Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Mothers

Rebekah had made the most promising Biblical debut imaginable. She had been gloriously and unequivocally chosen by God for the child-of-the-promise, Isaac (Genesis 24). And it also seemed that their union had started out on just the right note (Genesis 24:67).

It possessed all of the earmarks of a charmed life, but signs of family discord would soon become manifest. “And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob” (Genesis 25:28).

Such favoritism eventually led to treachery. Rebekah inspired her son Jacob to deceive his blind father into giving Jacob the blessing intended for his favorite son, Esau. Initially, Jacob objected to his mother’s deception, but not for moral reasons:

“And Jacob said to Rebekah his mother, ‘Look, Esau my brother is a hairy man, and I am a smooth-skinned man. Perhaps my father will feel me, and I shall seem to be a deceiver to him; and I shall bring a curse on myself and not a blessing.’ But his mother said to him, ‘Let your curse be on me, my son…’” (Gen. 27:11-12).

However, the plot began to spiral out of control. Rebekah learned that Esau wanted to kill Jacob as a result of the stolen blessing:

“Now then, my son, do what I say: Flee at once to my brother Laban in Haran. Stay with him for a while until your brother's fury subsides. When your brother is no longer angry with you and forgets what you did to him, I'll send word for you to come back from there. Why should I lose both of you in one day?" (Genesis 27:43-45).

However, sin has a way of recoiling against the sinner and we reap the fruit of our own ways (Proverbs 1:31-32). As far as we can tell, Jacob never again heard from his beloved mother. He remained with Laban for twenty years, and when he finally returned to the Promised Land, there this no indication that he ever saw Rebekah.

How can what had seemed to be so right and so of God have ended so badly? Rebekah was so clearly chosen of God. Besides this, she married a man who had been designated as the child of the promise. Nevertheless, it also seems obvious that Jacob had inherited his mother’s cheating ways. However, before we try to answer this question, we need to see that it’s part of a much greater question. How is it that we, who are chosen by God from the foundation of the world – saved, sanctified and sealed – perform so badly at times? How is it that our lives seem to fail to reflect our glorious heavenly calling?

The Apostle Paul claims that there is a good reason for this:

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Cor. 4:7, NIV).

Our Lord leaves us in our imperfections that we might better show off His perfections and the surpassing hope we have in Him. King David was a “man after God’s own heart,” but he certainly had his failings. Although he had numerous wives, this didn’t prevent him from taking an additional wife, even from one who had been his faithful subject. He then murdered him and surpressed the entire matter. However, the matter wasn’t hidden from God. As a result David lost his child from his wife of adultery, Bathsheba, despite all his prayers.

However, Bathsheba became pregnant again, and David named his son with the unusual name of “Shlomo” (“Solomon” in English, meaning “peace”). It probably had been David’s profound hope and prayer that there would now be peace between him and God, however unlikely this possibility might now be, by virtue of his grievous sins.

It’s hard for anyone to believe that God could bless the fruits of such an unholy union, but God wanted to show that, out of David’s weakness and sins, He was able to do exceedingly, beyond anything that we could dream. He therefore instructed the prophet Nathan to inform David that He had His own name for Solomon:

“Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The LORD loved him; and because the LORD loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah” (2 Samuel 12:24-25).

Jedidiah means “beloved of God.” God informed David, in the most poignant way, that He would do better than “peace.” Solomon would be beloved of God, once more demonstrating that He could and would take our most imperfect and contemptible “jars of clay” and exalt them for His glory.

Our Savior is glorified most in the midst of the greatest darkness. He was glorified most in the midst of our greatest sin – the crucifixion of Christ our Lord (John 13:31)! His surpassing glory is most joyously worshipped from the pit of our own “jars of clay.”

Jacob had the hubris to wrestle with God and force a blessing out of Him, only by His willingness, of course! Nevertheless, this was a culpable and punishable sin before God (Hosea 12:2-4). Despite this fact, Jacob found blessing. Not only was his name changed from the unenviable Jacob (“cheater”) to Israel (God’s wrestler”), but he was also introduced to the Gospel of our Lord. God had blessed him in the midst of his sin, his abuse of God – the essence of the Gospel itself. Two thousand years later, our Lord would again allow Himself to be abused by our sinfulness, and again, from the blood of His Cross, would flow the greatest blessing that humankind could ever conceive.

After the ailing Jacob had been reunited with his beloved Joseph in Egypt, Joseph called upon him to bless him and his family. Jacob made reference to the Angel (God) from whom he had presumptuously wrestled a blessing:

“And he blessed Joseph, and said: ‘God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless [this term is in the singular, indicating that Jacob understood the Three as One!!] the lads…” (Genesis 48:15-16).

Jacob understood that his wrestling match with God wasn’t merely a matter of a name change. It represented redemption itself – God paying the price for Jacob’s sin. But it required that Jacob realizing that he was a “jar of clay.” In the midst of the wrestling, the Angel touched Jacob’s hip and he became a lifelong cripple. He could not longer trust in his abilities run and escape. He would now have to trust in the One who redeemed him “from all evil.”

Directly before his encounter with the Angel, Jacob was informed that his aggrieved brother Esau was approaching with 400 armed men. Terrified, Jacob hatched a Jacobesque plan. He would divide his company into two. The forward group, which would first encounter Esau, was comprised of his least esteemed possessions, the latter company of his wives, children and himself, of course. If anything happened to the first company, he would then flee with the second.

However, he had now been rendered a cripple, but he also had become more intimately acquainted with God and His redemption. Consequently, it was Jacob himself who led the way to the fearful encounter with his brother, as everyone else watched.

Rebekah, although gloriously chosen of God, was a highly imperfect vessel, but this fact could not interfere with the plan of God. Indeed, she gave birth to Jacob, and Jacob to Judah, and Judah to the Savior of humankind. Her failings actually served the plan of God. We are all jars of clay, we all have imperfect mothers, and we all carry the scars of sin, whether emotional or physical. Nevertheless, He uses our weaknesses to perfect His glorious and mysterious work.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen” (Romans 11:33-36).

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