Rehearsing His Promises

Believers are so prone to think that our limited resources and the sins of others could somehow thwart the promises of God. As if the actions of finite people could really halt the purposes of the Almighty!

Yet this is exactly the posture Jacob takes after his sons sack the city of Shechem following the humiliation of their sister Dinah. While his father Jacob stood idly by, the brothers avenged the sin against Dinah by killing all the men of the city and capturing all the women, children, and wealth that remained. Their father’s reaction was one of self-protection: “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites.” And then his real concern comes through: “My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household” (Genesis 34.30).

Why should this man be concerned that he and his family should be destroyed? Had he forgotten his safe return to his homeland and his brother Esau? Had he forgotten his wrestling with the pre-incarnate Christ and the blessing he received from him? Had he forgotten God’s rich provision during his years with Laban, a provision so rich that Laban’s sons said, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s” (31.1)? Had he forgotten the gracious gift of the eleven sons and one daughter that had been born to him by this time?

Even if all these remarkable providences had eluded his memory, what should have settled Jacob’s heart after the sacking of Shechem was the promise that God gave him before he ever met Laban. “I am Yahweh, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to 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” (28.13-16). What remarkable, monergestic promises from the Creator of heaven and earth! What a place for Jacob to rest when his resources were limited and his sons had sinned!

Yet there was no rest in his heart. Why? Because these words–and, more importantly, the God behind these words–were far from his mind and heart. Had Jacob been rehearsing these gracious words to himself, he would not have been so fearful. Had he remembered God’s unchanging character, he would have had no reason to worry.

Jacob’s posture is ours. We stand before God as he did: full of fear and anxiety, worry and doubt. We compare our resources to our responsibilities and we come up short. We see the sinful actions of others and are driven to anger and frustration. But if God is God and his words are true, then we need only to keep on rehearsing those gracious words of promise to our fledgling hearts.

Great God, we ask that you would overwhelm us with the need of rehearsing gospel truths to ourselves so that we do not act so faithlessly. Please give us grace so that we look past the complex and troubling situations and see the One Good Sovereign graciously accomplishing all your purposes for our lives.

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