The Old Testament is so beautiful. Completely a mess, but a beautiful mess. I do see why the New Testament is where a lot of people prefer to camp out and I see the questions nonbelievers (and believers) have about God’s favor on certain people who seem to commit terrible sin after sin after sin. Yes, there is a theological discussion to be had, but there is so much beauty in the stories.
I have been reading through Genesis and every time I read through Genesis I can start to relate to some of those questions. I can be judgmental toward the favored ones. They are just so unlike me. They are supposed to be faithful followers of God. Christ will be in their line. How can they act so sinful? I would never murder or lie or cheat or allow jealousy to rule my heart or harbor bitterness…or…
I am just like them.
I quite like nice things (Lot and Mrs. Lot). I could have a degree in trying to control situations (Sarah/Rebekah). I have lumps of jealousy in my heart (Rachel/Leah).
But it is Jacob and Esau who are sticking out most in my head. If I’m honest, I don’t think I would like to be friends with either of those brothers. Though it is in their story that I can look at myself and see so many similar traits.
Here are some words written about Esau by Thomas Carlyle:
“He is the kind of man of whom we are in the habit of charitably saying that he is nobody’s enemy but his own. But, in truth, he is God’s enemy, because he wastes the splendid manhood which God has given him. Passionate, impatient, impulsive, incapable of looking before him, refusing to estimate the worth of anything which does not immediately appeal to his sense, preferring the animal over the spiritual, he is rightly called a ‘profane person’.”
“Esau was a shallow man, governed by his feelings.”
…but I am a shallow woman, sometimes governed by my feelings…
Then I look at Jacob. Jacob is a master schemer and deceiver. Cheat and lie when necessary seems to be his motto. He really just doesn’t seem like a great person. He seems to have cheated his way through life and at times is pretty committed to getting only what Jacob wants.
Esau despised his birthright, meaning he didn’t really appreciate what was linked to God’s plan of redemption. He was wild and carefree. While we can see a clear difference between the brothers as we watch Jacob grow in faith and come to believe in God’s promises, we still see so much sin evident in his life. Let’s be honest, we see a complete mess of his family resulting from a lot of bad choices he made. Yet, God blessed him and did not leave him until He had done what He promised. (Genesis 28:15)
So raises the question many have about God’s sovereign choice. Wrong is wrong? Right?
I could be angry by this story, but I am busy being astonished at God’s goodness and sovereignty. It teaches me so, so much.
1. It reinforces that God truly is God Almighty. He rules as He sees fit. He is righteous and just in everything He does, no matter how I view past, present, or future situations. My limited knowledge and feelings thankfully don’t stop His divine providence.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.
Yours, O Lord is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.
-1 Chronicles 29:11
2. It shows me how deeply sinful I am. My flesh and the Spirit are in constant struggle. Nothing in me is good apart from Jesus.
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other.
For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.
…as it is written: None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.
3. It teaches me grace. God is not capable of withholding something good from me simply because of something bad I did, just because He is mad about it. He doesn’t hold a grudge. He does not feel anger as I feel anger. He does not have an ounce of bitterness in His heart. Jesus came to feel our hurt and take our sin. He understands.
For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
4. He continues to work in my life despite my sin and failures. He can use even my sin to accomplish His purposes. Why? Because He is God Almighty and He doesn’t love me because of anything good I have done or hate me for anything bad I have done. I am a work in progress and He continues to strategically shape me into the woman He wants me to be, despite my sins (which are many).
…amidst our sins and our stupidities, the invincible determination of God is set to bring us to completion – even when we resist it.
-R. Kent Hughes
5. Most important, it teaches me how badly I need a Savior. Christ came into a human line of a lot of messed up stuff. Sinful people. When He was born, he came into a line of sinful people, but He Himself knew no sin. He was incapable of sinning. All of scripture points to Christ. I could not possibly know God without Christ coming to take my sin and make me blameless before God.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
-2 Corinthians 5:21
He has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him.
I love John S.B. Monsell’s hymn, “My Sins, My Sins, My Savior!”
My sins, my sins, My Savior
How sad on Thee they fall!
How thankful I am for God’s Word. His sovereignty. His grace. His plan for me. His plan for redemption. His son.