Founding Fathers Of The Faith
I recall a fellow minister quoting a member in his church who said: For years I feel as if someone has been fighting against me, now I’ve come to see its God. The Bible reveals that God not only fights for His people, but sometimes against them. Jacob experiences this personally and it changes him forever.
When you have a relationship with God you have to learn a different way of relating (or communing). One, you have to learn to relate to someone who is above you, yet also so near. You have to learn to be in a one-sided relationship, in terms of need. Lastly, you have to learn to relate to someone purely by grace. This is what the Lord is trying to teach Jacob.
What theologians call the doctrine of Divine Election [God's Prerogative of Grace] is often handled like a doctrine of controversy rather than comfort. But, it is God’s sovereign choice that makes sure that grace is both unmerited and successful–an immense source of comfort. This is what we find in the story of Isaac and his two sons Jacob and Esau.
In the lives of Isaac and his two sons, we see a familiar struggle–the struggle between what the Bible calls “the flesh and the spirit”. And, that struggle we are confronted with the question: Do I know how to be weak?
Mountain Top Experiences [MTE's] are often experienced as “Aha!” moments, or spiritual highs. Abraham has a MTE, however it revolves around a test. Tests and MTE’s seem incompatible to us, but they are not to God. In Genesis 22 we learn by watching Abraham’s response to his test and what he finds on the Mountain.
In the film Amadeus, F. Murray Abraham plays a composer who all his life is tortured by the greatness of his contemporary Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. His envy drives him mad. Why wouldn’t God allow him to occupy that place of greatness? In Genesis 21 we find a similar scene: Ishmael, the older half brother of the promised child Isaac, envies his place of blessing. And, through him we get a glimpse of our own hearts.
We all are trying to find our way into ‘inner rings’, or dream of being invited into the closed door meeting. Some of this is because we place an inflated value upon appearances and the opinions of others–but that’s not the entire reason. We also derive a great sense of energy and dignity being taken into someone’s confidence (a boss, parent, leader, etc.) In Genesis 18 God takes Abraham into His confidence and the effects are significant.
In his book “Redeeming Laughter”, well known sociologist Peter Berger says that laughter can be a signal of redemption (or of grace). Laughter can be like the sound of hope breaking in. But, we are also aware another kind of laughter–that which is full of scorn and derision. We find both types of laughter present in the life of Sarah in Genesis. And, how God turns her laughter of derision into laughter that knows the promise of grace.
When you ask someone about their dating relationship they might respond: ‘I think we’re dating–we’re hanging out a lot’. ‘We’re definitely dating’. ‘We’re engaged!’ If you asked God what His relationship is like to His people, He responds without hesitation: We’re married. And, then gives a sign of His promise. Abraham learns this.
When we make a promise lightly, someone feels the effects. When we take a promise lightly, we feel the effects. In Genesis 16 Abram, Sarai, and Hagar take God’s promise of grace lightly, and they display the effects–turning to injustice and selfish independence. Learning to trust in God’s gracious promise enables us to deal justly in our relationships and bear injustice.