Saturday, May 5, 2012

Wrestling With God

When we struggle with questions about God, perhaps we begin to feel as Jacob did. Jacob, the twin brother of Esau, wrested with God all night long. He was a deceptive man by nature. Even the name Jacob meant deceiver. He had tricked his brother out of his own birthright and their father's blessing. Jacob overcame his struggle with God and with men and his name was changed to Israel which means 'he struggles with God'. Jacob struggled hard with his own humanity and struggled with God's promises much like we do.
God had made an everlasting covenant with Jacob's grandfather, Abraham. He promised that Abraham would become the father of many nations, that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars of the sky, and His covenant would be established through Isaac. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons born to Isaac, the promised son of Abraham.
Paul writes about the twin brothers in the book of Romans. He tells us in Rom. 9:11 that before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad that 'the older will serve the younger'. This was in order that God's purpose according to His choice would stand. It was not because of works but because of Him who calls. Paul also quotes the prophet Malachi who says of God, 'Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated'.
These words sound pretty harsh when we are thinking about a God who loves us all. It sounds so contrary to our ideas about a merciful God. Paul continues in vs. 15 and 16 by quoting Exodus 33:19, 'for God says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not depend on man's desire or effort but on God's mercy."' In vs. 18 it says, 'God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden'.
Doesn't this make us all struggle with our faith and ask God some serious questions? How can this God who chooses who he is going to be merciful with and who he will harden also be the God who redeems us and loves us all?
Paul asked many of the same questions we do as he tried to help the believers of his day resolve the issues of faith they struggled with.
Romans 8:29 causes many to ask if we are predestined to receive God's mercy or His wrath?
Verse 14 raises the question, 'what shall we say then, is God unjust'?
And in verse 19, 'why does God still blame us for who resists His will'?
And verse 20, 'Why did you make me like this'?
Do these questions sound like our own?
I believe God is pleased when we begin to struggle with issues and questions that only He can resolve as we look deep into His word. There are a couple important concepts I believe will help us when we come to these questions and are asking God for answers. First,we gain much greater depth of insight when we consider the whole counsel of the word of God. As we wrestle to find answers we must consider the whole word and look at all of what He has to say.
In this discussion of God's mercy and how it relates to Jacob and Esau and to our own lives, we can understand much more when we look at the context of Romans 8, 9, AND 10. Perhaps it is the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the promised children of Israel that God speaks of in Romans 8:29 as 'those He foreknew'.
Maybe its not you and I.
Could it be that THEY are the ones who were predestined to be conformed? Not just predestined. But predestined to be conformed. Conformed to the likeness of His Son. So that he (Christ) might be the firstborn among many brothers (you and I). Think about this for a minute. My good friend made this statement as she was struggling with the issue of God's mercy. God made Israel His firstborn son so that through them (the children of Israel), Jesus would come, so that we too, through Him, would become sons.
Paul states clearly that his prayer and his heart's desire for the Israelites is that they might be saved. Christ is the end of the law which they failed to follow. They did not know God's righteousness, so Christ became righteousness for everyone who believes. The word says, 'all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.
So we too, like the children of Israel are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His son, in order that all people will come to know God through Christ. Because of the mercy shown to sinful Jacob, we too  have been shown the way to God. God sacrificed much in order to redeem us.
All of us.
You and me and all the nations of the earth.
The inheritance of the firstborn was sacrificed in order that we might be redeemed and adopted into the family of God and receive the promises made to God's children.
The mercy of God came at a high price.

As we struggle with issues of faith it is important that we accept and believe that God's word is the Truth. If we approach God with our questions, believing the Truth of His word, He can help us sort it out. If we do not accept the word of God as Truth....well, that is the end of the road. God can't show us anything. Jesus prayed for his disciples asking God, "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is Truth." Jn. 17:17.

Who are we to question His ways or His word?
What is man that God is mindful of him? Ps. 144:3.
But without faith it is impossible to please Him for everyone who comes to God must first believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Heb. 11:6
Even Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were sinful men.
But God....
God reveals His nature and character to us through His Names. Since the day He created the world, His character will always be consistent with what He has revealed about who He is. When we find ourselves asking the hard questions let's not forget who we are talking to.
Remember God Almighty, El Shaddai who takes care of His creatures like a mother taking care of her infant baby. Who pours himself out for His creatures giving them His lifeblood through Christ Jesus.
Remember El Olam, the everlasting, eternal God.
We must also remember the sovereignty of God
and the sinfulness of man.
God is the Most High God of the universe. El Elyon. God who created and possesses both heaven and earth.
And remember YAWEH, the unspeakable name? The name that is so holy the Israelites dared not say it aloud.
He is the covenant keeping God.
The God who does not change. Who was, and is, and is to come.
He keeps His covenant of love for a thousand generations,
the covenant he made with Abraham, swore to Isaac, and confirmed to Jacob and to Israel as an everlasting covenant.