SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSONS

Commentary by Walter Albritton

October 14, 2007

Godís Grace is not Reserved for the Qualified among Us

 

Genesis 27:41-28:22

Key Verse: Know that 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. Ė Genesis 28:15

This lesson teaches us a great principle of the kingdom of God. Godís grace is not reserved for those who are qualified to receive it. Instead Godís grace qualifies those who receive it. This is an amazing reversal of the way we think as human beings. We dole out awards and prizes to honor persons for outstanding achievement. God gives his grace to people who have in no way earned it or deserved it.

Look closely at what the Bible says about Jacob. Nowhere does the biblical record tell us of anything honorable Jacob had done to deserve Godís favor. Indeed, all his deeds were dishonorable. Cunningly he had persuaded his foolish brother Esau into selling his birthright for a bowl of stew. Then with his motherís deceitful assistance Jacob cheated Esau out of his fatherís blessing. Jacobís sordid behavior caused his brother to hate him so much that he determined to kill him.

Incredibly this is the man God chooses to appear to in a dream, the man with whom God establishes a covenant similar to the one he had made with Jacobís grandfather Abraham. We would have thought it a nice gesture if God had shown his favor to Esau since Esau had suffered such mistreatment by his brother Jacob. We would have been pleased to read that God punished Jacob for his wickedness. But that is how we think, not the way God thinks.

Not only that, God does not even chastise Jacob or insist that he promise to become a better man. God laid out no conditions for Jacob to meet. We, however, would have demanded that Jacob ask Esau to forgive him and return to Esau his rightful share of their fatherís inheritance. This God does not do Ė and to our great surprise.

How shall we explain Godís decision to bless Jacob with this extraordinary covenant? The answer is simply this: God is God and he gives his grace to whomever he chooses. God is not responsible to us nor does he owe us an explanation of his action. What we must recognize is that God qualifies the undeserving rather than give his grace to those we think may deserve it. In fact that is why his favor is called grace.

Look again at this story of Jacobís dream at Bethel. So far as we can tell, Jacob had never even spoken to God. Yet God speaks to Jacob in a dream. And examine the dream Ė and the ladder in the dream. We would presume that God would be at the top of the ladder that stretched from earth to heaven. The ladder would help us to climb up to God. Right?

No! Look where God is in the dream; he is standing right beside Jacob! On the ground beside Jacob God promises Jacob that he will be with him wherever he goes, that his offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and that all the families of the earth will be blessed through his family. God even promises Jacob that he will bring him back to the land under his feet and that he will not leave him until he has done all he has promised to do.

Understandably Jacob was scared to death when he woke up. He realized that he had encountered the eternal God. He knew that he had been in the awesome presence of the God of Abraham even though he had not yet decided that this God would be his God also.

For a moment it seems that Jacob has been changed by his encounter with God. He takes the stone he had used for a pillow and pours oil on it, indicating his desire to make Bethel a place of worship. He appears to understand that he was standing on holy ground. But then he does something stupid; he offers to make a bargain with God!

God offered Jacob unconditional grace and Jacob responded with conditional acceptance. He would accept Godís offer ďifĒ God would do thus and so for him. He would build a house of worship at Bethel and even begin tithing Ė if God would meet his demands.

Despite encountering God Jacob had not changed much. He still thought he could cut a deal with God. He shows no sense of gratitude for the amazing covenant God has made with him. Reading this story we realize that Jacob still needed his heart changed and he had a lot of growing to do.

††††††††† We should ask ourselves if we have learned this amazing lesson about the grace of God. Do we try to cut deals with God or graciously accept his unconditional grace? Have we decided to let God be God and accept the fact that we can never earn nor deserve his grace? Do we understand that his grace is not reserved for the qualified but somehow qualifies the undeserving to serve Christ with grateful hearts? Surely that is why we call it amazing grace!††††† (Contact Walter at walbritton@elmore.rr.com)