January 19, 2015

God’s Care for Sinners like me

This year’s devotional book has readings from the Old Testament and the New. So far, there have been obvious connections between the three, but I don’t look for them. I read each passage and note the verses that seem significant, often without knowing why. When I’ve finished reading, God has been making connections for me as the Holy Spirit shows me what He has in mind.

Today they are not so obvious. In Genesis, Jacob’s father-in-law, Laban, has treated him unfairly, but Jacob trusts God, and God helped during the years he worked for his wives and his wealth. God then tells him to go home, taking his wives and children, and the cattle he earned as wages.

“Laban had gone to shear his sheep, and Rachel stole her father’s household gods. And Jacob tricked Laban the Aramean, by not telling him that he intended to flee.” (Genesis 31:19–20)

Jacob fears God, but apparently Rachel does not share his piety. Her father’s household gods are powerless and useless, but she either believes otherwise, or is angry at her father and steals them out of spite. Either way, she sins by doing this, and sins again by concealing them with another lie when he searches her tent looking for them.

Sometimes I expect the “heroes” of the Bible to be pillars that I can look up to and imitate, but that is not a good idea. Jacob and Rachel were sinners, as were Moses, Abraham, David, and any other person in the Scriptures. The Bible says, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20)

Of course there is one, only one who never sinned. The Bible says of Jesus . . .

“He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (1 Peter 2:22)

“You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:14–15)

While I can learn from those who grace the pages of Scripture, much of what is there are lessons on how NOT to behave, how not to live as a child of God. Jacob was not perfect, nor was his wife. I can learn from Laban as his life demonstrates that treating others unfairly and only considering myself will eventually lead to loss and sorrow.

I can also see from Jacob that listening to God is a good idea, and that He might tell me to flee a place of misfortune or danger for my own good. I’ve moved many times and not always seen it that way, but the Lord has a view that I cannot see. He knows what is coming and if He asks me to do what is difficult, He has good reason.

The last reading today is about just that; listening to the sinless One, Jesus. I’m to do what He says and does. This time, He is talking about the last days when life will become very dangerous and His people will be asked to flee . . .

“So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let the one who is on the housetop not go down to take what is in his house, and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! Pray that your flight may not be in winter or on a Sabbath.” (Matthew 24:15–20)

Long ago, the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” (Genesis 31:3) This imperfect man listened and was blessed. I’m humbled to know that God cares about His family of sinners, me included. He guides me through life, even to urges me to move when it is time to move (like He did the summer of 2012), and gives a precious promise to be with me as I go.

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