Genesis 32:9 “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.”
It is time. It’s time to stop obsessing about all our economic woes. It’s time to stop worrying about our financial futures. It’s time to stop paying attention to all the negativity we hear about from our nation’s political divide. It’s time to stop pitying ourselves for the monetary mess we are in. I am not saying all these problems have been solved, or that they are merely mythological. I am not saying that good people and responsible leaders in government and industry should stop trying to fix what’s broken. But at Thanksgiving, at least, it is time to see that there is another side to all of this. Especially God’s people know God’s promises to supply everything we truly need. Nearly half the Pilgrims, the founders of our day of Thanksgiving, starved to death before they could celebrate the first one. But those who lived still set aside time to thank God for the food that they did have, and for those who had survived, and for giving them another year to live and work in this new land they had found.
It is time. Like Jacob it is time to acknowledge God’s kindness and faithfulness.
You can’t argue with Jacob’s view of his situation. You know how he had behaved. He tried to turn everything in his life to serve himself. If ever there was a man who had lived his life under the theme, “It’s all about me,” and “I did it my way,” that man was Jacob. He had dealt dishonestly with his own brother and father to cheat his brother out of the rights of the firstborn. He ruptured his own family just to get what he wanted. When he started a family of his own, he adopted the heathen practice of polygamy. He created a family more dysfunctional than the family from which he had come. As much as his father-in-law Laban labored to take advantage of Jacob, Jacob was constantly scheming to take advantage of Laban. No matter whom he hurt, Jacob looked out for number one.
Living a life that tries to turn the whole world into a device to serve ourselves, using other people for our own advantage, is not a lifestyle that began or ended with Jacob. On some scale, from the time we get up in the morning to the time we go to bed at night, we are involved in the game of trying to bend everything in life to serve me. We import it into our families and friendships. People who should work together like partners end up acting like competitors. We aren’t so interested in serving and protecting the people closest to us. We want what’s “fair” for me. And what’s “fair” for me isn’t based on some objective formula. It is what involves the least work and the most gain. It turns out that even my love for family or friends is sometimes based on “what’s in it for me.” We deserve no better than Jacob, neither in this life nor the one to come. Like him we can pray, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.”
And how has God responded in light of our unworthiness? With kindness and faithfulness, as Jacob says. We are still here, aren’t we? How does the author of Psalm 103 say it? “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” The God of our fathers, who has given us this country, and has made us prosper, showed us the ultimate kindness by giving up his only-begotten Son and making him a sacrifice for our sins. He doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve, nor repay us according to our iniquities, because in Jesus Christ he does not see those sins anymore. He has completely erased them from our records. Of all the kindnesses he has ever shown, none is greater than this: that he has removed our transgressions and declared us innocent of all our sins. In doing so he has made sure that there is a far better country waiting for us than any we or Jacob ever knew. In doing so he has been faithful to the promises he has been making to his people for thousands of years.
Sometimes, when life is painful or difficult, we are inclined to ask, “What did I do to deserve this?” The implication is that we think we deserve better, and we want God to treat us as we deserve. But that would be a foolish request. God doesn’t treat us as we deserve. He treats us immeasurably better. He gives us salvation. He lets us live another day. In light of our unworthiness, it is time to acknowledge God’s kindness and faithfulness.