Be Fruitful and Multiply — A Promise and a Command

Be Fruitful and Multiply — A Promise and a Command

We read the words “be fruitful and multiply” at least seven times in God’s Word. We find a similar message many times more. Prior to each command, God first gives a promise. Included with His promise comes an invitation to act.

It is January on the Canadian prairies and we are locked in a deep freeze. While snow swirls outside, gardeners huddle inside under fluffy blankets, flipping the pages of picturesque, seed catalogues and dreaming of spring. Gardening won’t be in my foreseeable future. Nevertheless, my thoughts turn to sunny days and warmer temperatures, inviting me to remember the potential hidden within the dormant form of long-dry seeds.

In the beginning, God planted within us His seed of desire to “be fruitful and multiply” — a fruitfulness beyond fields and flowers. With His call to action, He has already provided the means to carry it out.

“So God created human beings in his own image ... Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it …”
Genesis 1:27-28

A Seed

For many weeks, my heart has been stirring with this theme. Every blessing and promise God gives comes in the infant form of a seed. The fulfilment of His promise waits in our hands. Will we receive it to plant and nurture in our hearts — treasuring and investing in it. Or will we fail to value the seeds of promise God offers.

To Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob the promise and command came.

Then God said, “I am El-Shaddai—‘God Almighty.’ Be fruitful and multiply …
Genesis 35:11

The root meaning of El Shaddai is “The Overpowerer,” meaning God will do what He purposes to do, overpowering all opposition. Many others translate shaddai as “sufficient. Throughout the ages, God has shown Himself to be more than enough — all-sufficient for every need.

As God calls us to be “fruitful and multiply,” He also promises to be with us, enabling us to fulfil the command.

In Our Hands

Think of the many promises God gives in His Word. Each one comes to us as a seed to be received by grace and intentionally planted in our hearts. There we water it by faith and nurture it through action.

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions:

  • What seed do we hold in our hands?
  • What talents, abilities, opportunities, or resources do we have?
  • More importantly, what am I doing with them?

We may believe the seed to be worthless or dead. But as we place it into the fertile ground of faith, it will grow in ways we don’t understand. Only God knows the full potential we hold in our hands.

In Matthew 25:14-30, we read the parable of the talents. The Master called his servants together and “entrusted his wealth to them.” Wow! I’m not sure I would entrust all I own to someone like me. That is exactly what God continually does.

He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities …”
Matthew 25:15 

With trust comes responsibility!

Fruitful and Multiply

Most of you are familiar with the story. Two of the servants invested time and energy into what was put into their hands and doubled what had been given to them. The final servant attempted to blame the Master for his failure to be fruitful and multiply what he had received.

Of course, the Master, representing God, saw through the excuses, calling the servant “wicked and lazy.” He took back the “seed” of talent the unfaithful servant had been given and offered it to those who had already proved their ability to bring increase.

I can’t help but apply this warning to my own life. What excuses and self-justification keep me from planting the seeds of promise God has given to me?

Don’t we all desire to hear the Master’s commendation to the two faithful servants?

“The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’”
Matthew 25:23

“Well done! Let’s celebrate together!”

Promise

Each seed a farmer or gardener plants he sows with expectation. Planting begins a process of tilling the soil, pulling weeds, watering, fertilizing, and protecting the crop from damage. Only a foolish gardener would plant seeds and leave them unattended but still expect to later reap a full harvest.

Yet, in the realm of spiritual fruit, are we as vigilant? Are we worthy of the title “good and faithful” with everything God has put in our hands?

Though this may feel hard-hitting to some of you, these are the challenges God presses on my heart. The window of opportunity to plant what God has entrusted to us is limited. The Master will return. He fully expects that the promises He has given and the abilities He has entrusted to us will be used to produce a bounty.

El Shaddai, God Almighty, the Overpowerer, and All-Sufficient One is with us. He breathes promise upon the seeds He places in our hands. As we move into action cooperating with Him, we will see success.

With God, we can do it! Let’s be fruitful and multiply.

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Choose Battles Wisely – When to Fight and When to Walk Away

Choose Battles Wisely – When to Fight and When to Walk Away

In the upside-down world we live in, we must choose our battles wisely, knowing when to fight and when to just walk away. I don’t always have a clear direction to know when a fight is worth it.

My younger cousin and I would often wrestle. Both wiry and good-natured, the wrestling usually resulted in healthy competition and laughter. On one particular occasion, my cousin’s intentions shifted. My father sensed it and gave warning. This fight ended all future fights! I limped away with a black eye and bleeding nose, while he was unscathed. Though younger, he clearly overpowered me.

Dog Fight

It was the beginning of learning to choose my battles wisely!

Meet Jacob

Jacob was used to fighting. He fought his way out of the womb holding his brother Esau’s ankle, later robbing him of his birthright and blessing. Jacob lived up to his name, grasping the heel, taking advantage of and deceiving others.

The contention in the womb led Rebecca to seek God, “Why is this happening. . .?” (Gen 25:22)

“The LORD said, to her,
Two nations are in your womb,
and two peoples from within you will be separated;
one people will be stronger than the other,
and the older will serve the younger.”
Genesis 25:23

The battle between the two brothers grew so strong that Jacob fled for his life with only a staff and the clothes on his back. Alone, there was no one to swindle or fight, but himself.

Fighting FIsh

The first night away, Jacob had a God-inspired dream of a staircase to heaven. Jacob called the place Bethel, meaning the house of God.

“When Jacob awoke from his sleep,
he thought, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place,
and I was not aware of it.’
He was afraid and said,
‘How awesome is this place!‘ . . . “
Genesis 28:16-17

Jacob’s Match

After the long trek to his ancestor’s homeland, Jacob met both his future wife, Rachel, and her father, Laban. Jacob didn’t know it yet, but in Laban, he met his match.

Try as he might, he was unable to out-swindle and out-connive Laban who cheated him into marrying the wrong woman and changed his wages continuously.

“You know that I’ve worked for your father
with all my strength,
yet your father has cheated me
by changing my wages ten times.”
Genesis 31:6,7

After twenty years, Jacob learned to pick his battles; he ran for the hills instead of fighting (31:21,38). Sometimes, I’m just as slow in learning which match to engage and which to leave alone.

Cat Fight

Laban, though a cheat, was no fool. He recognized God’s blessing on Jacob created increased wealth in his coffers. Gathering a renegade mob, he pursued Jacob to bring him back, but God warned him against taking action.

Laban chose his battles wisely. Jacob he could handle, but once God stepped in, Laban backed out of the fight.

The Real Battle

Our ultimate battle isn’t against people or any political or economic system. The real battle we face rests within ourselves. The closer Jacob came to “home,” the closer he came to himself.

Genesis 32:1 says, “. . . the angels of God met him.”

I would appreciate a few more details, but none are given. Jacob knew he was entering hallowed ground. Yes, he was “in great fear and distress” over seeing his brother Esau, but a deeper foreboding cast its shadow. Jacob knew it (Gen 32:7).

Fighting Tigers

Finally, we witness a glimpse of the “new” Jacob: a humble Jacob, a contrite and God-seeking Jacob.

“Then Jacob prayed, ‘O God of my father Abraham,
God of my father Isaac, LORD . . .
I am unworthy of all the kindness
and faithfulness you have shown your servant,
I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan,
but now I have become two camps.
Save me, I pray,
from the hand of my brother Esau,
for I am afraid. . . ”
Genesis 32:9-11

What’s this! An honest Jacob, too!

A Battle Worth Fighting

In the night, whether through self-protection or God-direction, Jacob sent gifts ahead to Esau to pacify him” (Gen 32:20). In the middle of the night, Jacob also moved his entire household, servants and possessions across the Jabbok. A vicious battle was about to ensue. Unsure of the outcome, he moved everyone to safety.

“So Jacob was left alone,
and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.”
Genesis 32:24

Tearfully, I remember my moments “alone.” Moments of only God and me. Contending for His promises. Resisting His discipline. Questioning His agenda. It wasn’t easy with Jacob; its certainly wasn’t easy for me either.

Horse Fight

Did his family hear his screams of anguish, his groans of pain, or his wails for mercy from the other side of the stream? How far did his voice echo through the once still night?

Neither God nor Jacob relented. The past needed to be dealt with before the unfolding of Jacob’s future destiny. With not even a staff to lean on, Jacob faced God. It was both his darkest night and his brightest dawn.

God’s Discipline

Hosea offers insight into why God chose this battle wisely.

“The LORD . . . will punish Jacob according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
Hosea 12:2,3

This battle separated Jacob’s past from his future, from living in self-motivated deception to walking with the God of Truth, from contending in the flesh to trusting in the Spirit.

Jacob died that night! For “no one sees God and lives!” (Ex 33:20)

Bull Fight

In the dust of Jacob’s life, Israel rose. Israel struggled with God, walking out of personal darkness into the dawn of his purpose.

“. . . I saw God face to face,  
and yet my life was spared.”
Genesis 32:30

God is just and always good. Jacob’s corrupt nature had to die before he would receive God’s promised blessing. Whenever God brings up our past, His purpose is redemptive. God’s discipline always points to future hope.

“The Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Hebrews 12:6

God chooses His battles wisely with us, too.

Limping Forward

My battle left me with a black eye and bloody nose; Jacob’s left him with a permanent limp. Rather than a mark of weakness, the limp marked a man of divine strength — humble and submissive to His Lord.

“He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.”
Hosea 12:4

Everywhere Jacob went from that time forward, he would consecrate it to God. In Shechem, “he set up an altar and called it El Elohe Israel” (Gen 33:20).

God was no longer just the God of his ancestors, but now El Elohe Israel, his own Mighty God. God longs to be personal to each one of us — intimate and near.

Goat Fight

God brought Jacob back to Bethel, the stairway to heaven. Jacob consecrated his entire family in preparation. Now instead of running from God, Jacob ran to Him.

“God appeared to him again and blessed him . . .
you will no longer be called Jacob;
your name will be Israel‘ . . .
And God said to him, ‘I am God Almighty.”
Genesis 35:9-11

When we choose our battles wisely, we walk with new identity, albeit limping in humanity’s weakness, but princes and princesses of God, nonetheless.

God Almighty

Encounter by encounter, Jacob experienced an ever-increasing awareness of the God he contended with. Jehovah, LORD God of his fathers. Then as personal LORD, the I Am. In the face-to-face night encounter, Jacob found God to be imitate, loving and gracious, powerful and just. At Bethel, God revealed Himself as God Almighty, El Shaddai, the one who pours Himself out, liberally and completely.

The same is true for us! The longer we walk with God, battling through our internal issues and surrendering to His invitation to intimacy, the more we discovery His greatness and goodness.

Lion

Jacob learned to choose his battles wisely, walking away from the insignificant, making peace with his oppressors, leaving behind the deceivers, and contending with the only One with Whom it really mattered.

May we all choose our battles as wisely, discovering that God is present with us in an ever-increasing measure.