Many folks in our congregation are reading through the Bible again this year, and most reading plans–including the one we invited people to join–spend much of January in Genesis. One thing that jumps out at me every time I read through Genesis is this: these people God called aren’t particularly good people. I don’t mean that they weren’t at times characterized by faith or that they didn’t grow in their faith. I’m just always surprised again at some of the things that they did.
A few examples: God called Abraham in the first part of Genesis 12, and one of the things about Abraham’s calling was that he was to be a blessing to “all the families of the earth.” So what was the first thing Abraham did? He went down to Egypt and brought plagues down on the Egyptians.
Jacob’s very name means something pretty close to “aggressively taking someone else’s place through manipulation or deceit,” and he pretty much spent his life living up to his name: stealing his brother’s birthright and blessing, manipulating people to get what he wanted, and so on.
Jacob’s 12 sons, the patriarchs of Israel? They slaughtered an entire village of people out of revenge, they plotted to murder their little brother but sold him into slavery instead, one of them slept with his daughter-in-law and got her pregnant then planned her execution, . . .
And so on.
The point here isn’t to glorify human weakness, but I think it helps us see an important truth about God’s work in the world: he works through broken people to accomplish his will. The main characters of the biblical narratives aren’t Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, or David.
The main character is God. How the story turns out is based on his power, not ours.
Perhaps we can learn from that. Acknowledging this doesn’t take away our responsibility to grow in faith and obedience, of course, but it should help us to focus on the One who is in control.
If the story of redemption from Genesis to Revelation depended on Abraham, where would it have gone? Or Isaac, Jacob, or Moses?
Thankfully, God’s accomplishing his purposes in the world depends on who he is, and that should give us hope.