Sunday, October 23, 2005

a paper for christian tradition

Manifestation of God’s Sovereignty in Genesis

Who is God? There are many facets to God’s character – surely even more than we can ever comprehend. He is both fierce and merciful. He is both invisible and tangible. He is loving and He is sovereign. This God manifests different parts of himself to us throughout our lives. In the same way, He manifests Himself to us when we read the Bible, and specifically when we read Genesis. As we read it, one underlying theme is the finality of God’s sovereignty. No matter what happens in our ongoing journey with Him, God is ultimately powerful and has the first and final say in what goes on. Still, mankind always finds himself struggling with Him.
Jacob was one of the first men with whom God made His covenant, yet his own name revealed his greatest fault. Jacob means “he grasps the heal”, “supplanter” and “schemer”. Throughout his entire life, he had been just that - a trickster. He took advantage of his brother in order to steal his birthright. He disguised himself as his brother in order to receive the blessing of the firstborn from his father. Jacob always seemed to craftily sneak away with luxuries that were not rightfully his. In Genesis 32:24-32, Jacob had an amazing encounter. God appeared to Jacob in the form of an angel and physically fought with him. In the fight, He dealt with Jacob in the very manner that Jacob had acted out his entire life. He cheated. When Jacob was winning the struggle fair and square, the angel touched Jacob on the thigh and miraculously threw it out of joint.
Then, God asked him a direct question. “What is your name?” In essence, God asked him a much deeper question. “Who are you? Who have you been?”
“Jacob,” he humbly confesses. Hosea 12 gives us a vivid picture of this point of the story. It says, “He struggled with the angel and overcame him; he wept and begged for his favor.” God brought him to his knees and showed him the reality of his position before God. As Jacob repented, God renewed His love for him by granting him a new name – Israel, which means “he struggles with God”. Then God blessed him.
So often, God uses the experiences in my life to bring me to the same point that He brought Jacob to so long ago. He acts as a mirror and shows me the painful truth of how I have come short of His demands. He even asks me questions just as He asked to Jacob and to other characters throughout Genesis. “Where have you come from and where are you going?” (16:8) “What is your name?” (32:27) “The Lord God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’” (3:9b) He quietly whispers. Sometimes it even seems as though He blatantly yells, but whenever He asks me those questions, I can be sure that it is not because He is seeking information. His purpose is greater. It is for my benefit, that I might see Him or myself more clearly. It is always, ultimately, for His glory. He drives me to my knees in realization. He makes me cry out, “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (39:9)
It never ceases to amaze me that the Lord, the God of the universe, speaks to me in my own language. He manifests Himself to me in ways that I can understand. He is not like the professor that is so erudite that he or she cannot relate to those who know nothing of the particular subject. He is the teacher who is supremely wise, and can meet me where I am at. He can meet me in the very midst of the struggle like He met Jacob. He does not expect me to clean myself up before He meets me. He simply takes me as I am and then does His own cleansing work. Then He mercifully gives me a new name redeeming me from the pit that I have been wallowing in.
I am in the middle of a struggle with God right now in my life. He longs to bring me to the next level in my walk with Him, and is saying to my heart, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” (Genesis 12:1) I have agreed to go with Him; but the place where He is leading me is a more difficult land, and there are more difficult truths here. He is revealing to me different facets of Himself that are hard to swallow. God is supremely loving and merciful, but He is also a sovereign Judge -- the Judge of a world where babies die. Children have parents who hand them failure on a platter. Families fight. Freak accidents tear fathers away from their children. But even in the midst of this, to truly know God is to love Him. And so, in order to let me fall more in love with Him, He leads me to a wall of sorrow and sets me in front of it. He makes me speechless. And then He waits. He waits for me to accept His ways and say, “God is sovereign, and that is all.” Sometimes there is nothing else.

“If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” (4:7)
“I am God Almighty; walk before me and be blameless.” (17:1b)
“She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (16:13)
“The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.” (6:5)
“I cannot do it,…but God will…” (41:16)

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