There are times when I look at our family, and I’m really proud of us. And very thankful. But there are other times when I look at us and feel sadness for what I wish were true and isn’t.
I feel this way when I look at families in the Bible, too, like where are the ones to emulate? I keep bumping into families that are broken and bumbling when I read in Genesis. Shouldn’t God’s people be admirable? Shouldn’t we live up to his standards and be deserving of his blessing?
Yes, we should.
But we don’t.
So now what?
Jacob, the patriarch of Israel, was as unlikely a pillar of faith as anyone. He tricked his brother, Esau, out of his birthright and then dressed up in his clothes to steal his blessing, right out from under his father’s literal nose. His blind father, Isaac, had said, “Ah, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field the Lord has blessed,” as he smelled the scent of Esau and then gave Jacob Esau’s blessing instead, Ge 27:27.
It really shouldn’t surprise anyone, though it always surprises me, that everyone who comes into God’s family is brought in despite their sin, not for anything good in them. If there’s ever a family that makes this clear, it’s Jacob’s. Father Isaac had his own trouble telling the truth, as did his Father Abraham, Ge 20:9-10; 26:9. Everybody else pretty much follows suit.
After Jacob steals Esau’s blessing, he runs hundreds of miles away to his mother’s family because Esau says he’ll kill him after their father dies, Ge 27:41-44. On the way, he lies down for the night and has a dream of a ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. Angels ascend and descend on it, and above it stood the Lord God. It’s a holy moment, Ge:28:12-13.
Then God confirms his covenant promise to Jacob, the same one he’s made with Isaac and Abraham before him, saying basically the same thing Isaac’s said in his blessing–he’d become a great nation, be given the land he’s sleeping on, and be a door of blessing to all nations. God says, “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land,” Ge 28:14-15. And all this, after all he’s done wrong.
But what does Jacob say when he wakes up? Not “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner. I don’t deserve this.” Not, “Wow, thanks, God. This is great news considering I’m running for my life.”
Jacob in effect says, “Hey, let’s see how this turns out. I’ve heard your promise, but I want to wait and see if it actually happens. Let’s make a deal: if you keep me safe, and give me food and clothing while I’m out of town, and get me back home all in one piece, then you can be my God, and I’ll even reward you by giving you back a tenth of what you give me,” Ge 28:20-22.
God shows great restraint by not striking him dead or transferring the blessing to Esau on the spot. Jacob tells God he’s gonna wait and see how God performs before he decides if he’s really got what it takes to be God material? And if he proves himself, well, good news! Jacob will reward him!
Why does God bother with him?
Jacob gets to his Uncle Laban’s house and falls in love with his daughter, Rachel, but this deceiver has now met his match. Laban tricks him into marrying Leah, the unattractive older sister instead, so as a quick fix, he marries both, Ge 29:16-30.
The sisters compete to see who can give birth to more sons, hoping to prove who is most worthy of love. Rachel rubs Leah’s nose in the fact that Jacob worked 14 years for her, while Leah rubs Rachel’s nose in the fact that she’s barren, Ge 29:31-35; 30:1-24.
They bring their female servants into the baby birthing competition and send them in to sleep with Jacob to produce sons for themselves. It’s a twisted tale of family drama as full of oneupwomanship as any Kardashian episode.
This is the family God chooses to bring his blessing through, to make as numerous as the stars in the sky, to give magnificently fertile land to, and one day, his own Messiah?
In spite of human failing, God’s plan moves along because it doesn’t depend on man but on him who does what he’s always planned, to bring all his people home to him, whether or not they’re righteous and whether or not they even cooperate very much.
Through Jacob’s family, we see without a doubt that God’s the only good one in this story. He’s the one who blesses and guides and turns some of them into faithful sons and daughters, just for love.
Left to ourselves, no one turns to him. Everyone is under the power of sin apart from God, for “…there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away…there is no one who does good, not even one,” Ro 3:11-12.
I’m kind of glad this is true, only because there’s hope for me and my family, too. Because no one is good enough, God made a way for us. Life with God isn’t about being favored because we’re already good. It’s about being favored because he’s good, and his plan is to make us good like his Son.
There are four short vignettes in this passage:
The daughter of a ruler dies, so he comes to Jesus and asks him to come lay his hand on her so that she will live, v 18-19.
On the way, a bleeding woman is healed by touching the edge of his cloak. Jesus looks at her and says, “‘Take heart, daughter, your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment,” v 20-22.
Jesus gets to the rulers’ house and sends everyone out because they laugh when he says the girl is asleep, not dead. Once they’re outside, he takes the girl by the hand and she gets up, v 23-26.
Jesus leaves from there, and two blind men holler out for him to have mercy on them. He asks them if they believe he’s able to heal them. When they say, “yes,” he touches their eyes and says, “According to your faith will it be done to you,” and their sight is restored, v 28-31.
Afterwards, a demon possessed man who can’t speak is brought to Jesus. After Jesus drives out the demon, he speaks and the crowd is amazed, v 32-24.
In all four cases, Jesus heals people as a result of faith, either their own or someone else’s for them. The ruler believed for his dead daughter. The one who brought the demon possessed person must have believed, otherwise he wouldn’t have bothered.
Jesus could have healed regardless of their faith, but he chooses to heal in connection with faith. There’s something about our faith that connects us to his healing. I think the reason he sends the people who laugh outside is because he doesn’t want their unbelief to hinder him.
Faith is the conduit through which healing comes. What a lot of importance he gives our faith.
I don’t know how often I’ve prayed for help and healing, not really believing Jesus would do what I’ve asked, but it’s probably many more times than I’ve prayed in faith. But every time I’ve been in need, he’s healed me, whether through medicine or miracle.
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness,” v 35.
Jesus wants us believing in him and healing, rising out of our various forms of death, opening our eyes and seeing, and living with sound minds our very best lives. This is still who Jesus is. Will we believe him?
David asks what can the righteous do when the wicked are prevailing? It’s a great question, and he gives a great answer: trust God’s righteous justice, v 3, 7.
Because “The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne,” he examines both the wicked and the righteous. Regardless of what happens on earth, God rules. He sees. He knows, v 4-5.
And he will judge the wicked with “fiery coals and burning sulfur,” but he will save the upright, who “will see his face,” v 6-7.
When the foundations of righteousness and justice are being destroyed, we can stand on God as King and Judge. He will prevail and the bad guys will get what’s coming to them, because “he loves justice,” and “the Lord is righteous,” and he is eternal. Righteousness and justice can’t end because God can’t.
These important foundations may wobble in our societies and in our homes, but they won’t disappear from God’s realm and rule, because “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne,” Ps 89:14.
My take away today is the humility of God to identify with a scoundrel like Jacob, putting his name on the line with Jacob and his fathers, as in, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob….”
Jacob will become a mighty patriarch, but like his father and grandfather, he’s never without his broken humanity. That God would align himself with this family, especially when Jacob is so glib about whether or not he’s going to accept God as his God based “merely” on God’s word, when Jacob’s track record with the truth is so sullied, well, I just want to shake him.
But God blesses him.
And then there’s Jesus’ humility to let the faith of fallen people influence his work of healing. Jesus’ way is to include us. He invites us to come and believe, to come and receive, to walk with him by faith through the healing he brings.
And I see God’s humility in putting up with the wicked. He suffers them and delays Jesus’ coming because he wants to save as many as will come to him. Laying waste to the wicked would usher in the end times, and he’s not ready yet. His desire is that all men be saved. This is humility beyond understanding.
God’s humility is why the proud don’t find him. “He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way,” Ps 25:9. His way is the low road, the servant’s role, the last place.
God, it’s a good thing you’re God and I’m not. I would have no patience for anyone. Thank you for being mighty to save us, and humble to suffer us, and that one day, when the time is right, you will come for us.