For the week of December 3, 2011 / 7 Kislev 5772
Torah: Bereshit / Genesis 28:10 - 32:3
Haftarah: Hosea 12:13 - 14:10


God and Human Dysfunction

When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, "Give me children, or I shall die!" Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, "Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?" Then she said, "Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her." (Bereshit / Genesis 30:1-3; ESV)

The beginnings of the nation of Israel were rife with relational dysfunction. It took Jacob, Abraham's grandson, many years to come to grips with the reality of God. His family would emerge in the midst of polygamy, incest, and spousal competitiveness as well as murderous sibling rivalry. Yet God established the tribal divisions of the nation of Israel through his twelve sons.

God seems to have no issues with accomplishing his purposes through less than ideal human relationships and circumstances. Jacob's family is not an isolated case. Noah, the only good man in his day ends up becoming drunk to the point of unconsciousness. Moses the chosen deliverer of Israel was a vigilante murderer. David was an adulterer, who tried to cover up his sin through setting up the death of the woman's husband. The great prophet Elijah was depressed to the point of wanting to die. The early followers of Yeshua had their issues as well, from the apostles' yearning for top spot to their desertion of the Messiah when he needed them most to Paul and Barnabas's inability to agree on an outreach strategy. Through the Scriptures we encounter God's people at various levels of personal dysfunction. Yet God was at work both in and through these people and their less than ideal behavior.

God's plans and purposes are not thwarted by human sin, weakness, and incompetency. God is much bigger than that. The adage "if life gives you lemons, make lemonade" seems to be one of God's own favorite recipes. He used Pharaoh just as easily as he did Moses. Neither of them were willing subjects. Moses came around eventually, but his inability and unwillingness to cooperate with God, just like Pharaoh, didn't prevent God from accomplishing what he wanted to get done.

This is not to say that resisting God is in any way a good thing. The examples I have cited are clearly bad examples to help us to know how to truly walk with God as his people should. We are much better off when we gladly serve God according to his directives, living according to godly wisdom and pure hearts.

But until Yeshua returns and puts the world to rights, the many expressions of human dysfunction will continue. Once we realize that God, who himself is not dysfunctional, is at work in the midst of our disfunctionality to accomplish his purposes, we can spend our energy focused more on what God is doing than being put off by the problems, mistakes, and wrongs of others (and ourselves!).

Let me say again that the fact that human dysfunction does not impede God is not a reason to ignore our bad behavior. Rather it places it in context. When we understand that God remains in control of our lives in spite of human dysfunction, we can respond to life's problems from a position of trust in God, rather than from fear of its effects.

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