Thursday, December 13, 2012

Deeds Of Love & Faithfulness (part 2 of 2)

It was during Jacob’s flight from Esau that God appeared to Jacob in a dream and said, “I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac.  The land on which you lie I will give to you and your offspring.  Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.  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” (28:13b-15).  Now, Jacob is returning to the place where he began, so he is sure to remind his God of the words of His covenant promise that he is said to have received shortly after he departed from his home.  It appears that Jacob calls God to remembrance of His covenant, counting on divine faithfulness to the words and ends of that covenant.   

Why have we gone through all of that?  It has been in order to get to what comes next.  Jacob “took a present for his brother Esau, two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, thirty milking camels and their calves, forty cows and ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten male donkeys” (32:13b-15).  These evidences of the blessings of God, through His covenant faithfulness, were a present for Esau.  Jacob thought, “I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterward I shall see his face.  Perhaps he will accept me” (32:20b).  Because all of this has been placed in the context of God’s covenant with Jacob (which would be instructive for Israel and the stories are told and retold, recognizing that Israel would very much define itself by these stories), and that covenant’s promise of blessing the families of the earth through the covenant bearers, it is possible to view the giving of gifts to Esau---the apparent showing forth of the riches of the God that is faithful to His covenant---as an example of one under God’s covenant extending the blessings of the covenant to those outside of it.  Even though Esau was Jacob’s brother, he was not a recipient of God’s covenant. 

In this, being unsure of Esau’s response, it would seem that Jacob becomes something of a prototype for what the nation of Israel to come was supposed to do and be, as a light to all the nations, revealing the covenant making and keeping God to those outside the covenant, as those nations could then see the blessings of the riches that their God has lavished upon those with whom He has entered into covenant, and to whom He has given conditions for obtaining the blessings of that covenant, which in Israel’s case would be the keeping of the Torah (generally outlined as circumcision, keeping the Sabbaths, and reverencing the sanctuary). 

Let it be said that the response of the nations to the shining of the light of God through the people of the covenant was not Israel’s concern.  Their concern was the showing forth of that God’s faithfulness, by being a blessing to all peoples, as their response of trust in their faithful God.  Likewise, for us, being part of God’s covenant family through Jesus Christ, we are not necessarily to overtly concern ourselves with the response to the shining of the light of the Gospel.  The response is God’s business.  It is our over-arching responsibility to live according to the Gospel (ordering our lives according to the recognition of the universal kingly dominion of the Christ), and to make possible the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God with Jesus as its King, and its riches of the eternal life (the in-breaking of the life of the age to come) that is to be had in union with the Christ (allegiance to Him in His royal position) which shows itself forth as faith. 

As we experience God’s steadfast love and faithfulness, believing in Jesus by the demonstrable outworkings of the Spirit (good deeds performed because Jesus is King and such are the demands of His kingdom and its subjects), we know that it is through these preached and lived proclamations that we also experience God working through us to extend His love and show His faithfulness, like Jacob to Esau, to all those that are destined to receive His blessings.     

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