Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Peace, But Not As We Know It

Abraham loved Ishmael, and wanted him to be the offspring of promise, but God said no, and Abraham humbled himself before God in obedience. Isaac is a different story; he appears absolutely determined to give the blessing of the seed line to Esau the godless, not Jacob the righteous, even though Esau has despised his birthright and sold it for a bowl of soup, even though he has been given a clear prophecy that the younger would be the favoured one.

Isaac’s physical blindness is a picture of his spiritual blindness. Rebekah and Jacob are not morally dubious; instead they show gentle and godly cunning in the face of Isaac’s misuse of his patriarchal authority. He may be the head of the household, and the seed line, but he has no right to refuse what God has spoken. This offspring of promise has fallen from a great height.

Jacob receives the blessing of his father when he is clothed with the skin of a slain animal and under the disguise or “covering” of the firstborn son. Here are two pictures of our salvation in Christ. Sinners like you and me come under the blessing of the Father when we come to him under the “covering” of the true and pre-eminent “firstborn”: Jesus, covered by the garments of his death. Jacob is no more “guilty” of deception here than God is “guilty” of acquitting sinners when they come to him hidden in the death of his Son. If we say Jacob is unrighteous, we have to say that God is too.

Isaac’s so-called blessing to Esau could be read on two levels. He will eventually throw of the yolk of his brother and enjoy freedom in this life, but the tragic irony of this is that not to be found in the yolk covenant seed-line means damnation in the next.

Esau is upset, not because he loves God and was denied his blessing, but because, his opportunity to be pre-eminent among the sons of men was taken from him, and like the devil defeated at the cross, he seethes with envy!

With murderous threats coming from the mouth of Esau, Rebekah thinks it’s as good a time as any to send Jacob off to get himself a sister-bride, like Eliezer did for Isaac.

As he is about to leave the land promised to him, his father and grandpa, Jacob has a dream where he sees the LORD at the top of a stairway. In that land and through Jacob’s seed line, the LORD would make a way for humanity back to God. God promises to watch over the fugitive Jacob and Jacob responds by saying that if all that God has said comes to pass he will give him the tithe (a tenth) of all that he has received from him when he returns to this land. He is not being presumptuous, he is letting God be God and responding accordingly.
Just as Jacob is righteous and has seen the LORD’s face at the top of the stairway, so too, all those who share his righteousness in being covered by the sacrifice of the firstborn son, Jesus, will one day see God, face to face.
Jesus says that those who follow him will be the salt and light of the earth. With the help of the Spirit, they will both judge this world for its evil and show it the way of righteousness. This will get them the praise and persecution of men, but ultimately all will bow the knee before God and his saints will be vindicated.

Everything that the Father has been saying through the Spirit to the church of the Old Testament is fulfilled, not annulled in Jesus. Whilst the Pharisees, have developed a legalistically faultless form of righteousness that looks good to all watching, Jesus says that the law, and all those who lived under it, were only able to point to the kind of righteousness it was looking for; they could not achieve it. The righteousness God requires goes far beyond the legalistic definitions of the Pharisees. He is about to illustrate that with the examples of murder and adultery. It is a righteousness that only be attained and conferred, through the one true “Firstborn”, Jesus. It is impossible to obtain by effort.
Stephen begins his speech. Far from making his peace with them, he will tell it how it is when he accuses them of spilling all the righteous blood of the Old Testament.

Christians are to live at peace with all, but it is not a politically correct mealy-mouthed kind of peace. As it was for Jacob, so it is for us. It is a peace defined by the fear of God, not the fear of man.

No comments: