Dead Man Walking;

Well, Limping...

by LeRoy Gardenier


"Thou hast beset me behind and before, and laid Thine hand upon me." (Psalm 139:5)


Back in the 1930's there was a popular nighttime radio show called One Man's Family. That title would be an appropriate label for the whole second half of the book of Genesis. The latter 25 chapters of the Bible's first book of fifty chapters focus on one man, Jacob, the younger brother of Esau, his multiple wives and his family of twelve sons and one daughter, Dinah.

So many primitive characteristics and qualities of character found in all humans are so clearly dramatized in this lengthy story, it could be helpful to summarize at least some of them. The prejudices and preferences of the parents, godly people though they were, seem to have encouraged a spirit of competition, an effort so highly esteemed among men, but so deadly to true spiritual life and progress. Isaac doted on Esau, the elder; while Rebecca favored Jacob.

Esau is presented as an undisciplined intimidator; his younger brother, a conniving manipulator. Most of us are familiar with the stories of Jacob first conning his brother out of his birthright, then later deceiving his faltering father in order to obtain the special blessing reserved to the eldest son by the right of primogeniture. Esau's rash vow to murder Jacob forces the younger son to flee the country and take risky refuge with his uncle, Laban. For twenty years Jacob reaps to himself what he has sown. His mother's brother affords him the same sort of deception that Jacob had perpetrated on his own immediate family. But all the while God's hand is upon him - promising Jacob better things to come, protecting him from Laban's threats and connivings, prospering him in all that he undertakes.

Finally God calls this unwilling prodigal back to his ancestral home in Canaan. But taking leave of Mesopotamian Padan-Aram; removing his expanding family and multitudinous possessions from the influence of his domineering, possessive uncle places Jacob "be­twixt the Devil and the deep blue sea". Like the Psalmist he can rightly exclaim: "Thou hast beset me behind and before" (Psalm 139:5). Trying to slip away from his uncle by stealth, Laban and his fiery sons pursue him with a vengeance. Up ahead awaits his cheated, offended and disgruntled brother, Esau, who still might have murder in his eyes! Here God intervenes mightily on Jacob's behalf. In a dream He warns Laban not to harm his fleeing nephew. Crossing over into the land of promise this prosperous son of Isaac is graced with a personal, powerful encounter with the God who had revealed Himself to him many years before at Bethel.

Jacob emerges from this supernatural contest defeated and surrendered, but a new man with a new name, Israel, meaning "God Commands". Miraculously, all is forgiven between Esau and Jacob. The elder brother graciously accepts the peace offering proffered by the younger. The new man, Israel, deftly disentangles himself from any dealings or further dependence on either uncle or brother. At long last Jacob finally strikes out on his own a free man, the lord and master of his own personal family and possessions. Down deep, though, he knew he was a dead man. Laban could have easily snuffed out his life. Esau might have greeted him with a dagger between the ribs instead of a fraternal hug. But now Israel was a new man, the past was all behind. He didn't exactly come racing into Shechem ready to carve out a whole new, independent existence for himself and his progeny. He knew he was a dead man walking; well, limping, to remind him of the serious implications of his surrender to God.

In Hebrew, the word shechem means "a ridge". It also signifies the neck and shoulders as the place for a yoke to bear heavy burdens. Spiritually, often when we think that we are "all set"; the truth of the matter is that we are really "all wet". Jacob-Israel settled in Shechem, a place of his own choosing, still exulting in his favored position with God. He had made his peace with God but was unaware he had still yet to reap so much of what he had sown. The noted British bible expositor, Oswald Chambers, explains it this way:

            “In the meeting with Esau and the marvelous experience of reconciliation with him Jacob had an expansion of heart, but he did not pay for it afterward in concentration. He lived loosely in the exalted peace of the expanded life, and suddenly a terrible tragedy breaks up the whole thing.

            “In our personal lives every expansion of heart ... must be paid for by watchfulness; if it is not, looseness, ending in moral collapse, is sure to result. Because people do not under­stand the way they are made, havoc is produced in the lives of those who really have had times with God and have experienced expansions of heart. But they have forgotten to concentrate, and the general feeling of looseness is a sure sign that God's presence has gone.

            "Jacob settled down in the peace of Shechem. Dinah went to hell, and her brothers to the Devil. Then God spoke to Jacob. If you forget to concentrate on God, the thing that happened in Jacob's domestic life on the big scale will happen in your bodily life on the narrow scale. The vision of what God wants must be paid for by concentration on your part; if it is not, in come 'the little foxes', in come a hundred and one things that were never there before and down you go. It is not that these things may happen; they will happen as sure as God is God, unless you watch and pray - that is, unless you concentrate until you are confirmed in the ways of God.” (Knowing Not Whither, The Story of Abraham, published by Christian Literature Crusade, Ft. Washington, PA)

For all that he had gone through; for all he had learned and been delivered from; for all the very real encounters with the Living God and the deep life-changes these had effected, Israel - a name and a reality that would bless the whole world - was yet to be confirmed in the ways of God! What more would it take? Further personal loss. His beloved wife, Rachel, dies in childbirth just outside of "the little town of Bethlehem" (Gen. 35:19). Stricter obedience to God. "And God said unto Jacob, Arise, go up to Bethel, and dwell there; and make there an altar unto God that appeared unto thee when thou fleddest from the face of Esau thy brother"  (Gen. 35:1). This command was tantamount to "go back to START!"

I still keep and treasure the stained and torn cover to a pad of stationery that was on the night table beside me when the Lord once spoke powerfully to my heart. The writing paper was called "Softouch Stationery". In the middle of the night, I grabbed a felt pen and in the dark scribbled a most important word of wisdom the Lord had just imparted to me. "Do it right the first time without fear of personal error or other's condemnation." That precious word came to me more than two decades ago. Whenever I've been faithful to follow it, I have been spared mountains of difficulty and frustration.

Jacob also needed to be disabused of a fallacious fatalism: "Che sera, sera" (What will be, will be), as the Italians says. Going up to Bethel (house of God), dwelling in the presence of God, allows for a lot of things, but a laissez-faire attitude is not one of them. Another very early warning from the Lord keeps me examining my motives, intentions and attitudes when­ever and wherever I attend a prayer meeting. If I truly believe the Holy Ghost is present and moving among us when we come together in the name of Jesus, who am I to interrupt Him, let alone contradict or try to exploit His precious presence and awesome power? Besides starting all over again, the Lord demanded of Jacob that He pay more attention to and take stricter charge of his own family. "Then Jacob said unto his household, and to all that were with him,

- put away the strange gods that are among you;

- be clean;

- and change your garments" (Gen. 35:2).

Jacob-Israel's intimacy with God at Bethel would be a peaceful end to a turbulent saga; a satisfying scene of this patriarch being daily blessed by God and surrounded by his remaining loved ones, especially his favored sons, Joseph and Benjamin. But the drama does not end there. Like an intriguing mystery, the plot continues to thicken. I won't give away the ending for those who haven't yet read through the book of Genesis. I'll simply close with a couple of lines from a highly respected bible teacher with the hope that his comments will spur the reader on to solve the Jacob-Israel mystery for himself. E.A. Bullinger remarks: "Thus the book of Genesis begins with God and ends with man. It begins with the creation of the heavens above, and ends with 'a coffin in Egypt'."

to sanctified perfected navigation
to purified perfect navigation

on to More Wheel of Perfection
   We Can Be Perfect and Complete in Christ



 by Terry Smith


Other men were crucified with Christ that day on Calvary, but only one of them understood what was taking place, only one found the freedom that comes from being, as the apostle Paul said, "crucified with Christ". That repentant sinner was the fleshly example of what Paul later pinpointed as a spiritual reality when he testified to the Galatians.


"I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." (Gal. 2.20)


This, even in a land of freedom like America, is the path which leads to true and lasting freedom. Fundamental to all Americans is the question of freedom. Our forefathers crossed great oceans, blazed trails through frightful gaps and over granite mountains, settled hostile territories, fought wars ... even gave up their lives, for the right to be "free". Today freedom is not merely an American's heritage, it is an inalienable right. But Christians ought to know that there is more to freedom than what our socio-economic, political system can provide.

Though we are grateful to God for the freedoms we enjoy to worship and gather together unrestricted in His name, we are also doomed to bondage if we confuse this and other base worldly "freedoms" with the kind of freedom which breaks the shackles of sin and delivers us from our natural entanglement with the world. The Jews, who protested to Jesus that they were free men solely because they were of the seed of Abraham, serve as an example for us. We Americans fall into a similar delusion, believing we are free because our political heritage guarantees it. But, real freedom is only gained through Christ and we can acquire it only on a different road, a road past a place called Golgotha, on top a hill called Calvary. There can be no short cuts past this place called "skull", no way around this hill of death. As the saying goes, "Any place worth going to offers no short cuts to get there."


Be Crucified With Christ

Yes, others were crucified with Christ on Calvary. Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention that these dying criminals reviled Jesus and tempted Him, urging Him to come down from the cross and save Himself and them. They were like the people scolded by the old gospel song, "Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die."

But the gospel of Luke reports one dissenter, a convicted thief who spoke in defense of Jesus. This man, this condemned sinner, accepted the justice of his crucifixion and testified with his last breath that Jesus deserved to live. In essence, this is Paul's testimony to the Galatians. In one verse of Scripture the pathway to freedom is carved out - Death to Self.

The Galatians had become bogged down in ritual, seduced by false teachers who taught them that they had to follow the law in order to be righteous, in order to be free from sin. FT.Nt 1 Though Paul had been instrumental in founding their faith they had been wooed away from the sound doctrines of faith, losing sight of the necessity of being crucified with Christ, if they were to come to perfection. They had limped off the path because they were no longer being led by the Spirit, but were being cajoled and bewitched by self-willed men. Now Paul was insisting that they return to that Gospel which they had heard at first - a gospel that, because it was free from their own fleshly inability to fulfill the law - would lead to true freedom and righteousness in Christ. By dying to self they could walk in the spirit. Only the dead can breath, stand, live and walk in the Spirit. When walking in the Spirit they would be able to fulfill the law, just as Paul had told the Romans (Ch 8).


Broken down point-by-point we can see the simple truth of the miracle of the cross. Like Simon, who picked up Jesus's cross and followed Him to Calvary on that day, we must do the same and go straight up the hill to Calvary. First the Christian must know and strive to make a reality out of the saying, "I am crucified with Christ." We must go to our own spiritual Calvary. We must tack our flesh (hopes, ambitions, attitudes, ideas, conceptions) on the cross. Jesus told his disciples "Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me." (Mark 8.34) And, "He that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me. He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt. 1 0.38&39) And perhaps most significant of all is what Jesus said in Luke 9:23 “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his CROSS DAILY, and follow me.” This is not a one and done deal. Being crucified with Christ is just that – being – crucified with Christ. We are as sheep accounted for the slaughter. We die all the day long; we are told in Romans 8.

Yet Paul proclaims that he lives through his death by the resurrected life of Christ. "Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me." If we are willing, as Paul was, to pick up our cross and then do it daily, then we can share in Christ's resurrected life. Along with Paul, we can start to say, I live, but it is Christ and His love which lives in us. What freedom is brought when we "die" and Christ lives in us. What can be done to a dead man? The bible says only the dead are free from sin.  

Surely this may only apply in an area or to situations at the beginning, but its reality will grow as our faith to "die to self” grows. When picking up our cross becomes the rule, the ‘natural’ instinctive thing, rather than the exception, we will be able to say as Paul said, I do this that I may win Christ, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ." Because Paul was crucified with Christ he could say, "And the life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God."  If the life Paul lived was one sustained by the faith of the Son of God, then why should that not be the case for any Christian who seeks it? We are fed, sustained, fulfilled and directed because we are His sheep and we hear the Master's voice. We do not seek to follow the Law, not even our own inclinations. We are not slaves to rules, but we are obedient to His Word and voice, which we know is love - and “against love there is no law”.

How is this possible? Or, why should I seek to die to myself, so I can let Christ and His faith live through me? Because, as Paul concludes: "He loved me and gave Himself for me." Are we not asked and then told by the Scripture, “Know ye not that you are the Temple of the Holy Ghost and you have been bought with a price and you are not your own, glorify therefore the Lord God in your body and your spirit.” No greater love has any person than to lay down his life for his friends. Just as the thief on the cross, we know in our heart that we should accept our own crucifixion, trusting that we shall see God and be with Him in paradise. And we know that Jesus is the one who deserves to live in us. After all he died for us. This is the real meaning of the resurrected life, and there can be no resurrection unless our ‘death’ (spiritual) takes place. That is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Through the miracle of the cross, we who deserve to die, can die without fear (in the Spirit), so that He who deserves to live can live (through us in the Spirit).

God's provision as usual is not Man's way, but it is His glorious unimaginable loving eternal way. The pathway to freedom and perfection goes through the cross, not around it. It goes up the hill called Golgotha and to the top of Calvary. Finally, take note that the Gospel written by the apostle of love, John, shows us a remarkable thing, that there was a garden situated at the foot of the cross on Calvary’s Mount. God makes no big deal about it, just takes note of it for those who might have eyes to see.Now in the place where he was crucified there was a GARDEN; and in the GARDEN a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. (Jn. 19:41) Jesus went before us, never before was there a man who was laid in a tomb that would be his booster for resurrection. The first man died in a garden, the second man was resurrected to life in a garden, a garden that sprouted eternal life; a garden able to bring forth everlasting life because it was fed and nourished by the death of flesh on the Cross. How lively, how good, how sweet the garden of death is in Christ for we can find total freedom there and like Jesus whom Paul followed, say, “Father, into thy hands I COMMEND my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost”. We can give up our ‘ghost’ in favor of the Holy Ghost whereby we can find a new life, a resurrected life following in the footsteps of Christ, daily without fear.

Like the literary character, the Scarlet Pimpernel, we Americans "seek freedom here, we seek it there, we seek it everywhere.", but it is nowhere to be found except on that high and lifted up place, that gardened, fragrant hill, where we can testify as Paul did, "I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I now live. …"


FOOTNOTE 1 Paul told the Romans if a person follows the Law hoping to be righteous then that person will live in them, or in other words, have life sustained by their own ability to be righteous and keep the Law. Then he gave all those who might seek to live by keeping the Law this devastating warning of judgment about that sort of self righteous deception. He noted that, whoever offends even in one slight point of the Law offends the whole Law and is guilty of transgressing the entire Law. Those who broke the Law died without mercy. For instance, a thief may keep every other law, but he is convicted as a criminal because he has stolen. He is a convicted criminal against the Law though he may have been 99.9% legal and law abiding. The Bible says, “Those who observe lying vanities, forsake their own mercy.” (Jonah)

Anyone who tries to keep the law is doomed to ultimate failure and will be considered a transgressor and sinner, because we are told that sin is the transgression of the law. We are reminded of Jesus’ doctrine; that we are not to seek our own life, but to lose it. That is a prime doctrine of Jesus which he lived and can identify with our sufferings and experience of the cross. We are to seek our spiritual death by being crucified with Christ, picking up our cross daily and following in His footsteps closely behind. We are to seek to ‘die’. We must trust the Holy Ghost bring about the circumstances and the grace needed to climb Calvary and mount our cross. He is the master architect of this high and lifted up spiritual process of the cross experience in the individual saint. Those who try to master the Law and attain righteousness by keeping it are trying to stay alive rather than seeking the death of their Will, their demise of their pride, the life of their own righteousness. It is a bad sign to the Holy Spirit when a person wants to seek to hold on to their own life; and the keeping the Law is the greatest indicator of resistance in a Christian soul to being ‘crucified with Christ’. This is why Paul called out the churches of Galatia and confronted them with this blistering question: Having started out in the Spirit why have you turned back to the flesh? He even admitted his fears for them when he said, “I stand in doubt of you.”