NT Connect: 2 Corinthians 1:20
Weekly Reading: Genesis 26-30
Yes and Amen
My earliest memories of Sunday School include vanilla wafers, cardboard blocks that looked like red and white bricks, and Mary Partridge playing the piano for assembly in the children’s department. There were also lessons about Jacob. He had a ladder and we were supposed to climb it. That seemed strange, but we sang about it. We heard that Jacob wrapped the skin of a goat around his arm, took a bowl of stew to his blind father and stole something that belonged to his brother. I didn’t quite understand, but some of the boys in the class thought it was a great story. By the time I got to high school, the whole episode with Rachel and Leah seemed like an awful dirty trick. I knew Jacob was supposed to be a big deal, but his life seemed fraught with complication.
In Genesis 25-36, Jacob’s story is not just complicated; it is a train wreck. Deceit and scheming weave an intense drama involving his father, mother, brother, uncle, and wives. It screams disaster at every turn before we are even get to Jacob’s children and their issue with Joseph’s colorful coat. In the middle of all this dysfunction, Jacob has a dream, a mystical encounter with God who promises him that all the families of the earth will be blessed through him and his descendants. It was the same promise God made to Abraham, his grandfather. What is the promise? What is the blessing?
Around two thousand years later, the Apostle Paul writes several letters to the Corinthians who are experiencing real problems in an imperfect Christian community – more dysfunction. He is trying to help this church understand that the gospel of Jesus connects to their issues. For both Jacob and the Corinthians, fear, bitterness, anger, disappointment, or jealousy made way for complication to rule in their lives. Paul says, “For as many as are the promises of God, in him they are yes; therefore also through him is our Amen to the glory of God through us” (2 Corinthians 1:20, NASB).
I think the “yes” is God’s desire to have relationship with us, fulfilled through Jesus; the “Amen” is our response of faith in Jesus. The promise is Jesus. The blessing is reconciliation and union with God. Paul goes on to say in verse 22 that God has placed the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee of that promise. When we recognize and acknowledge the Holy Spirit at work in our lives, I believe it is possible to live in union with God and negate the destructive power of fear, bitterness, anger, jealousy, and disappointment.
The ancient literature of the Hebrew culture in the Old Testament once seemed very strange to me. I am learning to read it as a beautiful story of God initiating a relationship with every generation, no matter how far we run from him or how much we don’t understand him. God seems to advance his kingdom through flawed and imperfect people.