Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Reading through the Bible this year, I am recognizing common threads that run throughout the Old Testament … the gospels … David’s songs … Solomon’s wisdom. (This shouldn’t come as a surprise: throughout thousands of years and dozens of human writers, it was the same Author telling the same Story.) Those threads weave a tapestry that reveal our desperate straits and God’s glorious redemption in Christ.
Day 15 – Genesis 33 & 34, Matthew 11, Psalm 14
The Good: Jacob had every right to fear the visit from his brother Esau – the one he had deceived and stolen from. But in a stunning twist, instead of avenging himself, Esau gave a broad forgiveness and a long-awaited, albeit fragile, resolution to the decades-long conflict. The seething hatred and jealousy between the usurper and sensualist gave way to a brotherly, albeit cautious, embrace.
The Bad: Then, Jacob’s daughter is raped. And – if it were possible - the reaction of her family is as horrific as the offense. Simeon and Levi go to brutal lengths to exact their vengeance (not God’s justice) upon the entire people of Shechem.
The Ugly: And Jacob was basically absent! Once he and his sons had arranged for Dinah to be married, he apparently sat back into his passivity. Wouldn’t he have suspected what his sons were about to do? Or was he so focused on trying to keep peace that he didn’t notice their angry energy? When Jacob learns of the slaughter, he rebukes his sons - not for their godless behavior, but for making him an outcast in the land.
The history of humanity tells the same story over and over again. When we see forgiveness and reconciliation, our hearts swell with hope. When we hear tales of violence and selfish rage, our hearts sink in despair. If I didn’t know the ultimate end of the story (Jesus wins!), these biblical narratives – and my own narrative - would inspire nothing but hopelessness.
What are we to do?
Jesus issues an invitation to the likes of us in Matthew 11:28
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”
Rest from your fear, from your rage, from your hopelessness, from your shame. From your self-righteousness and taking things into your own hands. From your desire for vengeance, and your vain self-protection.
Psalm 14 declares plainly that we are incapable of that kind of rest, apart from Him:
They have all turned aside,
They have together become corrupt;
There is none who does good,
No, not one
Oh, that the salvation of my people would come out of Zion!
Praise God, for His salvation has come to us! In His Son, who became sin for us, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
In him alone, we can lay down the ugly yoke of sin. In him alone, we can find rest and hope for our souls. In him alone, we can choose His good path and let him tell His story of salvation through us.

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