I am a huge fan of movies about heroes, especially if they’re an underdog. They see someone in need and save them by risking their own skin, often losing some of it in the process. It reminds me of what’s most basic to love: not focusing on self but sacrificing self for another’s good. No matter what.
I’m not such of fan of movies in which some god, superior alien, or other “all-knowing power” seems to select, support, and cheer the hero because the person has so much potential. In the end, that hero wins because they should win. Yes, all of us want to believe that we can rise to the occasion to make a difference. If we look closely and honestly at ourselves, however, we’re not that awesome.
But the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is.
Because of His grace, He comes to and works through the impossible, insignificant, and undeserving. Hoping in Him is not merely a wish, it’s God’s guarantee.
Consider God’s gracious work in the impossible life of Abraham. Genesis 12 tells us that he (then Abram) was 75 when God promised to make his descendants like the sands of the seashore and changed his name to Abraham, “father of many”. And his wife was right up there with him in age. That’s pretty old to be having babies. After 15 more years, Abraham and Sarah tried to fulfill God’s promise their way by having Ishmael through her hand maiden. But that wasn’t God’s plan. Yet, Genesis 17 reveals that He waited another 15 years before promising to provide Isaac and another 10 before delivering on that promise (pardon the pun). Why did He keep putting them off? The Lord wants us to know beyond any doubt, He is the God of the impossible.
But how could a perfectly righteous God be gracious to far-from-perfect people? Because of the covenant He cut with Abram (Genesis 15)…rather, I should say that He cut by Himself. The Lord had put Abram into a deep sleep, so he never passed between the pieces with God to symbolize that if either of them turned away from the other that person would die. Jeremiah 34:18-20 tells us that’s how covenants were supposed to be observed. God’s covenant with Abram pictured God offering His life alone. It was a foreshadowing of Jesus dying in our place. Grace.
And the God of the insignificant? Well, Isaac fit that bill quite well. Although Scripture speaks of Isaac’s father (Abram/Abraham) 213 times and his son (Jacob) 175 times, Isaac is mentioned only 80 times. He seems to be painted as a Mama’s boy (Genesis 24:67) and didn’t do much more than copying his father in deceiving Abimelech (Genesis 26) and favoring Esau over Jacob (Genesis 27). Yet, the Lord worked through Isaac, too. Why? Because He is the God of the insignificant, too.
And do you want to see undeserving? Look at Jacob’s life. His name was literally “he who grasps the heel”. That’s a Hebrew idiom similar to the western saying, “he pulled my leg”. It means a trickster, a deceiver, a liar (Genesis 25:26 and 27:35-36). And Jacob lived up to his name before God changed him. So why did the Lord overpower Jacob in Genesis 32 and transform him into “Israel: he who wrestles with God”? Because, by His covenantal grace, He is also the God of the undeserving.
Now let’s turn to the book of Exodus.
By the time the Lord led His people out of Egypt, the Israelites were synonymous with “the impossible, insignificant, and undeserving”. So He described Himself as “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”, and He did so eight times in Exodus (Exodus 2:24, 3:6, 15-16, 4:5, 6:3, 8, and 33:1), 12 more times from Leviticus to Jeremiah, and 9 times in the Gospels and Acts. Why? Because we still need to know He is the God of grace and power, freeing and favoring His people. Our hope is not in our heroic potential. It’s in His undeserved love.
Like the Israelites in Egypt, the Lord can break any chain and provide anything we need to follow Him because of Christ who died in our place to satisfy God’s covenant so we can live for Him.
Maybe you’re like the Israelites in Exodus, in bondage. What slavery to sin is the Lord calling you to leave? Through what wilderness is He calling you to follow? Remember where He always leads His people: to be with Him. Whether His people are in the midst of bondage or in the middle of a desert, He is still very close. And He leads His people ultimately to be with Him face-to-face for eternity. He is still the God of the impossible, the insignificant, and the undeserving.
May we follow Him by faith in Him, rejoicing in Christ as we go.
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