God’s Faithfulness

‘God said to him, “Your name is Jacob; your name shall not be called Jacob anymore, but Israel shall be your name.’ So He called his name Israel” Genesis 35:10

More than twenty years had passed since Jacob left his father and mother in fear for his life from his twin brother, Esau. In that time his experiences with his uncle, Laban, and his meeting with the Lord on the return journey prior to meeting Esau had made him a much changed man.

Before he left the promised land the Lord appeared to him at Bethel and affirmed that the covenant He had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob in all three aspects; land, descendants and a blessing to the nations (Genesis 28:13-14).

At a time when Jacob was unsettled in his relationship with Laban and began to fear him, the Lord called him back to his father, Isaac. Interestingly it was again fear that disposed Jacob to have a listening ear toward God. That remains a provocation for people to have an ear toward God still. At this time the Lord reminded Jacob of their previous meeting and Jacob’s vow (Genesis 28:20-22; 31:13).

The incident at Shechem (Genesis 34) again stirred up fear in Jacob which apparently disposed him again to have an ear toward the Lord. By commanding Jacob to return to Bethel, the Lord was again reminding him of his vow (Genesis 35:1).

Jacob obeyed all that the Lord said and again the Lord affirmed that the covenant that he had made with Abraham would be fulfilled through Jacob and his descendants. The message to Jacob and to us is that God is faithful to His word no matter how circumstances may appear.

The seal of this affirmation came from the Lord in the new name given to Jacob. First mention of the change of name was given by the Lord after the night long encounter Jacob had with Him (Genesis 32:28) but it was not applied until Jacob had fully returned, built an altar to the Lord and removed all association with false gods. At this time the Lord now called him Israel (Genesis 35:10) and affirmed the three key aspects of the covenant made with Abraham. This name became the name for all Israel’s descendants and remains so to this day and forevermore.

The name means, “Prince with God” and that is what Israel is and shall always be (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-37). The very name, Israel, shouts the faithfulness of God to His word.

Don’t Blame God

“You have stricken them but they have not grieved, You have consumed them but they have refused to receive correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to return” Jeremiah 5:3

This is a description of the hardness of heart that mankind has toward God. Before we attribute these words solely to Judah we should reflect on other times when the Lord afflicted Gentiles.

Before Israel even existed Cain was afflicted and refused correction. In the days of Noah the world refused the Lord’s correction and was destroyed by flood. Sodom and Gomorrah refused the word of the Lord and were buried. Nineveh received God’s warning for a time after reluctant Jonah warned them but they are among the few exceptions. The next generation of Ninevites rejected the warning and were destroyed. There are more occasions in the Bible where Gentiles were afflicted yet refused to receive correction. Most notable is Pharaoh of Egypt when Moses confronted him with the word of the Lord.

People often ask the question why there is so much suffering in the world today and blame God for it. They say that if there is a God of love why doesn’t He stop the evil? The Lord answers, “Have you not brought this on yourself in that you have forsaken the Lord your God? Your own wickedness will correct you and your backslidings will rebuke you” (Jeremiah 2:17, 19). This is God’s way to bring us back into fellowship with Him. The alternative is His righteous judgment. Sadly, many people think they will survive His righteous judgment of God without Jesus Christ.

In Jeremiah 5:19, Jeremiah informs Judah, and everyone else as well, why we are so afflicted. He writes the question that is on our minds, “Why does the Lord our God do all these things to us?” and then answers it from the Lord. “Just as you have forsaken Me and served foreign gods in your land, so you shall serve aliens in a land that is not yours.” Israel’s separation from the Promised Land was because they had refused correction from the Lord that came through His prophets. There had to be a step up in affliction. Ultimately this will be successful and a remnant of Israel will enter Christ’s future earthly kingdom.

The same is true for Gentile nations. The level of affliction will be stepped up to encourage the nations to accept God’s correction. We are observing the same reaction to the word of the Lord and to Jesus Christ that Pharaoh gave to the word of the Lord that came through Moses. The world accepts no responsibility, accuses God, refuses His correction usually by denying His existence and wonders why it is suffering more afflictions. Jeremiah puts it in a nutshell, “Your sins have withheld good from you” (5:25). This is stated more fully in 18:7-10. Any nation that turns from its evil ways and to the Lord will avoid the disaster that He had intended to bring upon it. The nation that He intended to favour, if it turns from the Lord, will not receive that favour but will receive His judgment.

We have a national choice. The Lord has revealed the outcome of the two possibilities. We cannot blame the Lord for our choice.