Sunday, March 15, 2020

1 John 4:7- 5:5 GOD’S LOVE AND OUR LOVE

John turns somewhat abruptly from his discussion of true and false teachers (4:1-6) to make yet another appeal to his readers, that they should love one another. In fact, this is now the third time that he exhorts his readers to love one another. [1]  This subject obviously weighs heavily on his mind.

Let us remind ourselves of what we have seen and learned previously. John started his letter with a great statement about the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1-4). He has seen Jesus personally in the flesh. He has looked upon Him and touched Him (1:1).  He was of the inner circle of Jesus, and he is frequently referred to as the disciple whom Jesus loved[2]

Church history tells us that the apostle John lived into the late 90’s of the first century. He was the last surviving apostle. John is literally a first generation Christian. He is a man who had walked with Jesus for a long way. His personal acquaintance, knowledge and experience of Jesus is profound.  We learn much about Jesus from the gospel of John, the three letters of John and from the Revelation to John.  He was known as the apostle of love. That is what happens if you spend a lifetime with Jesus. He became so much like Jesus.

The subject of love is at the heart of our text. In fact, this subject is at the heart of this entire letter. It is at the heart of John’s life and ministry.  This love however, does not stand on its own. It is rooted in the person of Jesus. It is rooted in the very being of God. It gives definition to God’s being: God is love!   (4:8,16)

It is very clear that John’s Christian readers were struggling with the world in which they were living. Their confidence in Christ was being undermined.  They needed answers and assurances from this senior brother and pastor. This was all due to the fact that their world (like our world) was contaminated by sin. The current worldwide   outbreak of the Covid-19 virus serves us with an illustration in terms of how pervasive and devastating sin is.    The devil [3] is the originator of sin in the world. He “has been sinning from the beginning” (3:8). “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (5:19).The devil, through the spirit of the anti-Christ [4] (2:18) takes people captive by replacing Christ[5] with other loves. This he does by making them focus on the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life (2:16). His agents on earth are deceivers, false prophets and false spirits (2:26;3:7; 4:1-6). They were replacing the Lord Jesus Christ and substituting His truth by promoting error in the world. False thinking about Jesus has leads humanity astray into sin of all kinds.

Even Christians get led astray. When sin and false thinking about Jesus dominates a Christian’s life, they struggle with lack of assurance, because the centre does not hold.  
Sin also infects fellowship; it affects our sense of assurance. It robs us of our joy. Walking in darkness (1:6); not loving the brothers (2:9,11; 3:10,15,17);  loving the world (2:15); accepting  false teaching about Christ  (2:18ff; 4:1-6)  are all hindrances  to our fellowship, assurance and joy

1 John 4:7-5:5

And so we take note that this is the third time that John addresses the matter of loving one another. The word for love here and throughout his letter is the distinct Christian word, ‘agape’. The possession of this unique   love is one of the evidences and assurances that one is a born again believer.  Remember again, that John wrote this letter to provide his readers with assurance and real joy. And again we must be reminded that the devil was hard at work through the spirit of the anti-Christ, the false prophets and the deceivers to undermine this assurance, by undermining the public’s confidence in Jesus.  This is very important for us to see.  Notice that John was busy writing about the importance of loving one another in 3:11-24, when he interrupted himself to speak about the disruptive work of Satan and his agents in 4:1-6 before he continues to speak about the importance of love again in 4:7-5:5.

The point is this. If you destroy the true testimony of Jesus, you destroy the true origin and meaning of love. If you can undermine confidence in the source of Christian love, you make agape love, Christian love, less profound than it is. So, it is important to see that John does not divorce truth (as it is in Jesus and God) from the exercise of love.  Love in itself without truth is merely sentimental. It is unprincipled. Conversely, truth without love can be harsh. John keeps the balance.  The child of God both believes, AND loves (see 3:23). John wants Christians to be rooted in Jesus- who is the truth, AND he wants them to exhibit the love of Jesus at the same time.    

So, as we look at our passage, we see that John is on about two things:
(i)               He wants us to see that the source of love is God. He wants us to draw from that source.
(ii)             He wants us to reflect God’s love. This is proof or assurance that we are the children of God. (Remember that this letter is about assurance!) 

In  4:7a    we see this clearly:  “Beloved, let us love one another for love is from God.”

Three things:

(i)               Notice how John lovingly addresses his readers: beloved (agapētoi) cf. 4:1,7,11. He leads by example. He practises what he preaches. He loves his readers
(ii)             The source of love (agapē) is from God. God is love (4:8). God defines love. He gives us the capacity to love  (cf. Rom 5:5)
(iii)           True believers manifest this love towards fellow Christians.

4:7b,8  “… and  whoever loves  has been  born of God and knows God. 8. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  The presence or absence of such love determines whether one has been born again, and whether one knows God, or whether one is not born again and therefore doesn’t know God.  John makes his argument in a positive and in a negative way (Hebrew parallelism[6])

SUMMARY: Our text speaks about God, the source of love, and the believer as he / she reflects the love of God, particularly now among fellow believers.  In the text that follows,  John repeats this  thought in one way and another. We are not going to deal with the rest of our  text systematically but  thematically.  Let us then see what else we can learn about God, the source of love and the believer as he/she  expresses the love of God in practical ways to his /her fellow believer.   

1.     God – the Source of love

·       4:7 Love is from God
·       4:8  God is love. See also 4:16
·       4:9  The love of God was made supremely manifest in the giving of  Jesus  cf. John 3:16)
·       4:10a  (see also  4:19) The prior love of God. He loved us first.
·       4:10b He gave His Son as a propitiation for our sins. Propitiation = In Christ’s sacrifice God deals with the problem of His own righteous anger towards us. [Expiation = In Christ’s sacrifice God deals with the problem of our personal sin, by effectively removing  it. A ‘double cure’ is needed]

2.     The Believer – under obligation to  show the love of God  in their  love  for  fellow believers

John works  out the application of love in two ways:
(i)               Loving one another (positive)
(ii)             What  happens if  we  do not love one another (negative)

The act of loving one another is motivated by the understanding of the amazing manifestation of God’s love in 4: 9-11. John’s conclusion is, “Beloved, if God  so loved us  (in this wonderful  and astonishing manner), we also ought to love one another.   
Conversely, John spells out the implications of not loving one another. It is a sure sign of not being born again and of not knowing God experientially (4:7b). In particular  John challenges us that it is impossible to say that one is a Christian if one bears hatred in their heart towards  a brother or sister  cf. 4:20. (cf. 2:9-11) 

A  few more  general observations

1.     The call to love is rooted in the commandment of God (4:21, 5:2,3). Why must we love our brothers?  Because God has commanded it. Period!

2.     A word about the perfection of God’s love in the believer (cf. 4:12,17,18). Very often we sense that we are not perfect in the application of love. The perfection spoken about does not relate here to the fact that we always succeed, but the fact that God has placed within us a perfect and loving Saviour. I will find that I more I trust Him and the more I rely upon Him the more I shall find  supernatural capacity even to love  and  forgive my  enemy!  The Christian life lived by faith in the indwelling Christ constantly amazes.  Another wonderful   fact that relates to our assurance is found in  4:17,18: ”By this is love perfected with us  so that  we may have confidence (assurance)  on the day of judgement.”  The more we trust in Christ, the more our love is perfected, the less we shall fear the coming judgement.  And another wonderful  by-product of  a perfected love is this:  “There is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear, for fear has to do with punishment”. And again conversely,  “Whoever fears has not been perfected  in love.” (4:18

3.     A key word (also found in John 15) for maintaining biblical love is ‘abiding‘ (cf.4:12,13,15,16). Being rooted in Christ is the key. The Holy Spirit helps us in this regard (4:13)

5:1-5 Believing in Christ is the key to being able to manifest biblical love

As we close we take note how important it is to root our life entirely in Christ (5:1,5). All the fears, imperfections of our lives in this world are taken care of when we abide and grow  in Christ. Again, we take note how we cannot truly love without being rooted in the truth of Christ. The truth of Christ leads to authentic love. Sadly, so often a wedge is driven between those two things. We hear people say, “Doctrine (absolute insistence upon truth) divides! We need to stop talking about all this doctrine and just love one another.” As far as John is concerned, you cannot do that.  Truth as it is in Jesus energises love. Apart from this it is watered down. Truth and love go hand in hand. They cannot be separated without damage to one or the other.

I trust that you realise what is at stake here. I trust that you now appreciate the closing words in 5:3-5. This poor, messed up world will not be conquered and overcome if we do not continue to believe and abide in Christ, and if we are not ruled by the love of God. In fact the world will overcome and conquer us. We have relied on false versions of love for far too long.  And sadly we see that this compromise of church, and of many Christians, has led Christianity to be in such an impoverished state in our own society, and now the world is poorer for our absence. This world needs the truth driven love of God. You are God’s representatives.  Go and do something about it. It is not a suggestion. It is a command from God.  

[1] Cf. 1 Jn. 2:7-11 ; 3:11-18
[2] John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7,20
[3] 1 John 2:13,14; 3:8,12
[4] 2:18,22
[5] That’s  what anti-Christ means –“ in place of”
[6] E.g. for further study   about Hebrew parallelism :

Sunday, March 1, 2020


General Outline 

1.     John’s  great objective  for writing this letter is found in 1 John 1:4 : “ ... and we are writing these things that your joy may be complete …”. That is the goal of the gospel- to give us true joy, even in the midst of many trials and troubles.

2.     This joy is possible, because believers (whom John calls “my little children”[1]) have fellowship with the Father and the Son (1:3) by the help of the Holy Spirit (3:24; 4:13)[2].

3.     This joy can be undermined quickly, and our sense of assurance may be affected when unconfessed sin has a hold on the believer. Sinning believers are urged to run to their Advocate for help (2:1). Habitual sin  proves that one is not a Christian (see 3:4-8

4.     John provides a number of tests by which we may know what are children of God (light) and what are children of the devil (darkness).  He shows us that the spirit of Christ constantly clashes with the spirit of the anti- Christ.  Righteousness clashes with unrighteousness. John wants his readers to have a sense of assurance, by helping them to understand the nature of   biblical faith, whilst also exposing false   forms of faith.

5.     One of the big marks of the children of God is their capacity to reflect the love of God that has been given to them (3:1 cf. Rom. 5:5) particularly as it relates to our brothers and sisters in the faith.

We now come to consider 1 John 3:11-24
Our text is rooted in what we have considered last week in 2:28-3:10. Let us revise what we learned there: 

1.   2:29: The imputed righteousness received from God in Christ enables the believer to practise righteousness.

2.     In 3:1ff we are told that the love of God has been given to every believer. And in John’s eyes we are the beloved.[3] The inevitable outcome of this love is that we love God so much that we want to obey His commandments (1:3). The greatest application of that commandment is that we must love our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is the greatest mark of Christlikeness (3:3). It is the sign given to the world by which the world may know that Christians are like God i.e. godly (see John 3:34,35).  Part of expressing that love is that we do not love what the world loves (2:15). In fact, biblical love is hatred of sin (3:4ff). Sin is of the devil for the devil has been sinning from the beginning (3:8). So, any definition of biblical love needs to incorporate a hatred for that which is contrary to the nature of God. But love cannot only be known by that which it disapproves. Love must be shown in a practical sense to our Christian brothers and sisters. 

3.     In 3:8-10 we take note of the 2 family groupings of mankind in this world. There are the children of God and the children of the devil. That is the only proper division that can be made on this earth. John makes a distinction between light and darkness, believers and unbelievers, children of God and children of the devil.    

So, with this is mind we are able to consider our text in 1 John 3:11-18.  Here we shall find two profound  thoughts expressed by John:

1.     3:11-18  Profound distinction  made between the two families of the earth.
2.     3:19-24  Profound pastoral counsel  given.

1.     A Profound Distinction

John likes to state things in clear terms. There are no grey areas in John's theology. The two key words, which distinguish these two families are (i) hate and (ii) love.  We are no strangers to these terms, for John has already introduced us to them in 2:7-11.

(i)           The family which is of the devil is represented by Cain. “Cain, who was of the evil one… murdered his brother… because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” [4] (3:12). This family’s chief trait is hate. This family’ history starts with jealousy and it ends in murder. This family’s history continues in the world. This family killed the true prophets, because it despises and hates the truth of God. The Pharisees etc. hated Christ so much, that they murdered him.  That is why John adds this thought, “Do not be surprised brothers, that the world hates you.” (3:13). Jesus often warned his disciples concerning this.[5]  This conflict continues. Having been born in the last century  I never thought  that I would see such hatred  of the world for the Christian faith. I grew up in a society where Christ and the church were largely revered. This has changed totally, and all around the world Christians are now mocked, despised, persecuted and killed.

(ii)      The family of God is represented by Abel, and more specifically by our federal head, Christ. This family’s chief trait is love.  “For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (3:11). This family is motivated by the love of God, which is imputed, or given  to the members of this family (cf. 3:1; 4:10,19).

What we learn here is that basic attitudes lead to basic actions. You will ultimately display what is in you.

(i)           If you are driven by the world’s way of thinking, rooted in the fall and acting as a fallen person, your fallen attitudes will lead to a life of hatred. It may not lead to physical murder, but we only need to be reminded of the words of our Lord Jesus in Matt. 5:21-26, where we are reminded that there is no moral difference between the murderer and the hater. Both Jesus and John say that hating is akin to murder.  Anyone possessed with perpetual hatred or jealousy or envy towards a brother or sister cannot claim to have eternal life (3:15).  Such a person cannot claim  to be  indwelt  by the Holy Spirit (3:24,4:13).

(ii)         By way of contrast, if you are indwelt by the love of Christ, that attitude will  lead to a very different action. “Christ laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers“ (3:16). Verse 17 continues to explain what this laying down of our lives means. It may not necessarily mean that we have to die for others. But something in us has to die. We must die to our own comforts and desires when it comes to the suffering we see in our brothers and sisters.  We cannot be indifferent to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of our brothers (3:17).  Love is not an academic exercise. It is very practical (3:18).  Love is in deed and  in truth. We hear echoes of James 2:14-17.

Please note that these two contrasting attitudes and actions issue in two contrasting destinies, and they are summed up in 3:14: “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death”.
And so we must observe that practical love for our brothers and sisters is a defining mark of the Christian. If you have it this will be an assurance to you. If you don’t have it, you should be very concerned.

2.     1 John 3:19-24:  Wise Pastoral  Counsel

Most of us find that we have problems with assurance at some stage of our spiritual walk. Now may be the moment. You have been listening to this and you may be saying to yourself. “I wonder whether I am a Christian at all? Am I not failing this test?” John, in this section is addressing the challenge of a condemning heart, and he will give us wise pastoral counsel.

3:19-20: “By this (or ‘in this’)  we shall know  that we are of the truth and reassure our hearts before Him; for whenever  our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything.”  John has just spoken about hating and loving brothers or sisters, and the consequences of that. Now we alone know our inner motives and struggles that we may have with a particular, brother or sister. We may feel that our hearts condemn us in this matter (3:19).  It is appropriate that this seasoned pastor and apostle John should stop here and deal with the hearts of his readers and listeners.
John does not encourage us to go into denial mode about these things. He wants to help us, and he wants to help our anxious hearts in this respect: “God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything.” (3:20). God is greater than our anxious hearts! It is not that God minimizes or ignores our failures. He knows us better than we do. He knows our imperfections.  So, when we face the crisis of a condemning conscience (and all Christians do, by virtue of their  sensitised hearts)  we  need to take that anxious conscience  to God, and  let Him work with us.

At times like this it is important not to get lost in the subjective experience of a moment of failure, but to fully  rest in the grace of God.  And we must  rest on the general tone and tenor  of our lives, and  based on  God’s truth and love  at work within us. We must  examine ourselves before God in prayer with regard to a particular situation or conflict that has arisen  between a brother /sister and ourselves. It may require repentance at that point (if we have truly sinned – do not just indulge in false guilt), but the main thing is that this is not  something that should rob us of  our peace. If our general behaviour is in line with the gospel, our heart after such examination  should not condemn  us.

From this follows the next line of argument. If our conscience do not condemn us we have confidence with God, and our prayers are in no way hindered (3:22). 

At all times we must remember that our assurance is not built by excessive navel gazing and introspection, but by looking  more to Jesus,  the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We are called to believe in the name of  his Son Jesus Christ (3:23)  and we need to revel in that relationship!   

John takes those many commandments  which  we need to obey (3:22)  and combines them all into  one great commandment ,”to  believe in the name  of his Son Jesus Christ, and to love one another.” (3:23) This is in essence the summary of the 10 commandments,  and of the Scriptures.

What then gives us ultimate peace and assurance? ANSWER ... believing in Christ.
What is the greatest outworking of our faith in Christ?  What are the fruit of our believing? ANSWER...that we love the brothers.  

Please note that  we must maintain that order, and never turn that order around. Never begin with the love  for your brothers. You will find enough to condemn you. The key  to  Christian assurance  is found  in that little word abiding (cf. John 15, and so many times in this letter)  - abiding  in God and God abiding in us (25:4a). Make sure that your relationship  with God is right. Everything else follows.

But, finally, how does He abide in us?...By the Spirit  whom he has given us (3:24b). No-one less than the Holy Spirit can give us this level of  assurance  (see also  Rom 8:16).

With God at the centre we can truly live as God’s beloved children. We can truly love, even imperfectly.  Our final assurance  rests  in God’s finished  work in Christ. Amen

[1] 2:1,12,18,28; 3:7,,18; 4:1; 5:21
[2] The work of the Holy Spirit in 1 John :  3:24; 4:2, 6, 13; 5:6,8
[3] 2:7;3:2,21; 4:1,7,11
[4] The story is recorded in Genesis 4
[5] Jn. 15:18,19,25; 16:1ff ;17:14

Monday, February 17, 2020

Genesis 34 - The Awful Consequences of Settling in the Wrong Neighbourhood "

1.       34:1-4 Defilement
2.      34:5-12 Devastation
3.      34:13-24 Deception
4.      34:25-31 Destruction

When we ended with Genesis 33 last time, we had no idea how serious the consequence of Jacob not settling in Bethel [lit. the house of God, the gate of heaven- see 28:17-22] would be.  When Esau returned to Seir (33:16), Jacob did not join him there, although he said he would (33:14). Well, good for him.  
He could have never fitted in under his brother’s yoke, and Esau was not a spiritually minded man. His future tribe, the Edomites would in fact become bitter enemies of Israel.

Instead Jacob went to Succoth on the east bank of the Jordan river and built for himself a house and made booths for his livestock (33:17). We saw that this was only temporary, for he moved on into Canaan, the promised land, and to the city of Shechem (33:18).There he bought a piece of real estate (33:19) from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, a key player in Chapter 34. This, we shall see will have devastating consequences for the family. He should never have settled in Shechem. He was called to go to Bethel.

Chapter 34 introduces us to the cost of this seemingly innocent decision. It produces a real chain of evil in terms of rape, deceit and massacre, and general unhappiness.

34:1-4  The Defilement of Dinah

Here we find the first consequence of disobedience.   Jacob had settled in family in a challenging neighbourhood.  Parents have a responsibility to consider the children’s moral and spiritual well being when they settle anywhere. And so we read that, “Dinah, the daughter of Leah, who she had borne to Jacob, went out to see the women of the land” (34:1).  Dinah was tempted. Dinah acted unwisely. The commentator H.C. Leupold says, “she should have known that Egyptians and Canaanites regarded unmarried women of foreign descent as legitimate prey.”[1]  She was asking for trouble. She should not have gone alone. By the way, even today Arab and Muslim women do not go into public places alone.  

Now Shechem (who had the same name as the city), one of the sons of Hamor saw her, seized her, lay with her and humiliated  (NIV violated) her. This was classic rape.  However, rather than throwing her away, as many rapists would do, (e.g. the rape of Tamar by Amnon- 2 Sam. 13:14-19) we are told that “his soul was drawn to Dinah… he loved the young woman and spoke tenderly to her“ (34:3).  He approaches his father Hamor and he asks him to negotiate her hand in marriage.

34:5-12 Devastation

Jacob’s response  is recorded in  34:4.  He held his peace”… until his sons came in from the fields with their livestock.  One can only guess what was going through Jacob’s  mind - “We should never have settled here”  or  “Am I the cause of my daughters misery”?   Whatever the case may be, it is clear that the consequences of Jacob's disobedience began to show. When his sons came home from the field, we read,”the men were indignant and very angry” …” this was an outrageous thing in Israel… such a thing must not be done” (34:7).  
The sons of Jacob  felt  violated. 
We also see that the sons of Israel thought of themselves as different from the Shechemites, who were Amorites or Canaanites, an accursed race by God (cf. Genesis  15:16[2]).  Even at this early stage of Israel’s history there is a distinctiveness about them. They knew themselves to be in  a  covenant which God had made with their fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. They were set apart by God. The law of God had been written upon their hearts in  a  distinct manner. They had higher moral values about marriage and sexual purity.  They would not intermarry with this tribe, so when Dinah was violated it was seen to be an outrageous thing in Israel.  

In the midst of this devastation and anger comes Hamor's  ‘innocent’ marriage proposal on behalf of his son.  Hamor did not feel sorrow for the wrong committed. Actually, it was going to be more than a marriage proposal. It was going to amount to a treaty, an invitation to Israel  to  integrate  with the people of Shechem, who are Amorite-Canaanites. It was, in spiritual terms an invitation to  compromise the covenant calling of Israel.  This is what happened to Lot, the nephew of Abraham, when he settled down in Sodom, mixing with the people of the land. We saw that he became compromised and corrupted.

Hamor’s marriage  proposal on behalf of his son Shechem  in 34:8-10  includes the following ‘reasonable’ arguments: 
(i) Shechem really loves Dinah  
(ii)  intermarriage will be beneficial to Jacob and his family. Jacob's family  would be  treated like citizens, with a  right to move freely in the country  and to  purchase property. 
(iii) In addition Shechem offers a bridal prize  whatever  Jacob and sons  would ask (34:11,12)

3.         34:13-24 Deception

The sons of Jacob, the brothers of Dinah,  raised  fundamental  religious  stumbling block to this marriage. They could not allow their sister to be married to an uncircumcised man from an uncircumcised tribe - see 34:14. They used the covenant stipulation of  Genesis 17:10 that ‘every male among you should be circumcised‘. But  34:13 indicates that they sensed an opportunity  for revenge here. We are told, “they answered Shechem and his father Hamor deceitfully”. Their religious talk was part of a shocking plan.  The nature of the deceit will become apparent in a moment.

For now we see that “their words pleased Hamor, and Hamor’s son Shechem” (34:18).  The request seemed reasonable to them because Hamor sold the idea to his fellow city dwellers as a good business proposal (34:21-23). All the men agreed.   The circumcision procedure would be painful and debilitating to the men for several days. On the third day after the procedure, the pain and inflammation would be at their peak, and so the plan moved from deception to destruction.

4.         34:25-31 Destruction

Simeon and Levi, who were the oldest full- blood brothers of Dinah, were taking on themselves the responsibility of revenge. They killed the entire male population of Shechem. They took back Dinah, they pillaged and looted  the  city of Shechem, even taking  their women and children as captives.

When Jacob  heard of this  he was deeply troubled. He was not consulted in this matter. His sons  acted unilaterally in this  matter. They said, “ We had a right  to do this -  no one is going to treat our sister like a prostitute”.


1.     Stick with God’s plan. God’s plan was for Jacob to settle in Bethel in Canaan, merely a day’s journey away, and not Shechem in Canaan. Compromises can sound so reasonable, but they carry big price tags.

2.     The presenting problem of our passage does not start with a rape, but a bad decision         on the part of the head of a household.

3.     Heads of their homes  have to lead  in good and godly  decision making, settling their families  in safe surroundings. Jacob disobeyed – yet again and Dinah should never have gone out unaccompanied into this city. Is this a case of bad parenting?

4.     Don’t use your religious position for evil – Don’t abuse the holy. The sons of Jacob took circumcision, the sign of the Old covenant and they utterly abused it.  They used this sign of the covenant to commit murder!  The stench of this action follows Simeon and Levi to the end of the book of Genesis. As Jacob is dying his final words  to Simeon and Levi are these, "Simeon and Levi are brothers; weapons of violence are their swords. Let my soul come not into their counsel; O my glory, be not joined to their company. For in their anger, they killed men, and in their wilfulness they hamstrung oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel. I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel." (Gen. 49: 5-7). 
Don’t use your Christian faith abusively.  
Don’t abuse the church. 
Don’t abuse  the act of worship to offer strange fire. 
Don’t abuse the holy.

5.     Remember  that  God had appointed Abraham and his offspring  to be a blessing to the nations.  Israel and the church are called to be distinct from the nations. The purpose of their distinctness was so that they would be a blessing to the nations and lead the nations into a relationship with the one true God.  Sadly we see here once again how the people of the covenant exhibit  a negative example of behaviour.  In this passage they are not a blessing, but a curse. The NT teaches us principles of holiness (i.e. not flirting with the world; trying to see how close we can get to the world, but to  be salt and light to the world – Matt 6). The NT also teaches us not to sin in our anger (Eph. 4:26) and to leave any judgement to God (Rom. 12:17-21). Sadly, in this passage, the sons of Jacob were not a blessing but a curse. Sadly, we learn here what depth of sin professing believers are capable of. When you sin, look to  your Advocate (1 John 2:1)

6.      The brutal honesty of the Bible: The Bible does not  sweep the sins of covenant children, and even  the sins of even the greatest of God's people, under the carpet. It  tells it like it is, and it does not excuse sin. Passages like this constantly drive us to the need for the gospel of God. “Who will deliver us from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom.7:24,25)   

This is a hard chapter to read, hear and  digest. But it serves as a warning to all of us.  1 Corinthians 10  reminds us that  the sins of  God’s covenant people   were judged severely (see  10 :1-10), and 1 Corinthians  10:11 has this  to say:
“Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written  down for our instruction, on whom  the end of the ages has come. Therefore  let  anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”  
Stay close to Jesus. Look to Him. Always. Amen

[1] H.C. Leupoldt: Genesis Vol 2. p. 898
[2] see  Deut.  2:25; Joshua 10:12  for fulfilment