Be Fruitful and Multiply
Rev. Toh Nee Lim | On 16, Jun 2018
Scripture Reading: Genesis 35:1-12
Before Jacob arrives at Genesis 35 his life has been one of ups and downs. These ups and downs have worn him thin to the edges. Even as he comes to his present state, the trials continue. The bible is very clear. In this world you shall have many tribulations and none shall escape it. Let’s observe the downs of Jacob even at Genesis 35 alone. Firstly in verse 8, ‘But Deborah, Rebekah’ nurse died and she was buried below bethel, under an oak: and the name of it was called Allon-Bachuth.’ In life there is always a BUT. Allon-bachuth means oak of weeping. Not only is there a BUT but also weeping. The downs in life will cause you to cry out and weep. Well at least she died in the Lord. Secondly, in verse 16-19, Rachel labored in childbirth, and she had hard labor. So Rachel died and was buried on the way to Ephrath (that is Bethlehem). When Jacob’s first love died he was never really comforted by the death of Rachel because from that day onwards, he clung on to Joseph and later Benjamin, both Rachel’s children. Thirdly, as if these two reminders of human frailty were not enough, verse 29 says, ‘Jacob’s father Isaac ‘breathed his last and died, and was gathered to his people.’ 3 beloved deaths just in one chapter. The only ups from these deaths are they all died in the LORD. Even before these 3 deaths, thorns and thistles of life have followed Jacob. Just before the death of these 3 beloved, Jacob made some wrong decision, which we do at times. And with the wrong decision comes deep consequences. Jacob took his family down to Shalem. It was a tragic move. Well like Jacob, we still depended upon our own cleverness. His daughter Dinah was raped, and Simeon and Levi, her two brothers, went into the city of Shalem executed a great slaughter that would make a gang shooting in any country look pretty tame. The mindset of Jacob was this; ‘you have made my name to smell among the people of my land.’ In our downs has our name been made to smell among people? Our name can be dishonored and we are humiliated. So it seems the circumstances were not conducive for God to come in. Yet God came in. We must understand that man’s extremities are God’s opportunities. The darkest hour is always the dawning of light. What can we learn from this portion of scripture?
Genesis 35:1 ‘And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there: and make there an altar unto God that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother.’
Bethel held a unique attraction and significance for Jacob. It was there that the Lord had appeared to him 25 years ago when he was running away from his irate brother, Esau. Going to Bethel is a command not an option. And it is not just a command but also an admonition. Jacob has delayed going to Bethel and many of us has postponed going to Bethel too.
God called himself the God of Bethel. Genesis 35:7 reads ‘And he built there an altar and called the place El-beth-el because there God appeared unto him, when he fled from the face of his brother.’ Firstly El means God. So El-Beth-el when translated is God of Bethel. Secondly, Bethel is commonly known as the house of God. Thirdly Bethel may also have represented an intimacy with God. In your ups and downs in Life, especially when life gets more difficult, God’ first declaration to you is ‘Arise, go up to Bethel.’ Understand it is not an advice but a command; not an option but a word from God. Genesis 35:1 says, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there.’ We are to stay at bethel. Has Etab become your permanent residence after your own home? We are to live and be faithful at Bethel. People that stay faithful in the house of God will experience the goodness of God. Of course, God wants you to return to the house of God, but more importantly he wants you to reestablish your intimacy with God. Pastor Lily has been teaching on intimacy with God. Her focus in the past two weeks has been on our inner life. Intimacy with God involves spending time with God and his word. When you establish this intimacy with God, your inner life will be strengthen and you will be able to keep the word of God in your life. Then there will be calmness in life, direction from God and conviction of sins.
Fourthly in Bethel you make an altar. The term ‘altar’ means a place of slaughter. The Patriarch made many altars. It is the slaughter of sins. You have to die to your sins. Jesus has made that possible. Obviously sacrifice predates the Mosaic Covenant. I told you that Sabbath, Tithing and Circumcision predate the Law. I found out in this preparation that sacrifice also predates the Mosaic Covenant. There must be the confession of sin and the slaughter of sins in our life. Genesis 35:2 says, ‘Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with her. Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments. In some translation, ‘strange gods’ becomes ‘foreign gods’ and they refer to the household gods, or teraphim, images which denoted ancestral worship. They can be made of precious metal or artfully crafted metal or woods with ascetic value. It is saying to you to put away the household gods in your home which is your parent’s gods or their worship. You have to give up the religion of your parents. You have to have a clean break with your past religious practices if you want to have a breakthrough in life: spiritually, socially, and emotionally and physical health. Fifthly you have to purify yourself. The instruction ‘be clean’ implied bathing; the washing of body symbolized cleansing of sin. To be clean is to purify yourself. In the scripture ‘garments’ speaks of habits. We talk about practicing sin and habitual sins. The changing of garments is a changing of habits. The ‘changing of garments’ also means a new season; a new season with new habits. The ‘rings which they had in their ears’ apparently were some type of magical charms. I know there are a number of magical charms that is practiced in this country. You have to get rid of them too.
If you obey the above, God will answer you in the day of distress, and will be with you in the way you go. And when you journey in life, the terror of God will be upon anybody that wants to harm you and they will not dare to pursue or harm your family members. God just put his terror upon our enemies and immediately they become impotent. God will be with you in a special and recognizable way that others would know. When Jacob finally was obedient then YHWH presumably appeared to him again. When you are obedient, God will talk to you again.
2. Be Fruitful and Multiply.
Genesis 35:11 says, ‘And God said unto him, I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply; a nation and a company of nations shall be of thee, and kings shall come out of thy loins.’
The second truth is a little bit surprising. I mean in the midst of all your ups and downs in God, Jehovah just come in and say, ‘Be fruitful and Multiply.’ It seems there is no correlation. I mean you are already at your lowest point and there is nothing positive in your situation. Yet God comes in and gave you such positive words. But we have to understand this instruction. ‘Be fruitful and Multiply’ has been God’s mandate since Genesis 1. Be fruitful and multiply is God’s mandate for animals, for humankind and now for His special covenant family which is Jacob’s family.
In Genesis 1:28 we read, ‘And God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth.” This is an indirect command for the animals, the fishes and the birds to be fruitful and multiply. Genesis 1:28 is God’s mandate for animals.
When it comes to Noah when God has to start with one family again after the flood, Genesis 9:1 says, ‘And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’ In Genesis 9:19, we read, ‘These three were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole earth was populated. This is God’s mandate for humankind. Today there are 7.6 billion humankind.
Then finally it comes to God’s mandate for the special covenant family. When it comes to Jacob, Genesis 35:11 ‘And God told him, “I am God Almighty. Be fruitful and multiply. A nation–even a company of nations–shall come from you, and kings shall descend from you.
This is the beginning of real explosion of growth in God’s special covenant family. Abraham brought forth one child (Isaac). And Isaac brought forth two children (Esau and Jacob). And Jacob brought forth at least 13 children. Jacob has twelve boys and one girl was mentioned because something bad happened to her. Surely there were others. In Genesis 37:35, when Jacob found out that his son Joseph was killed by an evil beast, Jacob rent his clothes; ‘And all his sons and daughters rose up to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted.’ So there were other girls. Look at the size of Jacob’s family. Abraham had 300 servants but only one son by the covenant. But for Jacob, by the time this special covenant family enters Egypt, they have grown to 70 people in just one family. None of these 70 are servants, all Jacob’s covenanted family. And fast forward another 210 years, when the children of Israel left Egypt, led by Moses, they are definitely 600,000 males and if you include females and children, it is statistically proven there are at least 2 to 3 million Jews that left Egypt. This is not just addition, or multiplication. It is actually exponential growth.
I am going to talk about church growth. God always start with one person. He started with Abraham. Let’s study about Abraham’s pilgrimage.
One, at the age of 75, it was YHWH’s first revelation to him. God first appeared to Abraham when he was 75 years old. Two at the age of 86, we see the birth of Ishmael. This child came into the world by natural means; with help from Abraham. It is not the child of the covenant. If it is man’s method it will not only not work but filled with trouble. When it is God’s method it will succeed. And it created a lot of problem even until today. Three, at the age of 99 we see YHWH’s third revelation to him, a spiritual renewal. Four, at the age of 99 Abraham was circumcised. It signifies the reestablishment of the Covenant. Five, at the age of 100, Isaac was born. Abraham lived until 175. So he got to enjoy Isaac for 75 years and even his grandchildren, Esau and Jacob.
But it started with one. Abraham and Isaac each had only one son; the son of promise. But now the time of increase has come. And God comes to you today as one and say, ‘Be fruitful and Multiply.’ I want you to observe the saying of YHWH. ‘I will multiply you exceedingly’. This has been a common theme of YHWH’s promise to Abraham. And this has been God’s original plan for all life forms; animals, humankind and the special covenant family of God. I ask you ‘Are you a special covenant family of God? If your answer Yes, then God declares to you, ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’ This was God’s promise to me when I was born again. The promise was clear. God will give me people for my inheritance. My seeds will come from the North South East West. I want to tell you this morning that if you are a true mark of a Christian, he has given you the same promise. This has been God’s original plan all along for you. The same is true concerning the church. Genesis 35 mentions ‘A Company of people’. When translated by the Septuagint it is Ekklesia. The NT believers used this term to describe their own fellowship of covenant believer. What I am trying to tell you is ‘A company of People’ is a prophecy that God has given concerning the church. And the church has been given the mandate to be fruitful and multiply. When we were in Quezon, our attendance has regularly hit 900 to 1000 before 2012 when we were cut off by our sending church. We have gone down drastically and today we are at around 700 members, counting children. During the Harvest Month, we hope to increase the attendance with good program but it remained the same. Just last Thursday, we were having an important meeting on how to increase the growth of the church. Because God’s word for this church is ‘Be fruitful and multiply’. It has been God’s mandate and God’s original plan. In the midst of the meeting God gave us a revelation. In 2012, we lost many things; we lost the 341 churches, I had to return the Nissan Navarra to the bank, we lost our salary and we also lost a great number of church members. Then in 2016, God reminded Pastor Lily specifically, when we are trying to select a vehicle, with this question, ‘What have you lost’. I remembered we were coming down an escalator in SM when this question was put into the mind of Pastor Lily. She remembered it was a Nissan Navara. And Lo and Behold, just on the ground floor of SM, they were promoting the Nissan Navara. To cut the story short, we got back our Navara. Then God told Pastor Lily again in our meeting, what have we lost; members that attended Quezon Church. We have to get them back. Next year the theme for our church is ‘Bring them Back again’. Recently Pastor Analene, led by God came into contact with members that were formerly from Quezon Church and today they came back and started attending this church. And these old Quezon members started bringing others. When Pastor Lily and I were in HMR, in Jaro, which is located near the American Cemetery we met two members that were teenagers in Quezon Church; today they are adults and working in HRM. And one of them has children already. We found out that they were formerly Rosmin and Willy’s contacts. I know that many of you were great in bringing people to our church in Quezon. We want this church to be fruitful and multiply again. We want to bring them back again to this church. Pastor Lily and I are going to bring all the cell leaders, in groups of 4 or 6 to our house, fellowship with you with food and talked to you seriously about bringing these members back again. We are going to ask you who are the people that you brought or you know from Quezon Church’s time but are no more here today. We will ask you for a list of the names and we want you to obey God’s command to bring them back, as we brought back our Nissan Navara. What have we lost, we are going to bring them back again. This is not man’s method but God’s revelation. Just as God revealed to us to go to Cambodia and start a church, God has revealed to us to bring back our old contacts and this church will start to grow again as a result.
The phrase ‘Be fruitful and Multiply’ is not just a commandment but actually it is a declaration. It is a promise and a prophecy. God is actually declaring and announcing. What is the announcement? Read Genesis 35:12.
Firstly, I will bless you
Secondly I will make you fruitful
Thirdly I will make you multiply,
Fourthly I will give you the blessing of Abraham
What power in the word of God! “He spake and it was done.
When God gave this commandment He calls himself God Almighty. This is the Hebrew compound El Shaddai. It seems to be made up of the term El which is the general name of God which probably means ‘being strong ‘or ‘powerful and the term Shaddai is connected with a woman’s breast. When a child feeds on his or her mum’s breast milk it is all sufficient and self sufficient. When God gives the command ‘Be fruitful and Multiply’ he is executing the growth and his is all powerful and sufficient to give its growth. He spake and it was done.
In conclusion, are you experiencing tremendous ups and downs that you despair even of life? Arise, go up to Bethel. When you obey it will be followed by increased spiritual blessings. Firstly the old promises will be renewed. Jacob will be changed to Israel. Your name signifying you will be changed into a prince. God is all sufficient to fulfill his commandment to be fruitful and multiply. God will take the old life with all the scenes and circumstances and changed it into fruitfulness. Physically he will give you bread to eat and raiment to put on. Environmentally he will be with you in your day of distress and will be with you throughout all your journey of life. You won’t have even to contemplate suicide. He will give you true happiness with a higher motive in life; to do the will of God.