what God has already done for us. We are under the wrath of God, on a destructive downhill path and unable to help ourselves. Paul has shown that we are not even inclined to help ourselves. Instead of drawing close to God who is our only hope, we run away from Him, suppressing even the truths about God known from the revelation of Himself in nature. 

Yet God has not let it go at that. God intervenes to save us by the work of Jesus Christ who died for us, and by the work of the Holy Spirit who enables us to understand what Jesus has accomplished, repent of our sin, and trust Him for our salvation. Then He has also joined us to Jesus Christ to make us different people from what we were before.

Study Questions
  1. How did Jacob try to please Esau?
  2. Why is it reasonable to serve God sacrificially?
  3. What is our natural response to God? Find verses to show this.
  4. How does God reach out to save us?

Application: What opportunities of service is the Lord putting before you? Might it involve other people to serve alongside you?

For Further Study: Download for free and listen to Donald Barnhouse’s message, “Serving God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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