It is amazing how complete is the delusion that beauty is goodness. (Leo Tolstoy)
Imagine my delightful surprise when my youngest daughter, home for the summer from college, brought a big bouquet of Queen Ann’s Lace for me to enjoy indoors.
Imagine her absolute horror to discover it was not Queen Ann’s Lace but Hemlock instead.
How can you tell? They look so much alike!
We took a walk outside; she showed me where she picked the flowers…she was lured in by the bright berries growing in the midst. I showed her the difference between the two. From far away they look the same. On closer inspection the differences are subtle but obvious…once you know them.
I have a book of wildflowers and have studied herbs and their uses and possible dangers. I’ve learned to recognize the difference with close observation and trusting what I’ve come to know about them.
Both are from the same family, giving them their look alikeness.
Both are beautiful. One can be deadly.
Both have a gorgeous collection of tiny white blooms that make up the bigger flower you see from a distance. Upon closer inspection, Hemlocks umbrella is a bit more round and sparser. The Queen’s, flatter and wider.
Both have similar stem patterns with one major exception: the Queen has hairy legs whereas Hemlock’s are smooth….deceptively so.
It’s easy to be deceived.
* * * * * * * * * *
There’s another family that knows the art of deception. In Genesis 27 we see Jacob trick his father, Isaac, into giving him the family blessing. Something that was rightfully Jacob’s older brother Esau’s.
How does he do it? How does he deceive his dad into giving him something that wasn’t his to receive?
Isaac had told Esau that he was becoming an old man now and was ready to give him his blessing. Gather your weapons…hunt some wild game…prepare me some tasty food…I will give you my blessing. (Genesis 27:2-4NIV)
The brother’s mom, Isaac’s wife overheard the conversation and wanted Jacob to receive the blessing instead of Esau. (That’s a whole other conversation for another day.)
Then Rebekah took the best clothes of Esau her older son, which she had in the house, and put them on her younger son Jacob. She also covered his hands the smooth part of his neck with the goatskins. (Genesis 27:15-16NIV)
When Jacob went to his father, Isaac, he tells him he has done all that he asked of him and is ready for his blessing.
Here’s how the conversation went:
He went to father and said, “My father.”
“Yes, my son,” he answered. Who is it?”
Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me. Please sit up and eat some of my game so that you may give me your blessing.”
Isaac asked his son, “How did you find it so quickly, my son?”
“The Lord your God gave me success.” He replied.
Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Come near so I can touch you, my son, to know whether you really are my son Esau or not.”
Jacob went close to his father Isaac, who touched him and said, “The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau.
He did not recognize him, for his hands were hairy like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.
“Are you really my son Esau?”
Then he said, “My son, bring me some of your game to eat, so that I may give you my blessing.”
Jacob brought it to him and he ate and he brought some wine and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come here, my son, and kiss me.”
So he went to him and kissed him. When Isaac caught the smell of his clothes, he blessed him…
It’s that easy to be deceived.
* * * * * * * * * *
What can we learn from these two encounters? How can we not be easily deceived?
Pay attention to subtle differences:
In both scenarios there were small differences that, if ignored, could be or were costly. Not only do we have to pay heed to them but trust what we’ve learned or know to be Truth.
It’s an old strategy from the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3) that’s still used today. There’s just enough twist to make it sound and look good from afar but on closer inspection, well, you can trust the Queen with hairy legs, but hairy arms beware…there’s a smooth talker under there.
Splitting hairs can sometimes keep you from being deceived and ultimately you will receive the blessing of your Father.
Question what we feel:
Jacob covered up his smoothness with the hair of a goatskin, giving the illusion of something that wasn’t true. His dad was tricked by what he felt.
We can be too.
We often feel things that give the illusion of truth:
I feel like no one likes me.
I feel like I’m all alone.
I feel like everyone has their act together except me.
I feel like I’m too much and not enough.
I feel like God won’t meet my needs.
I feel like God doesn’t care.
But upon closer inspection, we come to realize those things aren’t true. They are the devil in disguise as he covers up his smooth, slick ways under a goatskin of lies.
We can be deceived by what we feel is true. We need to remember that feelings are fickle, leaving us with a false sense of what it is we have to rely on, what we know to be true.
Question what you smell:
When Jacob leaned in to give his father a kiss, Isaac trusted that what he smelled, the apparent aroma of Esau, was proof that he was giving his blessing to the right son.
When I was working as a radiation therapist, I met a man by the name of Gerry who was an alcoholic and also newly diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Gerry was told that drinking alcohol, while getting radiation treatments, would be like lighting his throat on fire. Gerry nodded his understanding. Even eager to oblige in abstaining.
Every day, Gerry would come in smelling very strongly of men’s cologne with wafts of alcohol permeating through. No matter how much he tried to cover up what he was doing, we could tell by the smell that something was up.
We can cover up a multitude of mishaps and misgivings by splashing on some cheap perfume, but it will eventually end up smelling like the bull (or goat) crap it is. Isaac smelled Esau but heard the voice of Jacob. Something didn’t smell right, but he kept moving forward with the blessing. Should he have trusted the smell? Nah.
Question what you hear:
Isaac knew what he heard was not the voice of his son Jacob. He did question him…are you my son Jacob? But rather than trust his very own ears and what he was hearing, he went with what he felt. Rather than trust his gut that the voice didn’t jive with what he smelled; he gave an inheritance, a blessing to the wrong person.
He was easily deceived.
We have been on a wild ride for quite some time now, haven’t we? There are voices EVERYWHERE! Voices with opposite opinions opining for their side because they know they are right. We are feeling all the feels! And man does it stink!
So, whose voice do you listen to when all you hear is how right everyone is?
Let me set this before you as plainly as I can. If a person climbs over or through the fence of a sheep pen instead of going through the gate, you know he’s up to no good—a sheep rustler! The Shepherd walks right up to the gate. The gatekeeper opens the gate to him and the sheep recognize his voice. His call his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he gets them all out, he leads them and they follow because they are familiar with his voice. They won’t follow a stranger’s voice but will scatter because they aren’t used to the sound of it. (John 10:1-5 MSG)
Jesus tells us how not to get rustled or in our case hustled…listen to His voice. Become so familiar with it that you recognize an imposter right away…no matter how that imposter tries to disguise himself or what perfume she tries to cover her stink with.
How do we do that? It’s so simple we may think it’s stupid. Surely there’s another way, right? Nope.
Spend time with the Shepherd. Get to know Him. His character. His life. His ways. His walk. His talk. His Spirit.
Read His word. Study it. Talk to Him. Listen to Him. Experience Him. Watch for Him. Expect Him. Notice Him.
So that, when you hear it, feel it, smell it…you know if it’s Him and won’t be easy to deceive.
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