And Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, O LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,’ I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have shown to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.
Reading through the Old Testament as a new Christian, I remember being overwhelmed by sheer frequency of slaughter documented in its pages. I knew then that God is good and that His purposes are just, but in those early years I really struggled with the annihilation of peoples and nations that are recounted in the Book.
In more recent years, God has brought me to an even more acute understanding of my sin and His sovereignty than ever before — and that’s saying quite a lot. I can see, quite painfully, how sin still taints my choices, my thoughts, even my understanding of God’s will and my service to Him. Perhaps because of this or for some other reason, now when I read through the Old Testament it isn’t the wrath of God that is overwhelming; it is His mercy.
As I consider the ancient accounts of deceit and trickery, of faithlessness and arrogance, of unabashed defiance against the Creator, of murder, rape, and incest, I find myself wondering why He would choose to have mercy on any nation or on any single person at all. To be honest, it astonishes me that He did not simply scrap the whole business of humanity entirely and move on.
Reading of the spiritual failures and successes of the forefathers of the faith, I see echoes of my own, wandering heart. I, too, have been pompous and full of pride. At one time in my life, I openly defied the very One who breathed life into me, refusing to believe He even existed. The life I had before I met my Savior was one of immorality that frankly disgusts me now. If I were my own Creator, I do not think I could have mustered any mercy for one who offered so little to love as I did.
And yet, He did have mercy on me. Though, like Jacob, I did not acknowledge Him in my early years; though, like Abraham, I sometimes act in faith and sometimes in fear; though I try to “help” Him accomplish His promises as Abraham and Sarah did; though I have wrestled with Him until I have nothing left but to cling to Him, He had had mercy and spared me the wrath I deserve. More wondrous yet, He also repaid all my unbelief and stubbornness with grace, bringing me to know His Son, Jesus, whose obedience and sacrifice has paid in full the tremendous debt of my sin and offered me eternal life.
In His grace, as with Joseph, all the pain and hardship I have suffered, God has used for His good purposes. Because of this, I know that present and future suffering will be used for His glory just the same. This sure knowledge gives me comfort and hope when afflictions loom.
Oh, how I love my Lord and His word! I delight in my days with Him –communing in prayer and by reading His word and meditating on it –simply because I am overwhelmed by His steadfast love and faithfulness!