There are times when you read the Bible and the lessons of one passage reveal a larger truth in another. How true is it when God’s word is described as alive? Each time we read a passage the Holy Spirit speaks new truth to our heart.
Genesis 32 describes the story of Jacob wrestling with God. Genesis 35:10-12 describes the moment when God changed Jacob’s name (undermines, heel) to Israel (wrestles with God) and made a covenant with him for his offspring to inherit the land promised to his father and grandfather and for kings to come from his lineage. This story shows a moment every believer should strive toward. It’s the moment when knowing about God turns into a relationship where we know God personally. This truth from Genesis wasn’t made very clear until the Lord turned me to the book of Isaiah. I had been meaning to look into a passage from another thought but His timing was amazing as usual. We see repeatedly in the bible where Jacob and Israel are mentioned together but in slightly different ways. This made me think about the time spent in Genesis and made me think about what that might be trying to tell us.
Let’s begin with the best one and use a few others for support. (Isaiah 29:23) They will hallow My name, And hallow the Holy One of Jacob, And fear the God of Israel. Why would God be the Holy One to Jacob and God to Israel? It’s easy to run past this and think they are the same but I see a beautiful difference. God was the Holy One to Jacob because God was ‘handed down’ by Jacob’s father and grandfather. Jacob believed in God and would bounce between commands in his attempts at self-sufficiency. I wasn’t until Jacob wrestled with God that he demanded God’s blessing and lived a life leaning on his relationship with his Lord (symbolized in his hip injury where his leaning was on a crutch after that). It’s the difference between reverence and relationship, that is, what is handed down vs what is accepted. (Isaiah 44:23) For the Lord has redeemed Jacob, And glorified Himself in Israel. God is glorified in relationship with His chosen. When believers act in accordance with the will of God He leads them as they glorify Him and show His strength in their accepted weakness. (Isaiah 44:1) Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, And Israel whom I have chosen. Serving God under His law is a shadow of living as one of God’s chosen in relationship. This desired relationship is shown in other places where both names occur together.
(1 Chronicles 16:17) And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant. Think for a moment about the difference in a statute and a covenant. The covenant sounds more serious, and it is, but why? A statute is a rule or law handed down from a governing party to a submissive one. God gave laws to His people to both guide and protect them, as well as to keep their focus on His provision for them. When God decreed His will, they were expected to follow. A covenant is different, in that both sides agree on the decision made. In order to find mutual agreement, we have to be in relationship. All of the Old Testament covenants were made with men in close relationship with God. The new covenant with God involves relationship with Jesus Christ, God’s word made flesh. There has never been a variation in that premise.
God desires that all believers live in relationship. It is only in relationship with God through Jesus that we can truly glorify Him and fully receive His love. We all wrestle with God as we attempt self-sufficiency. God calls each of us to accept His covenant and walk in His provision and love. He may not dislocate our hip but our suffering should drive us to our knees, seeking God’s blessing, and accepting God and His Lordship.
People study the bible and wonder what purpose is found in the Old Testament seeing as Christ brought about the New Covenant established in His blood and described in the New Testament. The easy, and true, answer is that God showed His character and His heart for His people and this world. I moment of quiet spoke something more into my spirit and I wanted to share.
The entire bible points to The Christ. This is where my heart drifted in Old Testament purpose. Old Testament Law was instituted as a foreshadowing of Christ. Those laws now stand as a shadow of His New Covenant. How could our finite minds truly understand what it is to live in Christ’s covenant without the Old Testament explanation of His purpose? The laws point out not only the purpose of Jesus, but also His abilities. How else could we come close to understanding infinite God, the Father, Son, and Spirit?
Let’s consider a human example that is tiny in comparison to the magnitude of The Creator. Imagine all of the small things that define/ describe a person. We could consider the things they’ve accomplished, the people they know, their job, their education, their ancestry, etc. Anyone of those things describe a part of them but none of those things allow you to truly know them. As we walk with Jesus through the gospels and He tries to explain His purpose through parables we grow in limited understanding of Him. We view His many deeds with awe and we accept His sacrifice for our salvation with thanks. But until we look back at His purpose, His shadow in the Old Testament, His vastness is not clear. We can see the prophets speak of Him and the laws point to the covenant established in Him. Jesus came to fulfill the law that pointed to Him and explained His greatness. He came to stand in a place that created the shadow of the Old Testament and gave it meaning as is was brought to fruition. Allow the Old Testament to warm your heart in its symbolism and its instruction for a life outside the shadow. Live in the light of God and let the shadow guide your direction toward the source. Know what it means to be a child of God as you study the exhaustive preparation that was made for your Savior.
Along with the New Covenant found in Jesus Christ came new ways of understanding God. Describing the infinite God already proves impossible. So why shouldn’t Him becoming man cause us to have to repurpose or create whole new words to describe a reality unique to Him? Two words I’d like to focus on form the basis of God and our relationship with Him through Jesus.
The words are agápe (love) and charis (grace). The word agape which means love in Greek is unique to Christianity. It refers to God’s quality of love. This kind of love is not known to man outside the presence of God. Agápe love is different because it is unconditional and not based on merit. You cannot earn or deserve a Godly love. Loving like God is a choice and not based on emotions which drive man. The writers of the New Testament had to create this word to describe a concept foreign to man before Christ came to be an example of such an amazing thing. There are many words for love in the Greek language including éros(sexual), philía(friendship), storgē(parental),and ludus(playful). None of them had the power to describe a love that cannot fade or change.
Charis (grace) is a word that had to be reconditioned. When the writers of the New Testament began to use it to describe the gift of God to His adopted children it gained a power it never had before. The word originally described kindness or favor (Hebrew ‘hen’) in the Old Testament (as in God’s favor toward Noah or Moses), but took on a meaning much larger and powerful with the coming of the prophesied Messiah. Where the law of the Old Testament fell short and drove man away from God, the grace found through faith in Jesus brings glory to God and a new meaning to a word that also fell short of the undeserved gift of our Lord.