Conditional Surrender

Have you ever read the book of Genesis?

All the way through?

Not just the stories that are retold in VeggieTales or on felt-boards in a Sunday School classroom, but every chapter?

Not just the stories of creation, the fall, Noah, Abraham, and Joseph.

Every story. Every narrative.

I’ve been reading through the book of Genesis this past week in my time with the Lord. I have been blown away with how crazy the narratives are, how grace saturates the lives of the people of God, even way back at the beginning of the story.

It’s easy to get sucked into the mindset that the world is worse than it’s ever been. I honestly don’t really believe that the more I read Scripture. Yes, the darkness of sin and wickedness and war and evil are prominent at times in our world and in our country. That being said, this darkness is nothing new. It may be unsettling and off-putting for those of us who grew up in relative bliss and innocence, but it has been present since the dawn of creation.

Last night I was reading Genesis 31-34. I was blown away by the continued sins of God’s people. Let me tell you a portion of Jacob’s story. Mind you, this is a bird’s eye view of what is going on.

In Genesis 28, Jacob is on the run. He has stolen the birthright of his older brother and his older brother wants to kill him. So he flees. He flees for the land of his mother’s family. On the way, he stops for the night and has a dream of a ladder reaching up to heaven with angels ascending and descending on it. After that visual, the Lord appears to him in a dream and promises the following.

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. – Genesis 28:15

What a promise. God appears and delivers that grandiose promise. Yet look how Jacob responds.

Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will keep me on this journey that I take, and will give me food to eat and garments to wear, and I return to my father’s house in safety, then the Lord will be my God.” – Genesis 28:20-21

IF.

What the what.

God appears to Jacob and promises safety and security, provision and protection. Instead of clinging to this, Jacob says that IF God remains with him and and keeps him safe and gives him food and clothes to wear and gets him home to his family safely, THEN He will be his God.

God appears, Jacob doubts.

Now, if I was God, I would have bailed on Jacob straight up.

But God is perfect.

He is gracious.

Over the next few chapters, God will provide for Jacob in amazing ways. He provides him with grace despite Jacob taking multiple wives, (addressing polygamy in the Bible is a blog post for another time. My Cliff Notes opinion is that this is sinful of Jacob. God makes clear in Scripture that marriage is between one man and one woman.), children, and tons of animals. Jacob leaves and heads back to his home, where Esau (his brother who wanted to kill him) welcomes him back with open arms.

In Genesis 32, Jacob encounters God yet again. This time he wrestles with God. If you have any questions about that story, please ask an actual theologian or Old Testament scholar, because I have no idea.

Either way, Jacob makes an awe-inspired realization that he survived by God’s grace alone (Genesis 32:30).

You would think that after seeing God, after having God fulfill all of His promises to you, that you would lead your family in godliness. You would lead your family in worship. Your life was full of sin (deception, scheming, polygamy), and God gave grace. This should make you want to lead your family in following God.

Instead, the wheels fall off.

Genesis 34 is a vile chapter. Jacob’s daughter is raped violently. In retaliation, Jacob’s sons (remember, these are the brothers of Joseph. I realized this for the first time last night.) murder an entire village of people. In the following chapter, God appears to Jacob and Jacob tells his household to hide the foreign gods in their midst.

I took you on this whirlwind tour of this section of Genesis to highlight something.

I tend to look back at these narratives from Scripture and think what a bunch of morons.

Then the Spirit comes and kicks my butt.

I’m all over these passages.

I, like Jacob, see God do amazing things in my life and respond with conditional surrender. I’ll follow you Jesus if you do all these things in my life.

I, like Jacob, can fail to lead my family in the gospel outside of the occasional bold proclamation that Jesus is my Lord. But my home is full of foreign gods. The gods of this culture. The gods of this world. Good things become God things. Idolatrous behaviors and actions seeping into my home. Into my life.

Yes, children are responsible for their own actions. But what kind of life are we living at home in front of them? Are we wholly surrendered to Jesus, or do we just say we are on Sunday mornings? Are we walking them through Scripture, or are we letting them play Fortnite and watch Netflix all evening? My daily prayer is that my actions and habits encourage my family in the faith. I fall so stinking short of this day after day, but it is my hope.

I, like Jacob, have lived a life full of imperfection, brokenness, and sin. I have failed countless times, and yet God gives me greater grace. What a wonderful God that we serve.

You probably have a whole lot of Jacob in you too.

Thankfully we have a God full of grace.

In His Name,

Nathan Roach

I appreciate any and all feedback, and you can follow my blog below.

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