I hesitate to check the news on my iPhone in the morning, reluctant to see if there has been another mass shooting, a scam for college admittance, or a new development in the legal-political contests in Washington. However, in God’s providence, my Bible studies and interactions with other Christians have led to a renewed appreciation for the peace we have in Christ through our eternal security, or “perseverance” in him. The peace of redemption is true shalom—well-being, wholeness, calmness, and restfulness—only from and in God, the source of our redemption. Christ, who brings us from death in sin to life in him, is the one who continues our salvation for all eternity; he brings us through sanctification to glorification. “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” (Romans 8:30)
I have friends in the hospital, friends relocating to another city, and friends who are welcoming new children and grandchildren into their families. I know missionaries who are preparing to move to another country and culture and those on the field with more work than hours in the day. Some of my relatives and relatives of my friends are feuding, and some of my friends are worried about filing their taxes and owing money they don’t have. What a crazy world of tumultuous emotions. No wonder people work so hard to control and conquer their circumstances and the people in their lives. Biblical believers who tried to obtain control and failed, like Peter in the New Testament and Jacob in the Old, also remind me that Christ alone is the answer to the question, “How can I rest when the world is so crazy?” It helps to remember that God did not design us to fit into this life. He created us for heaven, our true home. We are aliens who forget that we are aliens, intended for a different kind of life—a life in and with Christ. The peace that we seek and long for is available to us at all times because Christ will never forsake us or, as my pastor said in Sunday School, “God never un-adopts us.” Jesus has redeemed us for eternity; he keeps, grows, and refines our faith for us as we mature in our Christian walk. “But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7) Our faith is as strong as Jesus’s because it is his faith in us—perfect, full, and able to handle any opposition from the world. He is the measure of our faith for all eternity, not just at the time of our redemption.
The second half of Genesis is primarily about the life of Jacob and his family. Jacob, one of the patriarchs, was also a schemer and deceiver. His faith grew in particular leaps when he was visited upon by the Lord in his circumstances, dreams and once in a wrestling match. His dream about the angels ascending and descending on a ladder was interpreted by Jesus in John 1:51: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Jacob’s response to this contact with the gospel was immediate. “Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.’ And he was afraid and said, ‘How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.’” (Genesis 28:16-17) About Jacob’s fear, Matthew Henry comments, “The more we see of God, the more cause we see for holy trembling before him.” (1) After all, the Lord had said to Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15) So, “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God, and this stone, which I have set up for a pillar, shall be God’s house. And of all that you give me I will give a full tenth to you.” (Genesis 28:20-22)
Was Jacob bargaining with God, as if he would only be faithful if God gave him the shalom rest and provisions that he required? This question is something that I can relate to since I seem to make a vow, or at least a prayer to God almost daily to give back to him from what he has given me. Do we have to earn God’s peace to keep it? John Gill writes, “[This] is the first vow we read of in Scripture… ‘saying, if God will be with me’—the word ‘if’ is not a sign of doubting, but is either an adverb of time, and may be rendered, ‘when God shall be with me’; or as a supposition, expressive of an inference or conclusion drawn, ‘seeing God will be with me’…which he had the utmost reason to believe, since he had not only promised it, but had so lately granted him his presence in a very singular and remarkable manner… Genesis 28:15.” (2) It is valuable for us to consider that we, who trust in Christ’s work and faithfulness, often forget his goodness, sovereignty, and omnipotence to keep his faith in us strong and victorious. If we are truly in Christ, we would sing about God’s faithfulness rather than question it. “Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide…blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside…Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!” (3) Or, we might with Horatio Spafford declare, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well, with my soul.’” (4)
Do you doubt God’s ability to keep your faith and strive to sustain it yourself? How do you do this? Do you question God’s acceptance or think you have failed him when life is hard, and you are emotional? Do you really believe that God thinks less of you when you procrastinate or avoid difficult matters? What would happen if you embrace the truth that your faith is so rooted in Christ that nothing you do or fail to do will cause him to love you any more or less? Remember the gospel, which is working in you. “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)
(1) Henry, Matthew “Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible,” Genesis 28:17, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/genesis-28.html
(2) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Genesis 28:20 https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/genesis -28.html
(3) Chishcim, Thomas O., “Great is Thy Faithfulness,” 1923.
(4) Spafford, Horatio G., “It is Well With My Soul,” 1873.
March 20, 2019