Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall make straight your paths. In this episode of the Radical Podcast on Genesis 28–35, Pastor David Platt reminds us that we all have blind spots. We are all broken with sin and need the Lord’s grace in our lives.
If you have a Bible—and I hope you do—let me invite you to open with me to Genesis 28. It’s really good to be together around God’s Word. We’re in Week 3 of reading through the Story of Scripture together, so if you’ve not been a part of this—whether you’re a member of the church or a visitor—jump in with us. Even if you’ve started and have already fallen behind, just jump in right now. We’re taking this chronological journey through the Bible to see how this Book totally transforms our lives.
Today I want us to think about blind spots—in what we’ve read this last week, in what we’re going to read in this coming week, as well as in our lives. We all have blind spots—areas of our lives where our vision is obscured. If we could just for a moment step outside ourselves, we would realize how foolish or wrong these things are. But inside ourselves we just don’t see them—or maybe we don’t want to see them.
On a personal level, over this last week, I had some people who loved me point out a blind spot that I didn’t see. When they pointed it out, my first reaction was defensive. I didn’t want to see it. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized something was wrong—and indeed, I didn’t want to see it.
So this can be personal or it can be broader than that. We’re coming near the end of Black History Month and there’s no question that slavery is a glaring blind spot in American Christian history. How could Christians and pastors who supposedly believed the gospel so easily rationalize the enslavement of other human beings? White churchgoers, worshiping God together every Sunday, reading the Bible religiously all week all, were all the while using God’s Word even to justify treating men, women and children as property to be bought, sold and abused. They actually convinced themselves they were being generous when they gave slaves an extra chicken at Christmas.
It’s not just slavery. Fast forward a hundred years in history and look at the Jim Crow laws where professing white Christians refused to eat in the same restaurant, drink from the same fountain, send their kids to the same schools or use the same restrooms as black people. We look back at that and think, “How wrong was that!” But somehow so many white professing Christians couldn’t see it back then.
It makes you wonder what we’re missing today, doesn’t it? We’ve talked to the church about how racism and racialization remain realities around us, but we still don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see it in my life and it became clear to me when I’ve preached on racism over the last year that others don’t want to see it either. It’s like we’re blind to destructive and disproportionate ways race plays out in the world around us—even in the church, which ever since slavery has been and still is one of the most segregated institutions in our country.
The point is that slavery and racism is a glaring blind spot, but it’s only one. There are many others in the church. I was reading this last week that American Christians spend 95% of our offerings to the church on ministries for ourselves, about 4.5% on outward ministry in the world—but on average, only 0.5% on the people in the world who have the least access to the gospel. In other words, we spend less than 1% of our offerings to the church getting the gospel to people who’ve never heard it.
We’re trying to change that in our church. Mark it down: in every church that talks about missions, including ours, people will inevitably say that we’re spending too many resources getting the gospel to other people. I mean, we’re just so out of whack. It’s like we can’t see it. And it’s not just in the church—it’s in our lives. This is where it started for me this last week, God using people in my life to uncover sin I didn’t see and didn’t want to see. We all have blind spots that we don’t want to see.
What scares me when I think about a blind spot like slavery is we’re talking about Bible believing Christians. Apparently regular worship, even studying the Bible, doesn’t prevent blindness in us. It’s part of our sinful nature, which instinctively chooses to see what we want to see and ignore what we want to ignore. It frightens me that it’s possible for me to live my Christian life—and even lead as a pastor in the church—all the while overlooking horrible evil.
Now, here’s why I share all of this today. As I was reading God’s Word this week, I kept seeing this over and over and over again. If you read through this week’s passage, or if you’ve read any from the past three weeks, have you not paused at different points and just thought, “What were they thinking?” There is some messed-up stuff going on in Genesis.
You have Abraham and Isaac both lying about their wives, saying they’re their sisters. You have polygamy—multiple wives—in these stories. You have competitive, spiteful childbearing through multiple wives. This was not God’s design. Genesis 2:24 was clear about God’s design for marriage. “A man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to one wife. They will become one flesh.”
You have Noah, the blameless one who was rescued from the flood, getting totally wasted right after the flood. You have Lot in an incestuous relationship with his daughters. You have all kinds of people being mistreated and misled. You have blatant sin and deception by patriarchs of faith. Jacob’s very name means cheater or conniver. How about that for a founder in the faith?
We’ve only made it through about 30 chapters in the Bible and one truth is abundantly clear: people are messed up. People sin in ways they don’t even see—people just like you and just like me. So let’s go ahead and get it out on the table today: we are all messed up. It’s good to realize we are all prone to sin in ways we don’t even see. We all have blind spots.
Coming into this week, I did not know what text we were going to dive into today. But as I was praying all week long, I asked God, “What are You saying to us, the church, as we’re reading through
these passages?” As I saw these stories unfold and sin in my life that I was blind to, I couldn’t help but think that maybe God desires to uncover some blind spots among us—in our lives individually and maybe even as a church.
What I want to do over the next few minutes is hone in on one episode in Jacob’s life that we’re actually in the middle of reading about. We’re going to start in Genesis 28, which we’ve already read; then we’re going to end in Genesis 35, which we’re scheduled to read tomorrow. I want to show you three truths about blind spots that we need to learn from Jacob’s life. I want to encourage you to reflect on blind spots that may need to be uncovered in your life right now, and maybe among us as a church. So let me pray toward that end.
O God, we need You to do, even in the next few minutes, what is not natural to us. We need Your help to see things we can’t see. I just pray and we pray together that You would supernaturally open our eyes. We pray for humility to hear. God, please keep us from being defensive. Please give us humility to hear and see what You are calling us to hear from Your Word and see in our lives. Then, O God, we pray for grace to respond to the Word You’re speaking to us and the grace You promised to us. Please, please help us right now, individually and as a church, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
We’ll start in Genesis 28. Let me set up the context. In Genesis 27, through deception, Jacob basically steals the blessing from his father Isaac that was intended for Esau, his brother. Esau was not happy and he vowed to kill Jacob. That’s when Jacob decided it was time to take a vacation away from home, so he packed his things and began a trip toward a place called Haran, where his uncle Laban lived. That’s where we pick up the story in Genesis 28:10. Listen to what it says:
Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”
Let’s pause for a moment here, because that is one stout promise. God had made a similar promise to Abraham in Genesis 12 and 15, then to Isaac in Genesis 26. In fact, our memory verse this last week was God’s promise to Isaac in Genesis 26:4: “I will multiply your offspring as the stars of the heaven and will give to your offspring all these lands. And in your offspring all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.”
Now, when God says this to Jacob in Genesis 28, it’s a particularly stout promise because Jacob was a single guy at this point. He didn’t even have a wife yet when God promised to give him kids like the dust of the earth. Then God said, “I’m going to bring you back to this land where you’re lying right now.” Listen to how Jacob responds in Genesis 28:16–22:
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.
He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.”
Follow this; it’s pretty simple. Jacob receives his promise from God, sets up an altar in this place and says, “This place where I slept last night is going to be God’s house, Bethel. I’m going to come back here.” I want you to look at a map to help you understand the geography of what’s happening here. In the southwest corner you see the city of Bethel. That’s where Jacob had this dream. Then look up in the northeast corner and you’ll see the city of Haran. That’s where Jacob is headed. Bethel is where God makes a promise to bring him back and Bethel is the place Jacob says he’s coming back to. Pretty simple.
In Genesis 29, Jacob makes the journey up to Haran and in a long and twisted story we don’t have time to go into today, he ends up amassing a large family with many sons, a daughter and a ton of possessions. Eventually, Jacob decides to return to Bethel—just like God had promised him and just like he had promised to God.
Turn now to Genesis 33. We’re fast forwarding now about 20 years. Listen to what happens in verses 18–20: “Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.” Hmm.
Now look back at that map with me one more time and notice where Shechem is. Jacob had gone all the way up to Haran, he was headed back to Bethel—just like God had told him and just like he had told God he would do. But you see, just north of Bethel is a place called Shechem. It’s about 20 miles short of Bethel—20 miles short. This is where, if you’re taking notes, I want you to see the first truth about blind spots.
Genesis 28–35 teaches us blind spots often seem small and subtle.
Twenty miles short—Jacob was almost there, almost to the place God had told him to come back to and the place he had told God he would return to. There was good business there, good opportunities for making money and increasing possessions, so he bought a plot of ground.
Put yourself in Jacob’s shoes. Imagine his thought process. “I’m close enough, right? It’s not like I’m going off here or there to the north or the east. I’m within 20 short miles. It’s not that big a deal.” This is the way sin works in all our lives, particularly sin we don’t want to see. “I’m not doing that bad, right? I mean, I could be doing a lot worse.” Think back to the slavery example. “I don’t treat my slaves as bad as other people do.” A hundred years later with the Jim Crow law, “It’s not like black people are slaves anymore; it’s just a different water fountain.” Fast forward to today. “We’re drinking out of the same water fountains. Racism is a thing of the past.” All the while we ignore racial injustice in the present, here and around the world.
Do you see this tendency in our lives? Again, slavery and racism are just one example. In so many facets of our lives, we are tempted to stop short and settle for less than all God has called us to, thinking it’s not a big deal because it could be worse. We’re pretty close. “It’s not like I’m sleeping around. I’m just looking at some images on my phone, on my computer. It’s just thoughts I’m entertaining. I’m not actually acting on them.” Let’s be honest with each other—we are so desensitized to sexual immorality that it doesn’t shock us to watch it on a screen or indulge in it in our lives. We could be worse, right?
Or consider other areas. Gossip—who doesn’t do that? It’s almost like the air we breathe in ways we don’t even recognize. Materialism—it’s our way of life. It’s normal to prioritize spending on ourselves and to give so relatively little to those in urgent need.
The picture here is not just things we do, but things we stop short of doing. That’s the whole picture here. Think about singles across our church who are tempted to stop short of God’s call to purity, holiness and single-minded devotion to Him. Again, you could be a lot worse. I think about married men and women tempted to stop short of loving, caring for, serving and nurturing our spouses, as God has called us to.
Parents are tempted to stop short of teaching their kids to pray, study God’s Word and prioritize what really matters in the world. And we justify not praying with them or reading the Bible with them or prioritizing things that really matter because, well, “We could be a lot worse.” Children are tempted to disobey their parents in small, subtle ways. “It’s not that big a deal.” We could go on listing examples all day long.
But do you see the strategy of Satan in our lives? Satan does not normally come to us and tempt us to just immediately jump off the deep end. Instead, he tempts us to stop short, because the reality is if he can get you to stop this short at this point, he can get you to stop a little shorter, a little shorter, a little shorter…and before long, you’re in a place where you’re wondering, “How did I get here?” Blind spots often seem small and subtle, like they’re no big deal.
Did you notice the first thing Jacob did when he stopped short? He bought this piece of land in Shechem, he set up an altar and he called it El-Elohe-Israel, which means, “God, the God of Israel.” Here’s Jacob living in disobedience, stopping short of what God has told him to do and what he told God he would do, and the first thing he did was set up an altar.
Please don’t miss this. Religion is the biggest cover-up for sin we don’t want to see. Religion is the biggest cover-up for disobedience in our lives. Throughout the Bible then, throughout this room and other churches today, we have mastered the art of religious activity before God devoid of relational obedience to God. We see it in church-going slave owners in the past. We see it in the rampant materialism across the church in the present. We see it in every single one of our lives.
We can actually fool ourselves into thinking we’re doing all right as long as we’re in church, as long as we pray, read the Bible here and there, as long we have some semblance of religious activity. But in reality, God is not interested in our religion. God is interested in our obedience. God does not desire— actually, He’s sickened by—our songs and prayers when they are disconnected from the surrender of our lives.
Where are you stopping short?
So let’s just stop for a minute and ask ourselves right now, where are you stopping short right now? In your life, think “head, heart, hands.” In what ways are your thoughts not completely honoring to God? In what ways are your desires not completely pleasing to God? In what ways are your actions not bringing glory to God? In what ways are your relationships not reflecting God? How and where are you stopping short?
I ask this question, not just of the followers of Jesus, because there are others today who are exploring Christianity and you’re being tempted to stop short and say, “Hey, I’m a pretty good person. I’m here in church, aren’t I? I don’t need to take this step of surrendering my life to following Jesus. I’m doing all right.”
Maybe some of you might call yourself a Christian, but you’ve settled into a pretty casual, nominal, in-name-only Christianity that is content to give Jesus a nod here or there in your life, when in reality He is not your life. Which could be worse, right? Don’t miss it: blind spots often seem small and subtle, like they’re no big deal, so we convince ourselves they’re no big deal.
Genesis 28–35 teaches us blind spots eventually prove extremely costly.
This leads into the second truth we need to see: blind spots eventually prove to be extremely costly. Read what happens in Shechem, just 20 miles short of Bethel, in Genesis 34: “Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her.”
Just in case you didn’t catch what just happened, Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter, was just violated by the ruler’s son in Shechem. What happens after that is Jacob actually enters into discussions with the men of Shechem, and because this son of the ruler wanted to be married now to Dinah, the men of Shechem agree to be circumcised.
This is another part of the story that we don’t have time to go into today, but it was a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The men of Shechem agree to it in order to be able to have business dealings with all of Jacob’s sons. Basically now we have an entire city faking religion to gain a business advantage, which all leads to verse 25. Watch this with me:
On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.
This is a horrifying picture. Jacob’s sons become murderers, killing every male in Shechem, then looting the entire land. If we were to keep going, we would see by this time Jacob’s house is filled with foreign gods and idols. Do you see the picture? This is Jacob, the one who would receive God’s promise of blessing. His daughter has now been violated, his sons have become murderers and could have started an all-out war in the land of Canaan. His house is full of idols and it all happened because he stopped 20 miles short.
No big deal, right? Ladies and gentlemen, Jacob had no idea what his blind spot—his seemingly small, subtle stopping short—would cost, not only him, but the people around him. I pray that through His Word today, God would open our eyes to this same truth in our lives. God is speaking through His Word to you and me. When we settle for what seems like small, subtle disobedience in our lives, we have no idea what it will cost, not only each of us, but people around us.
Just think about the examples we’ve mentioned. Slavery, lack of civil rights and racism was and still is extremely costly to generations of people. Materialism, the idolatry of money, the love of more possessions while ignoring the poor is extremely costly. Sexual immorality doesn’t just cost you—it costs your spouse or your future spouse, it costs your kids, your family. Looking at that website, that image, doesn’t just affect you—it affects those closest to you. And not just people close to you, but also people far from you.
There many people in the world today who look in the church and see pastors, leaders, professing followers of Jesus who live just like everybody else in the world—just as corrupt, just as sexually immoral, just as selfish. All they do is tack Jesus on to their Sundays. The world says, “I don’t get it and I don’t really want anything to do with it.”
Compromise with sin is extremely costly for the display of Christ to a world that desperately needs to see His sacrificial love and His selfless life on display. Don’t underestimate the cost of what seems like small, subtle sin.
The Bible is filled with stories like this. For example, Lot’s wife in Genesis 19 simply, subtly glances back, when she’s been told by God not to do so, and all of a sudden she’s dead.
It’s Moses’ seemingly simple, small, subtle sin in the book of Numbers that keeps him from going into the Promised Land. When we get to Joshua 7, we’ll see a man named Achan steal some possessions, hide them under his tent to keep for himself, which leads to 36 people being killed, then his whole family— his wife and children—dying. Joshua 7 is a potent picture of how your sin inevitably affects not only your physical family, but also your spiritual family. Your sin, my sin—our sin affects people in our homes and people in our churches.
We could keep going on and on. King David’s simple, subtle glance at a roof top one day led to death and destruction across the entire kingdom he led.
O God, open our eyes to the cost of compromise in our lives.
Ladies and gentlemen, I urge you, don’t believe the lie that your sin only affects you. It’s not true. Hear the Bible saying loud and clear this week, “It’s not true.” Sin—particularly the blind spots we don’t want to see, that we refuse to see—inevitably proves to be extremely costly to you and to people around you.
Is this not heavy? It almost feels hopeless, but it’s not. Here’s the good news and this is what I love about the Bible. The Bible does not shy away from hard realities in this world. The Bible does not paint a glossy picture that’s disconnected from our experience. The Bible is true to the hard, messed up realities of life. But, it doesn’t leave us there. The Bible leads us to hope. Thankfully this story of Jacob’s life doesn’t end with the cost of compromise in Genesis 34. Look now at Genesis 35:
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.” So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around
them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.
Is anybody here today thankful to worship a God Who gives second chances? Anybody thankful for third chances? Fourth and fifth and sixth? Please don’t miss this last truth about blind spots from the story of Jacob.
Genesis 28–35 teaches us when God opens our eyes, blind spots can become new starts.
God comes to Jacob and says, “It’s time for a new start. Clean your house, get rid of the foreign gods you are worshiping and go to the place I told you I’d take you.” Don’t miss the beauty of this passage. Did you catch verse three? Jacob said, “Let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” This is such good news. This is our hope. For all who trust in God, even when we stop short, even when we compromise with sin, the holy God of the universe answers us in the day of our distress. He is with us. He has been with us the whole time.
Hear this good news. In the middle of our disobedience, even then God does not abandon us. This is grace. This is the gospel. This is the greatest news in all the world. God has not left sinners alone in their sin. God is not just with us; He came to be with us in the Person of Jesus Who paid the price for us. Jesus died on the cross for all of our stopping short—for all of our stopping way short. Jesus has died for all of our sin. No matter how far we’ve stopped short, Jesus has made a way for us to be forgiven of our sin, cleansed of all our sin and restored to right relationship with God.
All glory be to Jesus! All glory be to the God Who does not abandon us in our sin. All glory be to the God Who saves us from our sin and purifies us from it!
God says to Jacob, “Get up and leave this behind. Come and experience all I’ve designed for you.” God says to us, “You don’t have to live in your sin. You don’t have to stay 20 miles short or 200 miles short. I will lead you to experience that which is best for you.” Ladies and gentlemen, hear the God of the universe saying to you right now, “I am the Author of new starts. Let Me open your eyes to see sin in your heart and your life, then let Me lead you to experience the full abundant life I have created for you.”
It is indeed abundant. Look what happens in Genesis 35:9–10: “God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he called his name Israel.
Do you see this? God says to Jacob, “You’re no longer going to be called Jacob—cheater, conniver. You now have a new name, Israel—one who strives with God.” God gives him a new name. Don’t miss this in your life. It’s not the exact same as Jacob; God doesn’t change your name to Israel. But when you come to God, when you trust in His grace, when you put your faith in Jesus as the Savior of your sin and surrender your life to Him, God says, “You are no longer named Guilty; you are now named Righteous. You are no longer called Slave to Sin; you are now called Free from Sin. You are no longer headed toward an eternal death; you now have eternal life. You are no longer called Condemned before God; you are now called Child of God. You’re no longer named Sinner; you are now named a Son or Daughter of God.” By His grace, God gives us a new name and He gives us new life. Let’s pick up with Genesis 38:11:
And God said to him, “I am God Almighty: be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.” Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.
Jacob had no idea what God had in store for him, if only he would get to Bethel. “A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body.” What does that mean? In Genesis 49 we’re going to read about one of Jacob’s sons, Judah, receiving a promise that one day from his line will come a King to Whom all nations will bow. In the rest of the story over the course of this year, a king named David will come from the line of Judah, then later in the year from the line of king David will eventually come a King named Jesus. Jacob had no idea what God was going to do in and through his line, if only he would get to Bethel and not stop short.
Let’s play “what if” for a second. What if there in Shechem—where Jacob had stopped, Dinah had been violated and his sons had become murderers—they had started an all-out war in the land of Canaan? What if Jacob’s family had been put in major jeopardy at that point? What if something had happened to Judah? Without Judah, we don’t have the line of David, and without the line of David we don’t have the line the leads to Jesus. Without Jesus, every sinner including you and me would die in separation from God’s salvation.
Genesis 28–35 leads us to praise God for saving us
Now obviously that’s not how this story unfolds. Praise God, He is sovereign in accomplishing His purpose to save sinners. But don’t miss the whole picture. From the beginning of the Bible, Jacob had no clue what God would do in and through him, if only he would get to Bethel.
I am convinced that you have no idea what God wants to do in and through your life, if only you will give yourself to Him and to all He is calling you to do, me to do, us to do together. I certainly want to experience all God wants to do in and through my life. Don’t you? Don’t you want to experience all that the God Who created you and knows what is best for you has designed you to experience in your life? Don’t we want to experience together as a church all God wants to do in and through us? We don’t want to settle for this monotonous, religious, casual routine. Don’t we want to be part of something so much greater than ourselves here and around the world? Don’t we want to experience God’s grace to the fullest extent we can and spread God’s glory to the farthest ends of the earth?
Let’s do it. Let’s not stop short. Let’s ask God to open our eyes to blind spots in our lives. Let’s ask God to help us see sin that we don’t want to see.
As I was praying through this, I saw two major barriers to God opening our eyes to blind spots in our lives. One is isolation from true biblical, multi-faceted fellowship with the body of Christ. One of the reasons we don’t see blind spots is because we don’t have other brothers and sisters in Christ around us who will help us see those spots. I would say in particular, brothers and sisters who are different from us—ethnically, socio-economically, at different ages and stages of life—who will help us see. If we isolate ourselves, or even surround ourselves with and listen to only people who look like us and think like us, then we will be much more prone to live with blind spots. We need to be in true biblical, multi faceted fellowship where we’re listening to and learning from people who are different from us with humility.
That leads to the second major barrier to seeing blind spots in our lives: pride. As I prayed for you coming into today, my biggest fear is that some of you will hear this word from God today and will walk away saying, “I don’t have blind spots in my life. I don’t want to see blind spots in my life. I’m fine in Shechem. It’s not too far off.” Or some will say, “I’m so far off, so far short, I’m so far from Bethel I don’t even know where to begin.”
I just want to urge you—whether you are one mile short or 1,000 miles short—to say to God today, “I want to experience all You have for me. Please open my eyes to sin I don’t want to see. Please keep my pride from getting in the way. Please open my eyes to sin that I need to see in my life. Please grant me the humility to hear and the courage and faith to leave it behind, to trust You and by Your grace to experience all You have for me.” Would you say that to God specifically today? Think about examples we’ve used today.
God, rid us of any and all racism in our hearts and minds. Make us the multi-cultural, multi ethnic, multi-faceted church You desire us to be. Help us live for justice in a world where racism remains a reality. God, rid us of materialism. Make us the sacrificial, generous, compassionate, selfless people You desire us to be, spreading Your grace in a world of urgent need.
God, make us the husbands, wives, parents, children, single men and women You’ve called us to be in a confused world. God, cause our thoughts to be completely aligned with Your thoughts. Cause our desires to be completely aligned with Your desires. Cause our actions to look more and more like Jesus. God, uncover our blind spots and cause us to be and do all You’ve created and called us to be and do.
Here’s how I want to close. I want to give you just a moment to pause and reflect. I want to invite you to pray and ask God what He would show you. Some of you already know—it’s clear in your life. Even as we’ve walked through this Word, the Spirit of God has been opening your eyes to places where you’re stopping short. Some of you need to just stop and say, “God, what sin do I need to see in my life?”
I want to invite you to take a couple minutes, right where you are, to write out your reflections. Maybe it’s to write, “God, please forgive me for…” and then you just fill in the blank. Or maybe it’s, “God, I want to do this or that that You’re calling me to do. Help me to do this or that that I know You’re calling me to do. Or to stop doing this or that that I know You’re calling me not to do.”
Maybe it’s to say for the first time truly to God, “I want to trust in Jesus to forgive me of my sin. I want to follow Jesus as Lord of my life.” I pray that this new start might happen all across this room today. When God by His grace opens our eyes, blind spots can become new starts. So what does a new start need to look like for you today?
In light of the fact that God is the Author of new starts, I think it’s pretty awesome to spend a few minutes before Him, just saying, “God, what new starts need to happen in my heart and life?” I want to invite you to begin spending that time right now with Him. You might be hesitant to write down certain things where you’re stopping short because you’ve got people around you.
Obviously they shouldn’t be looking at what you’re writing; just stay focused on what you’re praying about. “God I confess this to You.” You and God know what that is. Let me invite us to do this right now. We’re not just going through religious motions Sunday after Sunday. We’re before a holy God right now, and He’s speaking to us. How do we need to respond? Let me invite you to start to respond now, just between you and God, where you’re sitting, then I’ll close in prayer.
Pray for help
O God, we need You. We need Your help. We are all—and I put myself at the front of the line— we’re all prone to stop short in so many different ways. We need You to save us from ourselves, to save us from what we think is best, what we think is good, what we think is wise, instead of trusting what You say is best, what You say is good, what You say is wise. Save us from our impulse to do things that are not glorifying to You. God, please help us.
Even as we pray this, we praise You that You answer us in the day of our distress. You are with us. Jesus, we praise You for coming to pay the price for all our sin. Not only to die for our sin so we could be forgiven, but to set us free from it. We trust Your promise today that we don’t have to stay in Shechem. Even sin that feels so controlling in our lives doesn’t have control over us when we are in You. You have given us victory over sin, so help us to experience and walk in that victory. Help us go with You to Bethel and experience all You have for us in our lives. God, I pray for that in my own life and I pray for that for every single person sitting in this room right now. We pray for that for us as a church.
We want to experience all You have for us, individually and together as a church. Help us to trust You. Give us humility to see sin we don’t want to see, to turn from it and, by Your grace, to run into all You have created us for and called us to. May it be so, we pray, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
How can we apply this passage to our lives?
What does our tendency to get defensive when others offer correction say about our sinful condition?
How is someone pointing out our blind spots a means of grace?
In what areas of your life are you tempted to stop short of what God has commanded you to do?
According to the sermon, how is religion the biggest cover-up for sin we don’t want to see?
What are two major barriers to God opening our eyes to blind spots in our lives?
“A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Genesis 28:10 – 15
“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.’”
Genesis 28:16 – 22
“Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’ So early in the morning Jacob took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called the name of that place Bethel, but the name of the city was Luz at the first. Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.’”
Genesis 33:18 – 20
“And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan aram, and he camped before the city. And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.”
1. Blind spots often seem small and subtle.
Religion is the biggest cover-up for sin we don’t want to see.
2. Blind spots eventually prove extremely costly.
Genesis 34:1 – 4
“Now Dinah the daughter of Leah, whom she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, the prince of the land, saw her, he seized her and lay with her and humiliated her. And his soul was drawn to Dinah the daughter of Jacob. He loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her. So Shechem spoke to his father Hamor, saying, ‘Get me this girl for my wife.’”
Genesis 34:25 – 29
“On the third day, when they were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon, and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males. They killed Hamor and his son Shechem with the sword and took Dinah out of Shechem’s house and went away. The sons of Jacob came upon the slain and plundered the city, because they had defiled their sister. They took their flocks and their herds, their donkeys, and whatever was in the city and in the field. All their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses, they captured and plundered.”
Genesis 35:1 – 7
“God said to Jacob, ‘Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.’ So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, ‘Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.’ So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem. And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob. And Jacob came to Luz (that is, Bethel), which is in the land of Canaan, he and all the people who were with him, and there he built an altar and called the place El-bethel, because there God had revealed himself to him when he fled from his brother.”
3. When God by His grace opens our eyes, blind spots can become new starts.
“. . . let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”
Genesis 35:9 – 10
“God appeared to Jacob again, when he came from Paddan-aram, and blessed him. And God said to him, ‘Your name is Jacob; no longer shall your name be called Jacob, but Israel shall be your name.’ So he called his name srael.”
Genesis 35:11 – 15
“And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty, be fruitful and multiply. A nation and a company of nations shall come from you, and kings shall come from your own body. The land that I gave to Abraham and Isaac I will give to you, and I will give the land to your offspring after you.’ Then God went up from him in the place where he had spoken with him. And Jacob set up a pillar in the place where he had spoken with him, a pillar of stone. He poured out a drink offering on it and poured oil on it. So Jacob called the name of the place where God had spoken with him Bethel.”